Barrett Brown's Plan to Overthrow the Government
by Susan Basko
By now, you have probably heard that the U.S. government, on February 14, 2014, in the federal criminal case USA v Barrett Lancaster Brown, filed a sealed Opposition to Brown's Motion to Dismiss the first of three indictments against him and that in it, the U.S. alleged that Brown and Anonymous "secretly plotted the overthrow of the government." At first glance, this sounds similar to people in the early 1960s afraid that young folks wearing bobby socks and dancing the Twist were plotting to overtake the nation with Communism. At that time, those were serious concerns of quite a few people. Today, there is serious concern that Barrett Brown may get prison time based on notions that seem just as far-fetched.
|snippet of Docket in US v Barrett L Brown|
Why is the government filing sealed documents in a criminal case, which by the U.S. Constitution is supposed to be a process open to the public? The docket, pictured in part above, shows that Brown's lawyers filed the Motion to Dismiss as Document 98. Then there is a gap, with Documents 99 - 101 missing. Those 3 documents are likely a motion by the government requesting to file an Opposition to Brown's Motion to Dismiss under seal, the Order granting the right to file that Opposition under seal, and the Opposition Reply itself. In order to be able to file under seal, the government usually must state that the document contains information or allegations of crimes that are still under investigation.
Since the Opposition was filed under seal, we know of its contents only by the inferences that can be made and the quotes from it contained in Brown's Reply to the Government's Opposition, which can be read HERE. Brown's Reply states that the government is alleging that Brown and Anonymous "secretly plotted the overthrow of the government." Since the document is filed under seal, this likely means the government is engaging in an active investigation into this alleged crime. So, this is serious.
If you carefully read the law below, you will note that "overthrow of government" refers to that done by "force or violence," including by threats of violence against persons or property. If the government were able to prove that Brown or any member of Anonymous were advocating, publishing, or organizing to overthrow the government by force or violence, including by threats, then those who do so or who conspire to do so might be imprisoned for up to 20 years. So, this allegation by the government is rather extreme, and not the ridiculous joke it seems at first glance.
The law that pertains to overthrow of government is
US TITLE 18 PART I CHAPTER 115 § 2385 ADVOCATING OVERTHROW OF GOVERNMENT.
Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or
Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or
Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.
The law prohibits the overthrow of government by "force or violence." "Violence" is defined under Federal penal code as:
TITLE 18 PART I CHAPTER 1 § 16 CRIME OF VIOLENCE DEFINED
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.
|Tweet in @BarrettBrownLoL Timeline Sept 9, 2012|
So, it is okay to advocate changing or overturning the government, just not by force or violence. Now, let's take a look at the methods actually proposed by Barrett Brown. Perusing Brown's Twitter timeline, this series of tweets (above) about the ICP is found. The ICP is Insane Clown Posse. In a move bordering on hilarious, the FBI recently declared the Insane Clown Posse to be a "gang." To be blunt, the ICP is a bunch of white trash fans of the ICP rap band. They call themselves Juggaloes and paint their faces like clowns. The females are called Juggalettes and dress like cheap whores. Sorry, there is no other adequate way to describe it. The Gathering of the Juggaloes is a yearly music fest, usually held at a very rural place in Southern Illinois, that involves drinking beer, sliding in mud, fighting, and listening to exceptionally crappy music. If these folks go to one music fest a year, thank goodness it is the Gathering of their own kind.
Barrett Brown is clearly joking in these tweets. The ICP members are no more capable of "seizing Michigan" than they would be of using a fork properly. These tweets are droll wit, portending an imaginary future when the ICP is a political force, rather than a musical farce.
|Tweets in @BarrettBrownLoL timeline Sept 7, 2012|