Bureau of Prisons Tries to Silence Barrett Brown

When Barrett Brown was sentenced, he released a statement saying, in part: “The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system.” It looks like the Bureau of Prisons doesn’t much care for Barrett’s activities. Last week the BOP shut Barrett out of the inmate computer system used to send email. Yesterday Barrett released this statement:

Following is an account of the events surrounding the sudden termination of my inmate email account by the Bureau of Prisons. I will be submitting it as part of my legal challenge to this suspicious move in the coming week, with the intention of getting a court injunction by which to restore my access until such time as these issues can be clarified.

On Tuesday March 31, I used the inmate computer system to send an email to a journalist of my acquaintance in which I inquired about getting him in touch with another inmate who was interested in talking to the press about potentially illegal conduct by BOP officials. When I tried to log in to the system one hour afterwards, I received a message reading: “Denied: You do not have access to this service.” I asked our Counselor Towchik about this and he called another office, from which he apparently received a vague explanation to the effect that they were “working on it,” which we took to understand that this was a system maintenance issue; he told me to return to his office later that afternoon. I did so, and he told me that several people were having issues with the system and that he would make further inquiries, and that if necessary he would bring the technical staff over to our unit the next day to discuss it with us, assuming the problem had still not been fixed. The next morning I reached my mother by phone and learned that apparently everyone on my message contact list had received an automatic email to the effect that my messaging privileges had been temporarily suspended, but I reassured her that it was merely a mistake. When I met again with Towchik, however, he conceded that the problem didn’t seem to be technical after all and that I should ask Trust Fund Manager Coleman about it at lunch. Failing to find Mr. Coleman, I met that afternoon with Unit Manger Ivory, who checked my files but could find no reason why my access should have suddenly been suspended and also advised me to meet with Mr. Coleman. At some point that day, my attempts to log in started to prompt a different message stating: “This account is on suspension until 4/1/2016 11:59:59 pm (from portal 16)”. At the next lunch period on Thursday, April 2nd, I was unable to locate Mr. Coleman, but laid out my problem to the associate warden who told me to return in five minutes, when Mr. Coleman would be present.

I did so, and when I asked another group of prison officials if they knew where I could find Mr. Coleman, another individual came up to me and said that he was the person I was looking for. He pulled me aside and told me that he was the one who had cut off my email, as I wasn’t supposed to have access to it in the first place due to my charges. I noted that I had three charges and asked which one precluded me from using the email service. He told me to list my charges and I did so. He then added that he had done a review of my email correspondence and found that I had “been using it for the wrong thing.” I replied that I had simply been using it to communicate with the press. He confirmed that “that was the wrong thing.” I asked him his name, which he gave as “Moore.” Then I walked over to a group of inmates who told me that the individual is with the “SIA,” which they explained is a level above the “SIS” internal security division.

BOP Guideline P5265.13 spells out the conditions by which inmates can be restricted from use of the email system. I’m going to hold off on going into the specific legal arguments that I’ll be making through the BOP’s Administrative Remedy process, and if need be, through the courts; for now, I don’t think I’m giving too much away in noting that the sudden restriction of my email access about a year after I plead guilty to those charges, more than two months after I’ve been sentenced on those charges, and about an hour after I sent a message to a journalist concerning possible BOP misconduct, under circumstances that were not discernible to other staff, and followed by a warning from an internal security officer that by talking to the media I was doing “the wrong thing” is obviously problematic, is not exactly outside the pattern of state retaliation to which I’ve become accustomed, and which at this point has already been explained in further detail in dozens of outlets ranging from the New York Times to the Guardian. As journalist Glenn Greenwald announced the other day, this already suspicious move by the BOP also just happens to come as the two of us had begun email discussions about what I might write for his publication The Intercept in the coming months. Although I am still pursuing this and other projects as usual, this obviously has had its intended effect of making my work more difficult. On the plus side, I suspect that as this process goes forward, it should serve as a clarifying effect as to the true nature of the BOP.

Barrett Brown
Federal Correctional Institution
P. O. Box 15330
Fort Worth, TX 76119