Photo via Nikki Loehr.
The gag order in connection with the US government's prosecution of journalist Barrett Brown was upheld today in Texas court. Effective immediately, neither Brown—who is facing 105 years in prison for posting a link to stolen information in his chatroom—nor his legal team can speak to the media about the trial except what is already in the public record, with the exception of FreeBarrettBrown.org’s director Kevin Gallagher for defense fundraising purposes.
Prosecutors argue the gag order is necessary for a fair trial as they claim Brown’s defense was soliciting press to persuade the jury. Journalists, in anticipation of the gag order going through, have called the gag order “ridiculous,” an act of “apparent desperation,” and an attack on journalism and the First Amendment.
Gallagher, for his part, told me the gag order is moot and “absurd” as Brown wasn’t willing to write about the case anyway—indeed, his new legal team advised him against it. (The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington has also argued that gag order is unnecessary.) What it does do, Gallagher added, is bring more attention to Brown’s plight.
“It’s the Streisand effect in action," Gallagher said. "It doesn’t affect anything we do but ironically increases the media profile of the case. More people will wonder, will look into why an American journalist was placed under a gag order."
Gallagher and his not-for-profit advocacy organization and support network for Brown was mentioned at least 30 times in court, he said, making him “seem like a media mastermind” which he says he isn’t, at least not in the Karl Rove sense.
“It seems they’re more upset with FreeBarrettBrown.org than his lawyers, and for some reason they listed all of our activities when applying for the gag order” said Gallagher.
FreeBarrettBrown.org gets roughly 1,000 pageviews a day, and so far has raised $40,000 for Brown’s defense fund. An anonymous donor has agreed to donate $20,000 if the site can match the sum.
While FreeBarrettBrown.org, which was started by Gallagher and Brown’s friends, hired and pays for Brown’s lawyers, Gallagher writes “we work independently” from them, and “we don’t speak for his lawyers or have any input on legal matters.” The site works independently "so they can't target us in order to interfere with [Brown’s] legal defense.” The site currently doesn’t publish comments from Brown or his lawyers about the case, so Gallagher thinks the prosecution has a problem with the site’s supporters page and all the “scrutiny” it has managed to draw. Brown supporters, with testimonials, listed on the site include Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Shepard Fairey, Cory Doctorow, Molly Crabapple, Gabriella Coleman and the late Michael Hastings.
As for the prosecution of Brown, Gallagher thinks “the government’s case against Brown is unpopular and against the public’s interest, and they should drop the charges already.”