Julian Assange calls for release of Barrett Brown

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Gagged and jailed journalist Barrett Brown received a supportive boost on Monday from WikiLeaks and its exiled editor-in-chief, Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks and Assange condemned the U.S. government’s prosecution of Brown, who is most notably recognized for his role as the occasional public face of the hacktivist collective Anonymous. Assange also called for Brown’s release.

Brown, an ardent critic of the surveillance state, has spent a year in jail without trial on charges that include allegedly threatening an FBI agent and allegedly passing on a link to the credit card information and email addresses for the subscribers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor.

Stratfor was hacked by hacktivist Jeremy Hammond in December 2011. Hammond, a member of Anonymous, pleaded guilty to hacking the firm and is currently awaiting sentencing.

Brown, however, is pleading not guilty to the charges he faces and is in jail awaiting trial in Texas.

“[Brown] is being persecuted for critical reporting on the growing surveillance state, for being an outspoken supporter of WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning, and for being a reporter who spent periods of time embedded with Anonymous,” wrote WikiLeaks.

If convicted, Brown faces up to 105 years in prison. Many journalists fear a conviction could spell a crippling blow to investigative journalism.

The late journalist Michael Hastings, a personal friend of Brown’s, was believed to have been working on a story involving Brown and the private security firms he was investigating before Hastings died in a tragic automobile explosion on June 18.

WikiLeaks likened Brown’s case to the U.S. government’s prosecution of the late Aaron Swartz, calling it “selective and political in nature,” and a step “over the red line in disregard of the First Amendment.”

The Obama administration’s prosecution of Brown “follows a litany of abuses carried out by the administration.”

Those abuses, states the organization, include: “the prosecution of more whistle-blowers for espionage than under all other US presidents combined, the hunt for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the seizure of the phone records of Associated Press journalists, the targeting of Fox News reporter James Rosen as a ‘co-conspirator’ and the ‘whole-of-government’ US criminal investigation into the publishing of WikiLeaks.”

Brown and his defense team were recently placed under a federal gag order that forbids them from speaking from even established members of the press about the trial.

“All journalists must stand firm and fight against this chilling attack on Barrett Brown,” said Assange in a statement Monday.

“Barrett Brown should be released immediately and the charges against him dropped,” he said.

In addition to WikiLeaks, Brown has received the support of other major organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and Free Press.

Kevin Gallagher, director of Free Barrett Brown, acknowledged in a statement to The Daily Caller that Brown was “a prominent supporter of Wikileaks and organized many actions in their, and Manning’s, defense.”

“The fact that they are now calling for his release and the dropping of the charges is an important signifier that this case affects the rights of journalists everywhere,” said Gallagher.

Free Barrett Brown is an organization working to support Brown’s defense and spread awareness about his case.

“In the last year our campaign has achieved major organizational support and institutional backing. Our persistent work on Barrett’s behalf is paying off,” he said.

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