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

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail