Aside from his other respectable literary credentials, Barrett Brown founded a website and movement called ProjectPM, heading a team that researched security companies, surveillance firms, and intelligence organizations, both government-backed and otherwise. We have ProjectPM to thank for awareness of TrapWire and “persona management”.
While some people may not recognize those two references, more will recognize the name Stratfor. Stratfor is an abbreviation for Strategic Forecasting Inc, exactly the kind of intelligence agency that ProjectPM specializes in. Hacked in 2011, over five million emails were extracted from Strafor’s database and made available to the public. In the course of his research, Mr. Brown copied and pasted a link that contained the hacked information from one chat room to another, sharing the data with his peers. Today he sits incarcerated, where he’s been for nearly a year, facing a sentence of 105 years (that’s not a typo, just over a century) for sharing that link, bringing on charges of credit card fraud and identity theft. Amazingly, Jeremy Hammond the actual hacker behind the extraction is serving a sentence of ten years.
All of this raises questions we all should ask, but foremost in our minds should be “What does this mean for our future?” The here and now is bad enough, but if Barrett Brown is handed this ridiculous sentence, or any sentence even a fraction as long as the person who actually stole the information, what precedent does that set? The United States legal system works on precedent, as it should in most cases as the law and society evolve, but once a precedent is set it becomes vastly more difficult to overcome in the future, even when the error is acknowledged. The case of Barrett Brown is an example that should not be missed, and far too few are even aware of its existence. Its outcome stands to affect us all.
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