By Grant Ferowich
One day after the arrest of intelligence reporter Barrett Brown for criticizing the US government, a government agency refused to state the reason for his detention.
Brown gained notoriety as a symbol for the attack on press freedom after he reported on a slew of leaks connected with hacker group Anonymous. In particular, Brown covered emails that showed Stratfor had been contracted out by private companies on the recommendation of the Justice Department to spy on activists connected with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“We can not disclose the reason(s) for a specific inmate’s transfer of location,” the Bureau of Prisons said Friday. General policy stipulates that suspects must be detained on suspicion of committing a specific criminal violation within 24 hours or the person is to be freed.
“Therein lies the cute terminology of the BOP,” Jay Leiderman, legal counsel to Barrett Brown, told The Ferowich Report Friday night. In the eyes of the BOP, Brown is an inmate, but technically, he’s half an inmate, Leiderman said.
For privacy and security reasons,” the BOP went on, “we do not disclose information on a specific inmate’s living quarters.” However, Brown had been living outside a prison, and detaining a US citizen without due process is supposed to be prevented by rights enumerated in both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, Leiderman confirmed to The Ferowich Report.
On April 27, Brown attended a routine meeting with his case manager. From there, the award-winning journalist was taken into federal custody at the Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution in Texas. The reason? He spoke with media outlets without the government’s approval.
Never mind that the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights states Congress “shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
According to Leiderman, there is a limit to how long authorities can hold Brown. But the prospect of indefinite detainment, unfortunately, cannot be entirely ruled out. It’s not outside the realm of BOP’s practice, the attorney suggested, for a prison guard to poke himself on the arm and claim an inmate had done it, which could land another five year sentence for the unlucky prisoner. While the lawyer did not seem to think this would be likely, the mere specter of it raises questions about the extent of the federal government’s powerful reach.
Leiderman called it “The Barrett Brown Rule:” The BOP can deploy sneaky policy tactics to effectively silence and imprison someone they personally don’t like. This has happened in a handful of previous cases, Leiderman said, but now we could be watching another major government overreach unfold before our collective eyes.
Brown’s first exclusive interview following his release from jail was on Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary with Eugene Puryear. The writer has since interviewed with Vice News and was scheduled for a Friday interview with PBS before he was once again detained.
It was only during the past three days that BOP claimed Brown needed permission to conduct interviews. This information came “out of the blue,” Brown’s legal counsel, Jay Leiderman, told The Ferowich Report on Thursday. Brown asked the BOP for the policy manual stating this requirement, but was rebuffed.
”There was never any mention of these rules during the past four months of his federally approved employment at D Magazine when he was working with media and involved in a range of interviews,” Brown’s mother said in a statement.
Free Barrett Brown website operator Kevin Gallagher told Reason that the conditions of Brown’s release never mentioned media restrictions. Brown is known for “being critical of the Bureau of Prisons in many different ways,” Gallagher said.
“I would call the people who did this a bunch of chicken-sh*t a**holes that are brutalizing the Constitution,” Leiderman told The Intercept when Brown was taken into custody once more.
The Ferowich Report is an independent news and analysis information service based in Washington, D.C. Please send any and all inquiries to email@example.com.