Barrett Brown and the FBI

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Glenn Greenwald tells us the story today of Barrett Brown, a young journalist who relentlessly followed up on documents leaked by Anonymous, was targeted for this by the FBI, and who was eventually harassed enough that he cracked—which took the unfortunate form of recording a YouTube rant promising to “destroy” one of his tormentors. He now faces multiple felony charges that could put him in prison for decades:

So here we have the US government targeting someone they clearly loathe because of the work he is doing against their actions. Then — using the most dubious legal theories, exploiting vague and broad criminal statutes, and driving him to ill-advised behavior with deliberately vindictive harassment (including aimed at his mother) — they transform what is at worst very trivial offenses into a multi-count felony indictment that has already resulted in his imprisonment for six months and threatens to imprison him for many years more

….Brown may not be as cuddly as [Aaron] Swartz, and certainly does not have the same roster of influential friends. Nor can it be categorically argued that Brown did nothing wrong (just as many of Swartz’s most ardent defenders acknowledged about him): that YouTube video, made when he was admittedly struggling with impaired judgment, was certainly ill-advised.

But none of that should matter. The claim with prosecutorial abuse is never that the person targeted is a perfect being or even that he never did anything wrong. The issue with prosecutorial abuse is that the punishments being meted out are wildly disproportionate to the alleged acts when the trivial harms of the acts are considered and/or that the prosecution is being pursued for improper purposes.

This is the first I’ve read about this, and I can’t pretend to know that Glenn’s account is fair on all counts. But read the whole thing anyway. More here.

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