Barrett Brown tells his story

Since his release four days after being re-arrested by the Bureau of Prison (BOP) for not getting permission to speak to the press, journalist Barrett Brown has written his side of the account to clear up any confusion about what happened.

As there has been some confusion in the press on this point, I will note again that federal inmates are not required to seek permission from the BOP to speak to the press, period. Some previous language to that effect was rescinded 17 years ago, as noted in the Program Statement (under “Directives Rescinded”). That’s why I was never given any infraction for doing so over the four years in which I did interviews from half a dozen different facilities, by mail and phone, and it’s why the BOP was not able to hold me in prison after Haynes and Boone threatened to go to a judge.

I’m reiterating this because the BOP thrives on ambiguity and would like nothing more than to see major news outlets continue to ignore this story on the vague grounds that maybe I broke the rules and perhaps the BOP didn’t actually just conspire to deprive countless media outlets of their very specific and unambiguous right to speak to an American citizen, and then retaliate against me with an illegal arrest when I failed to help them do so. The BOP, like all U.S. “law enforcement” and intelligence agencies, depends for its continued de facto extra-legal powers on a press corps that is largely incapable of sorting through facts, that is easily distracted, and that cannot even be depended upon to defend its own rights, nor the rights of individual journalists. Already I have documented in my columns for D Magazine and The Intercept, via documents obtained by various means, the demonstrable criminality of this organization. [My emphasis-MS]

Brown is threatening to take legal action against the BOP. I think the BOP is going to regret going after Brown because he is dogged and doesn’t really seem to give a damn. Such people are hard to intimidate and thus control. As Kevin Gallagher described back in 2014, the last time the feds found a reason to throw Brown in prison, it was because he lost his temper when they harassed him and even his mother.

In the last of a series of videos uploaded to YouTube that day, Brown threatened the FBI agent in charge of his case. His grievances against the FBI – besides their threats of prosecution towards his mother – had to do with his property being taken from him, and the harassment he’d been experiencing at the hands of online actors who were ostensibly either federal informants or connected to security contractors.

He was taken into custody that night in a heavily-armed FBI raid of his Dallas apartment, and has been jailed without bail ever since – over two years now. After several delays, his case concluded in a plea agreement, where he faces 8½ years maximum for (1) transmitting a threat in interstate commerce (2) accessory after the fact in the unauthorized access to a protected computer and (3) interference with the execution of a search warrant and aid and abet.

As regrettable as some of his conduct was, and Brown is admittedly embarrassed and remorseful about the ill-advised YouTube videos, one can hardly conclude that he should be imprisoned for two years. Numerous prominent individuals, including Noam Chomsky and Glenn Greenwald have spoken out in his defense, as well as organizations like WikiLeaks, CPJ, EFF, Reporters Without Borders, PEN American, and Article 19.

They may try to goad him into another outburst so that they have fresh grounds to arrest him but Brown is unlikely to give them such an excuse again, especially if he is now ‘lawyered up’, as the kids say these days.


  1. says

    He was taken into custody that night in a heavily-armed FBI raid of his Dallas apartment, and has been jailed without bail ever since – over two years now.

    Fair, speedy, trial.

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