Barrett Brown released from prison. Again

A special report by correspondent Douglas Lucas.

censorship by Dylan Blake on Flickr

censorship by Dylan Blake on Flickr

Journalist Barrett Brown has been released from FCI Seagoville today.

The 35-year-old, known for his advocacy of Anonymous and an incarceration of more than four years in part for journalism related to the 2011 hack of the Austin-based private intelligence firm Stratfor, was arrested April 27 while on home confinement the day before an interview scheduled with a camera crew for the government-funded Public Broadcasting Service.

In Dallas, the prisoner had recorded two April 26 phone calls in which he asks for the basis for attempts to compel him to obtain permission for media interaction. During the first, his case manager Victoria Dean and Merrill Wells, the state director of the Volunteers of America halfway house system in Texas, ask him to turn in forms for approval of the upcoming interview. During the second, he asks Luz Lujan of the Bureau of Prisons for the portion of the program statement he says she said would give the agency the right of prior restraint over his journalistic discussions.

Less than 24 hours after these conversations, the United States Marshals Service took him into custody. One of the marshals actually knew him and reads his columns, according to Brown.

But what of the legal dispute between Brown and his interlocuters? Alex Friedman, managing editor of Prison Legal News, told this writer:

If he was on home confinement, then he was effectively under the custody (and thus the rules) of the BOP [Bureau of Prisons]. If the rules and/or conditions of his home confinement included limits on media access, then he was supposed to follow them. Of course such rules may be unconstitutional and violative of the First Amendment, but that’s something that needs to be challenged in court.

Until that happens, the BOP can (and has) returned him to prison for failure to abide by BOP policies related to media access. This is simply a way for federal prison officials to silence and punish someone based on their media activities, which is done selectively. Had Mr. Brown given media interviews lauding the BOP, it’s doubtful he would have been arrested, for example.

Basically, people on home confinement may have the right to participate in media interviews, but do so at the risk of angering the BOP and thus returning to prison absent a court order that prohibits the BOP from doing so.

In response, and hoping to clarify further in the coming days, Brown argued to me:

There are no such conditions. Even if you’re an inmate–in the federal Bureau, there’s a program statement that says what you’re getting into. There’s nothing in that program statement–which is publicly accessible–that says I can’t contact [media]. I don’t have to get permission to talk to a journalist. The forms they were trying to have me fill out were the forms for journalists to get into a prison and talk to a prisoner at an institution–the form is very clear on that, what it is. They never actually claimed I was under a rule, they just kind of like, they didn’t really answer that question. I’m aware of the home confinement thing, what I’m subject to, what I’m not subject to. I’m subject to a lot of the same things as inmates, but even inmates do not require prior permission to talk to the press.

Indeed, Brown has been communicating with and publishing in press the throughout his incarceration. A case similar in some respects was that of environmental activist Daniel McGowan.

Zoom all the way out

Imagine that by reading the above you were just examining something on the ground very closely, and now you are warping out far into outer space to look at the entire globe.

The planet is likely doomed soon. According to some climate forecasts, human extinction occurs in under 3200 days. At any moment Trump might blow everyone up. This is not new, but it’s getting worse.

How do these two scopes of analysis connect? Please leave your thoughts in the comments. May I suggest reading A Societal Singularity by Heather Marsh and checking out GetGee and using that content as a way to bridge the gap I’m leaving. For my part, I’ve been trying, inter alia, to write a post comparing anti-democracy in Binding Chaos and Nietzsche…

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Categories: Activism, Anonymous, Barrett Brown, Censorship, Citizen Journalists, Journalists, Media, News, Politics, Prisoners, Prisons

10 replies

  1. I’m not going to pretend like everything is alright, and I can appreciate the need to express your desire to see repairs to our social structure before it further damages our habitat. But, you should remember that the urgency you feel, cannot be yours alone, and is shared by anyone who concerns themselves with such matters. Do not waste time with despair, for, it is already the time of action. Find your path.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I found the ending of your article to be sensationalized, fatalistic & disappointing. Something I believed the Crytosphere to be above. It took away from the plight that Barrett faces and will likely face ever single day for the rest of his natural life.

    It’s the entire governmental ruling system that’s broken along side our society, not one narcissistic man w a itchy twitter finger can saddle that blame alone.

    Like

    • We discussed the ending and while it’s the kind of opinion statement I’d normally cut, in this case I thought it would stimulate some interesting comments. And it has. No-one is obligated to agree, and all perspectives are welcome in the comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Someone still uses Path? Huh.

    Like

  4. the “funniest” thing about this is that Lucas quotes the editor of the Prison Legal News explaining exactly what happened, and then discounts it altogether, as do all the comments here.

    When you’re under the custody of the BOP, you do what the BOP tells you, even if you can’t find the exact words that appear to authorize them to tell you something.

    If they aren’t authorized to tell you something, your lawyer challenges them in court. that’s why we have lawyers and courts.

    You can’t just decide that you think they don’t have the right to tell you that thing and therefore do whatever you want.

    You have rights. You have a way to exercise them. But telling the law to go fuck itself is what got Brown in the situation he’s in in the first place.

    Like

  5. The BOP still has him listed as incarcerated and at the Dallas RRM. Do you know what’s up with that?
    https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/

    Like

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