back to article FBI-baiter Barrett Brown gets five years in chokey plus $890,000 fine

Barrett Brown is going to be spending a little longer inside than he thought after a Dallas judge threw the book at him on charges related to the hacking attack on private US intelligence firm Stratfor. Lawyers for Brown had been hoping their client would get off with time served, as he has spent the last 28 months in federal …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It's political life, Jim, but not as we know it.

    "secretive US data investigations outfit Stratfor"

    Nice newspeak for a "low-tier political influence machine and criminal outfit all too often paid with free taxpayer money"

    Here is a little refresher: Stratfor or Stratagainst

    If there were any seriousness to the "MUH CYBERSECURITY" meme-pushing currently wafting out of bodily openings of politicians all over the "West", these guys would be looking at a long stint inside.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Clue is in the name really.

    2. Desidero

      Re: It's political life, Jim, but not as we know it.

      Digby does a nice job of summarizing this horrid case:

      worth following her links, which include more on Stratfor trying to stay out of the public eye (while deep in the public money), and Brown's rather interesting final statement (he apparently overestimated the ability of the judge to be able to walk and chew bubblegum)

      Guess destroying journalists for government money is legit public work now - if only they didn't outsource it all, alas - it'd be so much easier to just apply for a regular civil service job or run say for President. And lying in court is okay as long as you're on the gov payroll. We have terror and all that to worry about, can't go wobbly...

      1. Desidero

        Re: It's political life, Jim, but not as we know it.

        BTW, the link I put up here might be illegal - if you follow it, you could be bunking with Barrett Brown. Or me. Or both. What foul deed did that Tim Berners-Lee create with that dratted URL, the modern rogue's key to unlawfulness. Click bait may be the next jail bait. "but judge, she didn't look 15/classified"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's political life, Jim, but not as we know it.

          Should they get annoyed with me, one signature (SecDef or President) and I'm back in uniform, under an Article 15 investigation, and I get to vacation at the lovely military variant of Club Fed. Frag 'em.

  2. depicus

    Abuse of power at it's best

    American justice, doings us proud again....

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: depicts Re: Abuse of power at it's best

      "....doings us proud again...." LOL, take a moment and think - just how did his sentence end up at five years after charges could have made it one hundred? He cut a deal and grassed up your beloved Anonyputzs. I hope they send him to a prison where they like snitches.....

      1. Bleu

        Re: depicts Abuse of power at it's best

        How are to know to know he informed on other anons he knew?

        More to the point, if he had, he would not be getting almost three more years in prison.

        Great to see that you are a fan of prison rape and assault, Mr. Bryant.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: depicts Abuse of power at it's best

        Hey Matt, I thought you were off fighting with the Azov battalion? Do they have Internet in east Ukraine?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: depicts Abuse of power at it's best

          > Do they have Internet in east Ukraine?

          I wish you stopped trying to be funny, because your attempts are frankly pathetic.

          And yes, of course they do have internet. And better mobile coverage than in most of the Midlands too.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: Destroyed All Braincells Re: depicts Abuse of power at it's best

          ".....Azov battalion?....." <Yawn> Oh look, Destroyed is once again trying to imply anyone that doesn't share his point of view must be a Nazi. I suppose at least he tried to be (minorly) inventive with this latest bit of political blinkeredness. Still, I suppose it was a gigantic strain on his limited mental resources to stay on topic.

          Brown has a lot of issues and his case should be explained to schoolkids as an example of the perils of drugs. His arrest video ( should be used to teach schoolkids (a) commit crimes and you will be caught; (b) The Man is not as stupid and technically incompetent as you want to think; and (c) there is no honour and trust amongst thieves, shown by the fact one of his (smarter) chat room buddies was wearing an Anon mask because he realised what a security risk the junkie and wannabe Brown was.

  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Had he been working for the NSA and been doing all this he'd have received a nice fat bonus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Had he been working for the NSA and been doing all this he'd have received a nice fat bonus."

      No doubt you'll get mod points from all the usual stick-it-to-the-man kiddies who'll be along any moment - but you might like to consider the small fact that governments always have had and always will have more powers and the legal right to use them than an ordinary citizen. If they didn't then society wouldn't function.

      Sadly the rather arrogant and stupid Mr Brown like a lot of his silly little Anonymous and Lulzsec friends has had to learn this lesson the hard way. One can only hope a few years in prison might make him grow up but I won't hold my breath.

      1. Dan Wilkie


        You do realise it's Baltar right?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Boltar

          You do realise its "Daniel," right?

      2. Desidero

        Let's see, his big crimes were

        a) linking to a URL that was already published,

        b) pointing out that the government had referred companies to private internet dicks who could take down a legit journalist,

        c) hiding his laptop when the feds came, and

        d) publishing a hysterical threatening Youtube in response to them threatening his mother with jail.

        If he only had a badge or was on the government payroll, all of this would be dismissed because 1) oops, made a mistake - chokehold a tad too long, thought the suspect was armed, 2) shhhhh, shhhhhh - terror and all that.

        But I'm sure you'll get kudos and mod points for "it's always been like that, suck it up" and "those darned script kiddies, always on my lawn" comments, being the adult in the room. Hope you can comment on the Risen/Sterling case and explain to us youngsters how we're all safer if we gin up a war with Iran under false pretenses, us being so starry-eyed and clinging to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington notions of how government should behave.

        In a thinking system, point b would be enough to drop most charges and focus on the exposed government malfeasance. Instead, the US lets the FBI complainant summarize the evidence in court rather than the judge and jury listening to the evidence - - you rule, dudes - that's how to fast-track a rush to conviction.

        1. Desidero

          Looks like someone got grumpy and resorted to thumbs downs - perhaps a nap would have done better. Meanwhile here's part of what the EFF had to say:

          This raises uncomfortable similarities to the disturbing saga of Aaron Swartz, who ultimately committed suicide after facing the threat of years in federal prison for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA"). While the substantive criminal charges and motivations between Brown and Swartz may have been different, they present a clear view of just how powerful and uncomfortable the scrutiny of federal law enforcement can be. At a time when the White House is seeking to increase penalties under the CFAA, these cases highlight just how intense federal law enforcement power can be and calls for caution before we expand already harsh criminal laws.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Desidero

            ".....This raises uncomfortable similarities to the disturbing saga of Aaron Swartz....." I see the sanctifying of St Aaron is proceeding at a pace. The Wikipedia entry for him has been sanitized to remove any evidence of his own confessions of depression ( and prior suicidal thoughts. Some of the Faithful need to take a reality check on the whole Aaron Schwatrz issue ( before blindly applying it to every drug-addled wannabe that gets his knuckles rapped by The Man.

            1. Desidero

              Re: Desidero

              Hardly sanctifying - first I think government messes with everyone, from tasing 13-year-olds for not listening to their Mums and old ladies for not getting out of a baseball game seat or not signing a ticket. Second, as Swartz notes, depression is highly prevalent - I imagine % is higher among people with run-ins with the law. So every time the gov tries to intimidate a suspect, they may have 50% chance of messing with someone who's depressed or psychologically unbalanced. They know this when they try to entrap stupid kids into doing "terrorist acts" that they would have never carried out unless someone undercover organized it, brought the chemicals/weapons, drove them to the site, etc. - otherwise they would have stayed on their couch doing another bong-hit or going to rally and screaming "hey-ho, hey-ho, X has got to go" and then going home to do another bong-hit.

              Third, I know the sentencing criteria is arbitrary and typically max sentences are not what's given - but this game of roulette favors the prosecutors, not the accused - a hanging judge in Texas can send a mentally retarded man to die, another in DC will send a reporter to jail because DoJ wanted to prove a point and then let prosecutors lie in court without repercussions or in this case a single public URL linked to gets multiplied to a count per credit card number found on the site. How much will a depressed intimidated suspect on a tilted playing field resist even if they think their position is entirely justified or willing to take a reasonable but not "cruel & unusual"? (though "unusual" is no longer operative).

              Look at "abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances", which government regularly does with protesters. Or the paid (bribed) absurd extension of 80-100 year copyrights that Swartz was fighting?

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        governments always have had and always will have more powers and the legal right to use them than an ordinary citizen. If they didn't then society wouldn't function

        It's like I'm really in the waning days of the Weimar Republic and I'm talking to one of the hoodlums in charge.

        "Das gibt's nur einmal, das kommt nicht wieder, das ist vielleicht nur Träumerei. Das kann das Leben nur einmal geben, vielleicht ist's morgen schon vorbei."

        Let's have a Bier on that.

  4. Ol' Grumpy

    In January two more charges were added against Brown for trying to conceal laptops during the March FBI raid, bringing his maximum possible time inside to over 100 years if found guilty. His mother was also charged and received a six month suspended sentence and a small fine.

    I never understood why they quote a numeric value for a prison sentence when it clearly would exceed the average lifetime.

    1. DNTP

      A life sentence can arguably be considered cruel and unusual punishment, as being disproportionate for any given charge. That would make a higher court more likely to consider hearing an appeal. So instead, they peg the maximum at 100 years! That is OK! The system works!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My understanding is that it's to increase the amount of time inside before being eligible for parole.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Ol' Grumpy

      "......I never understood why they quote a numeric value for a prison sentence when it clearly would exceed the average lifetime." The authorities believe it has deterant and bargaining value. The reality is the majority of such cases end with a plea bargain and a much, much smaller sentence, especially if the criminal in question rolls on their fellow crims. if you are the DA trying to tie up a case, it's much easier to scare the accused if you can say "This crime will get you a maximum of 100 years if you don't co-operate", implying no chance of a future life, rather than the realistic "This crime could get you five years".

  5. Gordon 10

    The kid has balls

    Releasing that statement.

    5 years seems rather dubious for merely being connected with the guys that raided HB Gary.

    About the only legitimately valid crime he should have been done for was the threaten exposure of the fed.

    Another slowhandclap for American "justice"

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: The kid has balls

      Just comes across as a smart-arse to me. Although not really that smart given his life is utterly under the control of the government.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: The kid has balls

        given his life is utterly under the control of the government

        You may have been living under stones since Ruby Ridge, but your life is so utterly under the control of the government that the Prez can leisurly order your arse blown away on a whim tomorrow. And the judicial branch will most certainly OKAY THIS.

        Even more Bier is needed.

    2. Preston Munchensonton

      Re: The kid has balls

      He may indeed have balls, but I'm just glad that he's an FBI-baiter and not an FBI-bater. Yikes!

  6. Yugguy


    "For the next 35 months, I'll be someone's bitch." Barrett should have said in a statement.

  7. The First Dave

    $890,000 surely can't be regarded as "free" food, can it?

    Mind you, I have to assume he was being ironic, at least about "the greatest prison system in the world" unless by greatest he really meant nothing more than "biggest"

  8. Anonymous Blowhard

    100 years for "concealing laptops"?

    Aside from the rights and wrongs of trying to expose government secrets/wrongdoings, I'm actually more alarmed that you can get what is effectively a life sentence for concealing evidence.

    This sounds like the kind of bullshit charge that can be applied in so many dubious circumstances; does "not remembering to tell them you also have a laptop in a bag under your desk at work" constitute "concealing a laptop"?

    Of course "if you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear", but as far as I can tell everyone has something to hide, and who defines what's hidden? A hundred years inside is meant to scare you, it's meant to make you roll over on yourself and your co-conspirators, its a terror threat.

    We used to smugly point fingers at totalitarian regimes, who locked political prisoners up on spurious crimes like "talking trash about the state", and thank God that we were free; I'm not feeling so smug these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 100 years for "concealing laptops"?

      "I'm actually more alarmed that you can get what is effectively a life sentence for concealing evidence."

      If you're a citizen that's true. But if you're the CIA, illegally hacking a congressional oversight committee, then covering up the evidence is just dandy.

      Makes you wonder if the US was ever "free" or whether it was simply the most successful regime in persuading its people that they were free.

    2. Desidero

      Re: 100 years for "concealing laptops"?

      Wired explains the tougher sentencing:

      The judge, however, pushed back on the government’s attempt to increase Brown’s sentence in this way and decided to postpone sentencing until he could review all of the arguments thoroughly.

      “In all the trials I’ve been a part of … and they’re all complex cases … I’ve never seen a judge take a time-out to issue his sentence,” Ghappour said on the eve of today’s sentencing in a phone interview. The move gave him hope that the judge was taking extra care to get the sentencing right and not be unduly swayed by the government’s forceful arguments. That proved not to be the case today, however, when it appeared that the judge had indeed been persuaded by prosecutors. The judge reportedly indicated that he believed linking to the file containing stolen credit card numbers was the same as trafficking in stolen data. The judge reportedly concluded that linking to the data was a form of aiding the Stratfor hackers and therefore part of the conspiracy.

      1. Desidero

        Re: 100 years for "concealing laptops"?

        From the Vice article:

        Keep in mind, Barrett is facing a 45-year sentence under one indictment that alleges he shared a link to illegally obtained, hacked information. In contrast, the individual actually found guilty of hacking the data is serving a sentence of ten years.

  9. chivo243 Silver badge

    Club Fed

    Parole possible in one year... going to Federal prison. "IF" he's a good inmate, he may cut his sentence way down. If he's going to be a brash young man, his stay inside won't be easy.

    1. Desidero

      Re: Club Fed

      I only see him being brash to fucktards, especially government officials abusing power - that might get him protection and streetcred in the Big House.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Club Fed

        Officials who can lean on the prison governor.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Desidero Re: Club Fed

        ".... protection and streetcred......" I think your definition of streetcred needs a reality check.

        1. Desidero

          Re: Desidero Club Fed

          Handling two in one, 1) he already signed an agreement that he can work in jail (just not make money on what he's sentenced for), and 2) yeah, he already has streetcred, which is the opposite of having his head so far up the government arse it hurts. Maybe you were thinking "streetcrud".

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Desidero Re: Desidero Club Fed

            "......he already has streetcred......" LMAO! No, he has cred with basement-dwellers, not the street.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Club Fed

      He's not just going to be brash, he's going to be an arse. Just look at his sentencing statement. In the US, you can't make money from staying in prison as a convicted felon. If he doesn't become somebody's bitch, I expect he'll mouth off to the wrong person and get a shiv.

    3. Anonymous Vulture

      Re: Club Fed

      Once again El Reg falls down on the reporting of nontechnical details. Not entirely unreasonable since the majority of news outlets have missed the details as well. There is no parole in the US federal prison system since it was eliminated in 1987. The sentence includes the option for him to be released under the supervised release program upon meeting several prerequisites including completion of a drug treatment program. He will also have his computer access monitored for the duration of the sentence in prison or out. The difficult part for Mr. Brown will the need to meet all of his obligations for the duration of supervised release if he earns it. Violating the conditions of supervised release, even on the last week can result in serving a period equivalent to the original sentence inside prison walls.

  10. Erik4872

    Not so sure what he's so happy about

    I'm sure he was just trying to be a jerk with that statement, but prisons are generally places normal people want to stay away from. There's a reason why the recidivism rate is so high -- other than the fact that a prisoner has basically no chance of getting a decent job once they get out. From what little I've seen, the whole experience probably just rewires you, especially on long stays. Before the US closed all the mental hospitals and let everyone out on the street, that was what patients described just get so wrapped up in the routine.

    Unless he's basically spending the time in solitary confinement, he's going to end up hanging out with a bunch of...interesting characters.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stratfor was a bunch of wanna be intelligence analysts who paid for dubious information and failed to understand even the basics of Internet security practices. They got hacked hard and deserved what they got. This guy should be lauded for exposing their poor security practices and Stratfor deserves condemnation for failing to protect it's clients.

    There is no justice in Texas and this guy learned that the hard way.

    1. Desidero

      Stratfor may be wannabe - their talk about assassinations and such is probably pure DC bluff - but Endgame Systems seems to have been selling Zero Day exploit subscriptions for $2.5 million a year. That's a lot of cash for what one would guess is a sanctioned illegal hacking program - Anonymous' big mistake seems to be working too cheap and for the wrong customer(s) - forget moral equivalence, there ain't much in the way of morals here.

  12. kellerr13


    I thought he was smarter than that.

    NEVER take a plea deal. They are incredibly dependent on admission of guilt, and if they even offer a plea deal, then they have a weak case to begin with.

    1. Anonymous Vulture
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Smart???

      Simply threatening a federal agent is a Class D felony, and is a fairly easy charge to convict on in most federal districts. If the case is made correctly, that charge can be upgraded to making terroristic threats which is a Class C felony. Terrorism charges are even easier to make in most federal districts. Once terrorism has been invoked the dark and twisted pathway of the PATRIOT Act is in play. His lawyers likely explained that while the case against him represented a serious risk reward problem and he pled out as a result.

      Based on his video rants he would likely make a very unsympathetic character in the witness box and he does not strike me as someone who is willing to forgo testifying in his own defence.

  13. Master Rod

    I guess Stratfor. Security is not secure, eh..... Idiots the lot of them.

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