Barrett was sentenced to five years and three months in prison in 2015 for accessory after the fact, obstruction of justice, and threatening an FBI agent. He was also ordered to pay $900,000 in fines and restitution. Brown was released to a half-way house in November, 2016, where he lived with five other convicts until Thursday.
While neither authorities, nor Barrett himself have confirmed why he was arrested again to the press, Brown’s mother said that her son told her in a phone call that he was under the impression that it was for speaking with the media. Apparently, Barrett had been advised not to give interviews without prior, written authorization by his check-in officer, but was then not given the correct form upon request. His lawyer, Jay Leiderman, referred to those responsible for the arrest as “a bunch of chicken-s**t a**holes who are brutalizing the Constitution,” reported The Intercept — a publication where Brown had published National Magazine Award-winning columns during his imprisonment.
Immediately upon his release, documentation of Barrett’s journey began. A short documentary, Field of Vision, filmed his trip to the half-way house in Texas. The video also detailed the process that had gotten him there in the first place.
Barrett first gained mainstream attention for a series of provocative articles published in The Guardian. One of Brown’s articles alleged that several federal law enforcement agencies were working with independent intelligence contractors that were engaged in “a variety of reckless and unethical activities,” including spying on activists like whistleblower WikiLeaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald, at the behest of corporations. In another later piece, he accused the federal government of carrying out widespread information collection via social media.
“Altogether, the existence and nature of Romas/COIN should confirm what many had already come to realize over the past few years, in particular: the U.S. and other states have no intention of allowing populations to conduct their affairs without scrutiny. Such states ought not complain when they find themselves subjected to similar scrutiny – as will increasingly become the case over the next several years.”
Since his release, Barrett has given interviews to several publications. One of them was tech magazine Wired, where he revealed his plans for life out of custody: designing an open-source, end-to-end-encrypted software called Pursuant that would allow networks of journalists and activists to safely dig through material related to their “pursuance,” or area of investigation. It would also allow the collectives to establish levels of clearance, allowing less experienced volunteers to start digging alongside veteran members.
“People can just show up and begin working. It’s a protestant versus a catholic system of activism. We want a direct line to civic participation.”
Shortly after his arrest in 2012, Brown released a statement from prison that was shared on a variety of sites affiliated with his former activities. In the letter published on Pastebin, he spoke openly about possible miscalculations he had made, or public statements which he did not mean, but he also condemned the inhumane treatment he was given while in custody and the injustice his mother and girlfriend suffered during the raids which led to his arrest.
“I am humiliated at not being able to protect my own mother from the FBI, or to shield my own girlfriend from watching heavily-armed men step on my spine as I scream in pain. I cannot forget how my mom cried on March 6th after the FBI had left with my equipment and hers, and how she whispered through tears that she wanted to be able to protect me from prison but couldn’t… That these things are unjust and increasingly insane does not change the fact that they are the result of my own behavior, my own miscalculations, my own choices.”
While Barrett became one of the names most commonly associated with Anonymous, he has rejected the idea that he was their spokesperson. The association was likely made as Brown was a common contact for stories related to Anonymous, generally releasing statements or giving interviews about the group’s planned activities, reported The Atlantic.
For instance, in 2011, he was responsible for much of the group’s communication while they were in a stand-off with Mexican drug cartel Zetas over an alleged kidnapping. On another appearance on Russia Today, he explained the retaliatory attack over the government’s raid on Megaupload aimed at sites for the Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, and the Recording Industry Association of America.
Before becoming a face of Anonymous, Barrett Brown was known for Project PM, a crowdsourced Wiki project similar to his idea for Pursuant. It was there that he first began to dig through the hacked emails that would form the core of his later articles for the Guardian.
[Featured Image by Artem Oleshko/Shutterstock]