Barret Brown Gagged by Order of the Court

Now, in order to protect his right to a fair trial, Barrett Brown and his attorneys have been told that they must not talk to the media, whether press, TV or blogs, about anything to do with the trial. "To protect that right to a fair trial," states the order, "it is necessary for the court to take limited steps to restrain Counsel and Defendant from making prejudicial statements to the press and media."

"This gag order seems somewhat ridiculous," writes TechDirt. "The idea that having Brown or his legal team talking to the press would somehow unfairly bias the jury in his case is ridiculous."

Some observers, comments the Guardian, "see the hearing in the opposite light: as the latest in a succession of prosecutorial moves under the Obama administration to crack-down on investigative journalism, official leaking, hacking and online activism."

Others see the trial of Barrett Brown as potentially more sinister. The primary charge is that he "did knowingly traffic in more than five authentication features knowing that such features were stolen and produced without lawful authority, in that Brown transferred the hyperlink 'http://wikisend.com/download/597646/stratfor_full_b.txt.gz' from the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel called '#Anonops' to an IRC channel under Brown’s control called '#ProjectPM,' said hyperlink provided access to data stolen from the company Stratfor Global Intelligence, to include 5,000 credit account numbers, the card holders’ identification, and the authentication features for the credit cards known as the Card Verification Values (CVV), and by transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor Global Intelligence and the card holders."

In short, Brown is accused of publishing a link to a file containing stolen Stratfor data. He is not accused of being involved in the Stratfor hack, nor of making the files available on the internet, nor of profiting from the stolen data -- just posting a link to that data that was already on the internet. Journalists fear that this is a direct attack on their own freedom to publish -- not directly as a hindrance on the right to free speech, but indirectly by limiting the ability to prove the facts of their story with supporting links.

"For posting that link," says the Guardian, "Brown is accused of disseminating stolen information – a charge which media commentators have warned criminalizes the very act of linking."

Gigaom is less restrained. "Is Barrett Brown a journalist or an activist?" it asks. "Regardless of the answer, his case is an outrage." How is such a thing possible? it continues. "Isn't posting a link the type of thing that billions of people do every day — and isn't the process of posting a link to such material something journalists of all kinds do routinely? The answer to both of those questions is clearly yes."

One thing is certain - gag or no gag, controversy over the Barrett Brown case will continue unabated.

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