Thursday, April 3, 2014

Despite plea deal, last Barrett Brown charge 'potentially implicates journalists who use hackers as sources'

4/5 UPDATE: It's been two full days since it was reported that Barrett Brown agreed to a plea deal, but the Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post have completely ignored the news. The initial March 6, 2012 raid, the September 12, 2012 arrest, the gag order, and all of Brown's charges - including those that were dropped and the latest superseded ones - should concern all journalists, so it's strange and disturbing that three of the top news sources for the American public have ignored the reported plea agreement, which appears to have been reached on March 31. After I posted this update and tweeted him, NY Times columnist David Carr retweeted me, so hopefully more media outlets will report on the plea deal, and the consequences this entire case could have on all journalists and bloggers.

It's been nearly nineteen months since embedded Anonymous journalist Barrett Brown was arrested and jailed for what many supporters consider unjust reasons. Although the initial charges were for making what Brown's detractors consider threatening YouTube videos against an FBI agent, most critics ignore that his anger was largely based on what he perceived as the government's persecution for his reporting on security firms that spy on activists.

Brown was also upset at FBI Special Agent Robert Smith, because he threatened to charge Barrett's mother for allegedly helping to hide laptops in her house before agents obtained a search warrant for it.. In his third video, Barrett complained (pdf trancript), that - after that raid - "my lawyer told me he'd just talked to the Assistant District Attorney, um, spearheading this case over agent Robert Smith at the FBI, and she had said, well it looks like, uh, well looks like now, that uh, mom has a problem, is what, what he relayed...by which they meant that, uh, my mom is being threatened with obstruction of justice charges."

"My mom has not been involved in any of this at all and was not, is not, did not know about the tip I received the previous day, didn't know I was over there, I come over there a lot, uh, didn't know why I brought, you know, laptops over, you know, didn't notice, didn't pay attention. I hid the laptops the next morning after the first visit from the FBI, not her. She didn't know they were hidden."
She wasn't charged until after Brown spent months in jail, and she ended up pleading guilty in November 2013, and was sentenced to six months of probation and a $1,000 fine. Brown initially faced two similar charges, but after his lawyers filed a motion arguing that he was being overcharged, the new indictment only charges him once.

In a pastebin that Brown posted a day after the March 6, 2012 raid, he complained that "the Feds...fully intended to take a certain laptop, and did." Brown's one-time colleague and friend Michael Hastings, who tragically died last August in a one-vehicle motor accident, reported in April 2012, "The warrant, exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed, suggests the government is primarily after information related to Anonymous and the hacking group Lulzec." In another pastebin that Brown posted in April 2012, Brown wrote that "the FBI is now searching through my belongings for information on HBGary, Endgame Systems, and the website that my group Project PM maintains for the purpose of disseminating info on such firms as these, Echelon2.org."

While, at first, not many journalists sympathetically covered Brown, or just ignored his arrest, he ended up becoming a cause célèbre in 2013, after Glenn Greenwald wrote an article for The Guardian, which also helped raise money for the Free Barrett defense fund. Greenwald hailed Brown as "a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism."

In February 2013, Christian Stork reported for Russ Baker's WhoWhatWhy, "The Barrett Brown case is simply the latest in a string of prosecutions in which the government pursues anyone involved in making information “liberated” from governmental or corporate entities easily accessible to the public. Those targeted are not necessarily accused of the illegal entry itself (the “hack”) or violating contracts (as in the case of a “leak”). These are people performing a function analogous to that of a newspaper—yet they can face prison sentences longer than those prescribed for murderers, rapists, and terrorists."

"The Obama administration’s assault on accountability is dual-pronged: attack the messenger (as in the case of Brown, WikiLeaks, even New York Times reporters) and attack the source (Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, Thomas Drake, etc.). In fact, seven of those sources have been indicted as traitors under the 1917 Espionage Act during the Obama years alone—more than double the “espionage” charges against whistleblowers by all previous presidential administrations combined.
Finally, The New York Times covered the Barrett Brown case. As I reported last November, "New York Times reporters often used Brown as a source for Anonymous, but - except for a few republished wire reports and an April 14, 2013 op-ed by Northwestern University philosophy professor Peter J. Ludlow - the so-called 'paper of record' pretty much ignored Brown's September of 2012 arrest for nearly a full year." Last August I also chided the NY Times, because he hadn't been mentioned by any of their reporters in a story since his March 2012 raid was mysteriously scrubbed from an article. In his second video regarding FBI Agent Robert Smith (pdf transcript), Barrett said that he called a New York Times reporter he had dealt with before and "they printed right then that I'd been raided and that I'd told before that I'd hid my laptops, and they took – they deleted that part for some reason, uh, later on that day. I don't know why, they never explained it to me, they didn't also explain why they were deleting stuff."

Media reporter David Carr wrote in his September 9, 2013 New York Times column that "much of what has Mr. Brown staring at a century behind bars seems on the right side of the law, beginning with the First Amendment of the Constitution." But other Times journalists continued to ignore Brown's case, perhaps because he leaked some of their emails in #OpNYT, not long before his arrest.

Carr noted, "Journalists from other news organizations link to stolen information frequently. Just last week, The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica collaborated on a significant article about the National Security Agency’s effort to defeat encryption technologies. The article was based on, and linked to, documents that were stolen by Edward J. Snowden, a private contractor working for the government who this summer leaked millions of pages of documents to the reporter Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian along with Barton Gellman of The Washington Post."

"By trying to criminalize linking, the federal authorities in the Northern District of Texas — Mr. Brown lives in Dallas — are suggesting that to share information online is the same as possessing it or even stealing it. In the news release announcing the indictment, the United States attorney’s office explained, “By transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online, without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor and the card holders.”"
Then, a month ago, prosecutors dropped the charges against Brown, which concerned most journalists. Reporting for The Guardian, Ed Pilkington wrote, "Federal prosecutors had come under widespread criticism for seeking to prosecute Brown for the republishing of a hyperlink. Lawyers, publishers and internet freedom campaigners had warned it could set a precedent that would have put a chill on the culture of linking across the web."

The US government’s decision to drop counts one and three to 12 in the indictment relating to the Stratfor hack came just a day after lawyers for Brown filed a legal memorandum calling for those counts to be dropped. Brown’s attorneys argued in the memo that the prosecution was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, saying that “republishing a hyperlink does not itself move, convey, select, place or otherwise transfer, a file or document from one location to another”.

Federal prosecutors have given no further information about why they decided to drop the counts, and a request for comment was not immediately returned. One possible explanation is that government lawyers assessed the steep hill they had to climb overcoming First Amendment protections and decided instead to focus on the other charges still facing Brown.
However, as Free Barrett's Kevin Gallagher wrote on March 6th, "With the linking charges dropped, there are still important free press issues on the table. We cannot declare mission accomplished."

"Barrett Brown still faces up to 40 years for asserting reporter’s privilege—attempting to protect his journalistic sources by placing his laptops in a kitchen cabinet," Gallagher wrote. "In the midst of writing a book about Anonymous and reporting on private intelligence firms, Brown made a decision to make it slightly harder for government agents to obtain his sources, which he had a duty to protect."

Gallagher continued, "The fact that the search warrant being executed sought records on ‘HBGary’ and ‘Endgame Systems’, two companies he’d written and reported about, in addition to the Project PM wiki, makes clear that this FBI probe was all about his investigative journalism, and his sources, from the very beginning. This cannot be in doubt. An established journalist, Brown himself never participated in the criminal hacking activities of Anonymous—he was only involved in research using the information that was leaked."

"In conclusion, these remaining charges are still of great consequence for journalists and for press freedom," Gallagher added. "It amounts to the question of whether intrepid reporters should be unfairly targeted for exposing the ties between government intelligence agencies and their private-sector counterparts."

Yesterday, as Dell Cameron reported for The Daily Dot, "Federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment on Monday seeking to modify the criminal charges against Barrett Brown, an American journalist who was arrested on Sept. 12, 2012, after allegedly threatening the "life" of an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Adjusting the charges in such a way indicates that federal prosecutors may be negotiating a deal with Brown’s attorneys."

The U.S. government claims that Brown knowingly hindered the apprehension of a hacker identified by the motion only as “o”—a nickname [Jeremy] Hammond used when interacting with Brown during online chats. Additionally, the motion claims that Brown assisted Hammond specifically by creating “confusion regarding the identity of the hacker.” Brown also communicated with representatives of Stratfor, the government said, "in a manner that diverted attention" away from Hammond.
The indictment waiver stated, "After being advised of the nature of the charges and of his rights, Brown hereby waives in open court prosecution by indictment and consents to proceeding by information instead of by indictment." It notes that Brown "fully discussed with his attorney the right to have this case presented to a Federal Grand Jury and the consequences of waiving this right. After discussing the same with his attorney, Brown voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waives the right to have this case presented to a Federal Grand Jury."

The superseding indictment claim that "Barrett Lancaster Brown did...create confusion regarding...the purpose of the hack" may be partially based on a pastebin he wrote on December 26, 2011, that stated, "In the wake of the recent operation by which Stratfor's servers were compromised, much of the media has focused on the fact that some participants in the attack chose to use obtained customer credit card numbers to make donations to charitable causes. Although this aspect of the operation is indeed newsworthy, and, like all things, should be scrutinized and criticized as necessary, the original purpose and ultimate consequence of the operation has been largely ignored."

"Stratfor was not breached in order to obtain customer credit card numbers, which the hackers in question could not have expected to be as easily obtainable as they were. Rather, the operation was pursued in order to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm's servers. This wealth of data includes correspondence with untold thousands of contacts who have spoken to Stratfor's employees off the record over more than a decade. Many of those contacts work for major corporations within the intelligence and military contracting sectors, government agencies, and other institutions for which Anonymous and associated parties have developed an interest since February of 2011, when another hack against the intelligence contractor/security firm HBGary revealed, among many other things, a widespread conspiracy by the Justice Department, Bank of America, and other parties to attack and discredit Wikileaks and other activist groups. Since that time, many of us in the movement have dedicated our lives to investigating this state-corporate alliance against the free information movement."
Although may critics - and trolls - that rail against Barrett Brown refuse to acknowledge that he's a journalist, he has a lengthier resume than most, and back in 2010 I actually first became aware of him when he sought a job with RAW STORY, the political website I used to work for as Executive Editor. The superseding indictment claiming that Brown did "conceal the involvement and identity" and "create confusion regarding the identity of the hacker" 'o' - aka Jeremy Hammond who was sentenced to 10 years in prison last November - should especially concern all journalists who depend on sources to do their reporting, and who are supposed to be protected by the 1st Amendment under the "Freedom of the Press" clause. Many would be out-of-work if they were expected to essentially "rat out" sources and whistle blowers, since no one would confide in them anymore.

At D Magazine, Tim Rogers reported that Gallagher "guesses that this new indictment is good news," because he told him, "The new documents suggest that this was negotiated by both parties and that there is a plea agreement imminent. If so, it could mean Barrett could get out soon with time served."

However, tweets by Gallagher at the @FreeBarrett_ twitter account, suggested that Kevin was still concerned that the superseding indictment could have a chilling effect on journalists who report on Anonymous or use hackers as sources.

"'Accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access' is a new #CFAA charge which could have consequences for journalists reporting on hacks," @FreeBarrett_ tweeted, and, "If you report on hackers or use them as sources, maybe you could get charged w/ 'accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access...' too."

Kevin Gallagher told me, "The government has substituted an access device fraud charge for a new charge of being an 'accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access to a protected computer' which is surprising and troubling, especially as this new construction may potentially implicate journalists who report on leaks and hacks, and use hackers as sources, in the future. We don't know what the evidence is for this particular allegation but I'm sure we'll find out."

"The superseding indictment suggests that the parties may be negotiating something and we have yet to find out the exact form it will take," Gallagher added.

After I suggested Brown might be facing at least a year alone on the new charge - "Accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access to a protected computer" (pdf link) - and prosecutors might still want at least a two year sentence for probably the toughest charge he faced - retaliation against an FBI agent - Gallagher told me, "Any plea deal would necessarily involve some risk that Brown will receive more than time served at sentencing, but on the balance of everything we still remain hopeful that he will get out this year. The charges remaining against him cannot be worth much more."

Today, just a few hours ago, news broke that Barrett Brown had reportedly reached a plea bargain with prosecutors. The Free Barrett_ tumblr account announced, "After a year and ½ in jail awaiting trial, the writer/journalist Barrett Brown, best known for his previous association with Anonymous, through his defense team has reportedly reached an agreement with the government to plea to some counts. Full details are not available since the documents are sealed."

"The director of his legal defense fund, Kevin Gallagher, said: “The Barrett Brown who I know and call my friend has never been one to compromise with the government. But in this instance, I think he recognizes that taking this case before a jury in conservative Texas is a needless roll of the dice. In fact, I think this whole thing would have been settled long ago, if not for the fact that the government had filed excessive and meritless charges which they later dropped. I’m pleased that the parties were able to reach this agreement. Although in principle he shouldn’t have to plea to anything, this spares everyone the spectacle of a costly trial, and the bottom line is that Barrett will be coming home – as he’s already served 19 months unnecessarily. Supporters can be assured that this is in accordance with Barrett’s wishes plus expert legal advice.”"
"In motions filed with the Court, Brown’s defense made a very strong case for dismissal, which combined with negative publicity surrounding the prosecution of a non-violent writer/journalist who caused no actual harm, perhaps influenced the government to seek to settle," the Free Barrett_ tumblr statement added.

According to Wired's Kim Zetter - who, frankly, often makes errors in her reporting, "Brown is scheduled to be re-arraigned, on the charges on the superceding [sic] document, on April 29 in Texas."

"Brown is also facing charges related to threats he allegedly made against an FBI agent," Zetter added. "It’s unclear if the plea agreement will cover that indictment as well. If it does, and the two cases are combined, Brown’s maximum statutory sentence would likely be five years."

At The Guardian, Karen McVeigh reports, "A gag order on Brown's case prevents both sides from providing details, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Texas", and that "neither Brown's lawyer, Ahmed Ghappour, nor prosecutors would provide details on the developments."

Thursday night, Ars Technica posted Judge Sam A. Lindsay's order regarding the "Government’s Agreed Motion to Seal the Plea Agreement and the Factual Resume, filed March 31, 2014."

"After careful consideration, the court grants the motion, with the stipulation that on or before the date of rearraignment hearing that the government will file an agreed motion to lift the court's September 4, 2013 Agreed Order Re: Extrajudicial Statements, and thereafter request that documents filed under seal pursuant to such order be unsealed," Lindsay's order, signed April 2, 2013 continued. "The Plea Agreement and the Factual Resume shall be filed under seal".

Judge Lindsay's order reveals that Barrett Brown's indictment waiver, the superseding indictment, the "Government’s Agreed Motion to Seal the Plea Agreement and the Factual Resume" were all filed on the same day, March 31, 2014.

FreeBarrett_ tweeted that "it applies to both cases", and that "the gag order in Brown's case could be lifted, and documents unsealed, around April 29th."

Back in March 2011, Michael Isikoff (pictured above with Barrett Brown) reported for NBC News, "Brown told us he is not personally involved in any computer hacking but he fully expects federal prosecutors will come after him." And he was right.

And Kevin Gallagher could also be right that the last Barrett Brown charge "may potentially implicate journalists who report on leaks and hacks, and use hackers as sources, in the future."

(Editor's Note: I helped provide some research for the Free Barrett website, but I've continued to report objectively and sometimes critically on Brown and his defense. And I will either update this article or write a new one regarding why the superseding indictment accused Brown of "communicat[ing] with representatives of Stratfor in a manner that diverted attention away from the hacker 'o'.")

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

EaglesPAC treasurer Dan Backer uses mysterious 'Victory Online' contribution to enrich his own law firm

"A split Supreme Court Wednesday struck down limits on the total amount of money an individual may spend on political candidates as a violation of free speech rights, a decision sure to increase the role of money in political campaigns," Robert Barnes and Matea Gold reported for the Washington Post earlier today. "The case at the court was brought by a wealthy Alabama political donor named Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee."

At Slate, Dave Weigel reports, "Three years ago Dan Backer had met the wealthy Alabaman at CPAC. He convinced him to challenge the court's donation limits. He'd been proved right about their chances."

"Who's [sic] client just won at the Supreme Court?" wrote Dan Backer on Facebook. "THIS GUY! SCOTUS rules in favor of McCutcheon!"
On August 30, 2012, I emailed a trio of Paris-based filmmakers to ask why an American political action committee called EaglesPAC was using their film 'The Gloaming' to raise money. I included a link to the PAC's website and its details page at the Federal Election Commission's website.

"The Gloaming" is a short animated French film written by Nicolas Pasquet and directed by three filmmakers who use the moniker NoBrain, that was released by Sabotage Studio in 2011. On June 28, 2012, "The Gloaming" was chosen as "short of the week" by a website which "seek[s] to discover and promote the greatest and most innovative storytellers from around the world."

It was screened at Italy's Euganea Film Festival for international short films and documentaries in 2011, and Nobrain also directed a music video for the song "All Downhill from Here" by New Found Glory, and according to a Wikipedia article, "When the music video for this song aired on MTV's TRL (Total Request Live), fans voted it on the show 50 days in a row."

A screenshot I took that week of www.EaglesPAC.com shows that underneath "The Gloaming" short, the website was asking for contributions to "The New Establishment," and that "$500 gets you our plan, $1,000 gets you our plan and a call from our Executive Director $5,000+ gets you on the strategy board etc."

"Please make your most generous contribution today," the EaglesPAC website pleaded, at the time. "Your donation will be spent immediately on the literature and advertising we need to win. Thank you so much!"



"We were not aware about that," Nobrain wrote back hours later. "And we gonna stop this immediately, thx for blowing the whistle."

I wrote back, "The lawyer behind that PAC seems to be the only name attached to it. And he is the Treasurer for many PACs, including one for Ron Paul and others for conservatives and tea party groups." I included a link to a March 14, 2012 Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group article written by Keenan Steiner called "Crusading lawyer takes aim at contribution limits," about Dan Backer, the Principal Attorney at DB Capitol Strategies," who has been pushing the FEC to "ease a host of campaign finance rules." Steiner's article focused on "Backer's latest target: the ceiling on how much money a person can give candidates for federal office in one election cycle, which currently stands at $46,200."

"My god, if someone ever told me my film will be used by those kind of mofos (excuse my french) one day, i never believed it," niko nobrain wrote back.

I also told nobrain,
"The website was registered on July 2, 2012...but I'm not sure how long your film has been on that website or if they collected any money...and what exactly it's going to. The lawyer [Dan Backer] is a proponent of PACs giving unlimited funds to candidates [Cutting Edge News Democracy21.org].

The PAC was registered with FEC on July 9 [link pdf link].
"
According to the October Quarterly (pdf link) filed by EaglesPAC treasurer Dan Backer on October 12, 2012, a group called "Victory Online" made a "Carey contribution" of $1,000 to the PAC, the day before I sent that email on August 29, 2012.



On September 6, 2012, I published a story called "'Crusading' legal eagle filches French film to raise cash for sketchy PAC," after I was informed that Nobrain had spoken to a lawyer and was contacting Backer "to ask them to stop this nonsense."

"Beyond the fact that the political ideas you are supporting scares me to death, i think it's very rude of you to use our work for this kind of purposes without any authorization from us," the director of 'The Gloaming' complained in a September 7, 2012 email to Backer, which was cc'd to an Intellectual Property Rights barrister at a London law firm. "The film is online to be watched as a film and not as a propaganda weapon to raise money."

The email to Backer continued, "For the respect of all the people who worked on this project, for us and artistic rights in general, i'm asking you to immediately remove the film from your website. If tomorrow the film is still on your web page i will use other ways to convince you."

Backer's response was brief and to the point: "Thank you for your email. I have communicated with my client and he has removed the content."

The EaglesPAC treasurer didn't mention the client's name, but the website at www.eaglesPAC.com was scrubbed that same day, and replaced with an "under construction" message that hasn't changed nineteen months later.

"And the mofos finally turned the web site off...," Niko nobrain wrote in a September 28, 2012 comment left on my article. "I'm still amazed how those people can be stupid enough to not understand what this film is really about."

I'm uncertain if niko nobrain's winning barrister earned a dime (or six pence or so), but the losing side's lawyers got paid. And, in this case, the EaglesPAC treasurer has his own law firm, DB Capitol Strategies PLLC, which scarfed up ninety-five percent of the PAC's treasury. According to the same October Quarterly (pdf link), Backer's firm collected $950 in "legal fees" from the mysterious PAC on September 7, 2012.



According to the Statement of Organization filed with the Federal Election Commission on July 9, 2012 and signed by Treasurer Dan Backer, the EaglesPAC "supports/opposes more than one Federal candidate, and is NOT a separate segregated fund or party committee." Backer claimed "NONE" on the portion of the FEC filing that asks for names of "any connected organization, affiliated committee, joint fundraising representative, or leadership PAC sponsor."

The only information for "Victory Online" that I've been able to obtain is the address found on the EaglesPAC FEC filing: 2029 Century Park East Suite 1400, Los Angeles, California 90067. Many lawfirms and businesses are located at that suite, so it's difficult to figure out which one is tied to "Victory Online". There is an online marketing company called "Victory Online" - which has worked on Tea Party campaigns - located in Los Angeles, but the name is generic and the address is different, so I'm unsure if they are related.

Backer filed to terminate EaglesPAC - which never contributed any money to any candidates or campaigns - on January 10, 2014. The PAC only spent a few hundred dollars on expenses, aside from the payment to Backer, and he is the only name tied to it on all its FEC filings, except for the mysterious "Victory Online" firm.

On January 23, 2014, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Nicole Miller from the Reports Analysis Division informed Dan Backer, "Your committee's filing has been accepted as a valid termination and "is no longer required to file reports on a periodic basis...However Commission's Regulations require that you maintain your records and copies of reports for inspection for at least three (3) years. In addition, you may be required to respond to Commission requests for information regarding your committee's federal election activity and previously filed reports."

The $1,000 2012 payment to EaglesPAC was marked as a "Carey contribution," which refers to the Retired Rear Admiral Carey v. FEC case, involving the National Defense PAC. Dan Backer also happens to represent the National Defense PAC, as FEC Compliance Counsel and Assistant Treasurer.

"That organization, the National Defense PAC (ND PAC), supported candidates who had served in the Armed Forces," Sean J. Miller reported for Campaigns and Elections on January 4, 2012. "Its support came primarily through direct contributions to candidates, which were limited by law. But taking advantage of the SpeechNow.org case and other precedents, ND PAC also wanted to accept unlimited contributions to spend on its own advertisements."

"A federal court ultimately issued a stinging injunction against the FEC. While Carey could set up another PAC to make independent expenditures (IEs), that would double his group’s record-keeping and registration burdens – not to mention dilute ND PAC’s name recognition. Carey and his team preferred to handle both direct contributions and IEs within ND PAC, using segregated bank accounts for the two pools of funds. The U.S. District Court for D.C. agreed, and the FEC entered into a settlement conceding the unconstitutionality of regulations forbidding ND PAC’s arrangement.

But that arrangement only applied to so-called non-connected PACs – those without a parent organization. Backer’s clients are asking for approval to apply the Carey ruling to connected PACs. 'Everyone wants to comply with the law,' said Backer, an attorney with DB Capitol Strategies. 'We just want to make sure what the law is.'

'We should make it easy to speak in politics and unclear rules don’t help,' he added. 'Nobody wants to go to jail over this stuff.'
"
Kelly S. Eustis, "President and Chief Executive Officer of Eusatrix Corporation, a strategic public relations and political consulting firm specializing in campaigns and issue advocacy, public affairs, and online strategy," (according to his website's bio), also was part of the Carey v. FEC lawsuit. Eustis is also the "founder of One Nation PAC, which raises money for conservative, tea party-affiliated causes," The WatertownDaily Times reported in a June 13, 2011 article. Backer is treasurer and counsel for One Nation PAC, as well.

Included in the "ongoing harm to plaintiffs" section of Carey v. FEC (pdf link) were the following arguments, in a complaint filed on January 31, 2011:

"As soon as possible, and certainly before the 2012 primary and general elections, National Defense PAC would like to make independent expenditures from its general fund, in various amounts, expressly advocating for or against clearly identified candidates of its choice. A specific example of this is included as EXHIBIT F, which includes a proposed advertisement for Newsmax – a popular Internet destination – expressly advocating against the retention of Anthony Weiner in New York’s Ninth Congressional District. This advertisement, with a guaranteed 50,000 views per week, would cost $6,300.00 to run in the months leading up to the November 2012 elections. The advertisements in question would include a picture of Anthony Weiner along with the call to 'defeat Anthony Weiner' – asking users to click on the advertisement to learn more.

A specific example of this is included as EXHIBIT G, a letter of intent from Kelly S. Eustis, who wishes to donate $6,300.00 to help fund independent expenditure communication campaigns against Anthony Weiner but cannot due to the current operation and interpretation of the law by the FEC.

As soon as possible, and certainly before the 2012 primary and general elections, Kelly S. Eustis would like to make a $6,300.00 contribution to National Defense PAC to help fund independent expenditure communications against Anthony Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District of New York. But for operation and interpretation of 2 U.S.C. §§ 441a(a)(1)(C) and 441a(a)(3), Kelly S. Eustis would make this contribution.
"
The letter from Eustis, dated January 25, 2011 and addressed to Rear Admiral James J. Carey [Ret.], stated, "Please accept this letter as a firm statement of my intent to support the Independent Expenditure advocacy of the National Defense PAC. I share your views as to the importance of defeating Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York in the next election, and want to join you in advocating for his defeat."

"I am only willing to contribute if my contribution will be able to have an actual impact, and if it is legal to do so under federal election law," the Eustis letter continued. "As such, I will contribute $6300, which is the cost you have shared with me to mount an online campaign in opposition to Congressman Weiner. Further, I await clarification from your counsel that my contribution exclusively to your independent expenditure activities is lawful, as determined by either the Federal Election Commission or the courts."



Exhibit F showed the "proposed online banner advertisement and script of 'click through page' in opposition to Congressman Anthony Weiner."



On March 8, 2013, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Nicole Miller informed Dan Backer, "A review of your reports discloses apparent activity for your committee's Non-Contribution Account. If a committee establishes a separate Non-Contribution Account, consistent with the judgment made in Carey v. FEC, it should notify the Commission by letter filed with their Statement of Organization. If your committee has established separate Non-Contribution Account, please amend your Statement of Organization to include a notification letter clarifying this."

Miller's email to Backer requested a response by April 12, 2013, and she wrote that if he had any additional questions he could contact her "on our toll free number (800)424-9530 (at the prompt press 5 to reach the Reports Analysis Division) or my local number (202) 694-1164)."

On April 8, 2013, Backer filed an Amended Statement of Organization, which noted, "Consistent with the stipulated judgment in Carey v. FEC, this committee has established a separate bank account (a Carey Account) to deposit and withdraw funds raised in unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations, labor organizations, and/or other political committees (Carey Contributions). The Carey Contributions maintained in this Carey account will not be used to make contributions, whether direct, in-kind, or via coordinated communications, or coordinated expenditures, to federal candidates or committees."

The Access National Bank - located at 14006 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy Chantilly, Virginia 20151 - was named by Backer as the bank for the committee's separate account.

Backer's 4/8/13 Amended Statement of Organization claimed that the committee's web address was EaglesPAC.org, rather than EaglesPAC.com, as did the original Statement of Organization filed on July 3, 2012.



Another Amended Statement of Organization filed by Backer - which changed the EaglesPAC address from his P.O. Box 75021 in Washington DC to the DB Capitol Strategies King Street address in Alexandria, Virginia - also claimed that EaglesPAC.org was the committee's website.

According to Who Is, EaglesPAC.com was created - through Domains By Proxy - on July 2, 2012, updated on June 27, 2013 and will expire on July 2, 2014, and lists EaglesPAC.net and EaglesPAC.org as similar domains but archive.org shows no activity for either listing, and there doesn't seem to be any indication that EaglesPAC owned any other website but EaglesPAC.com. Who Is shows no history for EaglesPAC.org, and it remains available for purchase.

[Editor's Note: Dave Weigel omits the fact that he's friendly with many colleagues of Dan Backer and Shaun McCutcheon - such as filmmaker Ladd Ehlinger Jr. - who he has hyped in many stories. Ehlinger has not only been hired by PACs controlled by Backer to create viral campaign ads - including one that McCutcheon's website brags he "sponsored...to encourage voters to support Republican Bob Turner in the special election to replace Anthony Weiner after his scandal" - he has also been a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the FEC (Stop This Insanity pdf, Docket showing Backer representing Ehlinger). Weigel has also hung out at CPAC parties sponsored by Backer and McCutcheon, but the Slate reporter is not big on transparency when it comes to himself. In 2012, Weigel and Slate leaked - and cherry-picked - Direct Messages I sent him regarding convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin, who I was falsely accused of working with in a conspiracy theory lawsuit argued by Dan Backer, that was tossed out of court, and Ehlinger also leaked emails to slander me at his blog.]

Sunday, February 9, 2014

DoJ argues antidepressant improved journalist's rational faculties so he could waive Miranda rights

US gov't filing in Matthew Keys case cites National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, which actually warns that anti-insomnia drug Trazodone can "affect your judgment"

"Benjamin B. Wagner was appointed by President Barack Obama on November 6, 2009, to serve as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California," according to his justice.gov profile, and he apparently believes that an antidepressant prescribed for insomnia can be beneficial to journalists who are interrogated by the FBI. In a January filing, US Attorney Benjamin Wagner also suggests that being high on heroin wouldn't prevent defendants from waiving their "Miranda rights validly."

Rachel Zarrell reported for BuzzFeed on December 14, 2013, "In a new defense filing, former Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys claims statements he made to the FBI last year were unreliable due to sleeping pills he had taken about five hours earlier."

"Keys was indicted on federal charges last March for allegedly conspiring with the hacking group Anonymous to breach a Tribune Co. website, changing a story from the Los Angeles Times," Zarrell added. "The filing includes a previously unseen transcript in which FBI agents interrogate Keys at his home around 6 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2012, where he admitted to working with Anonymous to hack into the website and change a headline on a story. Filed in California yesterday, the filing by Keys seeks to suppress evidence collected by the FBI on the grounds the defendant was under the influence of Trazodone."

In a December 12, 2013 declaration, Matthew Keys claimed, "During the time of the interrogation, I was still under the influence of Trazodone and I felt drowsy, confused and forgetful."

"The questioning concluded with agents encouraging me to make a written statement, for which I initially refused citing concern over my state of mind," Keys complained. "Despite my concern, agents continued to encourage me to make a written statement."

According to the FBI transcript (pdf link), Keys told the FBI on October 4, 2012, "I can tell you I want to write whatever you want me to write in your presence," however, "I don't know that right now I'm in the state of mind where I can, and it's not because I don't want to, it's because I want to be cognizant of any event."

In a December 13, 2013 declaration in support of defendant's motion to suppress, osteopath Dr. Barry Cogen wrote, "Trazodone hydrochloride, also known as Desyrel, is prescribed for either depression or sleeplessness," and "[c]ommon side effects" are "confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue and nervousness." (pdf link)

"Because Mr. Keys was awoken during his Desyrel induced sleep, it is my opinion that his statements are unreliable," Dr. Cogen declared. The osteopath "listened to portions of the statements in question," and claims that "facts" show "that there was a very slight slurring of words at the beginning of the interrogation" and "Keys often trailed off when speaking."

Cogen further added, "Someone under the effects of Desyrel would be somewhat incoherent during the pendency of that entire interrogation. A statement given as the result of Desyrel under these circumstances is inherently unreliable and should not be used in a court proceeding where innocence or guilt is being determined."

In the January 3, 2014 opposition to motion to suppress (pdf link), US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Assistant US Attorney Matthew D. Segal, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman and Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section Trial Attorney James Silver argued that "Keys' argument fails for multiple reasons."

"Trazodone Is Primarily An Anti-Depressant and May Have Benefited Keys," the government's response claimed in bold lettering.

It continues, "First, Trazodone may have actually improved Keys' mental functioning and rational faculties, and therefore his ability to waive his Miranda rights validly. In answer to the question "Why is this medication prescribed?" the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that "Trazodone is used to treat depression. Trazodone is in a class of medications called serotonin modulators. It works by increasing the amount of serotonin, a natural substance in the brain that helps maintain mental balance."

The government also countered that defendants in Ninth Circuit cases cited in the response "who had ingested powerful drugs such as Demerol and heroin were still held to have made voluntary statements" and that "[i]n light of these cases involving stronger medications, Keys' ingestion of Trazodone could not have prevented him from waiving his Miranda rights validly."

On January 10, 2014, Keys' lawyers Jay Leiderman, Eric Lindgren and Tor Ekeland argued in a reply to opposition to motion to suppress that "[c]onsidering the side effects ["weakness or tiredness...nervousness [and] decreased ability to concentrate or remember things"] listed by the NIH, it does not follow that it could have improved his mental functioning and rational faculties."

Unmentioned by Keys' legal team is that in answer to the question "What special precautions should I follow?" the NIH website cited in the US government's filing states that "you should know that trazodone may make you drowsy and affect your judgment."

Eoin Reynolds reported for The Guardian on January 29, 2014, "The case against Keys has caused a stir in the online media community, where many are concerned he is the victim of over-stringent action by law enforcement."

"At the US district court in Sacramento on Wednesday, an attorney for Keys, Jay Leiderman, said federal agents carried out a trawl of files on Keys's computer in 2012 that was not allowed under their search warrant," Reynolds wrote. "He asked that information taken from the computer be suppressed by the court."

Reynolds noted, "Judge Kimberly Mueller is expected to give her decision on the legality of the search on 26 February."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reuters article reveals FBI apparently lied about large Anonymous breaches 'not happening' anymore

Justice Dept. memo related to case of Anonymous hacker sentenced on the same day Reuters exclusive was published may contain another lie; Two months after finally covering Barrett Brown, New York Times returns to ignoring his case

Lying to the FBI is a crime, but the bureau has a long history of engaging in asymmetric behavior when it comes to truthfully informing the public. It seems like the only "change" since 2008 - after Obama was elected president - is that lying has become more routine, and that it is done for public relations or propaganda purposes, rather than collecting information or preventing crimes.

An exclusive article published by Reuters reveals that not only have "activist hackers linked to the collective known as Anonymous secretly accessed U.S. government computers in multiple agencies and stolen sensitive information in a campaign that began almost a year ago," but that an FBI official apparently lied to the US public in August when he claimed that - due to high profile arrests - "large information breaches" were "not happening" anymore.

"The hackers exploited a flaw in Adobe Systems Inc's software to launch a rash of electronic break-ins that began last December, then left 'back doors' to return to many of the machines as recently as last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a memo seen by Reuters," Jim Finkle and Joseph Menn reported for Reuters on Friday.

The article continues, "According to an internal email from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz' chief of staff, Kevin Knobloch, the stolen data included personal information on at least 104,000 employees, contractors, family members and others associated with the Department of Energy, along with information on almost 2,0000 bank accounts."

"Officials said the hacking was linked to the case of Lauri Love, a British resident indicted on October 28 for allegedly hacking into computers at the Department of Energy, Army, Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and elsewhere," Finkle and Menn report. "Investigators believe the attacks began when Love and others took advantage of a security flaw in Adobe's ColdFusion software, which is used to build websites."

The Reuters exclusive almost completely contradicts bragging - and apparently premature grave dancing - by an FBI official a few months ago.

According to the FBI, "[t]he hacker collective Anonymous has not produced as many high-profile cyber attacks as it once did, a drop-off that can be directly attributed to the arrests of the group's core members ," Gerry Smith reported for Huffington Post on August 21, 2013.

"The movement is still there, and they're still yacking on Twitter and posting things, but you don't hear about these guys coming forward with those large breaches," Austin P. Berglas, the "assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's cyber division in New York," told Huffington Post. "It's just not happening, and that's because of the dismantlement of the largest players."

As Smith reported, the "41-year-old Berglas leads the FBI's cyber division in New York, one of the busiest of the FBI's 56 field offices," so it's unlikely he was left in the dark about the investigation of breaches "that began almost a year ago" revealed by Reuters on Friday. Perhaps Berglas carefully stated that "you don't hear about these guys coming forward with those large breaches," because no news organization had reported on the Adobe Systems case, yet. The October 11, 2013 FBI memo noted that "the majority of the intrusions have not yet been made publicly known."

While it's possible when Berglas gave his August interview that the FBI didn't have enough evidence to tie Anonymous hackers to the breaches related to stolen information for over 100,000 victims, they almost certainly knew about it then, and presumably wasn't ruling them out.

The Reuters article was published on the same day that Anonymous hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced in a New York federal courtroom to ten years of prison. Although evidence shows that Hammond's illegal hacks of private security firms and government were rooted in activism, a federal judge dismissed his clearly politically-minded actions as "mayhem."

"Before being sentenced inside a packed courthouse in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Hammond, 28, described his hacking activities as 'acts of civil disobedience' against both an expanding surveillance state and the companies that do the government's bidding," Mark Mazzetti reported for The New York Times on Friday. "But Federal District Judge Loretta A. Preska was unmoved, telling Mr. Hammond 'there's nothing high-minded or public-spirited about causing mayhem.'"

The New York Times headline - "Hacker Receives 10-Year Sentence for 'Causing Mayhem'" - focuses on the judge's derisive pronouncement, rather than Hammond's defense or the actual charges he pleaded guilty over, largely in order to avoid a potential 30-year prison sentence if convicted. Mazzetti also ignored the potential conflict of interest that Hammond's lawyers had argued should have led Judge Preska to recuse herself from the case. In February, Preska refused to step down because her husband only was a two week subscriber to Stratfor, the email address leaked by Hammond and his co-conspirators was "publicly available" at his law firm's website, and he "never provided Stratfor with [his] credit card number or any other personal financial or identifying information such as [his] name, address, Social Security number or telephone number" (pdf link).

And although journalist Barrett Brown - who embedded himself into Anonymous to report on it - is currently facing over a 100 years in prison for copy-and-pasting a link in a IRC chat room to hacked Stratfor emails which included subscribers' credit card info, Mazzetti doesn't mention his name even once. Brown is facing over triple the time that Hammond faced, even though he had nothing to do with the actual hacking. New York Times reporters often used Brown as a source for Anonymous, but - except for a few republished wire reports and an April 14, 2013 op-ed by Northwestern University philosophy professor Peter J. Ludlow - the so-called "paper of record" pretty much ignored Brown's September of 2012 arrest for nearly a full year.

Media reporter David Carr wrote in his September 9, 2013 New York Times column that "much of what has Mr. Brown staring at a century behind bars seems on the right side of the law, beginning with the First Amendment of the Constitution." But other Times journalists continue to ignore Brown's case, perhaps because he leaked some of their emails in #OpNYT, not long before his arrest. (Editor's Note: I helped provide some research for the Free Barrett website for nearly eight months, but I've continued to report objectively and sometimes critically on Brown and his defense.)

A hacker named Hector Xavier Monsegur was secretly arrested in 2011, but worked as a confidential informant for the FBI to help catch others in Anonymous. Many "hacktivists" complain that while Monsegur aka "Sabu" committed some hacking crimes for selfish reasons, the hackers he helped "entrap" acted altruistically.

In his defense, Hammond argued that the FBI used Sabu to manipulate him and other hackers "to collect information regarding the vulnerabilities of foreign government websites and in some cases, disabl[e] them." However, Department of Justice lawyers countered that Hammond's "claims are baseless."

"While the CW and Hammond did discuss vulnerabilities of foreign websites (among others), in fact, the FBI notified foreign governments about this activity and the vulnerabilities in their websites after Hammond was arrested and the CW's role could be revealed without harming the investigation so they could take appropriate remedial action. In any event, even if Hammond's allegations were true, which they are not, they do not bear on any issues relevant to sentencing," Preet Bharara - the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York - and Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Brown and Rosemary Nidiry argued in a Justice Dept. sentencing memo (hat tip: @APBlake; footnote on pages 19-29: pdf link).

At his sentencing on Friday, Hammond claimed he "broke into numerous websites [the C.I.] supplied, uploaded the stolen email accounts and databases onto Sabu's FBI server, and handed over passwords and backdoors that enabled Sabu (and, by extension, his FBI handlers) to control these targets."

Hammond specifically cited Iran, Brazil and Turkey government websites in court - which the Judge admonished him over - but the names of six or seven other foreign government websites allegedly targeted were redacted from his statement.

"These intrusions, all of which were suggested by Sabu while cooperating with the FBI, affected thousands of domain names and consisted largely of foreign government websites, including those of XXXXXXX, XXXXXXXX, XXXX, XXXXXX, XXXXX, XXXXXXXX, XXXXXXX and the XXXXXX XXXXXXX," Hammond added. "In one instance, Sabu and I provided access information to hackers who went on to deface and destroy many government websites in XXXXXX. I don't know how other information I provided to him may have been used, but I think the government's collection and use of this data needs to be investigated."

While the Justice Department memo claims "the FBI notified foreign governments about this activity and the vulnerabilities in their websites after Hammond was arrested," it seems extremely dubious that an unfriendly country such as Iran would be warned, and that the U.S government and military wouldn't take advantage of such a potential intelligence coup.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

FBI director suggests Sabu helped feds build case against Barrett Brown

Update below: Brown's prosecutors claim no confidential human sources were used in case but that doesn't seem to explain warrant for March, 2012 raid, unless prosecutors were allowed to go on a fishing expedition and FBI agents were granted the go-ahead to seize a journalist's computers

On August 8, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert S. Mueller, III gave a speech called "The Future of Cyber Security from the FBI’s Perspective" at the International Conference on Cyber Security 2013 held at Fordham University in New York City.

"Over two years after the Summer of Lulz, FBI Director Robert Mueller remarks at the Fordham ICCS Conference this past Thursday, to the best of my knowledge, the first time he made mention of Lulz Security & their informant leader Sabu, better known as Hector Xavier Monsegur, Jr.," the Operation Slingshot blog notes. "It is quite curious, since apart from the arrests and proceedings themselves, the FBI leadership has more or less kept radio silence on the matter."

Eight months before Barrett Brown, a journalist who essentially embedded himself into Anonymous, is scheduled to go on trial for computer related crimes, the outgoing FBI director may have accidentally revealed that the feds may have used Sabu's cooperation to help build the case against him.

Mueller told the conference that the Bureau's "combination of technical skills and traditional investigative techniques recently led the FBI to the hacker known as Sabu—one of the co-founders of LulzSec."

"This case began when our Los Angeles Division collected IP addresses that were used to hack into the database of a TV game show. One of these led to an individual who had failed to anonymize his IP address," Mueller said. "Our New York Office used confidential human sources, search warrants, and physical surveillance to identify and locate this man, who was only known then by his online moniker, Sabu."

He added, "When our agents went to arrest him, they gave him a choice: Go to jail now, or cooperate."

"Sabu agreed to cooperate, continuing to use his online identity," Mueller continued. "His cooperation helped us to build cases that led to the arrest of six other hackers linked to groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec. It also allowed us to identify hundreds of security vulnerabilities—which helped us to stop future attacks and limit harm from prior intrusions."

Douglas Stanglin reported for USAToday on March 6, 2012, "Five alleged hackers have been charged with breaking into the computer systems of governments, corporations and media organizations after the reputed head of the LulzSec ring became an FBI informant, authorities announced."

"Five computer hackers in the United States and abroad were charged today, and a sixth pled guilty, for computer hacking and other crimes," the March 6, 2012 indictment states. "The six hackers identified themselves as aligned with the group Anonymous, which is a loose confederation of computer hackers and others, and/or offshoot groups related to Anonymous, including 'Internet Feds,' 'LulzSec,' and 'AntiSec.'"

"RYAN ACKROYD, a/k/a “kayla,” a/k/a “lol,”a/k/a “lolspoon,” JAKE DAVIS, a/k/a “topiary,” a/k/a “atopiary,” DARREN MARTYN, a/k/a “pwnsauce,” a/k/a “raepsauce,” a/k/a “networkkitten,” and DONNCHA O’CEARRBHAIL, a/k/a “palladium,” who identified themselves as members of Anonymous, Internet Feds, and/or LulzSec, were charged in an Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court with computer hacking conspiracy involving the hacks of Fox Broadcasting Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the Public Broadcasting Service (“PBS”). O’CEARRBHAIL is also charged in a separate criminal Complaint with intentionally disclosing an unlawfully intercepted wire communication.

HECTOR XAVIER MONSEGUR, a/k/a “Sabu,” a/k/a “Xavier DeLeon,” a/k/a “Leon,” who also identified himself as a member of Anonymous, Internet Feds and LulzSec, pled guilty on August 15, 2011 in U.S. District Court to a 12-count information charging him with computer hacking conspiracies and other crimes. MONSEGUR’S Information and guilty plea were unsealed today. The crimes to which MONSEGUR pled guilty include computer hacking conspiracy charges initially filed in the Southern District of New York. He also pled guilty to the following charges: a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California related to the hacks of HBGary, Inc. and HBGary Federal LLC; a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California related to the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Fox Broadcasting Company; a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia related to the hack of Infragard Members Alliance; a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia related to the hack of PBS, all of which were transferred to the Southern District of New York, pursuant to Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, in coordination with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (“CCIPS”) in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Late yesterday, JEREMY HAMMOND, a/k/a “Anarchaos,” a/k/a “sup_g,” a/k/a “burn,” a/k/a “yohoho,” a/k/a “POW,” a/k/a “tylerknowsthis,” a/k/a “crediblethreat,” who identified himself as a member of AntiSec, was arrested in Chicago, Illinois and charged in a criminal Complaint with crimes relating to the December 2011 hack of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (“Stratfor”), a global intelligence firm in Austin, Texas, which may have affected approximately 860,000 victims. In publicizing the Stratfor hack, members of AntiSec reaffirmed their connection to Anonymous and other related groups, including LulzSec. For example, AntiSec members published a document with links to the stolen Stratfor data entitled: “Anonymous Lulzxmas rooting you proud” on a file sharing website.
"

Last March, I reported that The New York Times oddly deleted passages related to Barrett Brown from their March 7, 2012 article, which was originally credited to Somini Sengupta and Nicole Perlroth. The story originally said, "Barrett Brown, a member of Anonymous who has often served as a spokesman for the group, said that his home in Dallas had been raided and that the F.B.I. had sent three agents to his mother’s house, where he was staying last night."

"'I received an advance warning of the raid and put all my laptops in very specific places where they couldn’t be found,' Mr. Brown said. He said the agents left without making an arrest.

Mr. Brown said the arrests elsewhere would not slow down the Anonymous movement. 'There are lots and lots of people here that continue to work. The F.B.I. did not really cut the head off of anything. Anonymous will go forward as usual. So will I. We hired an army of lawyers last January. We are prepared for a big slug-out.'
"

When I asked Perloth why all three paragraphs related to Barrett Brown were scrubbed, she sent me a bland, boilerplate statement which didn't really explain anything: "Hi Ron, Thanks for the inquiry, it's the type of q we often get from readers. In this case the story that was originally posted... on the Web was updated and revised multiple times before it went to print, with some material deleted as more was added. In happens all the time, in part to freshen the story and in part because we think that changes make it better. Hope that helps!"

Even though The New York Times used Barrett Brown as a source for multiple stories, he hasn't been mentioned by any of their reporters in a story since this scrubbing - which even Brown called odd in one of his videos. The New York Times staff completely ignored Barrett Brown's arrest last September, even though he's one of the most famous and known contributors to Anonymous. It's possible that Times reporters are purposely blacklisting all mention of Brown because he published conversations he had with a few of them in an "op" he mounted in the summer of 2012.

Mueller said that Sabu's "cooperation helped us to build cases that led to the arrest of six other hackers linked to groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec." Since only five others are named on the indictment unsealed on March 6, 2012, and Barrett Brown was raided that same day, the FBI director's speech appears to suggest that Brown was number six. Brown isn't a hacker, so it was probably too difficult for prosecutors to find a reason to charge him on March 6, 2012.

In a pastebin posted on March 7, 2012, Barrett Brown complained, after FBI agents showed up at his apartment on March 6, "At that point I began taking calls and e-mails from the press regarding Sabu, whom I learned was in fact a degenerate pussy traitor who couldn't face two fucking years in prison, making him the biggest pussy in the history of mankind. There were several people who came to this conclusion early on; I was not wise enough to be one of them. As to the various stunts he pulled in the months since his arrest - including but not limited to the unnecessary release of credit card information for Stratfor customers - we may never know to what extent such things were encouraged by his 'Justice Department' handlers in an effort to discredit this movement. But I digress, lol. At any rate, the Feds came back a couple of hours later with a search warrant for my mom's place - they fully intended to take a certain laptop, and did."

A website devoted to raising funds for Barrett Brown's defense called Free Barrett states, "Having previously been raided by the FBI on March 6, 2012 and not charged with any crime in relation to that incident, on September 12, 2012 Barrett Brown was again raided and this time arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he was online participating in a Tinychat session. He was subsequently denied bail and detained without charge and adequate medical treatment for over two weeks while in the custody of US Marshals. In the first week of October 2012, he was finally indicted on three counts. related to alleged activities or postings on popular websites such as Twitter and YouTube."

In the early morning on September 12, I called the chambers of the North Dallas judge who allegedly signed the warrants (which Michael Hastings later published in a report on Brown for BuzzFeed), and was told that there was no record of it. They suggested I contact the US Attorney's Office to see if the warrants were sealed. The North Dallas Department of Justice office couldn't find any record of the warrants, and was skeptical that they even existed. In a video Barrett Brown claimed that the FBI told him the warrants were sealed because he was the target of a Mexican drug cartel, but it's not clear if he was being serious or not.

"On December 4, 2012 Barrett was indicted by a federal grand jury on twelve additional counts related to data from the Stratfor breach," the Free Barrett website adds. "Despite his lack of direct involvement in the operation and stated opposition to it, he faces these charges simply for allegedly pasting a hyperlink online."

[Editor's Note: I provided the Free Barrett website with research for over six months after Brown's arrest, and I helped contribute to the last line of the preceding paragraph. I've never been in Anonymous, but I support Brown because he's an imprisoned journalist. However, I report objectively on his case, and have often criticized Brown, some of his lawyers and the Free Barrett website.]

The 12 counts on Brown's second indictment - so far - are the only charges that he faces that could be related to Sabu's cooperation. It states that Brown was "aided and abetted by persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury," and one of those persons could be Sabu.

Even though there doesn't seem to be any proof that Brown had anything to do with the Stratfor hack - or foreknowledge of the crime - the majority of the time he faces is related to it. Sabu and Hammond pled guilty to the actual hack, and while the former's sentencing keeps getting postponed (August 23rd is the next date), the latter is facing up to ten years. Brown is currently facing decades, just for copy-and-pasting a link to a fileshare that contained some credit card information into an IRC chat room so he and his Project PM colleagues could pore over the details of the emails in hopes of finding possibly illegal activities by the US government or security firms.

The unsealed March 6. 2012 indictment against Sabu and five others states, "In December 2011, HAMMOND conspired to hack into computer systems used by Stratfor, a private firm that provides governments and others with independent geopolitical analysis. HAMMOND and his co-conspirators, as members of AntiSec, stole confidential information from those computer systems, including Stratfor employees’ emails as well as account information for approximately 860,000 Stratfor subscribers or clients. HAMMOND and his co-conspirators stole credit card information for approximately 60,000 credit card users and used some of the stolen data to make unauthorized charges exceeding $700,000. HAMMOND and his co-conspirators also publicly disclosed some of the confidential information they had stolen."

The Free Barrett website adds, "On January 23rd, 2013 he was indicted a third time on two more counts, relating to the March 2012 FBI raid(s) on his apartment and his mother’s house."

"Sabu was assumed to have been an informant in his case as well, until the prosecutors in Barrett’s case stated there were none at all," the Operation Slingshot blogger wrote, but I'm not sure how he or she came to this conclusion [SEE UPDATE BELOW]. The warrant for the March 6, 2012 raids on Barrett Brown's residences was looking for specific information, which seems to have been derived from an informant's claims. It sought info related to HBGary, Stratfor and Endgame Systems - a shadowy security firm Brown was probing. The warrant also mentioned InfraGard - which was hacked - but Brown said in one of his videos that he never worked on anything related to them.

"I suspect that the FBI is working off of incorrect information," Brown told Hastings - who died in a car accident two months ago - in April of 2012.

There is another informant - a wannabe security firm agent who worked with HBGary after it was hacked - named Jennifer Emick who has relentlessly pursued Barrett Brown since at least February of 2011. A future story that I have been working on for months will hopefully be finished before Brown's trial which is scheduled for April of 2014.

UPDATE - The Free Barrett website pointed out to me that prosecutors claimed no informants were involved in the Barrett Brown case in a July response to a Discovery request by his lawyers (Page 24 of PDF).

Brown's lawyers requested, "A list of all confidential sources who provided information for any application for a search warrant, arrest warrant or eavesdropping warrant in this case, regardless whether such warrant was actually sought or obtained."

"A confidential human source (CHS) is any individual who is believed to be providing useful and credible information to the FBI for any authorized information collection activity, and from whom the FBI expects or intends to obtain additional useful and credible information in the future, and whose identity, information or relationship with the FBI warrants confidential handling. see http://www.justice.gov/oip/docs/ag-guidelines-use-of-fbi-chs.pdf," the prosecutors responded. "The prosecution team did not rely on any CHSs in applying for search or arrest warrants in Brown’s cases."

Brown's lawyers also requested, "A statement of whether any evidence in the government’s possession, custody, or control was obtained through a confidential informant, and if so, a description of such evidence."

"The prosecution team did not rely on any CHSs in presenting the facts to the Grand Jury for the return of Brown’s Indictments. (See the definition of CHS in the response to #10 above.) If the prosecution team receives/reviews any information or evidence from a CHS and determines the same to be discoverable, it will notify the defense," prosecutors responded.

A member of Project PM who uses the handle @subverzo on Twitter also pointed out that Sabu isn't listed as a witness. The government doesn't have to provide all names until a day before they are scheduled to testify, and podcaster @VinceInTheBay argued that Sabu doesn't necessarily have to testify anyway.

However, the denials don't seem to explain why Brown's residences were raided in the first place on March 6, 2012. It seems unlikely that a grand jury and a judge allowed prosecutors to go on a fishing expedition and to seize a journalist's computers, without any proof that crimes were committed. It also seems unlikely that the government didn't rely - at all - on statements or evidence provided by their inside man, Sabu, or Jen Emick who has allegedly furnished the FBI with tips regarding Brown.

Friday, August 9, 2013

BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief ignored May 2012 email about possible Hastings probe

The strangest thing - in my opinion - regarding the tragic death of journalist Michael Hastings is how his employer BuzzFeed covered it. Why didn't they report he allegedly told a WikiLeaks lawyer the feds were probing him or on the last email he sent to Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith and other colleagues at BuzzFeed warning them the same?

A day after his death, WikiLeaks tweeted on June 19, "Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him." However, they haven't provided any additional details on the alleged conversation since then.

In a mostly negative article titled, "Is WikiLeaks trying to start a FBI Michael Hastings Death Conspiracy?", Alexander Abad-Santos reported for The Atlantic Wire that Robinson was "something of a human-rights watchdog and a protector of investigative journalists." Abad-Santos bashed WikiLeaks for making an "ill-timed tweet for attention," and BuzzFeed may have agreed, since they didn't do a story on it.

Christian Stork reported for WhoWhatWhy:

"A little over 12 hours before his car was incinerated on an LA straightaway on June 18, 2013, Hastings sent out a short email headed, 'FBI Investigation, re: NSA.' In it, he said that the FBI had been interviewing his 'close friends and associates,' and advised the recipients — including colleagues at the website Buzzfeed — '[It] may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.' He added, 'I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the radat [sic] for a bit.'"

Retired SSG Joe Biggs - who met Hastings when he was embedded in Afghanistan and was BCC'd on the email which he leaked to KTLA - told me on Twitter that BuzzFeed's Ben Smith ignored an email he sent him about Hastings' concerns. Smith blocked me on Twitter after I asked him questions on June 25:

1) When did @BuzzFeedBen learn Michael Hastings was "concerned that he was under investigation" and what did he do? nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/06/michael-hastings-fbi-wikileaks-death-conspiracies.html?mid=twitter_dailyintel

2) Did @BuzzFeedBen contact his "Washington sources" when he learned #Hastings feared he was under investigation? http://www.buzzfeed.com/bensmith/missing-michael-hastings

3) Why did #Hastings have to contact a @WikiLeaks lawyer? Didn't @BuzzFeedBen have lawyers that could have offered him advice or help?

4) Why did @BuzzFeedBen tell @joecoscarelli "Michael told a number of his friends and colleagues" but not specify if he was told himself?

5) Is @BuzzFeedBen "too scared" to probe Michael #Hastings' fears he was being investigated by Fed? Or does he think he was just paranoid?

6) Any journalist not asking @BuzzFeedBen hard questions about what he did or didn't do may as well take a piss on Michael #Hastings' grave.

7) Why didn't @BuzzFeedBen IMMEDIATELY contact the FBI to ask if Michael #Hastings was being investigated? Why didn't @BuzzFeed break story?

8) Why did @BuzzFeedBen ignore #Hastings pal SSG @RamboBiggs when @BuzzFeed was asked what they were gonna do? https://twitter.com/Rambobiggs/status/349284390897065986

9) Why didn't @BuzzFeedBen even RT @WikiLeaks tweet about #Hastings? Do any @BuzzFeed journos wonder what he'll do if they are ever probed?

10) Why isn't @BuzzFeedBen reporting that since Barrett Brown was arrested & ProjectPM is under probe, the FBI may be lying about #Hastings?

11) FBI, DoJ have Barrett Brown's emails & must know about email ProjectPM sent me claiming #Hastings had "leadership position" @BuzzFeedBen

12) Hastings reported FBI warrant for March 2012 Barrett Brown raid sought records related to http://wiki.echelon2.org http://www.buzzfeed.com/mhastings/exclusive-fbi-escalates-war-on-anonymous

13) @BuzzFeedBen is Editor-in-Chief for website allegedly worth millions that focuses on Tweets but ignores chatter about #Hastings' death.

14) If @mmhastings wasn't working on a Jill Kelley story, why didn't @BuzzFeedBen bother to "correct the record"? https://twitter.com/Elise_Jordan/status/349502184049754113

"Following publication of the email by KTLA, the FBI quickly denied that the Bureau was ever investigating Hastings," Stork adds. "The Freedom of the Press Foundation and ProjectPM — the research wiki that Brown was involved with — are in the process of filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to learn if indeed Hastings was the subject of an FBI probe."

At San Diego 6 News, Kimberly Dvorak noted, "the FBI Los Angeles-based spokesperson, Laura Eimiller, atypically emailed media emphatically denying the agency was looking into Mr. Hastings background."

Stork reported, "The FBI denial notwithstanding, a number of clues indicate that the proximity of Hastings to Brown and the work of ProjectPM may have been what spawned the purported investigation in the first place."

Last year, BuzzFeed Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith ignored tweets and emails I sent him related to a possible government probe of Hastings.

Full text of email I sent Smith on May 18, 2012:

Ben,

You ignored my tweets...but can you give me a quote for an article I'm working on about how you allowed Michael Hastings to report on Barrett Brown, without disclosing the search warrant is asking for information that may include Hastings, since he was or currently is in Brown's Project PM.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mhastings/exclusive-fbi-escalates-war-on-anonymous

http://pastebin.com/vZEteA3C

8. Records relating to wiki.echelon2.org;

That is the wiki website for Project PM,

Also, his article didn't mention that Brown wrote the forward to his latest book...and that he defended him on the web when he wrote the Runaway General article...and that they used to write at True/Slant together and have a long relationship.

Also, what do you think of the way Hastings favorites my tweets to mock me, but ducks my questions.

And just to cover my bases, are you in Project PM or were you ever, too?

They have a long history of shilling for each other..and I'd like to know if Buzzfeed has any guidelines or journalism ethics rules.

https://www.google.com/search?q=michael%20hastings%20barrett%20brown&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&source=hp&channel=np

thanks,

Ron Brynaert

Former Executive Editor for www.RawStory.com

More links:

http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/internet_and_the_republic_of_skepticism_part_two/

As of this writing, I have assembled a fine cadre of bloggers with a collective monthly audience of several hundred thousand people, and each of these bloggers will soon be selecting others to connect to them within the network; they will in turn choose others, and so on. We have Allison Kilkenny, an up-and-coming commentator who deals in policy as a cable anchor deals in cheery banter, and who in addition to her blogging hosts the satisfyingly wonkish program Citizen Radio along with her co-host and husband, comedian Jamie Kilstein. We have Michael Hastings, who served as Newsweek’s Baghdad correspondent and afterwards covered the 2008 election, at which point he grew disgusted with the frivolous nature of political coverage in this nation and left a prestigious position in favor of more virtuous pastures. We have Charles Johnson, the pioneering founder of the blog Little Green Footballs who was among the most widely-read of political bloggers until he found himself at odds with the bulk of his allies and audience due to his support for science and his opposition to racism. I am also in talks with other, similarly prominent commentators and journalists who have likewise demonstrated themselves to be experts in their respective subjects as well as intellectually honest.

https://wiki.echelon2.org/wiki/CENTCOM

"Along with colleagues at the research wiki he started, ProjectPM (PPM), Brown was looking into a legion of shadowy cybersecurity firms whose work for the government raised all sorts of questions about privacy and the rule of law," Stork reported.

Stork adds, "Since Hastings was familiar with the government contractors listed in the search warrant, he was also potentially culpable in whatever 'crimes' the feds believed Brown and PPM were guilty of. Is this why he was being investigated in the days before his fatal crash on June 18, 2013?"

"The busy Hastings never fully immersed himself in the work of PPM. “[Hastings] was an outlet for us to pass things to,” says Alan Ross, better known on PPM’s Internet relay chat (IRC) as Morpeth. “His relationship was one of talking to Barrett in my experience, rather than direct involvement in PPM.” He was “more of an associate than a member'."

Just before strangely disappearing for a year from Twitter, Morpeth told me in a June 3, 2012 email that Hastings had "a leadership position within our project."

Morpeth also claimed that Michael Roston - who edited Brown and Hastings at True/Slant and used to work under me at RAW STORY but now is at The New York Times - "is a senior member of PPM and has written much of our wiki."

"Yes, there are some NYT (and others) writers and editors that regularly contribute to our material and help us by editorialising in our favour in the NYT when we ask them," Morpeth claimed. "The government officials that we work with generally do not contribute writings, but rather give us leaks of confidential information relating to government, military, and contractor programmes that form the basis of our research and our core data, whilst some government/federal agency contacts enable us to feed back into their processes and make recommendations that enable us to have a more direct influence over policy (functioning as a kind of direct backchannel into these agencies and a private forum for us to express our concerns directly to those with decision-making remit within the fields of intelligence, information security, and consent manufacture. These people are in the employ of various agencies that I cannot specify here over email, for reasons that I'm sure you can understand."

However, Morpeth strangely signed his email calling himself John Morpeth Jameson, Orchestrating Director Project Pm Europe, instead of Alan Ross.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, during a roundtable discussion on Current's "The Young Turks" (video clip), Hastings speculated that his conversations with Barrett Brown - before his arrest - were being recorded, that he was "careful" to only talk about things "in context", and he noted that his number was on Brown's "phone which has been seized by the government." At the time, Hastings said he could not confirm that he was being monitored, "except that people tell [him] all the time in the Special Forces community."

In another article for WhoWhatWhy published in May, Stork reported, "On April 2, the DOJ served the domain hosting service CloudFlare with a subpoena for all records and personal information on one of its clients, a research wiki known as ProjectPM."

The warrant for records was signed by FBI agent Robert Smith, who Barrett Brown is accused of threatening. Many have questioned why Smith's involvement isn't considered a conflict of interest, but since threats to agents could derail investigations the FBI probably doesn't reassign agents unless they have personal conflicts of interest.

Stork noted that "CloudFlare will likely be forced to turn over records on third parties who were engaged in constitutionally-protected conduct related to curating or visiting the website."

In January, after ignoring my tweets for months after Brown's arrest in September, Hastings told me on Twitter that he was finally working on a story and his excuses for taking so long was that "there was an election, and still a few wars going on. but get ready for your mind to be blown." The FreeBarrett website owner said that Hastings was due to meet with Brown in prison in June or July, but the latest filing by Brown's lawyers seems to indicate that they wouldn't have approved of it.

"For instance, the government states that “Brown’s friend confirmed in a statement to the press (posted on August 7, 2013) that lawyers had discussions with a specific media person to arrange an in-person interview with Brown in jail.” GB at 11 (¶27). Presumably, the “specific media person” referenced by the government is Michael Hastings, a journalist, friend and colleague of Mr. Brown who passed away on June 18, 2013 in Los Angeles California. Counsel does not dispute that Mr. Hastings, as with many other members of the media, contacted counsel seeking an in-person interview with Mr. Brown. To counsel’s knowledge, Mr. Hastings did not visit or conduct an in-person interview Mr. Brown before his death.

Counsel has received numerous requests from members of the media, including documentary filmmakers, to interview Mr. Brown. Counsel has advised members of the media seeking an in person interview with Mr. Brown that there is a Protective Order in place, that members of the media would need authorization from all the relevant parties including the authorities at Mansfield Correctional, and that Mr. Brown would be advised not to answer any questions unless submitted in advance, and in writing, so that counsel could screen questions to comply with the Court’s Protective Order, Gentile, Brown, et al .
"

Dvorak vows that "San Diego 6 News will continue to seek the truth with the assistance of Judicial Watch, a Washington DC based foundation."

"One puzzling aspect of the LAPD's objection to the release of the police report is the inference in the FOIA/CPRA response to San Diego 6 News that a federal investigation may be in progress, which only adds further questions as to what agency is investigating since the FBI said it is not investigating. This turn of events reaffirms this reporter's contention and the tens of thousands of individuals who have responded to this story that it IS in the public interest … Hastings was a national figure.

To find-out who is investigating and why, this week Judicial Watch will serve additional FOIAs against the DOJ (AKA Eric Holders’ war on journalists), Department of Homeland Security’s HSI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Secretary of the Department of the Army (due to unchallenged threats made directly to Mr. Hastings).
"

But I fail to understand why BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone don't seem to care about any of this. Hastings' employers seem to have little interest in the strange circumstances of his death, and seem content to leave the reporting to smaller media outlets and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Oddly, Hastings' widow, Elise Jordan - who used to be a speechwriter for Condoleezza Rice and a spokesperson for the National Security Council - has done nothing but praise BuzzFeed, even though I don't even think they sent a reporter to the scene of the accident, and Smith ducked questions I asked him on Twitter regarding his response to Hastings' last email. Jordan recently appeared on CNN and said that she thought her husband's death was just a "tragic accident." Instead of being asked if she knew why Hastings was speeding between 80 and 100 MPH, if he had talked to her about the alleged probe or if it's true that she had hired private investigators as Hastings' military pal @RamboBiggs and Dvorak reported, Jordan was asked insipid questions about New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez.

Biggs blocked me on Twitter after I sent him Direct Messages advising him that talking to Alex Jones would make it easier for the media to stop reporting on Hastings' death, and that I suspected it was most likely that Hastings was spooked by a bogus source, not assassinated. He also scrubbed many of his tweets about Hastings, and accused Dvorak of misquoting him on a story which claimed that Hastings was cremated against his family's wishes. After Jordon spoke to CNN, Biggs told Jones that he had cancelled a planned trip to Los Angeles because she allegedly claimed it might ruin the investigation. Jones complained that Jordan was "smiling like she went to the first Beatles concert," while talking about her late husband on CNN.

Dvorak ignored Biggs' complaint that he had only told her he "wasn't sure if that's what Michael wanted or the family", and hasn't replied to anyone on Twitter. Journalist Peter Ludlow tweeted to Biggs that "if she deliberately misrepresented you that pretty much makes the rest of her reporting on this worthless." Dvorak claimed on San Diego News 6 that she had received a threat over her reporting, and later told Russia Today that there was more than one, but she ignored my tweets asking for more details and if she had reported it to the police.

Dvorak also reported there was a gag order enforced on LAPD and firefighters regarding Hastings but she hasn't substantiated the claim. "How did @makmak47 get quotes from lead detective in #Hastings case this week if there's a gag order?" I asked her on August 10. Michael Krikorian also got quotes from the coroner's office, who told him that the toxicology report will finally be released within two weeks.

An obviously distraught Biggs is complaining on Twitter that he is being accused of being "after 'fame'", but that he is "sad and miserable" and almost "failed out of school when [M]ike died and because [he] released the email."

"So many people hate me because I spoke up," Biggs tweeted on August 11. "Sorry, I felt obligated to say something. What would you do if you got that email[?] I had to speak."

A recent article co-written by Jill Simpson - a "whistleblower" who once made unsubstantiated allegations to a RAW STORY reporter that former President George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove had tried to kill her and had burned down her house, and spread a rumor he was gay in 2012 - misreported that I was friends with Hastings. In 2011, Hastings followed me after retweeting me, but he smeared me as crazy last year after I complained about his article on the Barrett Brown search warrant. I wouldn't presume to think or speak for Hastings, but I seriously doubt he would have been happy that controversial conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has taken the lead in probing his death, instead of his colleagues at BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone.

"#Hastings didn't get to 'blow [my] mind' with @BarrettBrownLOL story but @BuzzFeed or @RollingStone can if they do real story on MH's death," I tweeted on August 10.

Hastings deserves better than this.

(Afterword: A BuzzFeed contributor favorited a tweet I made linking to this story, so not everyone at Hastings' former job must be happy with how his death has been covered there.)