Kevin, thank you for agreeing to an interview with Freeanons.Org. First of all, congratulations to you, Barrett and his family, and Barrett’s lawyers, Mr. Swift and Mr. Ghappour. This week it was announced that the United States government had dismissed several counts against Barrett. Can you tell us, what is the significance of that, in terms of the charges he still faces? And how are Barrett’s spirits, currently?
As has been noted, the dropping of 11 charges is a very significant reduction and also constitutes a tacit recognition from the government that their prosecution is politically motivated and flawed. The second indictment was the most problematic and controversial and played a role in his continued detainment. Moreover the identity theft statues carried mandatory consecutive sentences, making the potential penalty for sending one hyperlink very oppressive!
A very strong motion to dismiss filed by Brown’s lawyers, and the threat of an amicus brief to be filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several press freedom organizations, was essential in seeing the linking charges dismissed.
There’s one charge of Access Device Fraud which remains in that indictment, but it requires proof of malicious intent which we all know Barrett did not have, so we believe that it will be impossible to secure a conviction. If you add up the absolute maximum potential sentence of the charges he still faces, you get 70 years, which is obviously not a realistic indication but illustrates the severity.
This case is still about journalism and free speech. He is charged for the subversive acts of speaking out against and hiding his laptops from government agents. So the defense and prosecution is proceeding as normal.
Barrett is doing very well. He has no shortage of books to read, and he continues to write a column every two weeks. I have the sense that he is rather laid back and optimistic about everything.
Many people believe Barrett was heavily overcharged, and this was a retaliatory prosecution for Barrett’s work with ProjectPM. Can you give us a brief overview of what ProjectPM does, and why you think the government was threatened by it, if you indeed feel that they were.
Project PM was originally created as a result of Barrett’s dissatisfaction with the media landscape and his desire to forge a superior alternative. He wanted to reduce the negative influence of incompetent pundits and increase that of more capable and informed opinions.
When Anonymous obtained the e-mails of companies like HBGary and Stratfor, it evolved into a crowd-sourced effort to research their contents and piece together the connections and activities of the private intelligence contracting industry.
These firms and their employees are used to operating in the dark and don’t like to have their information exposed. They were clearly very worried about Project PM. Barrett had several telephone exchanges with executives when he called to ask them for comment on the programs and capabilities they were developing. He put himself out there as a journalist in a way that made him a target. In fact there was an e-mail where the CEO of Unveillance was worried about what Brown knew about them. There are leaked communications with people tied to HBGary, candidly talking about trying to find something to get him “picked up on.”
There are numerous indications that the government, and the nexus of private interests with which it is closely intertwined, views Project PM as a threat. The web address of its wiki was named in Brown’s search warrant, along with Endgame Systems and HBGary. The FBI subpoenaed CloudFlare for information about its participants, even though it had no relevance to his charges. The government’s filings in his case give a very alarming description of Project PM as something approximating a criminal organization, which could not be further from the truth.
Are there plans for ProjectPM to continue? And if so, what course will it take?
A number of researchers and journalists have expressed an interest in continuing Project PM. Especially after Snowden’s NSA/GCHQ revelations its work is seen as prescient. Others have even tried to appropriate its name without any official endorsement.
At the very least I think it is important to keep the name and what it represents alive and make sure that the wiki remains online and accessible as an informational resource.
It’s extremely difficult to retain active volunteers and interest in such things. Not to mention it’s a challenge to continue a project without its founder or earlier participants who have disappeared, combined with an uncertain legal climate surrounding preposterous government allegations.
I think that it will be important to update the wiki so that it doesn’t become too dated, and to add entries which are missing. There could be future megaleaks of document dumps and when that happens the world will need a Project PM to sort through it all.
Before he was arrested Barrett was working on something which was a sequel to Project PM called Pursuances. It’s very interesting in theory and I look forward to seeing whether it can be realized.
Anything could happen.
You have been instrumental in coordinating Barrett’s case support. Freeanons believes this kind of effort is crucial to raise public awareness in political cases like Barrett’s. Your work has been outstanding. What factors do you believe contribute to a successful effort to raise both financial and moral support for Barrett? We know you make liberal use of social media, run a support site, and are a press liaison, as well as being a writer yourself. How can other support teams utilize these strategies for best results?
I appreciate the compliment. Because of this role I have discovered skills and opportunities which would not have been available to me otherwise.
I can outline several things which are key to creating an effective movement. First and foremost you need an important cause which you can wake up and fight for every day, and you need the time to devote to it. Injustice is a powerful motivator.
One should cultivate a core support group or committee with a centralized means of discussion. It may look like I do a lot, but Barrett has a lot of supporters contributing behind the scenes. These people make a lot happen on their own, for example, with art, or getting leaflets/flyers printed. It is useful to have a diverse team with a wide range of skill-sets.
Make lists of who you think would be amenable to your cause and actively reach out to them, via e-mail or Twitter to obtain their support. Once you have enough supporters on board, then the movement is self-perpetuating in a way.
Stay on top of social media and keep it updated. Actively search for content that you can re-share if it meets your standards.
Develop close relationships with several journalists and media outlets. Keep them updated about your cause by maintaining a mailing list. Having the press in your corner is crucial.
Be proactive in identifying opportunities stemming from current news events, which might allow you to make an apt comparison to your own cause or spin it in your favor. Understand the basics of public relations, communications and messaging. Develop talking points and narratives. Issue press releases and statements when warranted. Write a new editorial about the case at least every 3 months.
If you work a few hours each day, and have patience, then it could grow into something huge. Granted, Barrett already had a public profile, but Free Barrett Brown started from nothing and only became what it is very gradually.
Barrett is an outstanding writer. His pieces in D Magazine’s Front Burner section have been running regularly. They are enormously insightful and entertaining, though the subject matter, his incarceration, is grim. It is a testament to his huge talent that he handles the material so skillfully. Can we expect more prison writing from Barrett? Is he planning a book at some point?
I agree and for me Barrett’s writing is the whole reason I got involved in defending him. Yes, you can expect to read new installments of his column about every two weeks. He enjoys it as well.
I have no doubt that he’ll probably write another book some day but I don’t believe there are plans to do so at the moment. That is an idea which came up when he was first detained, to write about his experiences in recent years, but it will have to wait until his case is resolved. For now he has a lot of other activities and interests which keep him engaged.
We’ll be publishing an earlier unreleased work of his, Keep Rootin’ for Putin: Establishment Pundits and the Twilight of American Competence, this month.
What are the next important dates upcoming in Barrett’s case? What is expected to happen on those dates? How can the public best support Barrett going forward?
Unless the court schedules a hearing on any of the motions which are currently before it, then the next important dates are April 28 and May 19. That’s when his trials will begin in Dallas, and each one could last 1-2 weeks.
The most effective support is to donate money so that we can cover his legal costs. Barrett has an awesome private defense team and we want to make sure both that they have what they need to do their job and are compensated.
Beyond that we want people to remain interested in the case, to keep talking and writing about it, tell their family and friends, and to continue sharing our materials both online and in the physical world.
We hope he is completely acquitted, and if not then we believe he should get a shot at time served.
To donate to Barrett’s case, please see here.