It seems the more the public learns about the Barrett Brown case the more confusion and anger there is at the misuse of the justice system. Which is likely why prosecutors successfully sought a gag order against Brown – the more people learn the less they support the government’s case.
The government is pressing charges that carry up to 100 years in prison against Brown mostly for the “crime” of doing journalism. Which seems to be a pattern as the Obama Administration targets reporters along with whistleblowers. Only journalism that flatters the powerful is legal, journalism that brings truth to power is suspect. Leaks of classified information are fine if they are approved, treason if unapproved. Brown’s journalism was not only not state approved, it embarrassed the powerful and now he’s in jail.
The majority of the time Brown faces is for sharing one hyperlink. In a chat room, he posted a link to the customer database of Stratfor Global Intelligence hacked by Anonymous. That’s it.
Links are important; they are the fabric of the World Wide Web. In 2011, a State Dept. diplomat lost his top-secret clearance because he linked to WikiLeaks. (It’s worth mentioning that Quentin Tarantino is now suing Gawker for sharing a link to a leaked script.) Brown’s case could establish a chilling precedent in the U.S., one where technology reporters are even more afraid of linking to data dumps released by hackers than they already are.
It’s information warfare against journalism, against the public. The state now wants to make sharing unapproved information a crime. Which is to say the stakes in the Barrett Brown case could not be higher.
Yet, as of now, the corporate/mainstream media are essentially ignoring the case. Instead of shining a spotlight on such an open attack against a free press there is a practical blackout of information. Passing references to the case appear in elite media as if the case is irrelevant to the future of journalism, just some exotic happening in fly-over country that involves a nobody.
Brown is a controversial figure, and the group Anonymous more controversial still, but if the precedent being set by this case stands all journalists – including mainstream ones – will be subject to more restrictive rules on sharing information online. They will need lawyers to use the internet, they will have to constantly consider the possibility of indictment if they send a tweet. It will paralyze reporting in the digital realm – a realm only expanding as time goes by.
By remaining silent the American media is turning its back on the future.