Barrett Brown

Author and activist, formerly associated with the hacktivist group Anonymous

More From Panelist

Photograph by Guido Vitti for Bloomberg BusinessweekBarrett Brown is an activist, author, and freelance writer specializing in “information age” topics. His work has appeared in the Guardian, Vanity Fair, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, New York Press, American Atheist, and other outlets.

A native of Dallas, Brown entered the University of Texas in 2000 but dropped out after taking a copywriting job for America Online. During the next few years he lived in Austin, Dallas, New York, and Mexico, while pursuing similar gigs and contributing to a string of policy journals, magazines, and online outlets. In 2006 he was commissioned to write a humorous nonfiction manuscript regarding the spurious intelligent design movement. The result, Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Easter Bunny, was released the following year, receiving accolades from Matt Taibbi, Alan Dershowitz, and others. Soon after, Brown became director of communications for Enlighten the Vote (formerly Gampac), a political action committee intent on supporting secular candidates for U.S. office, while also serving as chief contributor to CNET’s online political analysis startup Political Base.

In 2009, Brown began to recruit volunteers for a “distributed think tank” called Project PM, with the original objective of establishing experimental online networks for use by activists, bloggers, and nongovernmental organizations. His focus gradually shifted to the Anonymous movement, which he covered in print before finally getting directly involved with the group’s work on the occasion of the Tunisian uprising. Thereafter, he came to serve Anonymous as an organizer and “propagandist” in support of operations.

After the February 2011 incident in which several intelligence contracting firms led by HBGary Federal were caught planning covert operations against WikiLeaks and its supporters, including several journalists, Brown refocused the mission of Project PM to investigate the private intelligence sector and promote effective opposition to surveillance, data mining, and advanced disinformation techniques by states and other institutions. Among other efforts, Project PM maintains a wiki that hosts information compiled from stolen corporate and government e-mails, as well as more traditional sources, and assists journalists who wish to cover issues relating to the “cyber-industrial complex.”

Brown continues to do interviews on hacktivism and intelligence and the media while promoting various Internet-driven campaigns involving civil liberties issues in Bahrain and elsewhere. He spends much of his free time being monitored by the FBI, which raided his apartment last March.

For more video and conversation, visit Fix This/Cyber Security