A much shorter report on these videos, also by me, originally appeared on the Daily Dot. This one contains a much broader introduction to Barrett Brown, his background, the arrest, and why these videos are important. For those of you who don’t know who Barrett Brown is, well, clear the next hour or so for rooting around on the internet.
“Not sure why we ended up in total war against everyone this week. Was supposed to be writing documentation, playing rogue-likes.”
Barrett Brown, Anonymous activist, journalist, Guardian columnist, YouTube monologist, and current involuntary guest of the U.S. government at an undisclosed holding facility (Disclosed now, actually), continues to wait for specific charges to be laid and the assistance of a lawyer. Since his dramatic mid-chat arrest last Thursday, word from the famously prolix Brown has been non-existent, while talk about him has been unrelenting, if mixed.
Part of the reason Brown’s ubiquity has actually increased is the uber-public context of his arrest: he was actually in a video chat when the police entered. That particular three-minute video has had over 70,000 views so far.
It’s the 21st century. Of course someone was recording the whole thing. That person reached out to me on Friday via on Twitter, and we then met on Skype for a more extended conversation. He said he wanted the world to see that Barrett Brown was not worthy of being called a leader . He is often referred to as a leader of Anonymous, which is leadersless; in fact, he IS a leader of Project PM, an initiative to dog infosec companies, but not an Anonymous operation per se. His arrest threw the rest of the team into a panic, as they feared the site would be taken down by the FBI; they sent out a call on Twitter for the site to be mirrored, as many times as possible, and quickly, so that if it vanished from one place it would pop up in three other places.
The FBI hates playing whack-a-mole.
The purpose of Project PM’s wiki is to provide a centralized, actionable data set regarding the intelligence contracting industry, the PR industry’s interface with totalitarian regimes, the mushrooming infosec/”cybersecurity” industry, and other issues constituting threats to human rights, civic transparency, individual privacy, and the health of democratic institutions.
But back to our source. Let’s just say I’ve been aware of him for some time and always found him informed and well-intentioned. Everything he said was corroborated by someone I’ve known even longer and respect, and you had better believe I peered over the videos. You can’t be too careful sometimes, as anyone who published the Hitler Diaries would know, eh Rupert?
Our source stressed his seriousness and his genuineness, although like most people in the world which features FBI takedowns on live chat, he preferred to rely on a pseudonym, X. X described himself as “a patriot, a proud American,” specified that he was not a part of Anonymous, and offered these details “im disabled with lyme disease, not a hacker, a patriot, a man of truth.” When I asked why he had come to me, why he wanted people to see these videos, he replied,
i didnt know much about him prior. then i went into his tinychat the day b4 the raid, and what i saw i was horrified; then i found out about the fbi threats. he was doing that on the vids i got. he threatened families with no remorse. the vids i have are gold, will show all of what we are both talking about. i just think justice was served and i hope people will learn from my videos. someone once thought to be a leader
He passed along three videos, including one logging the 45 minutes before, during, and after the raid. X explained that he was not on camera, just present in the text chat, watching the lulz roll by, as they often do with the pugilistic and intelligent Brown. X described the moment the FBI came calling, as Brown and his girlfriend relaxed in their apartment.
He was smoking his grass that he got and beers he went to get. thats what he was doing in the background the whole time. So then out of nowhere the raid hit, as he went to the door, i suppose, but he was hanging there all night in that area, so i think he had multi monitors and she was just distracted BUT imo she knew more.
It’s widely believed that the event which precipitated the raid (and certainly the event which precipitated X’s involvement) was Brown’s YouTube video “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe,” in which he explained he was giggly because he ws voluntarily reducing his dosage of Suboxone and then said a few things that were inevitably going to come to the attention of the Bureau. He claimed that in a meeting with his lawyer he learned that his mother was now targeted by the FBI for obstruction of justice. He reacted with rambling, passionate outrage (he reacts to many things with rambling, passionate outrage), and threatened agent Robert Smith and his family.
from the transcript:
Anyway, so that’s why Robert Smith’s life is over. So when I say his life is over, I don’t say I’m going to go kill him. But I am going to ruin his life, and look into his fucking kids.
How do you like them apples?
Any armed officials of the US government, particularly the FBI, will be regarded as potential Zeta assassin squads…I will shoot all of them and kill them if they come and, and do anything…
Because they are engaged in a criminal conspiracy, and I have reason to fear for my life. Not just from the Zetas, but from the US government, because of how much they fucked up, and how much they keep getting caught, and because of how much my name is wrapped around all that stuff…
So I have no choice left but to defend my family, myself, my girlfriend, my reputation, my work, my activism, my ideas, and the revelations that my friends are going to prison so that we could have a chance to get out for other people. So that they would matter.
And frankly, you know, it was pretty obvious I was going to be dead before I was 40 or so, so I wouldn’t mind going out with two FBI sidearms like a fucking Egyptian pharaoh. Adios.
After posting that, the social media-dependent Brown had a couple of TinyChat sessions, in which he continues to rant about “those fuckers” and call out people for cooperating with the FBI, among other actions. Those are the videos we have.
One critical thing to remember about Barrett Brown is, however drug-addled or garbled he may be, he frequently knows what he’s talking about, so it is wise to pay attention.
The first video (sorry, not great audio quality) starts at nearly 9pm and runs for 20 semi-comprehensible minutes, and in it Brown discusses the deterioration of the military since World War II, the nature of treason, whether Arabs are the most or second-most incompetent race, and hacker communications, among other topics. Someone threatens him with doxing (releasing his address, which is not under his own name; Brown fears action against him by the Zeta Mexican drug cartel) and Brown tries to draw him out. There’s a drive-by from celebrity patriot hacker The Jester, and a great deal of metaphorical testosteric head-butting to establish dominance.
He may be inscrutably masked, but chat participant Anonforecast has the best reaction shots.
In the second, more comprehensible, video, Brown explains his creation “Operation Clyde Toulson,” named after a former associate director of the FBI, who also seems to have been Hoover’s boytoy; the objective of the operation is retribution on agent Robert Smith. He’s wearing the same shirt as he wears in the YouTube videos uploaded earlier that day. In addition to his crusade against Agent Smith, he takes shots at Jennifer Emick of Asherah Research/Backtrace Security, Aaron Barr of HB Gary, and Tom Ryan. Run time on this video is 12 minutes.
And the third video is the entire TinyChat from that eventful Thursday, September 13, running just over 45 minutes long. Once the police make their dramatic, noisy, off-camera entrance, Brown’s girlfriend appears to close the laptop, shutting off the webcam but the audio continues to record. The text portion of the chat has been archived on Pastebin, if you want to give your ears a rest, but you will miss the full impact.
“What is it that makes you want to do this?” asks a disembodied voice in the darkness.
Brown was booked at the Dallas County jail, from whence comes the above mugshot, but has since been moved to:
US Marshal #45047177
Mansfield Federal Detention Ctr.
1601 Heritage Pkwy
Supporters are encouraging people to send postcards and monetary donations. A source of mine says he will probably be moved to a mental facility soon; he has been attempting to reduce his dosage of Suboxone, a heroin substitute, over the past few days, but alcohol increases the effect, and he has been drinking and smoking pot. If he’s suddenly forced to go cold turkey in a mental ward, it could get very ugly very quickly.