Reporter Barrett Brown is an extremely funny guy who also happens to be really smart. Combine the two, and you’ll sometimes end up with a smart-ass.
Brown is definitely a smart-ass.
He’s also a member of the Fourth Estate, willing to go way deep when investigating stories, which is how he ended up in prison for the past two years.
A federal court in Dallas sentenced Brown to 63 months this morning for his slight role in the underground hacker group Anonymous. He’s also been ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution.
Brown practices activist journalism, and some of his reports have criticized the federal government. The feds raided his home in 2012, and charged him with obstruction of justice after Brown hid his laptop (he said he was protecting his sources).
Brown retaliated by criticising the FBI’s tactics on YouTube and threatened to defend himself if agents stormed his home again. The feds arrested him again.
Three years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted him on identity theft and fraud after Brown posted a link to stolen documents on a website. Those charges were later dropped, and some observers applauded Brown’s victory as a win for a free press.
The feds, however, accused Brown of being an accessory after the fact in a hacking case (he hadn’t stolen anything but copied and pasted a hyperlink onto a web site), and in interfering with a search warrant by hiding a computer in his kitchen cabinet.
The last two years in prison couldn’t have been fun for Brown, but they’ve been entertaining for his fans, who get to read his sarcastic, witty, and satirical discourses from his small prison cell (posted on the D Magazine blog site Frontburner). In them, Brown describes fellow inmates, pokes fun at guards, and points out problems in the prison system. This can’t be earning him many brownie points among prison staff, but Brown can’t help mouthing off. After all, that’s his job. In this country it’s supposed to be OK to speak your mind.
Brown’s smart-assery didn’t take long to reveal itself after this latest setback.
After learning he faced another five years in the pen, he released a statement today that is pure Brown:
“Good news! The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. Wish me luck!”