Barrett Brown vs. The Zetas

The Zetas are a murderous Mexico-based international drug cartel. Barrett Brown is a skinny, chain-smoking white kid who lives in a 378-square-foot apartment someplace in Dallas. I’m not going to get more specific than that about his base of operations, because Barrett has gotten himself into a fight of sorts with the Zetas, and I don’t want to see him disemboweled and hung from a bridge. In fact, right now we can see from our server traffic that people in Mexico are reading this story I wrote about Barrett earlier this year.

Here’s the deal, as best as I can understand it: it seems a “member” of the online collective called Anonymous got kidnapped by the Zetas (though some have suggested the kidnapping wasn’t real). So Anonymous revealed that it combed through 25,000 hacked emails from the Mexican government, and Barrett – who is still being identified as a spokesman for Anonymous, even though he has officially renounced his ties to the group – said that 75 names of Zetas collaborators would be released unless the kidnapped Anon was set free. Are you following? The Guardian and others have said that Operation Cartel has been halted, but The Atlantic and CNN say it’s on, that the names will be released tomorrow. This Americas Quarterly story says the operation has been cancelled – but it’s still on.

This is what happens when you have a former unofficial spokesman for a group that doesn’t exist talking to the media about a story that seems to be changing by the minute. In fact, by the time I put up this post, things could have changed again. Check the OpCartel feed on Twitter for updates.

Anyway, I called Barrett to see if I could get my arms around this thing. Barrett mumbles, and he usually has a cigarette dangling from his lips. So I had a difficult time understanding what he said. Making communication more difficult, he had me on speaker phone while he was going to the bathroom. Bottom line is this, though: the kidnapped person was released, and the Zetas have said that for every name of their collaborators that is released, 10 people will be killed. So, yes, Operation Cartel has officially been halted by Anonymous. But nothing can be done officially by Anonymous since Anonymous has no leadership that can officially do anything. Which is why Barrett himself is moving forward with the operation.

He says the 25,000 emails have been sent to Der Spiegel. And he says he’s working with CNN on a story about a district attorney that, from information gleaned from the emails, appears to be working with the Zetas. In fact, Barrett cut our conversation short because the CNN producer was ringing him on his other line.

Here is what I can report with certitude: Barrett Brown is still alive, and his bladder, for now, is empty.