Jun 8th 2017 by Megmi_Ogata • 29 Questions • 4548 Points
My short bio: I was a freelance writer for outlets like Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Skeptic, and Huffington Post when I was invited to assist a faction of Anonymous that was assisting with the Tunisian revolution. Shortly afterwards Anonymous hackers stole 70,000 e-mails from an "intelligence contracting" firm that had put us under surveillance, thus exposing the Team Themis conspiracy whereby Palantir, HBGary Federal, and other firms with "black propaganda" capabilities had proposed hacking, disinformation, and intimidation of activist groups like Code Pink as well as Wikileaks and even its supporters, including Glenn Greenwald. Although one CEO had to resign, a Congressional investigation was quickly derailed and no one suffered any consequences (despite having planned DOS attacks, the exact thing for which Anonymous participants had been pursued for via heavily armed FBI raids after they took down MasterCard and Paypal websites for a few seconds in protest of their refusal to process donations to Wikileaks).
Thereafter I repurposed my online "think-tank," Project PM, to continue researching these firms and others like them, compiling our research on a wiki called Echelon2.org (since moved). The FBI eventually raided my home and my mom's house, with the search warrant listing our website and group as subjects of interest. Thereafter they threatened to indict my mother if I failed to cooperate; instead, I threatened to "ruin" the life of the lead agent, using the same tactics that HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr had planned to use against activists with the DOJ's blessing. Separately, I vowed to defend myself against any further raids. The two statements were conflated by the DOJ and used to indict me for threatening a federal agent, which actually requires one to make a violent, non-conditional threat, whereas I'd made one non-violent threat and one conditional threat.
Later, I was charged with 11 counts of aggravated identity theft for having copied and pasted a link from one chat room to another that I believed contained more e-mails, but which in fact included credit cards. I faced 22 years for that link alone, in addition to other charges. The DOJ later had to drop those and other charges, and I plead guilty to one count of internet threats, one of interference with a search warrant, and one of accessory after the fact (I called Stratfor, a company that had been hacked, and offered to help redact any e-mails that could put someone in danger). I was also ordered to pay over $800,000 in restitution to Stratfor.
There are several documentaries covering much of this, including Hacker Wars, We Are Legion, and Alex Winter's 18-minute film Relatively Free, as well as some pretty good articles at WhoWhatWhy and The Nation describing the other plots we uncovered and documented.
While imprisoned, I continued writing, doing a column called The Barrett Brown Review of Arts & Letters & Prison that was later picked up by The Intercept, and for which I won the National Magazine Award for commentary/columns in 2016.
I was released November of last year, and am now preparing a new project, called the Pursuance System, by which to build up a cohesive yet agile network of opposition to criminalize institutions while also helping activists and non-profits to cooperate more efficiently. You can read more about it here.
EDIT 5:34 CST I'm going to run down to the store, but will be back in fifteen or twenty minutes to answer more questions.
EDIT Am back, and will continue to answer questions sporadically through the evening.
EDIT 9:00 PM EST I'm going to play some Team Fortress 2 for a bit and relax and whatnot but I'll be back to answer more questions later tonight, and will get to more tomorrow as well.
EDIT 1:53 am EST Well, my Facebook account has suddenly been disabled without explanation, in case anyone's wondering why the link above no longer works.
Huge fan of your writing, Barrett. Your book 'Keep Rootin' for Putin' was ahead of the curve in calling out the bullshit of mainstream pundits. One of the points you make is that internet can be used as a force for good in order to fact-check all the nonsense they spout; all of their contradictory bullshit is now a matter of permant, public record.
How do you think the media landscape has changed since that book came out? with the rise of Breitbart and the like, and the sometimes-justified concerns over "fake news", it doesn't really seem like the media have gotten any more reliable over the past years.
Anyway, what the US government has done to you is a travesty and I wish you the best.
Also, go on Chapo
I respect him greatly. He knows what he wants, and makes work without compromising his vision.
Unfortunately, the mainstream press didn't really have the gravity or the integrity of action to prevent other, even worse outlets from popping up. Had the New York Times not continued to employ Thomas Friedman even after it became clear that he was less than worthless in terms of explaining world politics, they would have more room to make their own case. Same thing with the Washington Post and Charles Krauthammer, who, as I showed in an old Vanity Fair online piece, was wrong about every U.S. military engagement since Kosovo. Those aren't the only problems with these respectable national outlets, of course, but they're very telling regarding the cowardice of editors and publishers who continued to promote incompetent commentators simply because they've made some vague name for themselves.
And of course WaPo's failed attempt to identify some website that could sort out "fake news" is indicative of the chief fact of our press culture - that much of how it operates is haphazard at best, and that falsehoods can creep in to any outlets, regardless of pedigree, if its operators lose track of basic principles such as hiring competent people and firing incompetent ones. Personal relationships, inertia, ambition, and that sort of things are the chief problems facing our political press, rather than corporate interference or anything else of that sort.
Here's an incomplete case against Friedman; a more comprehensive argument as to why he represents a crisis of ethics within the legacy press may be seen in my free book, Keep Rootin' for Putin (the title of which is taken from an actual Friedman column from 2000). column
Hey Barrett, mod of /r/WikiLeaks here.
Any thoughts on the work WikiLeaks has done, past or present?
How do you see leaks, whistleblowing, and hacks shaping the future of governments and companies?
Do you still plan on leaving the US in the near future?
Thanks for doing this AMA.
Haha, my favorite drink is Scotch or Burbon highball. As for snacks, I don't really like sweet things, but I enjoy 80% cacao dark chocolate sometimes.
I was an early supporter of Wikileaks, and continue to support the leaking of files from any state or other institution that engages in criminal activity on a large scale.
I have no doubt that leaking, as well as hacking by various ideologically-motivated groups, will become more common in the coming years.
Yes, I will not remain in the United States after my term of probation is up. Most likely I will move to Berlin or Iceland, at which point I'll revoke my citizenship.
Hello, Ogata-san! Appreciative all of your hard work, participation in this AMA included. I would like to know what some of your more memorable experiences were acting for Yu Yu Hakusho, and additionally (or alternatively) how do you prepare to do any sort of recording?
- That's good to know, but I didn't ask whether you were planning to lead investigations. I asked why you were focusing your tool-building on tools for organizing humans into roles, rather than tools for better intelligence analysis or fact finding.
- What tools do you intend to provide in the pursuance kit, aside from pre-existing comms tools bundled for fast deployment?
- The roles-based organization of pursuances sounds like something that could benefit from smart contracts. Are you implementing anything like smart contracts to enforce roles and task completion? If not, why?
- How do you expect to prevent a slow degradation of competence and quality as the network extends outward from yourself, without specific task and analysis oriented tools, or are there some in development that you've neglected to mention at this time?
Yu Yu Hakusho is my debut work, so I have quite a lot of memories... I'm so happy and blessed to be able to have met Kurama and be picked to be his original seiyuu. But since he's a yokai who has lived for hundreds of years, his character itself is very deep, and that was a very difficult thing for me when I was first starting out. I really tried my best, but I think the me now, may actually be closer to Kurama's character. So if I had the chance, I really would like to voice him again... though I don't think there's any plans for that just yet haha.
We're also incorporating tools for analysis, including Transparency Toolkit, but that's not our chief focus, which is getting people to use these tools in the first place in a coordinated way.
We don't have a final list yet, which will be available when we're closer to launching.
We are indeed.
The structure itself minimizes the problem of less competent people joining over time, as each pursuance is something of a "filter." This is explained a bit more in some of the other documentation that will be up this month.
Why do you still wear Oxford button down shirts and those silly assed Roper cowboy boots? Aren't you concerned that folks will mistake you for a deranged Texas oilman?
I don't think I'd be able to list all my favorites! There's too many.
That's my disguise.
Do you think Anonymous still has any political/social relevance in 2017, and if not what would it take (if anything) for it to become relevant again?
EDIT: I see someone asked a similar question, I'll clarify a bit: I sit firmly on the "no it does not" side of the first part, more curious what you, as someone who was around that scene in its brightest hours, think could bring it back to its former glory.
I don't, frankly. That could change, but as I told someone else, what's needed now is something that can expand and serve as a serious counter against the powerful without burning out in a flash of chaos and disagreement. The pursuance system will be a mechanism for conducting civic affairs in such a way that everyone has the same clearly-defined rights to operate, to invent, to rise according to their talents and dedication; although Anonymous was allegedly something along those lines, the reality is that some people controlled the mediums, such as IRC servers, where much of the important work was conducted. That's just one of several fatal flaws Anonymous had - the conflict between its stated nature and its actual nature, and a lack of a mechanism for settling disagreements.