Exposing the Invisible Empire

by BINOY KAMPMARK

This is the world we accept if we continue to avert our eyes.  And it promises to get much worse.

— Barrett Brown, The Guardian, Jul 2, 2013

The United States has a growing crop of political dissidents.  While it may be less conspicuous than other powers in doing so – China and Russia, to take but two examples – that should hardly be surprising.  When the empire gets shoddy and insecure, it will react with consternation at those who expose its links, its paranoia, its premises.

Indeed, the dedicated and somewhat obsessive Barrett Brown has truly riled officialdom, having been indicted since 2012 for allegedly trafficking in stolen identification information and aggravated identity theft (12 felony counts), threatening FBI Special Agent Robert Smith (3 felony counts), and concealing evidence (2 felony counts).  Federal prosecutors via the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas were happy to file charges that, if shown, will land Brown in the nick for over a century.

In July, Brown would write about that “cyber-intelligence complex and its useful idiots”. Penning his views for The Guardian (July 2), he spoke about “that unprecedented conglomeration of state, military and corporate interests that together exercise growing power over the flow of information.”  This was less a matter of the busy spooks than absentee scrutineers living in denial before the “invisible empire”.  Take, for instance, that professional defender of American values Thomas L. Friedman, who felt that the exposure brigade of surveillance programs was “behaving as if 9/11 never happened” (New York Times, Jun 11).

In fact, Friedman steadfastly fantasies about another 9/11, the engrossing nightmare that justifies the random and near ritualistic violations of privacy Brown excoriates.  It is with feint irony that such worries are held precisely because Friedman values “our open society”.  May it be monitored vigilantly to prevent the lids from shutting.

The latest development in this narrative of pro-surveillance disease is the gagging order granted on September 4 preventing Brown, his attorneys, and the prosecution from discussing the case with the media.  Discussions on finances and matters of public record are exempt from the ruling.

This provides another delicious irony in the league of Friedman’s open society dream: the prosecution were concerned that Brown’s right to a fair trial would be violated by favourable publicity for his plight.  Brown, via the testimony of an unimaginatively named Agent Smith, became an animating Svengali, or at the very least a masterful puppeteer “controlling” the media from his facilities.  And so, the wheels of absurdity turn once more.

Geoffrey King of the Committee to Protect Journalists is particularly concerned about the charges connected with setting up the hyperlink to a chat room Brown supposedly set up to “crowdsource information about the intelligence contracting industry.”  This move on the part of the prosecution “represents a troubling turn in an already troubling case for press freedom – a case that could criminalize the routine journalistic practice of linking to documents publicly available on the Internet, which would seem to be protected by the First Amendment”.

The reasoning of the prosecution is disturbing in so far as it presumes that a journalist can be held criminally liable for merely linking a publicly available file that might contain sensitive material irrespective of whether they played a role in obtaining it.  This was the case when hackers of Stratfor published credit card information from the firm, information which Brown purposely linked in discussions.  This shines a light on yet another government effort to stifle the operations of the Web.

An editorial by WikiLeaks (Sep 16) makes it clear the reach of Brown’s reportage.  “He is being prosecuted for critical reporting on the growing surveillance state, for being an outspoken supporter of WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning, and for being a reporter who spent periods of time embedded with Anonymous.”  His work at ProjectPM involved casting an eye over emails hacked from the intelligence contractor and cybersecurity firm HBGary Federal.  For years, Brown has dug into the noxious soil of a security establishment that has become self-replicating and gargantuan.

The victim of this state sanctioned gang assault is not merely Brown but the First Amendment and the journalist’s pursuit.   While the Obama administration worships the holies of transparent government, it dirties the sepulchre of disclosure.  When individuals like “Cobra Commander” Brown, as he likes to term himself, fall silent, states of power rejoice. How important then to realise that a hissing Brown is far better than a quiet one.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He ran for the Australian Senate with Julian Assange for the WikiLeaks Party.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future