President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution
Dear Mr. President:
You are acutely aware that the history of liberty is a history of civil disobedience to unjust laws or practices. As Edmund Burke sermonized, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”
Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremburg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defense. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.
A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.
Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.
We submit that Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures of dragnet surveillance of Americans under § 215 of the Patriot Act, § 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments, or otherwise were sanctioned by Thoreau’s time-honored moral philosophy and justifications for civil disobedience. Since 2005, Mr. Snowden had been employed by the intelligence community. He found himself complicit in secret, indiscriminate spying on millions of innocent citizens contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the First and Fourth Amendments and the transparency indispensable to self-government. Members of Congress entrusted with oversight remained silent or Delphic. Mr. Snowden confronted a choice between civic duty and passivity. He may have recalled the injunction of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Mr. Snowden chose duty. Your administration vindictively responded with a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Espionage Act.
From the commencement of your administration, your secrecy of the National Security Agency’s Orwellian surveillance programs had frustrated a national conversation over their legality, necessity, or morality. That secrecy (combined with congressional nonfeasance) provoked Edward’s disclosures, which sparked a national conversation which you have belatedly and cynically embraced. Legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate to curtail or terminate the NSA’s programs, and the American people are being educated to the public policy choices at hand. A commanding majority now voice concerns over the dragnet surveillance of Americans that Edward exposed and you concealed. It seems mystifying to us that you are prosecuting Edward for accomplishing what you have said urgently needed to be done!
The right to be left alone from government snooping–the most cherished right among civilized people—is the cornerstone of liberty. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson served as Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg. He came to learn of the dynamics of the Third Reich that crushed a free society, and which have lessons for the United States today.
Writing in Brinegar v. United States, Justice Jackson elaborated:
The Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.
We thus find your administration’s zeal to punish Mr. Snowden’s discharge of civic duty to protect democratic processes and to safeguard liberty to be unconscionable and indefensible.
We are also appalled at your administration’s scorn for due process, the rule of law, fairness, and the presumption of innocence as regards Edward.
On June 27, 2013, Mr. Fein wrote a letter to the Attorney General stating that Edward’s father was substantially convinced that he would return to the United States to confront the charges that have been lodged against him if three cornerstones of due process were guaranteed. The letter was not an ultimatum, but an invitation to discuss fair trial imperatives. The Attorney General has sneered at the overture with studied silence.
We thus suspect your administration wishes to avoid a trial because of constitutional doubts about application of the Espionage Act in these circumstances, and obligations to disclose to the public potentially embarrassing classified information under the Classified Information Procedures Act.
Your decision to force down a civilian airliner carrying Bolivian President Eva Morales in hopes of kidnapping Edward also does not inspire confidence that you are committed to providing him a fair trial. Neither does your refusal to remind the American people and prominent Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate like House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann,and Senator Dianne Feinstein that Edward enjoys a presumption of innocence. He should not be convicted before trial. Yet Speaker Boehner has denounced Edward as a “traitor.”
Ms. Pelosi has pontificated that Edward “did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents.” Ms. Bachmann has pronounced that, “This was not the act of a patriot; this was an act of a traitor.” And Ms. Feinstein has decreed that Edward was guilty of “treason,” which is defined in Article III of the Constitution as “levying war” against the United States, “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
You have let those quadruple affronts to due process pass unrebuked, while you have disparaged Edward as a “hacker” to cast aspersion on his motivations and talents. Have you forgotten the Supreme Court’s gospel in Berger v. United States that the interests of the government “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done?”
We also find reprehensible your administration’s Espionage Act prosecution of Edward for disclosures indistinguishable from those which routinely find their way into the public domain via your high level appointees for partisan political advantage. Classified details of your predator drone protocols, for instance, were shared with the New York Times with impunity to bolster your national security credentials. Justice Jackson observed in Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York: “The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally.”
In light of the circumstances amplified above, we urge you to order the Attorney General to move to dismiss the outstanding criminal complaint against Edward, and to support legislation to remedy the NSA surveillance abuses he revealed. Such presidential directives would mark your finest constitutional and moral hour.
Counsel for Lon Snowden
Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or about a third of the statutory rate many of those same companies are lobbying hard to cut.
Profitable companies with more than $10 million in assets paid an average rate of 12.6 percent of their global profits in 2010, the latest data available, according to a new study by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. That compares to the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent.
“When some U.S. corporations use unjustifiable loopholes and offshore gimmicks to avoid paying Uncle Sam, their tax burden is shifted onto hardworking American families and small business,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who commissioned the study, said in a statement, according to The Hill. “Today’s GAO report quantifies just how much of the corporate tax burden has been shifted onto other taxpayers: America’s large, profitable corporations are now paying a lower tax rate than our teachers and firefighters.”
Even when foreign, state and local taxes were added, the average corporate tax rate rose to just 17 percent, according to the GAO. And when unprofitable companies were added to the mix, the average tax rate still rose to only 22 percent of profits.
The study, which the GAO conducted at the request of Sens. Levin and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), comes at a time when U.S. companies are complaining that their tax rate is among the highest in the world and should be cut to help them stay competitive.
Their heavy lobbying has impressed President Barack Obama, who has said the corporate tax rate should be cut to 28 percent. But it has not convinced most Americans, who oppose lowering taxes for corporations, according to a new survey conducted by a corporate lobbying group called RATE, short for Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably.
Full Article Here – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/01/companies-tax-rate_n_3530448.html]]>
The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges.
A jury returned its verdict in the case against Jeff Olson Monday.
The city charged Olson with vandalism after writing anti-Wall Street messages in chalk on public sidewalks and streets in front of a bank.
Olson’s supporters staged a “Chalk-u-py” protest last Saturday. They wrote messages of support in sidewalk chalk outside the Hall of Justice.
Full Article Here – http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Jeff-Olson-Man-Tried-for-Chalk-Drawings-Found-Not-Guilty-213878081.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_SDBrand]]>
You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press.
You might have heard that the Attorney General of the United States isn’t sure how often reporters’ records are seized.
You might have learned that the Department of Justice is prosecuting a whistleblower regarding North Korea … as well as the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News who reported on what the whistleblower told him. As the Washington Post notes:
[Department of Justice investigators] used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
You might have read that the Department of Justice Inspector General published a new report today saying that former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke leaked a document intended to smear Operation Fast and Furious scandal whistleblower John Dodson, concluding:
We believe this misconduct to be particularly egregious because of Burke’s apparent effort to undermine the credibility of Dodson’s significant public disclosures about the failures in Operation Fast and Furious. We further believe that the seriousness of Burke’s actions are aggravated by the fact that they were taken within days after he told Deputy Attorney General Cole that he took responsibility for his office’s earlier unauthorized disclosure of a document to The New York Times, and after Cole put him on notice that such disclosures should not occur. Burke also knew at the time of his disclosure of the Dodson memorandum that he was under investigation by OPR for his conduct in connection with the earlier disclosure to The New York Times. As a high-level Department official, Burke knew his obligations to abide by Department policies and his duty to follow the instructions of the Deputy Attorney General, who was Burke’s immediate supervisor.
But there have been many similar scandals over the last couple of years. For example:
After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge
In an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of the bank’s wrongdoing, the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks (and see this).
Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.
But – whatever you think of Wikileaks – that was the canary in the coal mine in terms of going after reporters. Specifically, former attorney general Mukasey said the U.S. should prosecute Assange because it’s “easier” than prosecuting the New York Times.
Subsequently, Congress considered a bill which would make even mainstream reporters liable for publishing leaked information.
Journalist and former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald notes today:
The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty [says that "The alternative to 'conspiring' with leakers to get information: Just writing what the government tells you."]
That, of course, is precisely the point of the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers and press freedoms: to ensure that the only information the public can get is information that the Obama administration wants it to have. That’s why Obama’s one-side games with secrecy – we’ll prolifically leak when it glorifies the president and severely punish all other kinds – is designed to construct the classic propaganda model. And it’s good to see journalists finally speaking out in genuine outrage and concern about all of this.
Here’s an amazing and revealing fact: after Richard Nixon lost the right to exercise prior restraint over the New York Times’ publication of the Pentagon Papers, he was desperate to punish and prosecute the responsible NYT reporter, Neil Sheehan. Thus, recounted the NYT’s lawyer at the time, James Goodale, Nixon concocted a theory:
“Nixon convened a grand jury to indict the New York Times and its reporter, Neil Sheehan, for conspiracy to commit espionage . . . .The government’s ‘conspiracy’ theory centered around how Sheehan got the Pentagon Papers in the first place. While Daniel Ellsberg had his own copy stored in his apartment in Cambridge, the government believed Ellsberg had given part of the papers to anti-war activists. It apparently theorized further that the activists had talked to Sheehan about publication in the Times, all of which it believed amounted to a conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act.”
As Goodale notes, this is exactly “the same charge Obama’s Justice Department is investigating Assange under today,” and it’s now exactly the same theory used to formally brand Fox’s James Rosen as a criminal in court.
Indeed, this is not a partisan issue. Bush was worse than Nixon on unlawful spying and harassment of reporters … but so is Obama.
But Obama has gone after whistleblowers more viciously than Bush, Nixon, or any president in history. Indeed, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.
And the government goes out of its way to smear whistleblowers and harass honest analysts.
Even high-level government employees are in danger. For example, after the head of the NSA’s spying program – William Binney – disclosed the fact that the U.S. was spying on everyone in the U.S. and storing the data forever, and that the U.S. was quickly becoming a totalitarian state, the Feds tried to scare him into shutting up:
[Numerous] FBI officers held a gun to Binney’s head as he stepped naked from the shower. He watched with his wife and youngest son as the FBI ransacked their home. Later Binney was separated from the rest of his family, and FBI officials pressured him to implicate one of the other complainants in criminal activity. During the raid, Binney attempted to report to FBI officials the crimes he had witnessed at NSA, in particular the NSA’s violation of the constitutional rights of all Americans. However, the FBI wasn’t interested in these disclosures. Instead, FBI officials seized Binney’s private computer, which to this day has not been returned despite the fact that he has not been charged with a crime.
Other NSA whistleblowers have also been subjected to armed raids and criminal prosecution.
After high-level CIA officer John Kiriakou blew the whistle on illegal CIA torture, the government prosecuted him for espionage.
Even the head of the CIA was targeted with extra-constitutional spying and driven out of office.
One example of the extreme gagging of whistleblowers is former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.
The ACLU described Edmonds as:
The most gagged person in the history of the United States of America.
Edmonds has been deemed credible by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, several senators (free subscription required), and a coalition of prominent conservative and liberal groups.
Edmonds’ allegations have been confirmed by numerous Pentagon, MI6 and FBI officials, including 18-year FBI counter-intelligence expert John Cole.
Famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says that Edmonds possesses information “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”.
Ellsberg also said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:
Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which Ellsberg calls "far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers"].
As Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who “sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”
“There will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,’” he told us.
* * *
“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?’” contends Ellsberg. “The first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media. I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .‘”
Indeed, the mainstream British newspaper the Sunday Times started publishing a series of articles exposing the scandal which Edmonds had uncovered. But U.S. State Department pressure killed the series.
What are Edmonds’ allegations … that the media is too cowardly to report … that the most famous whistleblower in history calls “more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”?
Among other things, Edmonds says that the U.S. government worked with Bin Laden and his top lieutenant 3 months after 9/11 … as part of an ongoing operation of launching war under false pretenses.
Now that would be a big story if true, wouldn’t it?
The mainstream media is finally awakening to the fact we are flirting with tyranny … and is finally starting to push back.
The best defense is a strong offense, and it is use it or lose it time for the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The press should shake of its sleepiness and start talking to the whistleblowers (like Edmonds) it’s been ignoring for years … to find out what the government is working so hard to hide.
Full Article Here – http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-bigger-story-behind-the-ap-spying-scandal/5335860
Aaron’s Swartz’s suicide in January triggered waves of indignation, and rightly so. He faced multiple felony counts and years in prison for what were, at worst, trivial transgressions of law. But his prosecution revealed the excess of both anti-hacking criminal statutes, particularly the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the fixation of federal prosecutors on severely punishing all forms of activism that challenge the power of the government and related entities to control the flow of information on the internet. Part of what drove the intense reaction to Swartz’s death was how sympathetic of a figure he was, but as noted by Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor in the DOJ’s computer crimes unit and now a law professor at GWU, what was done to Swartz is anything but unusual, and the reaction to his death will be meaningful only if channeled to protest other similar cases of prosecutorial abuse:
“I think it’s important to realize that what happened in the Swartz case happens in lots and lots of federal criminal cases. . . . What’s unusual about the Swartz case is that it involved a highly charismatic defendant with very powerful friends in a position to object to these common practices. That’s not to excuse what happened, but rather to direct the energy that is angry about what happened. If you want to end these tactics, don’t just complain about the Swartz case. Don’t just complain when the defendant happens to be a brilliant guy who went to Stanford and hangs out with Larry Lessig. Instead, complain that this is business as usual in federal criminal cases around the country – mostly with defendants who no one has ever heard of and who get locked up for years without anyone else much caring.”
Prosecutorial abuse is a drastically under-discussed problem in general, but it poses unique political dangers when used to punish and deter online activism. But it’s becoming the preeminent weapon used by the US government to destroy such activism.
Just this week alone, a US federal judge sentenced hactivist Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer to 3 1/2 years in prison for exploiting a flaw in AT&T’s security system that allowed him entrance without any hacking, an act about which Slate’s Justin Peters wrote: “it’s not clear that Auernheimer committed any actual crime”, while Jeff Blagdon at the Verge added: “he cracked no codes, stole no passwords, or in any way ‘broke into’ AT&T’s customer database – something company representatives confirmed during testimony.” But he had a long record of disruptive and sometimes even quite ugly (though legal) online antagonism, so he had to be severely punished with years in prison. Also this week, the DOJ indicted the deputy social media editor at Reuters, Matthew Keys, on three felony counts which carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison for allegedly providing some user names and passwords that allowed Anonymous unauthorized access into the computer system of the Los Angeles Times, where they altered a few stories and caused very minimal damage. As Peters wrote about that case, “the charges under the CFAA seem outrageously severe” and, about Keys’ federal prosecutors, observed: “apparently, they didn’t take away any lessons from the Aaron Swartz case.”
But the pending federal prosecution of 31-year-old Barrett Brown poses all new troubling risks. That’s because Brown – who has been imprisoned since September on a 17-count indictment that could result in many years in prison – is a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.
A brief understanding of Brown’s intrepid journalism is vital to understanding the travesty of his prosecution. I first heard of Brown when he wrote a great 2010 essay in Vanity Fair defending the journalist Michael Hastings from attacks from fellow journalists over Hastings’ profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone, which ended the general’s career. Brown argued that establishment journalists hate Hastings because he has spent years challenging, rather than serving, political and military officials and the false conventional wisdom they spout.
In an excellent profile of Brown in the Guardian on Wednesday, Ryan Gallagher describes that “before he crossed paths with the FBI, Brown was a prolific writer who had contributed to publications including Vanity Fair, the Guardian, the Huffington Post and satirical news site the Onion.” He also “had a short stint in politics as the director of communications for an atheist group called Enlighten the Vote, and he co-authored a well-received book mocking creationism, Flock of Dodos.”
But the work central to his prosecution began in 2009, when Brown created Project PM, “dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance.” Brown was then moved by the 2010 disclosures by WikiLeaks and the oppressive treatment of Bradley Manning to devote himself to online activism and transparency projects, including working with the hacktivist collective Anonymous. He has no hacking skills, but used his media savvy to help promote and defend the group, and was often referred to (incorrectly, he insists) as the Anonymous spokesman. He was particularly interested in using what Anonymous leaked for his journalism. As Brown told me several days ago in a telephone interview from the Texan prison where he is being held pending trial, he devoted almost all of his waking hours over the last several years to using these documents to dig into the secret relationships and projects between these intelligence firms and federal agencies.
The real problems for Brown began in 2011. In February, Anonymous hacked into the computer system of the private security firm HB Gary Federal and then posted thousands of emails containing incriminating and nefarious acts. Among them was a joint proposal by that firm – along with the very well-connected firms of Palantir and Berico – to try to persuade Bank of America and its law firm, Hunton & Williams, to hire them to destroy the reputations and careers of WikiLeaks supporters and, separately, critics of the Chamber of Commerce (as this New York Times article on that episode details, I was named as one of the people whose career they would seek to destroy). HB Gary Federal’s CEO Aaron Barr, who advocated the scheme, was fired as a result of the disclosures, but continues to this day to play a significant role in this public-private axis of computer security and intelligence.
Brown became obsessed with journalistically investigating every strand exposed by these HB Gary Federal emails and devoted himself to relentlessly exposing this world. He did the same with the 2012 leak of millions of emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, obtained by Anonymous and published by WikiLeaks. As Gallagher describes about Brown’s fixation on these documents:
“Hackers would sometimes obtain data and then pass it on to him. He would spend days and nights hunkered down in his small uptown Dallas apartment pouring through troves of hacked documents, writing blog posts about US government intelligence contractors and their ‘misplaced power’ while working to garner wider media coverage. . . .
“Brown was frustrated that mainstream media outlets were not covering stories he felt deserved attention. He would complain that reporters would often approach him and ask about the personalities of some of the more prominent hackers . . . but ignore the deeper issues about governments and private contractors contained in documents that had been hacked.”
The issues Brown was investigating are complex and serious, and I won’t detail all of that here. In addition to Gallagher’s article, two superb and detailed accounts of Brown’s journalism in these areas have been published by Christian Stork of WhoWhatWhy and Vice’s Patrick McGuire; read those to see how threatening Brown’s work had become to lots of well-connected people. Suffice to say, Brown, using the documents obtained by Anonymous, was digging around – with increasing efficacy – in places which National Security and Surveillance State agencies devote considerable energy to concealing.
All of this is the crucial background to the charges he currently faces. In March of last year, Brown’s home was raided by the FBI, armed with a search warrant relating to both the HB Gary Federal and the Stratfor leaks. Brown told me they were intent on finding out what he had learned about those firms, particularly HB Gary Federal. Having apparently learned that the FBI agents were coming, Brown went to his mother’s home, so the FBI broke down his door and entered his apartment. They seized various documents but could find nothing linking him to either hack, so he was not arrested.
After that, FBI agents went to his mother’s home. They found Brown there and asked for his laptop, which he denied having. Over the next several months, FBI agents continued to harass not only Brown but also his mother, repeatedly threatening to arrest her and indict her for obstruction of justice for harboring Brown and helping him conceal documents by letting him into her home.
Those months of FBI pursuit, but particularly the threats against his mother, finally caused Brown to explode with rage. Brown has been open in discussing his past battles with substance abuse, and at the time, he had stopped taking various medications which he uses to control his addiction problems. In September, he posted a YouTube video detailing that the FBI and HB Gary Federal had threatened to ruin his life, and was particularly incensed about the threats against his mother. Obviously distraught, he said he intended to do the same to the FBI agent making the threats against his mother, FBI agent Robert Smith. While expressly disavowing any intent to physically harm Smith, Brown issued rambling threats to “destroy” Smith.
That was more than enough pretext to allow the FBI to do what they long wanted: arrest Brown. The same day he posted the video on YouTube, the FBI arrested him on charges of threatening a federal agent, and then kept him imprisoned with no indictment for weeks on the ground that he posed an immediate threat to Smith. Finally in October, the DOJ unveiled an indictment charging him with three counts of, essentially, harassing a federal officer online.
In December, the DOJ filed a second indictment, which is now the heart of the government’s case against him. It alleged that he “trafficked” in stolen goods, namely the Stratfor documents leaked by Anonymous and published by WikiLeaks. The indictment focuses on one small part of the leak: a list of Straftor clients and their credit card numbers. Critically, the indictment does not allege that Brown participated in the hack or in obtaining any of those documents.
Instead, it simply alleges that he helped “disseminate” the stolen information. He did that, claims the DOJ, when he was in a chat room and posted a link to those documents that were online. As the harsh Anonymous critic Adrian Chen of Gawker wrote:
“Is it a crime for someone simply to share a link to stolen information? That seems to be the message conveyed by today’s indictment of former Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown, over a massive hack of the private security firm Stratfor. Brown’s in legal trouble for copying and pasting a link from one chat room to another. This is scary to anyone who ever links to anything . . . .
“This charge does not allege Brown actually had the credit card numbers on his computer or even created the link: He just allegedly copied a link to a publicly-accessible file with the numbers from one chat room and pasted it into another. . . . As a journalist who covers hackers and has ‘transferred and posted’ many links to data stolen by hackers – in order to put them in stories about the hacks – this indictment is frightening because it seems to criminalize linking.”
What makes all of this even worse is that there is zero suggestion that Brown made use of these credit card numbers. To the contrary, when Anonymous advocated that people use the numbers to donate money to charity, Brown vocally condemned that suggestion as a distraction from Anonymous’ mission. He told me in our telephone interview that he did the same privately. As McGuire wrote: “It’s obvious by looking at the most recent posts on Barrett Brown’s blog that while he is highly interested in Stratfor, it wasn’t the credit card information that motivated him.”
Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/21/barrett-brown-persecution-anonymous]]>
Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted on charges of stealing information and sharing links to stolen credit card information.
Yet overarching insights into the decentralized collective are hard to find.
Information activist Asher Wolf provides a unique perspective in an interview with a prominent American Anon, who has more than 290,000 Twitter followers via @AnonyOps and is living in exile by choice.
The hacker left the country out of a fear of being harshly prosecuted by the government for radical advocacy of movements such as WikiLeaks and Occupy .
“I think the idea was planted when I saw others leaving,” @AnonyOps told Wolf. ” Glen Greenwald left … There’s a brain drain of political dissidents – America’s punishment for screwing with civil liberties.
“With the NSA building massive domestic spying programs, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to leave: America – land of the surveilled, home of the logged. ”
The coder — who sees his Twitter success as ” hacking public dialog” — left his home, family, and friends because he began to think the government would “fake my involvement in something or try to entrap me, or hit me with a bull— conspiracy charge.”
He likened his situation to Internet hero Aaron Swartz, the RSS co-developer and Reddit cofounder who committed suicide amid an ambitious prosecution after he downloaded millions of academic papers from the nonprofit online database J-STOR.
“I left for some of the same reasons Aaron Swartz ‘left,’” @AnonyOps told Wolf. “But exile was my choice of escape instead. I don’t have suicide in me and I didn’t want to end up in a jail cell.”
Full Article Here – http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/anonymous-hacker-explains-why-fled-002956259.html]]>
Anonymous has a new mission: Operation Wall Street.
The loosely organized hacktivist collective Thursday declared war — or at least inconvenience — on financial services businesses in a call to arms against “the crimes of Goldman Sachs and other firms” for their role in contributing to the mortgage crisis, amongst other alleged misdeeds.
“It should be the duty of any Anonymous, any hacker, in solidarity with Occupy, to release the Dox on the CEOs & any and all Executives of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Wells Fargo, Chase, Meryl Lynch, and any other guilty party,” it wrote, referring to releasing (doxing) stolen data. “Their dox, any and all possible personal information on these people, must be released and made public and spread across the internet as much as possible. The people who have lost their homes and had their lives destroyed deserve to know who it was that did it.”
The new statement from Anonymous struck a populist note, referencing widespread bankruptcies triggered by the mortgage crisis, bank employees’ bonuses and the poor treatment of Internet activist Aaron Swartz. But it was also personal, calling out Bank of America for its “pathetic assault on Anonymous’ methods,” referring to what it first alleged Monday was a campaign funded by Bank of America to spy on Anonymous and Occupy members.
The so-called Anonymous Intelligence Agency Par:AnoIA bolstered those claims Wednesday by publishing what it described as “a total of 14GB data, code and software that is related to Bank of America, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, TEKSystems and ClearForest.”
“Looking at the data it becomes clear that Bank of America, TEKSystems and others … gathered information on Anonymous and other activists’ movement on various social media platforms and public Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels,” according to a statement posted on the Par:AnoIA site. It said the data dump included “a full version of ClearForest’s text analyzing software OneCalais,” emails between Bank of America and a subcontractor it hired to monitor Anonymous, as well as source code for what appeared to be Bank of America software.
The dumped data and files were reportedly retrieved from an unsecured server located in Tel Aviv, Israel, which also included a full version of OneCalais. “The source of this release has confirmed that the data was not acquired by a hack but because it was stored on a misconfigured server and basically open for grabs,” according to Par:AnoIA.
In its statement, Par:AnoIA also noted that 4.8 GB of that data included “detailed career and salary information of hundred of thousands of executives and employees from various corporations all around the world.” It said the file was tagged with “reuterscompanycontent” — which seems to indicate that it came from Thomson Reuters — although stored in a file named “Bloomberg.” “What it was doing on the Israeli server is up to anyone’s guess,” said Par:AnoIA.
After the 14 GB of data was released, word quickly spread via Twitter that the published software included code designed to infect targeted PCs. “WARNING: The #Anonymous #BOA files include #TROJAN scripts and programs that ‘call home’ to #ClearForest and #OneCalais,” according to a tweet from the OneCalais Twitter account, which broadcast its first tweet on Wednesday.
Full Article Here – http://www.informationweek.com/security/attacks/anonymous-launches-operation-wall-street/240149804
An Occupy Wall Street activist was acquitted of assaulting a police officer and other charges on Thursday after jurors were presented with video evidence that directly contradicted the NYPD’s story.
Michael Premo was found innocent of all charges this week in regards to a case that stems from a December 17, 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Lower Manhattan. For over a year, prosecutors working on behalf of the New York Police Department have insisted that Premo, a known artist and activist, tackled an NYPD officer during a protest and in doing so inflicted enough damage to break a bone.
During court proceedings this week, Premo’s attorney presented a video that showed officers charging into the defendant unprovoked. The Village Voice reports that jurors deliberated for several hours on Thursday and then elected to find Premo not guilty on all counts, which included a felony charge of assaulting an officer of the law.
Since his arrest, supporters of Premo have insisted on his innocence. “They’re trying to make something out of nothing and they’re trying to charge him with something that didn’t actually occur,” colleague Rachel Falcone told Free Speech Radio News this week.
After being arrested, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office presented Premo with a deal that would have let him off the hook by pleading guilty to lesser charges. Maintaining his innocence, however, he was determined to fight the case in court.
Premo was “facing serious charges and potential substantial jail sentence, even though he never should have been arrested at all,” his supporters claimed in a post published on The Laundromat Project website.
Nick Pinto of the Village Voice says he was nearby during the December 2011 rally and recalls watching Premo’s arrest from a distance. In his report from court this week, Pinto explains how the details provided by the NYPD in this trial have been fabricated to such a degree that the allegations presented by the cops turned out to be literally the opposite of what occurred.
Full Article Here – http://rt.com/usa/nypd-occupy-michael-premo-703/]]>
In a bid to address widespread public outrage over greed in the financial sector, European officials have agreed to legislation capping bankers’ bonuses at a maximum of a year’s salary. Great Britain fought to prevent the measure, but failed to rally enough support.
Starting in 2014, banks in the European Union must limit bonus payments for their employees. After some 10 months of tough negotiations, top European officials agreed late on Wednesday in Brussels to cap bonuses at a maximum of one year’s base salary.
“For the first time in the history of EU financial market regulation, we will cap bankers’ bonuses,” said the European Parliament’s head negotiator, Austria’s Othmar Karas, in a statement. “The essence is that from 2014, European banks will have to set aside more money to be more stable and concentrate on their core business, namely financing the real economy, that of small and medium-sized enterprises and jobs.”
The bonus cap was part of a package of financial laws hammered out between EU officials, the European Commission and representatives of the 27 member states in negotiations led by Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan. The goal is to prevent bankers from taking excessive risks, which can shake the financial industry.
“This overhaul of EU banking rules will make sure that banks in the future have enough capital, both in terms of quality and quantity, to withstand shocks,” Noonan said. “This will ensure that taxpayers across Europe are protected into the future.”
Fierce Resistance from London
European Parliament and member states must still formally approve the compromise, which would allow banks to grant bonuses of twice employees’ fixed salary only if the majority of their shareholders approved. The legislation is part of the far-reaching “Basel III” financial reform package aimed at increasing capital requirements to shore up the banking industry.
Wednesday’s agreement to implement what will be the world’s strictest pay cap was hard-won after months of resistance from member states. Chief among them was Great Britain, which boasts Europe’s largest financial sector. London argued that the bonus cap would hobble industry growth, but failed to attract backing from other countries to prevent the measure.
Full Article Here – http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/european-officials-cap-banker-bonuses-at-maximum-of-one-year-of-salary-a-886083.html]]>