Anonymous spokesman's YouTube meltdown led to arrest

Barrett Brown threatens to 'shoot and kill' government agents, but former attorney says threat not serious

If anybody was surprised at the arrest in Dallas last week of Barrett Brown, self-described sometime spokesman for the hacktivist group Anonymous, it should not have been Brown himself.

He practically invited it. A three-part, 43-plus minute rant posted on YouTube on Sept. 11 and 12 included a threat to "shoot ... and kill" any armed government officials who sought to arrest him -- "especially the FBI."

"Dallas Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Carmen Castro told The Dallas Morning News Brown was arrested Wednesday night and 'released over to the FBI' in the morning," reported last week.

Very few in the security community would comment on the arrest for the record, most saying they did not want the headache of becoming a target of Anonymous.

One of the few who did was Robert Stacy McCain, who wrote on his website, The Other McCain, that "a lot of the Anonymous people never trusted Barrett Brown, regarding him as an untrustworthy egomaniacal fame-seeker trying to cash in."

[See also: Anonymous had bad month, but no less 'reliable'

"He did a TV interview with Michael Isikoff of NBC and announced a book deal with Gregg Housh, and did all of this while promoting himself as the official spokesman for Anonymous, whose members are ... well, anonymous, and with good reason, because the cops would very much like to put a lot of them in prison," McCain wrote.

McCain wrote that after the FBI raided Brown in March, but did not arrest him, other members of Anonymous suspected he might be cooperating with the agency. Of the latest video, he wrote: "Being a paranoid conspiracy theorist is not illegal, and Brown's tinfoil-hat rantings about (various enemies) were just so much noise. But his threats to 'destroy' FBI agent Robert Smith? Yeah, the feds don't take that kind of talk lightly."

Joel Harding, a retired military intelligence officer and information operations expert, would say only that, "Anyone who threatens the FBI, I question their judgment."

And their desire to avoid that possibility was validated by last week's posting by Anonymous offshoot Anti-Sec of a text file on Pastie containing the names, street addresses, credit card numbers and other information of what appears to be a random series of 13 government employees around the country, ranging from military service personnel to a Department of Justice employee.

TPM reported that it had "verified that several of the phone numbers and other information contained in the text file were authentic and spoke with several victims of the hack, who were not previously aware that their information had been posted online and were confused as to why they were being targeted, having no knowledge of Brown or his arrest."

But behind the relative anonymity of comments on the YouTube video page were some critics who were a bit more outspoken. Noting Brown's semi-coherent monologue, sometimes featuring manic, table-pounding obscenities and other times uncontrollable giggling, a viewer called "Vicious Latina" observed, "This is your brain on drugs."

Brown acknowledged several times during the video his addiction to opiates, including heroin, and at one point called himself a "weird junkie."

But his major theme was that he was a victim of criminal actions by the FBI and various collaborators, and was going to take revenge in kind. He catalogued a list of grievances against the agency and various alleged informants who he claimed have been involved in a "criminal conspiracy" that has put his and members of his family's lives in danger.

Then, in an escalating series of threats, Brown first said of FBI agent Robert Smith that he would "ruin his life and look into his [expletive] kids." Brown said it would all be legal because, "Aaron Barr did the same thing [to me] and he didn't get raided for it."

Barr is a former CEO of HBGary Federal, a now-defunct firm whose email account was hacked by Anonymous in February.

Brown said he had worked with "several Mexican Anons" about a year ago in an operation called OpCartel, which he said led to speculation that he might be killed by Los Zetas, a violent criminal drug syndicate in Mexico.

After Los Zetas kidnapped a member of Anonymous, Brown claimed he had the names of 75 Zeta collaborators, which he threatened to release to the press unless the Anonymous member was set free.

In the video, Brown accused FBI informants, some of whom he said were ex-military, or military contractors, of posting pictures and the addresses of houses where he used to live, with taglines saying, "this is for the Zetas."

Jay Leiderman, an attorney at the Ventura, Calif. Law firm Leiderman Devine LLP, who has represented Brown in the past, said while he had not seen the images of Brown's residences, his understanding was that they were "out there," thanks to FBI collaborators including the former LulzSec leader "Sabu," whose name is Hector Xavier Monsegur, and who had reportedly been cooperating with the FBI after his arrest in the summer of 2011

At some point, Brown said, his actual address was posted, again with the suggestion that it was to help Los Zetas find him. In response, he said he was concerned that Los Zetas might show up at his house posing as U.S. government or FBI officials.

"As such," he said, "any armed officials of the U.S. government, particularly the FBI, will be regarded as Zeta assassin squads. They know that I'm armed, that I come from a military family, that I was taught to shoot ... I will shoot all of them and kill them if they come, because they are involved in a criminal conspiracy and I have reason to fear for my life."

Some viewers in the comments section treated that claim with scorn. "Adrian Katterfelto" wrote, "Los Zetas have no interest in Barrett Brown. He's not a threat to them. He's not even a blip on their radar. If they had wanted him dead, we wouldn't be watching this video. Or it would be a very different kind of video. And they wouldn't need to send someone up from Mexico either, because they're already here."

But Brown had supporters as well. "Asilentfire" wrote, "What's [expletive] is how these comments try to make him look like the enemy, when we need to WAKE UP and see that he is on our side fighting for our freedoms. Can't you people see that our last line of defense against a total NWO takeover is being silenced?"

Anti-Sec, in its retaliatory posting, led with: "Barrett Brown, our controversial hated/loved friend (doesnt matter what kind of [expletive] he does, he's still one of us) seems to have been v&'d ... again."

"Hhahahaha. then try to come and convince us that FBI is not mad as hell at us. remember there's always another behind behind the behind. if u dont want to trust us, it's ok, you shouldn't. but dont be dumb and at least to not realise something here is kinda fishy currently. (tip: prepare yourself to hear anonymous is linked to al-qaeda or something). so well, we think Barrett deserves at least we bring some kind of retaliation for this FBI (expletive) against him," Anti-Sec wrote.

[See also: SOPA, PIPA, Anonymous - Can I have a little hope?]

Brown also issued an ultimatum to the FBI to return a laptop and other property taken from him during the raid in early March, in which the agency searched both his apartment and his mother's home, where he was staying at the time. Brown said the FBI also took his mother's laptop.

Brown was not charged in connection with that raid, and he demanded that his property be returned within two weeks or he would "release some stuff that's on there, and they don't know what I have access to that I have copies of that's on there."

Jay Leiderman said that since the laptop had been seized pursuant to a warrant, it would take approval by the court to have it released. Leiderman said Brown is still in custody since his arrest last week, pending trial.

Brown also demanded an apology from Smith and an alleged informant, both for taking his property and for "threatening my [expletive] mother with obstruction of justice."

However, Brown's arrest last week was apparently without incident. That will crimp, or at least delay, another threat he made.

He said Agent Smith had referred to him during the March raid as "the bad guy." So, he said, he would prove it in the coming months, "using the court system, using the media, using my group Project PM which has always been, secretly to some extent, created for the purpose of wiping out this (expletive) government and certain media institutions, and through other means at my disposal, some of which are known, some of which are known to a few and some of which are still secret."

Leiderman, while he is not representing Brown in the current case, said he doesn't think the threats Brown made on the video were serious. He said it was "fair" to conclude that Brown may have been under the influence of some of his admitted addictions.

"I wish they had stepped back a bit and thought about it, before going in with guns blazing," he said.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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