On this episode, Kumars and Roqayah speak with Barrett Brown, a journalist and founder of Project PM, a crowd-sourced investigation into the cyber-military-industrial complex. He’s authored two books and countless articles including, most recently, award-winning work in The Intercept. In 2012, Brown was indicted on multiple federal charges stemming from the 2011 hack of private intelligence firm Stratfor. Brown was denied bail and eventually sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay close to $900,000 in restitution to Stratfor. He was released at the end of November and we have him on the show to discuss his time as a political prisoner, as well as his work before and since.
Barrett describes to us the concept of his crowd-sourced investigation Project PM, and what this effort was able to accomplish, uncovering some of the dirty tricks and shady dealings of private cybersecurity and intelligence firms like HBGary and Stratfor. Barrett describes how he became a target of the FBI, who raided his home on two separate occasions, in addition to raiding his mother’s home. Barrett describes how he was arrested and charged with threatening a federal agent, as well as multiple charges relating to simply sharing a link to documents from a hack of Stratfor.
He tells us about his time in prison, including the gag order he was placed under to prevent him from discussing the details of his case. He tells us about his life now that he is relatively free. He is continuing his career in journalism, writing all of his stories with pen and paper since he isn’t allowed to use a computer according to the terms of his parole. Finally, we talk to Barrett about his recent efforts to build on the success of Project PM by developing a software-based civic participation platform to facilitate horizontal collaboration among activists.
What happened to Barrett under Obama’s watch is an example of the type of treatment journalists can expect a lot more of under Trump, as well as a reminder that attacks on journalists aren’t a new phenomenon or one that is exclusive to GOP presidents.