Anonymous' Barrett Brown Pleads Not Guilty To Stratfor Hacking Charges

Hacktivist collective Anonymous has had a busy couple days, fighting their old foe the Westboro Baptist Church. Meanwhile, court records show that their former self-proclaimed spokesperson, Barrett Brown, has pleaded not guilty to twelve charges related to the hacking of the intelligence firm Stratfor.

Brown was arrested and his Dallas apartment raided by the FBI back in September; after his arrest, he was indicted on charges of Internet threats, conspiracy and retaliation, many of them stemming from tweets he wrote about an FBI agent. "[W]hen I say his life is over, I don't say I'm going to kill him," one of them read. "But I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids."

But it seemed unlikely that the feds would have Brown in custody without finding a few other things to charge him with. A couple weeks ago, he was on indicted on charges relating to Anonymous' Christmas Day hack of Stratfor.

The feds accuse Brown of posting a link in a chat channel he controlled, providing others access to the credit card information and identities of 5,000 people in the Stratfor database. He's also accused of having credit card information in text files on his computer. For those things, he was charged with trafficking in stolen authentication features, "access device fraud," and ten counts of aggravated identity theft.

Meanwhile, several tech writers have called the new charges against Brown bogus.

Paul Wagenseil, the senior security editor at Tech News Daily, points out that Brown is accused of posting a link to a "data dump" containing the stolen information, as well as having some text files with credit card information on his computer. "If that's the case, then dozens of technology journalists, including possibly this writer, as well hundreds of technology researchers, might be considered just as guilty as Brown," he writes. "Many online news reports include links to websites where politically motivated hackers post their manifestos, and those manifestos in turn often contain links to file-sharing sites that house stolen data.Are journalists who post those links trafficking in stolen goods?"

"It's important to note that Brown did not steal, collect or categorize any of the compromised credict card information," writes the online magazine Death and Taxes. "He did what many journalists have done in the last few years of Anonymous and WikiLeaks activity: copy and paste a link."

Brown was originally due for a hearing on December 10 on the original conspiracy and retaliation charges. Court staff told us that everything in that case is currently on hold; according to PACER, no new date has been set.

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan