A US journalist and self-styled spokesman for the hacking collective Anonymous has been sentenced to five years in jail after three years of legal wrangling.
Barrett Brown was arrested in Dallas in 2012 after attracting the attention of the FBI in late 2011 when he copied a link to stolen data from one internet relay chat (IRC) channel to another.
The data, which included client and credit card data, had been stolen in a hack of the Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) security think tank by AntiSec, a coalition of Anonymous and LulzSec members.
Prosecutors argued that the act of posting a link to the data made him a party to the crime, but Brown’s legal team said in a court motion that he did not “transfer” the stolen data.
They said Brown had merely republished a public link to information that was already in the public domain. Brown claimed his actions were aimed at revealing details of illegal government activity.
The case has attracted the attention and criticism of advocates of free speech and media rights organisations who were concerned the case could infringe on freedom of the press by criminalising the act of linking on the internet.
The linking charge was ultimately dropped, but the prosecution said during the sentencing hearing that it was “relevant conduct” that should be considered in deciding Brown’s punishment.
In a statement issued ahead of his sentencing, Brown said: “The fact that the government has still asked you to punish me for that link is proof, if any more were needed, that those of us who advocate against secrecy are to be pursued without regard for the rule of law, or even common decency.”
Brown had faced up to 102 months in jail, but his sentenced was reduced to 63 months after he pleaded guilty to charges of obstructing a search warrant, making internet threats and being an accessory to unauthorised access of a protected computer.
Brown was also ordered to pay nearly $900,000 in restitution and fines, but the 30 months he has spent in custody will be credited toward his sentence, according to the Dallas Morning News.
In 2013, Chicago hacktivist Jeremy Hammond was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in US Federal Prison for hacking Stratfor and releasing the leaks through the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
He was arrested in March 2012 with the help of hacktivist-turned-FBI informer Hector Xavier Monsegur.
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