Anonymous member arrested during online chat after threat against FBI
Dallas law enforcement authorities have arrested self-professed Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown in what appears to have been a dramatic raid of his apartment late Wednesday night.
Barrett was having a live online video chat session with a few others when law enforcement officers can be heard storming into the room and shouting at him to comply with their commands to submit to his arrest.
Though a woman who was with him at the time of his arrest shuts the camera off a few seconds into the raid, the audio continued to capture the events as a law enforcement officer orders a yelling Brown to put his hands down, presumably to be handcuffed.
Another individual, with his face covered by a white scarf, pops up in a window on the chat screen and can be heard expressing his incredulity at the unfolding events.
A spokeswoman for the Dallas County Sheriff's office confirmed the arrest and said Brown was booked into the county jail at around 11 p.m. CT and has since been transferred to an FBI facility. A spokeswoman from the FBI field office in Dallas said the agency had no comment on the arrest. In a Twitter message, Anonymous noted that Barrett has been in FBI custody since early this morning.
No official reason has been offered yet as to why Barrett was arrested. But it may be connected to a YouTube video Barrett released yesterday in which he appears to threaten an FBI agent named Robert Smith. In the rambling 13-minute expletive-laced video, Barrett accuses Smith of getting his mother into trouble on obstruction of justice charges over a laptop that Barrett had attempted to conceal from authorities. The video is entitled: "Why I'm Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe."
At one point in the video, Barrett warns about agent Smith's life being over. "When I say his life is over, I'm not saying I'm going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his f.... kids," Brown says in the video.
At another point in the video, Barrett expresses concern over being targeted by the Zeta drug cartel of Mexico and claims he is armed and ready to fight people who might looking to kill him. "Any armed officials of the U.S. government, particularly the FBI, will be regarded as a potential Zeta assassin squad," Brown says. "The FBI knows that I am armed, that I come from a military family, that I was taught to shoot by a Vietnam vet."
Brown concludes the video on a dramatic note. "It was pretty obvious that I was going to be dead by 40 years or so. I wouldn't mind going out with two FBI side arms and a f...Egyptian Pharoah."
In an interview with Computerworld last year, Brown described himself as a former author and writer for Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post and other publications. From reporting on Anonymous, Brown became the hacking collective's self-professed spokesman, often writing press releases and offering interviews on behalf of the group. His actions were not always welcome by other members of Anonymous, who were worried that Brown was attracting too much attention to the group.
Brown told Computerworld last year that he was quitting his activities on behalf of Anonymous to focus on a personal project.
The arrest has already provoked a retaliatory move by Anonymous splinter group AntiSec, which earlier today released the names, addresses, phone numbers and credit card numbers belonging to what it claimed were 13 government officials.
In a message on PasteBin, a member of the group hinted that AntiSec would release more records while urging viewers to use the credit card numbers to "spend a lot" and "send flowers to Barrett."
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about cybercrime and hacking in Computerworld's Cybercrime and Hacking Topic Center.