Barrett Brown's One-Man War on the Cartels

Take me down little Suzie won't you take me down
I know you think you're the queen of the underground
You can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Say it with dead flowers at my wedding
And I wont forget to put roses on your grave

I was hoping Barrett Brown would wake up this morning and realize he's accomplished his mission of maximizing publicity for his purported six figure book deal with Amazon and drop his plan to unmask cartel collaborators -- whether the Zetas or their rivals. Apparently not. [More...]

Five minutes ago he tweeted:

Those in Asheville, NC should watch movements of District Attorney Ron Moore at this time. #OpCartel

Brown may be no safer in Texas than he would be in Mexico. He seems indifferent to the numerous government reports claiming most of the major Mexican cartels have aligned with U.S. gangs, both for distribution of their wares and for enforcement. See the FBI's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.

US-based gangs have established strong working relationships with Central American and MDTOs [Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations] to perpetrate illicit cross-border activity, as well as with some organized crime groups in some regions of the United States. US-based gangs [are]... serving as enforcers for MDTO interests on the US side of the border....Law enforcement reporting indicates that gang-related drug distribution and trafficking has resulted in an increase of kidnappings, assaults, robberies and homicides along the US Southwest border region.

....MDTOs use street and prison gang members in Mexico, Texas, and California to protect smuggling routes, collect debts, transport illicit goods, including drugs and weapons, and execute rival traffickers. Assassins, the Mexican Mafia.

....In exchange for a consistent drug supply, US-based gangs ....serve as lookouts and enforcers on behalf of the MDTOs.

....Gang-related activity and violence has increased along the Southwest border region, as US-based gangs seek to prove their worth to the drug cartels, compete with other gangs for favor, and act as US-based enforcers for cartels which involves home invasions, robbery, kidnapping, and murder.

Hackers have no monopoly on the internet:

The proliferation of social networking websites has made gang activity more prevalent and lethal—moving gangs from the streets into cyber space. Gang members, criminals, and drug traffickers are using the Internet not only to recruit and build their social networks, but to expand and operate their criminal networks without the proximity once needed for communication...

Some of the cases pending in the U.S.:

In March 2011, 35 leaders, members, and associates of the Barrio Azteca gang in Texas were charged in a federal indictment for various counts of racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Ten subjects were charged with the March 2010 murders of a US Consulate employee, her husband, and the husband of another consulate employee, in Juarez, Mexico.

In February 2011, FBI, ATF, ICE, and DHS, and numerous state and local officials charged 41 gang members and associates from several different gangs in five districts with multiple offenses, including racketeering conspiracy, murder, drug and gun trafficking. The indictment involved members from... 13 Tri-City Bomber members and associates in the McAllen, Texas area.

According to the FBI, there are more than 150,000 gang members in Texas and Oklahoma, including 12,000 in Dallas, 18,000 in San Antonio, 8,000 in Houston and 6,000 in El Paso. These numbers don't include those currently in prison.

Authorities believe the El Paso-based Barrio Aztecas are working for the Juarez cartel, which includes its enforcement arm, La Linea, and that the Artistic Assassins are engaging in contract killings for the Sinaloa cartel. More here.

The Barrio Aztecas are believed to be aligned with the Juarez cartel against the Sinaloa drug cartel for control of the billion-dollar drug-trafficking routes through the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez corridor. Since 2008, the Aztecas have been rivals of the Artistic Assassins, or "Double A's," who serve as contract killers for the Sinaloa cartel, Cuthbertson said.

Back to Dead Flowers: Barrett Brown may have been safer when he spent his days with a needle and spoon rather than a computer. (He seems to like that article.)

I think it was smart of Anonymous to pull out of #OpCartel and I hope Barrett Brown isn't doing this just to publicize his book deal. He needs to remember that hearses don't have luggage racks. (h/t Don Henley.) Even the last will and testament he posted on Pastebin yesterday giving everything to small villages in Africa seems publicity-driven or a fantasy. He should leave that stuff to the pros, like Subcommandante Marcos.

Barrett Brown is very young and obviously quite media savvy. He has many of us hooked and refreshing our Twitter feeds every five minutes to see what happens next in his virtual fantasy. I just hope for him this doesn't cross over into reality.

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  • Display: Sort:
    of course hearses have luggage racks, (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 03:59:12 PM EST
    they're just inside the vehicle, rather than on the roof.

    let me see if i read you correctly (and stop me when i go astray):

    it's your position that no one, aside from official law enforcement personel, should do anything about crime, and the criminals who love it, in this or any other country? if they know someone who's aiding and abetting criminal activity, they should say nothing, for fear of retribution?

    bear in mind, mr. brown isn't proposing to actively engage with the cartels, simply identify those who traffic with them, publicly. this is what the police ask for, when they say they need the public's help to catch criminals, isn't it? realistically, criminals who don't get caught are going to continue engaging in criminal activity.

    i recognize that you are a criminal defense attorney, it's what you do. by all accounts, you're quite effective at it. we need that in our society. however, these gangs affect you as well (which i assume you know, at least on an intellectual level), by corrupting entire governments, and systemically breaking down societal structures, wherever they take root.

    you can (rightly) argue that our drug laws (much like prohibition in the past) provides the financial incentive for these gangs to flourish, and i would agree with you. unfortunately, until such time as wiser heads prevail, we must deal with the reality we have. if that means mr. brown outs people, who are put in danger because of their outed activity, then so be it.

    great musical selection, TL, (none / 0) (#2)
    by Peter G on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 04:02:16 PM EST
    and what an interesting version ... can't remember hearing Mick sing in quite that low a register before.

    Do you really think he's only out to (none / 0) (#3)
    by observed on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 04:32:43 PM EST
    get money?
    I know there are many high profile criminal defense attorneys who have inked lucrative book deals.
    This post is beneath you.
    In addition, your position seems to be that only the government---which is the number 1 cause of the problem of the drug war and its casualties---should be involved in fighting the Zetas.
    Or are you saying that fighting the Zetas is wrong because the drug war is wrong??

    Yes, only law enforcement (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 06:51:28 PM EST
    should take on violent cartels. It's too dangerous and too many innocent bystanders are likely to be hurt. Second reason: Vigilante justice is no justice at all.

    My concern is primarily with his safety.

    As to his motives, every major media outlet has raised the issue of whether he is doing this for publicity, so your insult is not well taken. From the New York Times, which I linked to in my post about this yesterday:

       Meanwhile a self-appointed Anonymous spokesman in Texas, Barrett Brown, has told reporters that the group may yet publish what he described as 25,000 Mexican government e-mails containing the names of Zetas members and their collaborators. Why, some might wonder, would Mr. Brown, presumably a real person using his a real name, go public with this information, given the risk?

        On Twitter, two reasons were offered: he has a book contract to write about Anonymous, and he does not live in Mexico. Unlike nearly everything else involving OpCartel, both claims appear to be verifiable facts.

    I don't approve of the Government's fear-mongering on the cartels suggesting that the violence is spilling over here. The Government acknowledges they have no statistics to show increased cartel violence in the U.S. As I said the other day, it's not like middle America is going to open their front door and find a Zeta on their stoop instead of the milkman. But that doesn't mean there aren't sporadic incidents of killings-- there are -- and there are gangs here the cartels contract with when they have a beef with someone, whether territorial or for debt collection. Brown is putting himself out there as a target and it's dangerous for him, and possibly others.


    i do not think (none / 0) (#5)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 06, 2011 at 12:54:28 AM EST
    vigilante means what you seem to think it means. mr. brown is not proposing to physically confront the zetas (which would be vigilante), merely out them, so that law enforcement can then deal with them. i appreciate your concern for his safety, however, mr. brown is a big boy, i assume he's taken that risk into account. by your own statement, gang membership is in the tens of thousands, the odds of law enforcement dealing with this is less than the odds of the military dealing effectively with the taliban, in a foreign country.

    Indeed. Maybe Brown simply is (none / 0) (#6)
    by observed on Sun Nov 06, 2011 at 01:33:14 AM EST
    brave. I doubt he is stupid enough not to recognize the risks.

    he's naive (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Nov 06, 2011 at 09:42:26 AM EST
    as was evident last night when groups started posting his purported current and past residences (photos and all) and criminal history online.

    He was both surprised and angry. And tweeted that he no longer lived at the houses, and posting the info created a danger to whoever lived there now because someone might go there to cause damage or injury thinking he lived there.

    He complained his criminal record was sealed and shouldn't have been accessible. He was wrong about that too. Common mistake, many people assume that a deferred means the case is sealed but it doesn't and in TX, you have to petition the court for limited access and sealing. I found it in five minutes after reading a tweet by someone else saying it wasn't sealed.

    Again, I don't think he's stupid, but I don't think he's brave either. He's in way over his head and he's either naive or decided the publicity benefits outweigh the risk to him of physical harm.


    Ok, that's interesting (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by observed on Sun Nov 06, 2011 at 12:37:54 PM EST
    I still don't agree that Anonymous should not necessarily be involved in fighting the cartels, or that what they are doing is vigilantism.
    It's a huge stretch to call publishing information vigilantism.
    And note: they didn't publish the threatened information yet. They saved someone's life.
    I can't object to that.

    Isn't this related somewhat to the (none / 0) (#10)
    by observed on Sun Nov 06, 2011 at 01:05:18 PM EST
    question of whether bloggers can be journalists?
    Suppose a newspaper publishes an investigative report which names certain people as collaborators with some gang.
    To call that vigilantism would be ludicrous.
    I think the question underlying this debate is whether the information Anonymous has is correct, and how they have vetted their lists.
    Supposing they do have accurate information,
    I see no reason why they should not be free to publish it.
    In practical and moral terms, I think that no such decision should be made unless they have membes in Mexico who are putting their own lives on the line to verify the information.
    I think that obviously they DO have such people.

    Lastly, I think you should stop saying these people are fighting the drug war, if you are still doing so. These people are fighting murder and intimidation and lawlessness---not drugs.


    vigiliante is the appropriate term (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Nov 06, 2011 at 09:32:12 AM EST
    as several others have noted:

    The publication of these names could lead to these people being killed, possibly by rival gangs or by vigilante citizen groups. Brown says he can accept that in the cause of the greater war against the cartels. "I think I'm just as comfortable," he says, "as both of my grandfathers were when they dropped bombs on targets in World War II knowing that they were going to kill civilians and enemy troops alike. Or my brother was in the first Iraq war. I have no problem with it whatsoever."

    and from Insight Crime:

    Hackers walk the line between transparency and vigilantism. In exposing the names of people who work with criminal organizations, hackers aren't simply creating transparency. They are also giving targets to other cartels to kill. Some people have asked whether Anonymous wants to become a part of the violence in this manner. Three points on this: First, as mentioned above, Anonymous isn't unified. Second, though close analysts of Mexico's conflict know how that vigilante situation would play out, not all hackers would realize the consequences of their actions.Third, some hackers, either individuals or those working for other groups, may know the consequences of their actions and willing to carry them out because they feel Zetas collaborators deserve their fate. The motivations of the cyber community aren't going to all be the same on this issue.

    It's not the first time this has come up with Anonymous.  It is absolutely vigilantism, whether they lift a finger to anything but their keyboards or not.