By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
I spent some of last week looking into the acquittals of the Hutaree Christian Militia, whose case was thrown out in March. In the acquittal order, a federal judge cited threats against law enforcement by members of the ragtag militia group, including email orders to "stand ready" to go to war against federal officers, references to a particular gun as a "cop killer," discussion of how a certain type of bomb would be good for blowing up a police convoy and specific plans to do just that.
"While vile," the judge wrote, "all of this speech is protected by the First Amendment."
The lawyers for the defendants in the Hutaree case said they felt they won because it was clear from the beginning that the militia members were bullshit and were never going to do anything real. But even they admit the line between bullshit and a real threat is always going to be hard to find.
It's like a drunk in a bar saying he'd like to blow the president's head off, says attorney Arthur Jay Weiss of Farmington, Michigan, who worked the case. It's against the law to threaten the president, but what jury is going to believe the guy was ever going to act? That's the line. Lots of luck ever finding it in a law book.
"I don't know if you are ever going to find a line or a case that will definitively tell you, you can go up to this point but you can't go further," Weiss says.
William Swor, another defense attorney in the Hutaree acquittals, says he thought the feds bit off more than they could chew: "The government was representing unequivocally that they were going to prove not just speech but violent action and that the speech was part and parcel of the action."
The judge in that case looked at these militia people, who were a hell of a lot more imposing than Barrett Brown, and basically said, you gotta be kidding me. She let them all walk, pretty much on the basis of manifest harmlessness.
I couldn't find anyone who thought Brown's words about Agent Redacted were anything but a clear verbal threat. "It seems that Mr. Brown would have a hard time convincing a jury that an objective, reasonable person would not consider his words were a true threat," Wayne Krause Yang, legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin, normally staunch defenders of free speech, wrote in an email.
In other words, it's a threat. But is it a hollow threat or a threat connected to potential action? Was Brown ever going to act?
That's what I'm stuck on. When I look at the chronology of events, when I look at Barrett Brown through the words of Tim Rogers, when I look at Barrett Brown on Youtube, I do not believe that the FBI was ever acting on what it thought was a credible threat against one of its agents.
Disrespectful, yeah. Ugly, sure. But Brown's threats were the kind of crap that every arrested drunk screams in the back of the patrol car from the curb all the way to the calaboose.
Remember this: His ranting did not initiate this chain of events. It was a response to the raid on his mom's house. I'm not saying that's an excuse, exactly, but it certainly detracts from a case against Brown as some kind of determined anti-FBI plotter. Plus, we know from Rogers that he's not a determined anything except maybe a determined mess.
The danger is this: What if this is really the government making threats but masquerading as the victim, all of it aimed ultimately at suppressing speech?
So what about Barrett Brown? Do you love him now? Yeah, well, that's the thing about free speech. We don't get to pick our standard bearers. Often it winds up being somebody we wouldn't want to take home to Mom, or, even less, be his mom. If he does come over, keep him away from the dishes.
But watch this. The Barrett Brown case feels like the long shadow of government falling on free speech on the Internet, using a weak link to get there.
And I just thought of something else. What if the FBI doesn't even have his laptop? Did they think to look under the dirty clothes?
You write an incisive piece, and nobody comments. That explains a lot about your writing and your readers. And me.
See my recent summary of the events showing how the fbi & cia (and their operatives) have ruined the usa and threaten the world by covert illegal & murderous intel operations.
See my recent summary of the events showing how the fbi & cia (and their operatives) have ruined the usa and threaten the world by covert illegal & murderous intel operations. http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/9949
@FreeBarrett_ Barrett a threat... that's as funny as some of his satire. The real threat is Barrett being irreverent as usual.
Why has nobody bothered to mention that Anonymous attacked Visa/PayPal/MC in defense of Wikileaks in 2010, not 2008 (as the article states)? Do journalists simply not proofread or fact check their own submissions anymore?
.@Anonymous_nutz BB had me angry ages ago for certain reasons but none-the-less he did work with #Anonymous. #AnonFamily cc @TheHackersNews
@AnonymousPress he did do work for #anonymous but towards the end does it really matter another one bites the dust life moves on