My latest Counter Propa article asks a simple, fundamental question.
If government entities and corporations are so worried about Julian Assange or Barrett Brown exposing their corruption, then why don’t they cease to engage in corrupt and illegal behavior?
Award-winning journalist Barrett Brown was sentenced 63 months for “merely linking to hacked material.” He was then ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution and fines for crimes that had nothing to do with his journalistic endeavors and was originally charged with a combined sentence of over 100 years. Similar to Chelsea Manning’s initial sentence of 35 years, the U.S. government wanted to send a message to future journalists.
According to an Intercept piece by Alex Emmons, Brown’s investigative journalism caught the attention of law enforcement:
Brown quickly became a symbol of the attack on press freedom after he was arrested in 2012 for reporting he did on the hacked emails of intelligence-contracting firms. Brown wrote about hacked emails that showed the firm Stratfor spying on activists on behalf of corporations. Brown also helped uncover a proposal by intelligence contractors to hack and smear WikiLeaks defenders and progressive activists. Faced with the possibility of 100 years in prison, Brown pleaded guilty in 2014 to two charges related to obstruction of justice and threatening an FBI agent, and was sentenced to five years and 3 months. In 2016, Brown won a National Magazine Award for his scathing and often hilarious columns in The Intercept, which focused on his life in prison. He was released in November. Jay Leiderman, Brown’s lawyer, told The Intercept Brown was arrested Thursday during a check-in. According to his mother, Brown had not missed a check-in or failed a drug test since he was released to a halfway house in November. Neither his mother nor lawyer has been informed where he is being held.
While several journalists won the Pulitzer Prize this year for work that had little impact on the lives of Americans, Brown’s writing reminds us of true muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens and Jacob Riis. Brown’s journalism came with risks, as illustrated by a Wired piece titled Anonymous’ Barrett Brown Is Free—and Ready to Pick New Fights:
Brown’s crime, it’s worth noting, was never actual theft of information from Stratfor—he was always closer to a public relations spokesperson for Anonymous than one of its hackers. Nonetheless, the Justice Department in 2012 accused him of sharing a link to an already-stolen trove of information from Stratfor to other members of a Project PM chatroom. That trove also included, unbeknownst to Brown, credit card data for thousands of the company’s customers. (Brown was more focused, for instance, on the Stratfor emails that showed the group had spied on victims of the deadly 1984 Bhopal toxic gas disaster on behalf of Dow Chemical.)
Spying on victims of a gas disaster isn’t how corporations should behave, and without people like Brown, Americans would be in the dark about similar acts of corporate espionage.
As for his other breakthroughs, The Nation highlights how Brown discovered the plans of certain corporations to undermine whistleblowers, publishers, and push for policies:
Other plans targeted social organizations and advocacy groups. Separate from the plan to target Greenwald and WikiLeaks, HBGary was part of a consortia that submitted a proposal to develop a “persona management” system for the United States Air Force, that would allow one user to control multiple online identities for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grassroots support or opposition to certain policies. The data dump from the HBGary hack was so vast that no one person could sort through it alone. So Brown decided to crowdsource the effort. He created a wiki page, called it ProjectPM, and invited other investigative journalists to join in. Under Brown’s leadership, the initiative began to slowly untangle a web of connections between the US government, corporations, lobbyists and a shadowy group of private military and information security consultants.
While one Washington Post journalist got the Pulitzer for the vapid achievement of “casting doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities,” Barrett Brown served prison time for untangling “a web of connections between the US government, corporations, lobbyists and a shadowy group of private military and information security consultants.”
One journalist wins the Pulitzer for “casting doubt” while another serves prison time for shining a light on nefarious links between corporations and the U.S. government.
Welcome to journalism in 2017.
To show your support to Barret Brown, currently jailed for the crime of agreeing to an interview, write a letter to him:
Seagoville Post Office Box 9000
Seagobille, Texas 75159
Brown is currently in custody and on April 30, 2016 gave the following statement.
Like Barrett Brown, Julian Assange has been targeted by President Trump and the CIA’s Mike Pompeo. Both Trump and Pompeo Tweeted WikiLeaks emails during the 2016 election. Trump even stated “I love WikiLeaks” and Pompeo (the current CIA chief) actually wrote “Need further proof that the fix was in Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC leaked by WikiLeaks.”
Yet, the irony of threatening Assange and WikiLeaks with prosecution is lost among people within a Trump administration that praised WikiLeaks for its ability to disclose corruption. When the CIA’s Pompeo wrote the words “leaked by WikiLeaks,” he legitimized WikiLeaks as a publisher. Pompeo wouldn’t have Tweeted emails he felt were distributed by a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Like Barrett Brown, Julian Assange has taken risks to inform the public of information The Washington Post and New York Times lack the courage to uncover. The UN has ruled that Assange is owed compensation by the UK and Sweden and is currently being “arbitrarily detained.”
Contrary to the attempts of MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid to perpetuate fake news, Assange has never been charged with any crime, and both James Clapper and James Comey have stated no evidence exists of WikiLeaks being linked directly to Russia.
For a quick recap of Joy Ann Reid spreading fake news about Julian Assange, watch this segment of H. A. Goodman Youtube.
In addition to journalists like Barrett Brown, publishers like Assange and WikiLeaks have informed the public of things (Americans have a right to know) the CIA refuses to disclose. From the Iraq War to NSA domestic spying, WikiLeaks does the job The New York Times and Washington Post is supposed to do for their readers.
WikiLeaks informed the American electorate of corruption within the Democratic Party, resulting in CNN cutting ties with Donna Brazile and Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigning from the DNC. In fact, WikiLeaks DNC emails informed citizens of Bernie Sanders being cheated, bolstering evidence in an ongoing lawsuit.
Therefore, what happens if Barrett Brown and Julian Assange are silenced?
Wired published a piece titled The US Charging Julian Assange Could Put Press Freedom on Trial. Glenn Greenwald tells Democracy Now that prosecuting Assange threatens everyone’s press freedom. The ACLU published an article titled PROSECUTING WIKILEAKS FOR PUBLISHING DOCUMENTS WOULD RAISE SERIOUS CONSTITUTIONAL CONCERNS.
Ultimately, The New York Times and publications around the world covered WikiLeaks emails throughout the election, and if Pompeo’s words are accurate (which they’re not, especially since he Tweeted DNC emails), then The New York Times is also implicated in a Russian conspiracy. On June 22, 2016, the Times published a piece titled Released Emails Suggest the D.N.C. Derided the Sanders Campaign:
WikiLeaks posted almost 20,000 emails sent or received by a handful of top committee officials and provided an online tool to search through them. While WikiLeaks did not reveal the source of the leak, the committee said last month that Russian hackers had penetrated its computer system.
Just as Barrett Brown shared a link, The New York Times hyperlinked “posted almost 20,000 emails” to the WikiLeaks website. If a prosecutor correlated WikiLeaks to a non-state hostile actor, then The New York Times linked numerous articles to non-state hostile actors.
If this makes sense to you, then you either work for the CIA or have never shared a link with anyone.
Then of course, CNN cut ties with Donna Brazile because of the whims of Putin, or a non-state hostile actor.
When journalists and publishers who dive into the depths of hidden information, and news the public has a right to know, are attacked by the government, then establishment publishers and journalists are next. When Pulitzer Prize winner David Fahrenthold wins an award where he risks 100 years in prison (to uncover shadowy links between government and corporations), as opposed to finding out Trump is a liar, he too will be targeted by the government. Nobody is safe (from the standpoint of the First Amendment), not even you—reading this article—if Trump goes after Assange, or Barret Brown remains incarcerated.
If the establishment doesn’t like being exposed, it shouldn’t continually hide unethical and illegal activity from the public. For this reason, Julian Assange and Barrett Brown are heroes, and the people of WikiLeaks do great service for humanity. If all this world had was media outlets that catered to the interests of the CIA or White House, we’d truly be living in Orwell’s 1984.