A Few Words About Barrett Brown’s Arrest by the FBI




By now you have perhaps heard about Barrett Brown’s arrest Wednesday evening. Bethany mentioned it in Leading Off. Wired has a good account of what went down. The video you see here is from the TinyChat session that was underway when the FBI came through the door of Barrett’s tiny Uptown apartment. It’s a surreal scene. As Barrett is apparently wrestled to the floor, one of the other chat participants begins a striptease. Lulz.

I profiled Barrett last year. In the process, I feel like I got to know the guy pretty well. Or at least as well as one can. He’s a tricky fellow to get to know. Sincerity isn’t his default operating mode. He’s full of a nicotine-fueled bluster. And, yeah, sometimes he’s full of heroin, too. Or Suboxone, if that’s all he can get his hands on.

When I was working on my story about Barrett, we spent a lot of time talking about the prospect of his getting arrested. In typical Barrett fashion, he said he was looking forward to getting arrested because it would give him a megaphone to talk about Project PM, the investigation he is (was?) organizing into “the intelligence contracting industry, the PR industry’s interface with totalitarian regimes, the mushrooming infosec/’cybersecurity’ industry, and other issues constituting threats to human rights, civic transparency, individual privacy, and the health of democratic institutions.” Quite simply, though, I think he figured that getting busted by the feds would be cool or romantic or something like that. It would add to the Barrett mystique.


After Barrett was raided by the FBI earlier this year, we met for a drink and talked about what had happened. I got the impression that the raid had given him a bit of a scare. He didn’t seem quite as sanguine about the prospect of going to jail. His life had become more complicated, and legal bills were mounting.

So why did Barrett go and shoot off his mouth, posting a video in which he threatened to kill federal agents? From the video:

“Any armed official of the U.S. government, particularly the FBI, will be regarded as potential Zeta assassin squads. As FBI knows … they know that I’m armed and I come from a military family and I was taught to shoot by a Vietnam veteran … and I will shoot all of them and kill them if they come and do anything…. I have reason to fear for my life.”

He also named an agent, Robert Smith, and said that he was going to go after his kids. Why would Barrett do that? He surely knows that his First Amendment rights don’t protect threats like that. Was he trying to get arrested? Maybe. Maybe not. I think it’s possible that Barrett was just high and did something without thinking it through. In either case, he’s now sitting in a federal detention facility, being held without bail — and, presumably, without access to opiates. I can’t help but worry about the kid.

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