FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail