By Elizabeth DiNovella on September 09, 2013

Barrett Brown is not the ideal journalist. But that does not justify the U.S. government's attempts to throw the man in jail for one hundred years.

His crime? Posting a link online.

New York Times's columnist David Carr writes about Brown's case.

Brown's main interest as a reporter and activist is the connection between private security firms and the U.S. government. Brown had been investigating documents exposed by the hacker group Anonymous and others.

Carr writes:

In December 2011, approximately five million e-mails from Stratfor Global Intelligence, an intelligence contractor, were hacked by Anonymous and posted on WikiLeaks. The files contained revelations about close and perhaps inappropriate ties between government security agencies and private contractors. In a chat room for Project PM, Mr. Brown posted a link to it.

Among the millions of Stratfor files were data containing credit cards and security codes, part of the vast trove of internal company documents. The credit card data was of no interest or use to Mr. Brown, but it was of great interest to the government. In December 2012 he was charged with 12 counts related to identity theft. Over all he faces 17 charges -- including three related to the purported threat of the F.B.I. officer and two obstruction of justice counts -- that carry a possible sentence of 105 years, and he awaits trial in a jail in Mansfield, Tex.

The federal government is trying to criminalize linking, and journalists do that all the time. Just last week, The New York Times, The Guardian, and ProPublica collaborated on a NSA story that included links to leaked information provided by Edward Snowden.

This heavy-handedness fits into the Obama Administration's going after leaks in any way possible. And it's not just the Obama Administration. The Brits are going after journalists, too, which is why The Guardian worked with The New York Times and ProPublica on the NSA story. The British government had threatened the Guardian's top editor and ultimately forced him to destroy hard drives containing the leaked documents.

It's troubling how vehemently the Obama Administration is going after whistleblowers. And it's troubling that it's going after reporters, too. Don't forget, the government has filed an affidavit that accuses a Fox News reporter of felonies for working with a source.

But with the Brown case, the feds may be stumbling into new territory.

"The big reason this matters is that he transferred a link, something all of us do every single day, and ended up being charged for it," Jennifer Lynch, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group that presses for Internet freedom and privacy, told Carr. "I think that this Administration is trying to prosecute the release of information in any way it can."

Remember when people talked about voting for Obama because of civil liberties? That seems like a long, long time ago.

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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