Scott Olsen v Oakland Police Dept

Scott Olsen v Oakland Police Department
by Sue Basko

Scott Olsen v Oakland Police Dept is a lawsuit arising out of police abuse occurring on October 25, 2012, in response to an Occupy Oakland protest.   Police shot a high velocity round of metal pellets (so-called "beanbag")  directly at the head of Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran.  His skull was cracked and he was left severely wounded.  When people went to help Mr Olsen, they were also attacked.  There is video of the incident, and it shows the shocking intentional nature of the attacks.  

It was a horrifying night.  First Amendment rights to assemble were trampled upon in a way meant to squelch dissent.  The abuse was not merely against those present, but against all of us who rely on the U.S. Constitution to support our freedoms.

The document images below are  jpgs and can be
 enlarged by pulling them off the page.

OSCE Meetings in Vienna
Freedoms of Association, Assembly, and Use of Technology

OSCE Meeting Quarters at Hofburg in Vienna, Austria

OSCE Meetings in Vienna
Freedoms of Association, Assembly and Use of Technology
by Sue Basko

 contact (local U.S.) Sue Basko:
 contact (serious inquiries only, please) Omer Fisher:

November 15, 2012.  Last week, I was in Vienna, Austria, attending 3 days of meetings at OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  OSCE has 56 member nations in North America, Europe, and Asia and 12 nations that are partners in cooperation in the Mediterranean Region, Asia, and Australia.   OSCE has meeting headquarters at the Hofburg in Vienna.  The meetings I attended were of ODIHR, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, a sub-office of OSCE, headquartered in Warsaw, Poland.  OSCE is funded by its member nations with an annual budget of about 150 million euros.  OSCE has a permanent meeting quarters in the Hofburg in Vienna.   

The ODIHR meeting was attended by representatives of the nations, and by people who are involved in the law and organizing of protests in those nations.  Most of the people I met were multi-faceted, being lawyers or law students as well as protest organizers or media activists.  It was incredible to be meeting with all of these smart, dynamic people.

At the meetings, we each had a translator headset with about 6 channels, one for each language. Translators sat behind glass windows listening and translating.  I kept my headset on the whole time, tuned to the English language channel.  That way, I could hear the translations from the various languages and could also easily hear those speaking English.   What a great listening tool this is in a crowded room!           

At the ODIHR meetings, we worked on 3 topics: Freedom of Association, Freedom of Assembly, and Use of New Technologies in Freedoms of Assembly and Association.  On each topic, we made recommendations or interventions aimed at the nations, at ODIHR, or at NGOs (nongovernmental organizations).  ODIHR sets standards and then asks the member nations to live up to the standards.  It was stated that in the past five years, rather than improving in these areas of human rights, the nations had slid backwards. This was said to be particularly true in the past 2 years, which I think is because in the past 2 years there has been much activity of people forming associations and engaging in assemblies, or protests.  The nations have been put to the test recently. 

The U.S. Department of State sent a representative, who read off a short statement about the U.S. supporting the Freedom of Assembly.  His statement was in sharp contrast to the protest monitoring report that was presented by ODIHR; the group monitored the protests at NATO in Chicago, G8 in Maryland, and Occupy Wall Street in New York, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Los Angeles, and Occupy Oakland.  It is fairly easy for the U.S. representative to say “We support freedom of assembly,” and much more difficult to take action so freedom of assembly is actually allowed and facilitated in the cities and states.

A group was in attendance from NYU Law and Harvard Law.  During a side event, they presented their paper on Occupy Wall Street in New York.  Afterward, I saw they were meeting in the lobby with the State Department rep.  He looked as if it was somehow the first time he was hearing that protesters in New York had been beaten and randomly arrested.  He was taking notes.  I considered it a good sign this impromptu meeting was taking place.       

Over the past months, ODIHR has planned and prepared a report on their protest monitoring activities in 11 nations.  CLICK TO DOWNLOAD REPORT.   The monitoring and report were led by Omer Fisher, Deputy Head of the Human Rights Department of ODIHR.  Back a year ago, Omer asked for my help with the U.S. protest monitoring plans.  It was an honor to assist such an important endeavor.  I write a blog on protest planning and laws and was able to provide background information and legal cites.  I also was involved with the G8 and NATO plans, so had direct knowledge of the process, which I shared with the ODIHR teams as things happened.  I also readily had contact with people involved in organizing and indie media in Chicago, Maryland, New York, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

In each U.S. location, many key people gave generously of their time and shared their experiences with the ODIHR researchers.  This was quite remarkable, as people truly had to overcome their fears and doubts to open up and share.  Some had been left traumatized by their experiences with police or FBI.  Would-be saboteurs spread misinfo about OSCE and even about me.  In Chicago, this played out against a background of protesters being infiltrated and entrapped on terrorism charges, homes being raided, indie journalists being interrogated at gunpoint, and police using bikes and batons to hit protesters. Out of all this, there were plenty enough strong, smart people willing to tell and show what they had witnessed to make for a very well-researched report.       

The ODIHR team also met with City and police officials who agreed to meet with them.  The ODIHR report, therefore, has a breadth and depth unprecedented in such a report.  The ODIHR group had access to many hours of protest video from the live streamers who risk their own safety to give live internet views of the protests.  In addition to all the video and interviews, the team monitored the G8 and NATO protests in person.  In Chicago for NATO in May, they hired and trained a team of legal observers to witness several long, hot days of protests.  All the information from the monitoring in 11 nations was organized into the 100-page report. 

The ODIHR report covers such topics as the permitting process, requirements for insurance, facilitating unpermitted protests, being within sight and sound of the intended target of the protest, use of force, and kettling.  The report makes observations and recommendations. 

At the ODIHR meetings in Vienna, our first topic was Freedom of Association.  In many of the OSCE nations, associations of any sort are required to register with the government.  Sometimes, the governments make it complex or impossible for certain associations to register, thereby making it illegal or impossible for them to function.  Participants made several recommendations regarding this.  Among the recommendations was that online registration should be allowed; many places require individuals to show up in person during office hours.

The second topic was Freedom of Assembly.  This is mainly about the right to peaceful protest.  The recommendations that were stated were the mostly the same ones that have previously been stated in the ODIHR guidelines as well as in the 2012 report.  The general idea was that nations should abide by international law, which says freedom to assemble is a basic human right, that public space should be free for this use, and that city officials and police should facilitate this right. 

We also covered the topic of semi-permanent protests or encampments of structures or tents.  The general idea  is that these should be allowed and that any genuine state needs, such as health or safety, should be met in the least obtrusive way.  For example, if the government perceives a health issue with a camp kitchen, then it should work with the protesters to improve the kitchen, rather than evicting the camp.  At the Occupy sites in the U.S., health and safety concerns were used at the pretext for evicting many of the camps. 

The third topic we covered was New Technology in Freedoms of Association and Assembly.  These discussions were mainly about the internet, facebook, twitter, live streaming, cellphones, wifi.  Mark Zuckerberg should have been there to hear how Facebook has been used to organize revolutions and overthrow dictators.  (Maybe this would encourage him to find a way to support Facebook without the new system of charging for posts to reach many “friends.”)  I launched the recommendations that OSCE States prohibit the use in public spaces of any technology that interferes with use of cellphones or cellphone cameras, or with the internet.  I also recommended that States encourage standardization of cellphones so they can be used worldwide.  I also recommended that States make cellphone purchases and data packages available to short-term visitors without a local address, or in other ways make it possible for visitors to get high speed internet, mainly for the use by indie journalists who want to tweet and live stream from protest sites.  It was also recommended that all states allow the video and audio recording of police on active duty. 

During the three days, I heard some dismal reports from participants.  Spain has put forth legislation to ban protests.  Several places bar filming the police in action.  In some locations, protesters have been attacked by soccer/ football hooligans.  There were several officials who felt the balance between freedom of assembly and state security should fall clearly on the side of security.  There were numerous people who spoke of their governments as “they,” making it clear the government was not perceived to be of or by the people.   This, more than anything in the three days, made me realize that we in the U.S. had better get busy and get our government more in line with being of the people.  After a year of seeing overwhelming cordons of police in riot gear aggressively facing off against smart, vibrant people wanting such simple things as a place to live, food, education, and health care, it seems time to stop the overfunding of law enforcement agencies and start funding real needs.  

Protest I saw in Vienna.

Free Speech and International Protest

Free Speech and International Protest
by Sue Basko

This week, I am traveling to Vienna, Austria for meetings of OSCE, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the world’s largest intergovernmental organization. OSCE has 56 member States and 12 additional States that are “partners in cooperation.” The meetings will be of a branch of OSCE called ODIHR, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. We will be meeting in the Hofburg Palace, which is used as the main meeting place for ODIHR.  I have never been in a palace before. 

I will be attending as an expert in the field of protest law (free speech and public assembly), protest planning/ organization, and use of new technology/ new media at protest.  It is an honor for me to attend. 

At the meetings in Austria, we will be making recommendations to the States or their entities on how they might best facilitate freedom of speech and assembly.  OSCE-ODIHR is taken very seriously and it is likely our recommendations will shape the course of free speech internationally in years to come. 

If you'd like to read the annotated Agendas for the meetings, you can download them here:

My plan is to propose a recommendation that all participating States promote and protect the use of new technologies at protests, including cellphones, cellphone cameras, live streaming, wifi, twitter, internet.  I will ask that the recommendation specifically ask States to prohibit the use in public locations of any technology that would block or control cellphones or cellphone cameras.  Apple and Research in Motion (RIM) already have method patents on such technologies.  It is important that the use of cellphones, cameras, and wifi remain unobstructed in public locations.   

Over the past year, I have assisted the OSCE- ODIHR (Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) with a report on free speech and public assembly  in the OSCE region.  The leaders from ODIHR came to the United States as part of their study. They specifically came to watch and learn about the G8 protests in Maryland, NATO protests in Chicago, and Occupy Wall Street New York City, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Los Angeles, and Occupy Oakland.  They asked me to assist them and it was a great honor to do so.

The ODIHR report that was written will be launched at the meetings in Vienna this week.   I think the report will be unprecedented in its scope. The report covers the entire OSCE region, so the U.S. portion is only one part.  The efforts that went into the U.S. part of the report are remarkable.  At each of the locations, the ODIHR team met with live streamers and had access to thousands of hours of protest video.  The team also met with protest planners, legal observers, lawyers, and also with police, mayoral staffs, and others.  At Maryland G8 and Chicago NATO, they hired a team of monitor/ observers to watch the protests and make reports on their observations. 

I think this report is different from any prior reports on human rights in protest, because the researchers had access to video proof of what was being told.  I have not yet seen the report, but will link it here when it is released.     

I personally want to thank everyone who responded to my invitations to participate in the study.  Participation was confidential and strictly between those who participated and the researchers.  The report will contain no names.  However, there was enormous help from the seasoned planners behind the NATO protests, the steadfast organizers of the G8 protests, and many of the nation’s most tenacious, omnipresent, and hardworking live streamers and independent media makers, and people who had participated and witnessed deeply at Occupy Chicago,  Occupy Wall Street, Occupy DC,  Occupy Los Angeles, and Occupy Oakland.  People overcame their fears and hesitance and shared their insights, what they had seen and experienced, and their videos and photos.  I think the report will be a trustworthy picture of what has been going on with free speech and public assembly at the protests during the first year of Occupy.     

Most people who will be attending the events in Austria are doing so as a representative of a government or large organization.   I will be there as an “expert,” but as an expert who is not on anyone’s payroll.  I help many people and groups with protest and media laws and rights and issues, but am not paid.  I contribute my work as part of my belief in free speech and the right to peaceful protest.  I provide a unique service with protests, because my emphasis is on planning and media, rather than on helping after arrest or filing lawsuits.  I am also interested in international legislative initiatives that protect free speech, such as the recommendation I will be proposing in Austria.

Over the past year, I have helped numerous groups in the US and elsewhere with their plans for peaceful protest.  I also let people know the laws pertaining to protest.  I also have helped the live streamers and other media people with such things as Fair Use, getting press passes, Copyright, being subpoenaed, understanding various laws, and many other things.   I also write blogs to let people know specifics about protest law and surveillance.  I publish the text of laws, posts to help people understand specific areas of law, bail schedules, policies of different law enforcement agencies, links to Ustream channels for different protest events, and much more.  My blogs get hundreds to thousands of hits per day. I also take emails and phone calls to help with people’s questions and concerns.  I try my best to stand up for free speech and peaceful protest, because these are the cornerstones of democracy.

Therefore, I am asking people if they can, to please hit the donate button and help me with this trip.  ODIHR is paying my main expenses for the trip, but there are still other expenses.  I AM ASKING BECAUSE I REALLY NEED HELP WITH THIS.  Any amount is appreciated and will be used wisely. 

Thanks so much, -- Sue

from a dear one:

Sounds fully righteous. More power to you!

I agree with your proposal, and add this: The positive and constructive power of the protests I have seen are in the assembly. People coming together to talk with each other and the world. All communication should be free from obstruction, including any and all communication technology and printed material. The threat of confiscation or destruction of communication devices by law enforcement limits their effective use. Hijacked access to communication devices (warrantless wiretapping) by law enforcement, and the perceived threat of this activity, divides groups into those who can accept that risk, and those who cannot, another attack on free assembly and open communication.

People should also feel free to enter and leave an assembly at will, dividing and corralling people perpetuates us/them modes of thinking, the antithesis of the assembly.

Best of luck to you on your trip. It really sounds like a great adventure. I have never been to Austria, but I would try the strudel.

Doxing and the Barrett Brown Indictment

 Count Two of Barrett Brown's indictment is the "doxing" count.  You can see page 8 of the indictment, which is Count Two, at the bottom of this page.  The indictment says:

Conspiracy to Make Publicly Available
Restricted Personal Information
of an Employee of the United States
18 U.S.C. Sec 371 (18 U.S.C. Sec 119)

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? It means Barrett is being charged with Conspiracy (under 18 U.S.C Section 371) to commit a crime that is listed in 18 U.S.C. Chapter 7 Section 119.  The charge does not say Barrett made the restricted information public, it says he and someone else agreed to do so and some step was taken in furtherance of doing it.  If Barrett were to be found guilty, he could receive sentences under both laws.  Therefore, he faces a possible 10 years in prison on Count Two.

 WHAT DOES THE INDICTMENT COUNT TWO SAY BARRETT BROWN DID?  The indictment (see below) on page 8, paragraph 2, alleges that Barrett "requested another person known to the grand jury to assist him find on the Internet restricted information about the Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent (RS) and (RS)'s family and that other person agreed to do so, and furthermore, the other person did conduct a search on the Internet for the restricted information."

YES.  Count Two alleges that Barrett Brown asked someone to find info on the internet about the FBI Agent, and someone searched on the internet for such information.  The indictment does not state that the information was ever found or ever posted; it does not need to be.  The Conspiracy allegedly exists because the two people, Barrett and someone else known to the grand jury, allegedly agreed to commit this crime.  If two people agree to commit a crime and some step is taken in furtherance of the crime, conspiracy exists. 

In this law, the term “restricted personal information” means, "with respect to an individual, the Social Security number, the home address, home phone number, mobile phone number, personal email, or home fax number of, and identifiable to, that individual."

YES.  It is illegal to announce or disseminate or post those listed pieces of information for the purposes listed in the law.  Those are purposes such as threatening or intimidating or making it so others can harass or harm the person. This law is about acts that endanger the safety of or encourage attacks against a federal employee or an employee's family.  It is not about where you found the information. Barrett Brown's indictment specifically states that the restricted information was searched for on the internet.  (Count Two of the indictment is below on this page.) The information may or may not even be on the internet; that is not a factor in the Conspiracy charge.  A criminal act does not need to be physically possible for a conspiracy charge to exist with regard to it.

Michael Prout, Assistant Director for Judicial Security of the US Marshals Service, on page 2 in a written statement in 2009 explained the danger of internet threats:

"Most Internet threateners, when confronted or challenged on their statement, will
claim they are only exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. And in many
cases, an examination of their speech could lead us to concur. To guard against violating
a person’s First Amendment right to free speech, the USMS requires the occurrence of a
“triggering event” before a protective investigation is initiated. In the area of threat
management, a “triggering event” is the receipt of an inappropriate communication, or a
reasonable indication that a possible threat exists. However, one of the issues that make
Internet threats so insidious is that others who hear or read this “free speech” may
interpret it differently; they may interpret it as a threat of violence, or as a call to
violence, and be influenced to act out violently. If the threat on the Internet is also
accompanied by restricted personal information, it can assist in facilitating the act of
violence by locating the protectee."
Conspiracy means an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime, if one or both of those do an act "in furtherance of" the crime. Some conspiracy laws do not require an "act in furtherance of," but 18 U.S.C. Section 371 does.  In this case, the U.S. alleges that Barrett Brown requested another person to find restricted information about the FBI Agent on the internet, and that the other person looked for such information on the internet.  That is a conspiracy to make the restricted information public.

"If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense
against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any
agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of
such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy,
each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than
five years, or both.

If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object
of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such
conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for
such misdemeanor."   

CONSPIRACY LAW:  AMAZING FACTS ABOUT IT: Conspiracy may exist even if some seemingly logical factors are missing.    A conspiracy could exist even if Barrett did not know who the other person is, as long as they both agreed to work on the doxing plan.   FBI Agent Robert Smith's "restricted information" might not even be on the internet.  It would be hard to distinguish one Robert Smith from the thousands of others.  Spokeo shows a few hundreds entries on "Robert Smith" in the Dallas area alone.  For a conspiracy to exist, the act does not have to be completed, it does not need to be physically possible, it does not need to cause harm.  There simply must be some step taken in furtherance of it by one of the co-conspirators.  Not every Conspiracy law requires a step in furtherance of the act, but this one does.


Challenging a Law: People may disagree with these or other laws.  The first step in disagreeing with them is knowing about them.  Federal laws are made by the U.S. Congress and Senate.  If you would like a law changed, you can contact them about it.  Laws are sometimes changed or made unenforceable by a Judge or appellate court ruling saying a law is Unconstitutional.  That happens when a court case involving the law comes up before the Judge or appellate panel of Justices, and the Judge or Justices think the law itself is illegal because it does not follow the Constitution.  The grounds for saying a law is Unconstitutional are usually that the law is too vague, or overbroad, or is not the least restrictive way to meet the government's legitimate need.

CONSPIRACY SENTENCING: When a person is charged with a conspiracy to commit an act and found guilty of the conspiracy, they may be sentenced for the crime of conspiracy as well as for the underlying crime.  In this instance, if Barrett were to be convicted, he would face a possible 5 year sentence for the conspiracy charge and another 5 year sentence for the underlying "doxing" charge.

WHO IS THE OTHER PERSON IN THE CONSPIRACY? As the indictment states, there may be persons known and unknown to the grand jury.  There must be a co-conspirator who is not an undercover agent.  The indictment does not name the person.  If this case goes to trial, the co-conspirator would probably be called as a witness.

 Read the underlying law in full:

18 USC § 119 - Protection of individuals performing certain official duties
(a) In General.— Whoever knowingly makes restricted personal information about a covered person, or a member of the immediate family of that covered person, publicly available—

(1) with the intent to threaten, intimidate, or incite the commission of a crime of violence against that covered person, or a member of the immediate family of that covered person; or

(2) with the intent and knowledge that the restricted personal information will be used to threaten, intimidate, or facilitate the commission of a crime of violence against that covered person, or a member of the immediate family of that covered person,

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) Definitions.— In this section—

(1) the term “restricted personal information” means, with respect to an individual, the Social Security number, the home address, home phone number, mobile phone number, personal email, or home fax number of, and identifiable to, that individual;

(2) the term “covered person” means—

(A) an individual designated in section 1114; *(see below)

(B) a grand or petit juror, witness, or other officer in or of, any court of the United States, or an officer who may be, or was, serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate;

(C) an informant or witness in a Federal criminal investigation or prosecution; or

(D) a State or local officer or employee whose restricted personal information is made publicly available because of the participation in, or assistance provided to, a Federal criminal investigation by that officer or employee;

(3) the term “crime of violence” has the meaning given the term in section 16; ** (see below) and

(4) the term “immediate family” has the meaning given the term in section 115 (c)(2). *** (see below)

* Section 1114 "any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency in any branch of the United States Government (including any member of the uniformed services) while such officer or employee is engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties, or any person assisting such an officer or employee in the performance of such duties or on account of that assistance"

** Section 16 The term “crime of violence” means—
(a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.

*** Section 111(c)(2)  “immediate family member” of an individual means—
(A) his spouse, parent, brother or sister, child or person to whom he stands in loco parentis; or
(B) any other person living in his household and related to him by blood or marriage;


Barrett Brown Indictment: Thoughts

Barrett Brown Indictment: Thoughts

I just read the Federal Criminal indictment of Barrett Lancaster Brown, the writer who often speaks about Anonymous.  It's a 3-count indictment based on his tweets and youtube videos.  The first count says he made threats to injure and shoot FBI agents (It is really stretching it to say he made such threats, especially since he repeatedly states that he does not mean he will shoot or kill.).  The second count says he urged someone to dox the FBI Agent Robert Smith.  The third count says he retaliated against FBI Agent Robert Smith, apparently by making threats/ doxing.

I want to be clear here, since there are criminal indictments going around:  I am totally against anyone threatening anyone's safety or endangering anyone.  And mentioning a child is reprehensible.  I am also totally against anyone doxing anyone.  Those are serious things.  And doxing is a crime, even against non-government people, where it is considered stalking, cyberstalking,  invasion of privacy, etc.

Having said that, let's look at what Barrett Brown actually did.  Barrett Brown openly admits he is an on and off heroin addict.  At the time he made the tweets and videos, he was apparently on and off suboxone and not eating.  And in the tinychat  during which he was arrested, he earlier stepped out to buy a "40," meaning 40 ounces of malt liquor, which has high alcohol content.  There is talk that he was also taking paxil and abruptly stopped using it.  He was obviously trying to get off heroin, but by his own methods, rather than being in a hospital under careful medical supervision.

 Barrett Brown's thinking was obviously not very clear.  In the videos,  he looks fried and senseless.   This is not a person taking drugs for recreation. This is a person trying to get off drugs and not having proper medical care.

As a nation, we also need to look at the FBI practice of raiding the homes of activists.  Barrett's home and his mother's house were raided in March 2012, and his computers and notebooks were taken. The FBI has been conducting many such raids across the nation, for several years.  These are not people who are wanted for any crimes.  Subsequent to the raids, I do not know of any who have then been charged with a crime.

The raids are a form of harassment and intimidation.  The FBI agents arrive en masse early in the morning.  They kick in the door and throw flash bangs.  They run in shouting, carrying huge guns. They force people to lie on the floor.  They tear the house apart and leave with trucks full of stuff.  They take the things the people need for their work and businesses and daily lives -- their computers, their notebooks, photographs, receipts.  This is happening all over our nation to people who have done such things as put on protests, attended demonstrations, spoken out.  Do you care? You should.

It is suprising that MORE victims of these FBI raids have not flipped out.   It is the FBI raids that NEED to be stopped -- not Barrett Brown who needs to be imprisoned.  He was rightfully damn angry and he should have been.  We should all be angry that these raids are taking place!  

The tweets quoted in the indictment are a mixture of Barrett's (and other peoples') ranting, dark humor,  silliness, insults, political speech, more ranting, manic boasting.  One is a retweet of a tweet by someone on Fox News about killing someone.  This retweet is somehow being attributed to Barrett Brown in a criminal indictment.  Is this not ludicrous?  Does the person who wrote this indictment even know how Twitter works?  If I underline a sentence in a book, does that mean I wrote the sentence?  Does a sentence I underline in a book get to be used as evidence in an indictment?  That's just ridiculous.

 If I were in charge, I would have had Barrett Brown taken into custody.  He was online, obviously nuts, and making threats.  I would then get him detoxed and get him mental health care.  And guess what?  That is just what is happening now.  He is in a minimum security prison that has an all-you-can-eat salad bar, handball courts, and music rooms.  He is there getting the poisons out of his system and hopefully getting his head straight.  It is reasonable to expect this process to take a good number of months.

When Barrett Brown is all cleaned up, I hope the Feds will see fit to drop the charges.  If not, we'll all get to watch a stupendously shameful situation where a man is put on trial for his dark humor jokes, exaggerations, insults, righteous anger, rants, manic paranoia, and the occasional semi-coherent political observation.  To be sure, there are sparks of brilliance in the mix, and that is what attracts people to him. 

The indictment picks a tweet here and there.  If you look at Barrett's whole online presence in the September days in question, you'd see he was having simultaneous tweet conversations with different people, interspersed with the occasional tweet spat with his archnemeses,  @Asherahresearch and @TomRyanblog.  He was also playing video games, working on research, getting emails and direct messages, running out onto his balcony to make incoherent videos threatening the FBI, and making his manic behavior public on  IRCs and tinychats.

From the "facts" section of the indictment:

The indictment makes it sound like Project PM is some sort of terrorist undertaking, rather than a    group journalistic research project.  Project PM is some people on the internet looking at websites and gathering information about companies that conduct surveillance on the public.  These are amateur hobbyist researchers and some of the information is inaccurate.    Nevertheless, it is a group research project and totally legal.  A lot of it centers around a desire to know about Trapwire, a surveillance software product created by Abraxas Corporation.   Trapwire is of interest to many people, including me. Why is our government paying companies to spy on us in daily life?  And that's a damn good question.  It is our government that is at fault, not the people asking the questions.

This is one of Barrett's tweets quoted in the indictment.  Barrett is a writer and the Guardian is a UK and now also a US news publication.  Barrett tweets that since the Guardian is not responding to him, he can spend his time on Project PM.  So what?  Whoever wrote this indictment must not get it that Project PM is the internet equivalent of a  knitting club.   Why does the government care that a writer not getting work spends his time on a group research project?  I don't get it.

  The tweet above is in the indictment.  What does it mean?  It means that mainstream media was not covering the Trapwire story as much as Barrett thought they should, and he meant for Project PM to pick up the journalistic slack on that.  Why is this in an indictment?  Is journalism a crime?

The indictment says this is a quote from one of the videos.  Yes, the videos elicit a cringe response.  It is painful to watch a person in meltdown mode.  But do we really expect people to keep a stiff upper lip and not lose it when the FBI kicks in the door, takes their important stuff, threatens their mother, sends annoying troll people to harass them nonstop on the internet, and then won't give their stuff back?

Is Barrett Brown really a threat?  The indictment quotes this as a video threat:

What is Barrett threatening? That he will be "using the court system, using the media, " and using "Project PM," the research project.  Followed by more cryptic boasting.  And then what is his big demand?? That he wants his stuff that was taken by the FBI.  He wants his computer and his moleskin notebook.

Does this sound like a dangerous man or like a man who is railing against a government that allows storm troopers to burst into peoples' homes and terrorize them and take their things?  How can anyone agree with such horrifying acts of intrusion into our lives?  And I say "our" because anything that is done to one citizen can be done to any of us.  We all have something at stake here.  What is at stake is the U.S. Constitution, which is being routinely tromped upon. 

Barrett Brown Indictment as jpg

please also read essay "Barrett Brown Indictment: Thoughts"

Barrett Brown Indictment as jpg. 
pull pages off blog onto desk top to enlarge and read.


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What the Heck is TrapWire?

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What the Heck is TrapWire?
by Sue Basko 

 Please link and quote, but don't steal my stuff.  I worked hard on this.  Thanks.

Lately, there has been much ado about TrapWire, which is said to be a giant network spying on all of us.  My research says this is much ado about nothing.  TrapWire, as far as I can tell, is the Emperors New Clothes.  It seems to be an extremely simple data-sorting computer program, marketed to the government sector using fear of terrorists as its selling point.

TrapWire is the name of a corporation, a computer program, and the consulting services that go with it. TrapWire, Inc., has Dan Botsch,  a University of Chicago MBA, as its current president.  Before him, Jack Reis held the post.  TrapWire, Inc., comes off an incestuous lineage of many mergers and acquisitions that involve the same players over and over again.  Richard Hollis Helms, a former CIA agent, shows up repeatedly as the CEO.  Lance Cottrell shows up repeatedly as the Lead Computer Scientist.  Margaret A. Lee repeatedly shows up as the Corporate Secretary.

The basic lineage is Abraxas Corporation > (offshoot corporation) Abraxas Applications (name change to) > TrapWire, Inc.  Abraxas Applications was spun off Abraxas Corporation, apparently as a holder for the TrapWire product, and then a name change was done, turning Abraxas Applications, Inc. into TrapWire, Inc.   There are many spin-offs and sideshows and earlier stepcousins, such as Anonymizer and Ntrepid, but those will be covered in later essays.  This whole corporate lineage is big on branding and trademarking its products, taking loans on its trademarks, splitting almost each product into a corporation, and marketing through fear.  My searching shows only one patent owned by Abraxas Corporation, for a software that translates language.  I also found one patent owned in part by Lance Cottrell, for an anonymizing software.  In contrast, Cubic Corp, which recently acquired Abraxas Corporation, easily shows ownership of over 100 patents.

On June 22, 2007, Abraxas Corp assigned the Trapwire trademark to Abraxas Applications Inc., for $1, with the document signed by Richard  H. Helms CEO, Abraxas Corp.  On June 27, 2011, Abraxas Applications Inc., registered with the trademark office that it had a new name, TrapWire, Inc., with Richard Hollis Helms having signed the corporate name change on January 12, 2011 as “CEO and Sole Director.”

Cubic Corp. issued a Press release dated 8/13/2012 titled, “Cubic Corporation Has No Affiliation with Trapwire, Inc.”  It then states: “Cubic Corporation (NYSE: CUB) acquired Abraxas Corporation on December 20, 2010.  Abraxas Corporation then and now has no affiliation with Abraxas Applications now known as Trapwire, Inc.”  This is a case of telling the truth, but not the whole truth.  The statement continues, “Erroneous reports have linked the company with Trapwire, Inc. Trapwire, Inc. is a risk mitigation technology and services company that builds and markets software products to prevent terrorist threats and criminal attacks.”  It depends what you consider “linked.”

What’s the reality here?  The reality is that Abraxas Corporation, led by Richard Hollis Helms, who is reportedly a former CIA agent,   “developed” a trademarked name for a product and service called “Trapwire.”  Abraxas Corp. then assigned the trademark to Abraxas Applications, Inc., also led by Richard Hollis Helms.  Then Abraxis Applications, Inc. changed its name to Trapwire, Inc.  Cubic Corp. bought Abraxas Corp., but it did not buy TrapWire, Inc.  Therefore, on December 20, 2010, Abraxas Corp had “no affiliation” with Trapwire.  But earlier, there was an affiliation.  At this time, Cubic Corporation is not affiliated with TrapWire, Inc., just as the press release said.   Have you ever seen the shell game, where there are three cups and a ball and you are supposed to guess which cup the ball is under?  This is like that.  They are shuffling the ball under a different cup.  

What appears to have happened is that Abraxas Corp. separated off the golden egg before selling the goose to Cubic Corp.  Trapwire WAS affiliated with Abraxas Corporation, but it was separated off before Cubic Corp. got involved.    

TrapWire, Inc.'s main product is TrapWire, which is software and consulting services on how to use the software.  The software seems to be a very simple program that works like this:  Security guards at government building or locations watch through security cameras to see if there are any notable people or vehicles.  If they see anything notable, they fill out a form on a computer.  The software checks to see if the same person or vehicle is visiting the same place multiple times.  Various locations are linked through the software.    If the same person or vehicle visits multiple locations, the system sends out an alert. This is all based on the idea that a terrorist will case a place several times before blowing it up.  That seems likely.  Other people who will also visit the same place multiple times include the UPS delivery person, the local pizza man, dog walkers, joggers, and many others.

When a security guard sees a notable person, the guard fills out this form, which TrapWire, Inc. calls PersonPrint.   To view a picture larger, you must pull/ drag it off the page and click it.

TrapWire PersonPrint Computer screen form field.

The information fields to be entered are Gender: Male/ Female/ Unknown, Height, Build, Age, Primary Hair Color, Secondary, Facial Hair Type, Facial Hair Color, Complexion, Glasses.  This is the sort of information that is gathered upon observation, without a show of identification or questioning.

If the guard sees a notable vehicle, this form, which TrapWire calls VehiclePrint,  is filled.  To view a picture larger, you must pull/ drag it off the page and click it.

The information fields on the TrapWire VehiclePrint page are: License, State, Country, Type, Make, Model/Name, Color, Doors, Appearance, Number of Occupants.  This is information that could be observed through a camera close-up or in person, without stopping the vehicle.

TrapWire's Safe Harbor provisions, state that Trapwire systems "in general, do not store Personal or Sensitive Personal Information." If they do gather such information, they promise not to share it with third parties.   CLICK to enlarge and read the Safe Harbor provisions.

TrapWire Safe Harbor Provisions page 1. PULL OFF PAGE AND CLICK TO ENLARGE. 

TrapWire Safe Harbor Provisions Page 2. PULL PIC OFF PAGE TO CLICK TO ENLARGE

click on images to read:
TrapWire Explains what it does. Page 1

TrapWire Explains what it does. Page 3 CLICK TO ENLARGE AND READ. 

TrapWire Explains what it does. Page 4 CLICK TO ENLARGE AND READ.

TrapWire Explains what it does Page 5 CLICK TO ENLARGE TO READ.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY: Abraxas Corp./ TrapWire, Inc.  is providing a simple data coordination system.  This is not high tech.  It is not all -encompassing. This is a simple old-fashioned database program marketed to one idea - that terrorists visit a site many times before they attack.  If that were true, then alert human security guards are likely to catch that.  TrapWire coordinates the software between multiple sites.  Why would a terrorist visit sites other than the one that  he  or she plans to attack?  Perhaps as a first visit to check out vulnerable spots.

  There does seem to be significant potential for abuse with TrapWire.  Are people free to be in public spaces without being scrutinized on camera and having their descriptions recorded?  Apparently not.  Note on page 5, TrapWire explains that as a neighborhood changes, the criteria will change.  I suppose this means, as an imagined example,  that if the system regularly flags Arab-looking men, that if a neighborhood becomes one where many Arabs live, it won't flag them so readily.

Do we want our nation spending large amounts of money for such a system? It seems that recent terrorist type attacks have been one-off gun massacres by educated white males who appear to have done no significant prior surveillance of the site.

At the very least, we need to know what TrapWire is and have a public discussion about whether we want our tax dollars spent this way.