Is Barrett Brown the Threatening One, or Is It the Guys Who Locked Him Up?

Last year, D Magazine Editor Tim Rogers wrote a portrait of Barrett Brown, who claims to be a spokesman for the hacktivist group Anonymous. Rogers won a much-deserved National Magazine Award for the piece, from which emerged a bright, alternately charming and irritating, always interesting, profoundly screwed-up young man. My first thought was, "The paper should hire this guy." (That was before I got to the part about him being a heroin addict.)

Can't now, anyway. He's in the federal pen. Brown, 31, was arrested on September 13, then indicted October 3, on charges of making Internet threats and conspiring to publish "restricted personal information of an employee of the United States."

Brown posted a video on September 12, the day before he was raided and arrested in his apartment, saying all kinds of crazy shit about a particular FBI agent, who apparently had searched and raided Brown's mother's home months before.

I'll get to what he said. But hang with me for a second, so we can get the sequence down. The raid on Brown's mother's home took place last March. According to what Brown later said, and according to what my own source close to the matter has told me, federal agents may have seized Brown's laptop in that raid.

The source told me that the laptop was hidden in some dishes in the mother's house, and that the FBI has now accused the mother of helping to hide it. (Note to self: Mom's dishes no good for hiding.)

So why was the FBI raiding his mom's house in the first place? I called the FBI, of course, and spokesperson Katherine Chaumont told me that she could not comment on the Brown investigation, of course. We really need a different name for those FBI spokespeople.

Why the raid? None of the allegedly threatening online speech referenced in the October 3 indictment took place before the March raid. (I tried to reach Brown's mother or attorney and was not successful.)

According to this source, the March raid had nothing to do with threats or speech on the Internet. It was, says the source, all about Anonymous, the international hacker group organized as autonomous cells connected by the Internet.

Anonymous is sort of related, sort of not related, to Occupy Wall Street. The group became famous in 2008 after mounting a series of Internet sabotage campaigns against credit card companies in support of Wikileaks. They also attacked Scientology, carried out cyber attacks against the Pentagon and, most unthinkable of all, threatened to hurt Facebook.

I want to go back to Rogers' profile of Brown, because I think it remains the best personal examination of a person who claims publicly to be associated with Anonymous. Why would Anonymous have a spokesman anyway? It's not like they're the Masons.

In fact, there are people who claim to be associated with Anonymous who claim that Brown is a phony, a so-called "name-fag" falsely associating himself with Anonymous so he can get guys like Rogers to write about him.

Here is the one indisputable fact about Brown: He's fragile. He's on heroin. He's off heroin. He's on withdrawal drugs. He's off them. And he wants to talk about all of it. He's 31, and he still wants to talk about his parents' divorce. His benighted mother is still cleaning up his apartment for him.

On YouTube, he looks high. The online chat in which he was engaged when the cops raided his apartment sounded like junkies mumbling in a public bathroom.

He is either a weak link or, if he's not really linked to anything, just weak. But weak he is.

In March, at about the time of the raid on Brown's mom's house in Dallas, the FBI brought criminal charges against four people in England and Ireland associated with a hacker group called Lulzsec, maybe an offshoot or associated somehow with Anonymous. At that time it became known that the FBI had a mole inside the group.

So, March 2011. The FBI's maybe got some teeth into Anonymous. Agents in Dallas go get the laptop of self-described Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown from inside his mom's dish cabinet. Brown goes crazier.

The FBI agent who is the object of Brown's threats has been named by some news sources, by the way, but his name is redacted in the indictment. I'm going with the redaction because otherwise I have to trust the other news sources.

After the raid on his mom's dishes, Brown publishes writing and video of himself saying the following things about Agent Redacted: "Threat to put my mom in prison last mistake Agent Redacted will ever fucking make.

"That's why Agent Redacted's life is over, but when I say his life is over I don't say I'm going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids."

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze