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Anonymous spokesman's YouTube meltdown led to arrest

Barrett Brown threatens to 'shoot and kill' government agents, but former attorney says threat not serious

By Taylor Armerding, CSO
September 21, 2012 08:36 AM ET

CSO - If anybody was surprised at the arrest in Dallas last week of Barrett Brown, self-described sometime spokesman for the hacktivist group Anonymous, it should not have been Brown himself.

Anonymous' hit list

He practically invited it. A three-part, 43-plus minute rant posted on YouTube on Sept. 11 and 12 included a threat to "shoot ... and kill" any armed government officials who sought to arrest him -- "especially the FBI."

"Dallas Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Carmen Castro told The Dallas Morning News Brown was arrested Wednesday night and 'released over to the FBI' in the morning," UPI.com reported last week.

Very few in the security community would comment on the arrest for the record, most saying they did not want the headache of becoming a target of Anonymous.

One of the few who did was Robert Stacy McCain, who wrote on his website, The Other McCain, that "a lot of the Anonymous people never trusted Barrett Brown, regarding him as an untrustworthy egomaniacal fame-seeker trying to cash in."


[See also: Anonymous had bad month, but no less 'reliable'

"He did a TV interview with Michael Isikoff of NBC and announced a book deal with Gregg Housh, and did all of this while promoting himself as the official spokesman for Anonymous, whose members are ... well, anonymous, and with good reason, because the cops would very much like to put a lot of them in prison," McCain wrote.

McCain wrote that after the FBI raided Brown in March, but did not arrest him, other members of Anonymous suspected he might be cooperating with the agency. Of the latest video, he wrote: "Being a paranoid conspiracy theorist is not illegal, and Brown's tinfoil-hat rantings about (various enemies) were just so much noise. But his threats to 'destroy' FBI agent Robert Smith? Yeah, the feds don't take that kind of talk lightly."

Joel Harding, a retired military intelligence officer and information operations expert, would say only that, "Anyone who threatens the FBI, I question their judgment."

And their desire to avoid that possibility was validated by last week's posting by Anonymous offshoot Anti-Sec of a text file on Pastie containing the names, street addresses, credit card numbers and other information of what appears to be a random series of 13 government employees around the country, ranging from military service personnel to a Department of Justice employee.

TPM reported that it had "verified that several of the phone numbers and other information contained in the text file were authentic and spoke with several victims of the hack, who were not previously aware that their information had been posted online and were confused as to why they were being targeted, having no knowledge of Brown or his arrest."

But behind the relative anonymity of comments on the YouTube video page were some critics who were a bit more outspoken. Noting Brown's semi-coherent monologue, sometimes featuring manic, table-pounding obscenities and other times uncontrollable giggling, a viewer called "Vicious Latina" observed, "This is your brain on drugs."

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