Barrett Brown on Pursuance
GH: All right everyone. We are live and there is Barrett popping in
BB: Here I am popping in
GH: Look at that. Look at Barrett over there in England now, jolly old England
BB: Merry old England.
GH: All right, so let’s just jump right into things. You’re no longer here in America. It is late as hell over there isn’t it?
BB: I’ve been planning my departure for a couple years [00:01:09] and just to add insult to injury I announced my impending departure first on Russia Today a couple of years ago after the Federales re-arrested me for giving interviews to Vice and PBS when I was entirely legally allowed to do that.
And so, I left for Antigua about a month and a half ago, and I left from Antigua about a week ago, I set sail as it were, on a plane, to England and arrived here safely and now I’m an Englishman. So there you have it.
GH: So [00:01:39] we’ve got enough time here go back a little closer to the beginning of all this. There are a few people who know some of our background and most people don’t out there, and I’m sure some of the viewers will too, but I always find it interesting to kind of start out this way.
So, when I first learned of you, it was an article you had written in the Huffington Post and it was an article where you so strangely [00:02:09] said that some of the tactics that me my friends were putting together there over at Anonymous, were going to be used to take down nation-states in the future.
Whether it was us or some other entity using the strategies, and I of course, initially thought you were insane, and then I reached out to you anyways, because I loved the idea, and I sent you an email from one of our more official-looking [00:02:39] email addresses, even though of course, nothing is official, but it was Anonymous at why we protest dot net Just to kind of make the point of ‘it’s one of us’.
You responded and after a few days we got to talking and I think it was a week or so later that I invited you into some of the chats and that’s kind of how you met up with a lot of the people on our side of things, but it wasn’t that long later that we were kind of working in Op Tunisia and Op Egypt [00:03:09] actually doing what your article said. Until those Tunisians showed up in chat, I thought you were insane on that one point.
BB: Well, I might have been. I mean a stopped clock is right twice a day and if you’re a crazy clock that just hits all kinds of numbers throughout the week, you’re going to be right about a couple of things and then only those things would be remembered.
So, it’s just like cold reading. But [00:03:40] just like our opposite numbers in the military and intelligence communities of the world we, you and I, well you first, were cognizant of what the power was that existed in these new forms of collaboration and so forth. We saw they were weapons.
You guys took the lead in turning what was not yet a fully realized weapon into a weapon to an extent that the next 13 years to follow since the activist [00:04:10] portion of anonymous began, was responded to in very significant ways that I will always treasure as recognition from the GCHQ and NSA and CIA, the FBI and DOJ and Palantir and HBgary and so forth, recognition that I was right.
We were weaponized, that we did have a grasp on something that could and would inevitably be used to confront nation states and institutions that are corrupt [00:04:40] through and through on their own turf and win. And push back.
GH: You know, it definitely started on that side of things with the protest and activism stuff. But we built on top of an existing foundation that you were already aware of at that point. You just weren’t heavily involved. You weren’t sitting on the chans like some of us all day. You came around though.
BB: I dipped in here and there, and I was there for some of the Hal Turner stuff. I was [00:05:10] late to the Habbo Hotel raids, but I did get in toward the end.
GH: Those early anons really built a lot of mystique, a lot of ominous nature that we could build on top of when we went and did chanology and all of the other protest actions later on. So, shout out to everyone who put in all that effort before.
So, there we are, we’ve done operation Tunisia, Egypt, we’ve all backed out at that point because Libya’s going to hell, Syria is [00:05:40] starting and I know I ran for the hills.
You were still on some of the IRC’s for a few minutes longer than me, but I don’t think much longer because they were asking for weapons and shit and we wanted out. I did at least.
So at that point you start talking initially about some of your ideas towards taking these things that we’ve done, the tools that we’re using because at this point it’s on 50 different networks, you know, it’s these IRC servers, it’s these websites, it’s this Google [00:06:10] doc or this pad and every time someone started up a new operation, they would need to figure out 50 different tools and find them and be taught, you know, here’s where we did and you decided that was a mess.
A few of the others of us had been thinking about it and you started thinking about what it would look like to make a platform and it took a little while before like Pursuance became a real actual mission if you will with a name and everything else, but that’s what you’ve been putting a lot of [00:06:40] effort into recently or for the last few years?
BB: There’s two different threads here, one is that Anonymous thread and in terms of some of what you’re talking about, in terms of making available in one package all the tools and the concepts and all that, I can’t come anywhere close to taking credit for that. There were people pushing for that and not just pushing for that but doing it before that was my emphasis.
What I was doing prior to that though before you pulled me into the anonymous servers when op Tunisia began in very late December [00:07:10] 2010, was pursuing something alongside Michael Hastings and a bunch of very strait-laced individuals. My second-in-command for Project PM before it became what is known for, was a retired IRS attorney, to give you a sense of how mainstream I was back then.
Our emphasis had been to build these structures, and this was before I had the knowledge and the experience which has been [00:07:41] gained with difficulty over the last 10 years. How organizations work, how activists work, how movements work, how structures work, how institutions work, and what the weak points of all these things are. That was the hard-won experience that I got, starting really with Anonymous.
My prior experience had been too well organized to really learn anything from and so Project PM00:08:11] started out doing what Pursuance is now doing. It ended up becoming known for being a crowdsourced collaborative investigation into the intelligence contracting industry and a number of the intelligence agencies, our opposite numbers and their programs.
That was so successful that the FBI came and shut it down and served a search warrant listing that website and so forth and then blah blah and so we got so bogged down with Tunisia and Bahrain and [00:08:41] Egypt and so forth and then HBGary and the DOJ, and then going to prison and getting out of prison and I had set aside my ultimate goal, which was to build this platform.
I didn’t know what it was exactly back then. I had a basic premise which has been vastly improved upon as I have gotten input from people who unlike me, have a real basis in the scholarship of information theory, and some things I don’t even know the names of, and so what we have now with Pursuance, which was formally created[00:09:11] as a non-profit a few months after I got out of prison in late 2016, is this platform, this framework that is intended to be a universal solution, a very open source entirely ground up, truly democratic yet versatile solution to every problem of collaboration that we approach. It is a universal [00:09:41] thing that can be used to run a lemonade stand or whatever.
It is intended more specifically and one of the problems here is that, and we won’t go into the mechanics of it here, for those who aren’t familiar with it, I would advise reading a great Observer article. It has an embed of the presentation I gave and has a great description in the article by[00:10:11] the author there, of what some of the use cases of this are, how this would operate, what it is, which I’ve certainly done a very poor job of explaining.
That’s why we have people to help me explain these things. So we’ll skip the mechanics and we’ll just leave it at this, it is a framework that is intended to move the ball forward in ways that I think compared to 10 years ago, will ultimately reach the hype that we were getting from Michael [00:10:41] Hayden and so forth at the NSA back when he was giving speeches about how Anonymous was going to start taking over this, knocking down that, and in terms of information operations it’s entirely legal, entirely dutiful and necessary civic functions. Pursuance will allow these things to happen in a way that this time unlike Anonymous or occupy or anything else, will be vastly formidable to an extent that will prove itself when it comes into fruition.
GH: [00:11:12] So, you know as a lot of people who watch this, especially on YouTube later are going to wonder what this is all about, we’re talking about platforms, we’re talking about our old tactics and what it comes down to is this idea that there are certain ways you organize online.
There are certain ways you build an operation that’s going to be successful. There are even more confined ways in which you gather data safely from people and [00:11:42] use sources and all the other fun things that are needed all the way including from original idea to planning real life events. There are 50 steps in there and until even recently that’s been a hundred different tools you’ve got to learn to use, it’s been putting all your events on Facebook which you know, that’s fun. That’s where I want all my data.
It’s all of this work and all of these different things that you have to train new activists on when you could just [00:12:12] take all of this distilled knowledge from all of these people who have already done all of this work and turn it into a set of tools that guides you through doing these things and as I understand it that’s what you’re building?
BB: The best way to describe it I think, to the extent we don’t have visual aids, is to compare Anonymous or occupy or the civil rights movement or the anti-war movement or a hundred other things to a jellyfish.
A non-institutional movement is a jellyfish [00:12:42] in so much that it is soft, its agile, it can extend its little appendages, that’s not how jellyfish work, but let’s pretend jellyfish work like that, it can move quickly and change shape and so forth and that is a great strength, a jellyfish is also quite vulnerable. It has very little protecting itself from the say the sharks which we’re going to pretend to eat jellyfish. I’m assuming they don’t in real life and that’s a shame, but jellyfish have this great potential. People aren’t expecting jellyfish.
Which again, the [00:13:12] US military, we did see papers from 2009 in which one of the five big threats to whatever we represent to the US military was going to be these versatile, non-nation-state, non-institutional, pseudo structures. And so, if you take that jellyfish and you give it not a skeleton to make an institution or to make it a hardened and set-in stone thing that can no longer evolve but give it an exoskeleton that can grow along with it. Again. We’re pretending [00:13:42] exoskeletons do that, I don’t think they do, but something that can protect it, can keep its shape, can give it a consistent and understandable, fair and democratic ongoing shape procedurally in a way that I will describe in a bit.
Then you have something very, very potent. You have something that has not been seen before in any real form, but you’ve seen pieces of it here and there and [00:14:13] you populate that using a procedure whereby not everyone is welcome.
Fascists aren’t welcome, people who support the national security state are not welcome, people who oppose democracy and open society are not welcome and you define that. You don’t actually enforce that, you don’t have someone sitting there determining that, you just tell people, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re about and you if you are coming in with these views, you will probably not find anyone seeking to help you. In fact, you won’t, so stay out.’
You won’t [00:14:43] deter everyone who shouldn’t be in there. You won’t deter all police informants, you won’t deter all corporate intelligence operatives, but between that element, and this element of setting in stone and here is what it has been founded to be, here is the ethos around it. You do help to settle a lot of [00:15:13] unnecessary disputes in advance, especially if you have an anonymous or an Occupy Wall Street or anything else where there’s no charter and anyone is free to interpret its charter or lack thereof in any way they want.
You are freer from the splitting from the unfortunate associations one ends up having to deal with as one becomes a successful activist. You are freer from all these things that turn out to be in my opinion, or in [00:15:43] my estimation over the years, much more deleterious than anything the FBI can do.
So again, this is all very abstract, it’s very hard to sort of prove this, or to really give a good sense of how I can sit here and say this is better than this, or better than that, without visual aids, but those are available, just Google Pursuance and Barrett Brown and so forth.
It’s so important for us to address after all these struggles some of which [00:16:13] have been successful and then maybe robbed of their effects by bad actors, some were not successful, both of which we can learn from. We can take all of that and expect to have all of the good parts of this, the advantageous and necessary parts of civic collaboration using the internet, we can expect to have this kind of take off in a way that can grow exponentially, defend itself from attackers, and improve itself and maintain the ethical [00:16:43] and moral underpinnings that movements always start with before quickly losing them.
These are broad claims, I’ve made them before with more specifics. It would help I guess if everyone just assumes that everything I just said is correct, for the record that’ll make everything go easier.
GH: Of course, always does always does. So here we are. A platform is coming, the general idea of the platform is that activists will be able to honestly do activism better. But one of the things [00:17:13] that I think could come from a platform like this if implemented, would be the ability for activists who are looking into starting something, whatever their activism is, I don’t care if you plan on overthrowing the government of Eritrea, or you’re just trying to get rid of your local mayor. I don’t care what level it’s at.
BB: Both of those are fine ideas actually.
GH: Exactly. I’m just saying like, you know, there’s a ton of countries that need it but at some point you have to find comrades, you have to find people who [00:17:43] want to help and I would think platforms like this, you know, if I’m talking a perfect world, I’m going to be able to set up an operation and people on the platform are going to be able to see it or there’s going to be way for me to invite people beyond just my friends, but other people who have successfully run ops on this platform before, like is that is that a big piece of this?
BB: Yeah, it is, it is. That is one of the main pieces really. This is what this comes down to is having a pool, having a [00:18:14] framework, a medium, a shared space online, that’s accessed by an app that will be you know, used on cell phones, including ones of lower quality around the world so no one is kept out of this due to financial background.
Having that and having a protocol whereby you can expect the people that you are dealing with, the pool of people on here, you still have to use your own judgment as always as you always do, but you can have a good [00:18:44] sense, a strong sense, that the population you’re dealing with is on the whole more along the lines of your own sort of support of the open society than you would find in, say in nations like the United States, which I recall elected Trump to office four years ago and just barely got rid of him or is in the process of perhaps getting rid of him depending on what happens in the next two months.
So that’s a big thing, you know arbitration, being able [00:19:14] to have a free collaborative system or freedom of association that drives things and is a fundamental sort of right.
That is an important aspect of all this. It is the aspect that when not properly done as it, you know, never can be in a charter less system or a movement. No one’s in charge. In the absence of that it causes a massive amount of failed opportunities and threats and dangers and [00:19:44] so forth.
Being able to approach that problem and reduce it, alleviate it, not solve it, but alleviate it via ways that everyone can understand, that is a huge deal. It’s been a bigger thing to me and I’m sure to you, the more time I spend dealing with other people.
It’s one thing to sit and plan and think this is the way things would be but dealing with the other people who for whatever reason are involved in activism in your sphere, you know, there was a French philosopher once said, ‘hell is other people’ and that may be true. [00:20:14] But of course other people are also a necessity in collaboration and so to diminish the frictions and diminish the miscommunication, diminish the disputes over rights in which both sides have a point, and nothing can be solved in that sense, to diminish that would be a massive, and to me a more important goal.
So, if that was all Pursuance came to do it would be worth doing from my standpoint. It does aim to do quite a few other things which will overlap with this same sort of impulse, but that’s a good way of describing it[00:20:44] and as you said being able to find others, being able to evaluate others according to shared consensual methodology, being able to find other projects that you might want to participate in, or learn about, or learn from, or adapt, and to be able to articulate them and to build them and evolve them with others in structured ways that are not institutional but are processional, that is vastly important.
It is the most important thing we could be doing because that is how [00:21:14] we form ourselves into something that is up to the task of fighting a vast apparatus around the world, a very segmented, you know fragmented apparatus of kleptocracy and corruption and nationalism and so forth.
We have to have the best possible procedures. We can’t just win this thing on the strength of our ideals or the intensity of our feeling. Twitter will not suffice. The streets will not suffice. Nothing [00:21:44] in itself can suffice at this point and our opponents do not use any one venue, they use every single one. They engage in full spectrum warfare. We must do the same, and we must do it better than DARPA. That’s a tall order.
GH: With a lot less funding.
BB: With none. There are advantages that we have being open society people, transparency people, who police our own and try to maintain ethics, and [00:22:14] who do not believe in obscurantism because there’s very little that could be revealed about us nor should there be as in, you and I both have been hit by the feds, you’ve been sued by Scientology and so forth, and in that process, they go through everything you have.
They go through communications and so forth. In my case they went through all my Gmail accounts of eight years, my other mail accounts, you know all my IRC chats, with the intention of not just imprisoning me, but discrediting me. [00:22:44]
I’m proud to say that as a transparency activist, they were not quite able to meet that hurdle even with the advantage of having intelligence and FBI and DOJ with a couple years head start going through discovery files of my entire communications that I never had access to during this whole trial, and so that should be, I’m saying this probably to toot my own horn and to remind everyone that I should be trusted at the very least.
Not my judgment necessarily, but my character, and my intent should be trusted. My judgment, [00:23:14] you know, if my judgment were perfect, we wouldn’t need decentralized process democracy. We would just need me running secret cells of things. And that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone anyway.
So, what I’m saying is that we have advantages to the extent that nothing can be leaked about us as such, ideally. Nothing can be exposed about us. We never have to like to have a meeting saying oh no, they’re going to find out this this and this. That puts us very much the opposite spectrum of everything we’re against and so there are advantages to a free society kind of setup, people who [00:23:44] advocate for free society so long as they are willing and able that’s the key word, we’ve not been able, to police our own movement and ensure that it pursues exactly what it stands for publicly and that those two things are the same.
With a black box operation like Wikileaks or Project PM when I ran it, where essentially everyone had to trust, you know me, or Assange or any other you can think of, you never have that guarantee do you? You always have [00:24:14] someone which pressure can be put upon. That was the whole point of giving me a hundred years’ worth of charges to have to fend off, charging my mother was to get me to, you know somehow, actually I don’t even know what they wanted from me in this case because they pretty much had everybody by that point but, you know, that should never be the case.
There should never be a single person who is the leader that they go after, or a leader or whatever. There should be influencers. There should be people with ideas, but they should be in the business of influencing and having ideas, and there should be a place [00:24:44] for those ideas and that influence in all these little bits and pieces of a movements to be presented safely and securely and openly to people who voluntarily would like to take those ideas and run with them.
Pursuance is intended to do that. It is intended to give everyone regardless of if they have the charisma or the adventurism or if they just have the sheer innate criminal tendencies like you and I were born with because of who our parents were.
BB: [00:25:14] Everyone should have, not just for their sake, but for the sake of the movement, the ability to efficiently bring that to the table, whatever they have, the work ethic, the idea, a slogan, the ability to draw, the ability to put out things, the ability to understand the press, to write, to march. Everyone should be able to come to a shared space and sort out amongst themselves using the best tools possible how these things best add up and that’s what Pursuance is intended to do.
GH: So, you brought up the idea of [00:25:44] no leaders right there, people bringing ideas to the table, people bringing their thoughts, their missions, their ops to the table and hopefully others would join them, and that’s very much how we expected Anonymous to run, and how it did for a very long time and to a lesser extent how it still kind of does.
One of the things that we would always describe when asked, ‘well how does that actually work’, was very simple, you know, once you know it but very hard when you’re standing on [00:26:14] the outside looking in.
That’s this idea that just because you had the idea you’re not in charge, just because you started this off, you control nothing, you are in charge only in so much as you are here to transfer the knowledge of why you did this, who you’re doing it against, and how you want it done, in hopes that people will join you, but in the old Anonymous ways at any point the person who started it up could be run out of the op, in the old school [00:26:44] Anonymous is Anonymous’ worst enemy kind of a way.
So, with Pursuance when someone starts an operation and they kind of kick things into gear, is it possible to just ignore them at that point and move forward with other people. Do they have total control over it? Are you working on that?
BB: So, the answer to that is, and the answer to most questions along these lines is going to be, that it varies entirely on the nature of the Pursuance. So, anybody in the [00:27:14] pool of the Pursuance, of the process democracy mechanism, process democracy being the overall framework theory here, the practise, and Pursuance being the one iteration we’re building and then curating. Anyone in there can either create a Pursuance or ask to join one.
Creating a Pursuance starts out always in the exact same way and then it gets different immediately, but at the first step is always that person who creates an [00:27:44] operating Charter somewhere between DNA and you know the very beginning of an organizational charter and that person at that point has entire control over everything.
Now that person presumably wants to have other people involved. So that person has a number of methods they can proceed with by which to delineate how that happens. They could immediately create several spokes. If we visualize this in which and allow anyone [00:28:14] to come and occupy these positions and set it so that those people will be entirely equal to them or superior to them depending how the voting goes. So, when you create a Pursuance, it is a dictatorship originally just like it is when you write something on a notepad. No one has access to that until you give it to them.
GH: Or when you create a Facebook group before you add another admin, which is pretty much exactly same.
BB: The exact same thing. So that person can make an entirely Democratic one. There’s a number of ways they can do that. Just saying Democratic [00:28:44] doesn’t really give us the full spectrum of options here, one can have it so that you know, there’s seven people and they all have to have a unified vote to do any major thing or anything at all, they could do it so that anyone can fill those positions, or the positions are temporary and then they are refilled by somebody else a week later or a month later so forth, they can set it up so that so that has to be majority vote, they can set it up so that this person who created it and then two others who have to sign off on everything that person does from here on immediately and then they can [00:29:14] proceed from there, and every iteration of that.
A person can also create something that is entirely a dictatorship and people can join knowing it’s a dictatorship and to the extent people are willing to operate along those lines and some people are, in some cases, it is desirable. We don’t call it a dictatorship in that case, we call it other things, but to the extend people want to participate in that they can do that, and to the extent that they don’t, well, the person who created that is out of luck.
Now in terms of kicking someone out, probably the most [00:29:44] common alternative in Pursuance will be rather than kicking someone out of the project will be replicating the project which is one of the big features of Pursuance. Is that you build these structures, there’s a template for setting up a march somewhere or investigating a corrupt bank or something, and any person can see that and see the structure of it depending on how the system is set up in some cases they’ll be opaque and that’s something we can get into another time but suffice to say for the most part these Pursuance’s will not be high security, [00:30:14] they won’t need to be.
The average Civic business does not need to be kept secret from Bank of America’s little corporate spies, but you can if you need to, and many will.
Anyway, someone can take a copy of that structure and set it up themselves and then run it themselves and then tweak it, change it to be different so you can have different leadership with the same structure if people think that structure is great but it’s just a leadership [00:30:44] issue, they just don’t want to deal with that one person or they can take it and tweak it to make it, you know, preferable in structural ways.
That’s a big feature of this because it means a number of things. It means that people who come into Pursuance, they don’t have to sit around figuring out what Pursuance’s are and how you design a Pursuance, and what’s the best way to do that?
They just look in the data library of Pursuance’s that have existed and have been uploaded, and there will be templates and notes, saying this template or this structure we have found was good in this [00:31:14] instance for organizing a mail in campaign to a congressman here and there and also dealing with the press on it, take that as a template copy, make it your own, put in the pursuance deal, tweak it as you need be and then that evolved version, if it is an evolved version, and if the iteration you’ve evolved from the original deal seems to be better you can notate that about it. So, it’s constantly evolving.
You have constantly evolving, individual, discrete entities and templates. That’s one of the ways in which it evolves.
The other ones being [00:31:44] as more people come in, as people better associate with each other, learn who can do what, build trust relationships etcetera, so, there’re several means of evolution any one of which I think would be pretty awesome. They’re combined in a way that kind of overlaps and just solves a lot of the problems that people are going to anticipate when they think about Pursuance.
At this point I should note, and I know I’m rambling here but
GH: I love it.
BB: We spent a lot of time [00:32:14] asking and introducing some makeshift user testing and talking to a lot of NGOs, non-profits and small activist groups and reformers around the world, including west Africa and the Arab world, we asked: what is it you want? What do you have right now? What are problems you’re facing and besides the problems you identified do you think this is a problem that you may not have thought about?
We’ve done a lot of question-answering and so at this point, I’m very confident as I am at all things, that we are able to, [00:32:45] any objection any concern, any sort of reason why someone might not be on board for this even if they are interested in getting involved in civics we’re generally able to explain in our favor and that’s because we’ve done a lot of thinking and work on this, including my four years in prison, which I had plenty of time to think and work on it. I’ve had regular input from a lot of great outfits that have been around for much longer than us.
I always hasten to add that, because any thinking person who’s really interested in this [00:33:15] is going to have objections, are going to have concerns, and I just want to make sure that they’re aware that to the extent that they have one, it may be addressed online already. And if you can’t find it, I’m always available to expound on how great it is.
GH: You know relying on the knowledge of the people who came before has been something that we’ve always done, all the way back to like the beginnings of chanology, when we had the first two videos out, [00:33:45] you know related to that, the message to Scientology in the Call to Arms.
We were telling people to go out in the streets who had never really been the activist types and we talked to old school protesters to get an idea of what we might be facing with this type of a hostile enemy and they gave us a list of things, and we turned that into the third video called the Code of Conduct and so that was really important, you know dealing with the old schoolers [00:34:15] who already had a lot of this knowledge, So I’m glad to hear that’s going on.
BB: Exactly and that right there is a great example, I’m glad you reminded me, because it’s a great example of one of those many things that one doesn’t necessarily think of, is the hurdles of everyday activism when just thinking about like, you know, what does activism what does it entail blah blah in that case it was an environmental organization I won’t name just in case, I don’t know, that that approached you guys early on to find you guys, to find the command centre as it were of [00:34:45] of the chanology campaign.
They had to go through a few steps to figure things out. It wasn’t that hard I imagine. So ideally, you know, those kinds of extra efforts, on the path, that’s someone who wants to help.
Those should be facilitated, those should be easier smoother and to the extent we deal with those seemingly mundane, sometimes hard to think of little problems to the extent We create a mechanism by which people can solve not just those [00:35:15] that we can anticipate, or know of, but those in the future to the extent they have the tinker toys as it were to build and to establish and to grow and to recruit and where those recruited can know going in what they’re involved in and have certain rights that are delineated in all respects.
We get around a lot of those things, again not just the anticipated problems, not just the problems that you and I whine about all the time, me especially, but the problems that will come forward next as these things continue to evolve on both sides. [00:35:46] I’m kind of saying the same thing over and over again as I often do in Pursuance.
It’s just different ways of saying the same deals that were trying to facilitate, we’re trying to create something set in motion something that can be a unified in a way like a meta superorganism but not in a way where any one person is directing it and not where any one person can compromise it, or any one person can turn into a cult of personality. Even me.
GH: So, what’s the basic [00:36:16] timeline here? I mean, we’ve been just to say it bluntly waiting a while for something to do with the Pursuance and the last thing I got to see was just an install of Mattermost. So tell me where we are.
BB: Right. So, the last time I spoke publicly about Pursuance was in January of this year. It was an article I wrote in Counterpunch where I used to write a column, in which I sort of went over a recent Der Spiegel article as well as a not so recent NPR piece that [00:36:46] had come out, both of which were about me and Pursuance, and both of which were to me very chilling, seeing what I’ve seen.
To better convey this, before we did our Kickstarter in late 2018, you know in the run-up to that as you know, as I, you know was dealing with the DOJ and dealing with them going after my publisher, going after my editors and employers [00:37:16] subpoenaing people, seizing my money and so forth while we were navigating all this and still chugging along bringing on a board of directors establishing a non-profit doing all these things.
We were also, of course trying to explain to the public what it was we were about to build, what it was, why it mattered, why it was worth paying close attention to and not just half-assed freelancer attention to and so forth. And that went pretty well for the most part.
Then NPR interviewed me in their studio and some months later they [00:37:46] came out with this broadcast that went out to the whole country. Most people probably weren’t paying attention, but people who, when they hear Pursuance from then on are going to think of what NPR told them and what NPR chose to tell them was to me, remembering quite fully and having actually been employed as I have unless couple of years writing my life story over again for this Memoirs for Farrar Straus and Giroux and then the screenplay I’m now doing having had to go back and look at the coverage and look at how the coverage [00:38:16] affected how vulnerable we were, not just me, not just the people and other people whose names are known for all the volunteers contributors and so forth all people who ended up getting spied on illegally by DOJ as the Washington Times reported when Kevin Gallagher took them to court a couple years ago.
All the people who were raided in Norway and England and all that whose names are unknown, people whose names I don’t even know, who were hit, who were easy to retaliate against for doing things were entirely legal and necessary and helpful and aboveboard and open [00:38:46] because certain elements of the press decided for whatever reason, or for varying reasons that it would be a good idea or fun or cute or perhaps profitable or whatever to say things publicly that were not just false but sometimes insane.
So, this NPR piece among other things you may recall this broadcast, or there’s also an article about it called t [00:39:16] ‘an anarchist explains how hackers could cause global chaos’ that was the headline.
The broadcast itself compared me and you, everybody involved with anonymous and so forth and my non-profit to Russian agents attacking democracy. They attributed things that were done by a character in a show called. Mr. Robot that is based more on you than me I think, because it’s a hacker, it is only based [00:39:46] on me to the extent that they use a heroin addict who was emotionally volatile, which you’re not, and that’s why you’re not fun, because you’re emotionally balanced, they could never make a good character out of you.
I even had to give your counterpart on House of Cards a ferret to really humanise him.
GH: Guinea pig
BB: Guinea pig, right. But anyway. They made me worry again about what we were going to face and how little it would matter if [00:40:16] once again, we were to exposed those things as in FBI, you know background activity like Jennifer Emick and so forth, a lot of this stuff that’s memorized in books by Gabriella Coleman and Parmy Olson, which is to say the half-assed books, and a lot of articles since then, the things that happen to us behind the scenes and in some cases which we exposed after they were leaked or hacked.
It occurred to me that, I don’t want to go through another whole several years of this where we’re being attacked and we’re being set [00:40:46] up and we’re being framed and softened up and there’s no one I can go to and say ‘hey, please help us’, or at the very least ‘please stop kicking dirt in our face, or please correct this’, and I realized after that broadcast came out, and I started emailing the reporter saying hey, could you maybe change this because you just accused several thousand volunteers of being a part of a hacker network, which they called it, which has nothing to do whatsoever with Pursuance.
You know, I realized wow, there’s nothing about the press having re-embraced me [00:41:16] a few months after my arrest when we kind of put out the real story about here’s what the search warrants were about, here’s the companies we exposed blah blah. There’s nothing about that and the national magazine awards and all that shit that I got, that was going to stop them from doing the same shit again that they had done that already threatened all of us and more importantly threatened the work we had uncovered and put out there.
But we rolled with it, we had the Kickstarter few months after that, we barely made our goal for $48,000 and so now we’re [00:41:46] able to pay, an executive director to oversee all these things, pay some money to programmers to build a really early kind of primitive iteration of it, expenses to send people out to this this conference Ontario, to have Thomas Drake out there and Jesselyn Radack and have them present the ideas behind this.
We got that money, and over the next year I think we made good use of it. We weren’t able to produce the actual prototype, that went wrong very quickly. [00:42:16] We were working with people who had their own full-time jobs, they had their own constraints and as always, we’re not necessarily getting all of the resources that we might have liked to have given the scope of what we’re trying to do and given the difficulties in them.
But we did do a lot in terms of figuring out and Illustrating and documenting some of the more minute aspects of all this, of [00:42:46] building a process democracy and of determining the security aspects, which became more and more important to me as I saw how many of these same factors that were in play back in the bad old days of 2012, how many of them were back in action.
When you are creating something is going to be used by Arab reformers who if they get caught, they die or are tortured maybe for a few years you start to think more and more seriously about, ‘hey is this going to be [00:43:16] enough, and how much harder will the state department make this that it has to be, how much harder are they going to make this?’ and so by the time, earlier this year when Der Spiegel put out an article about me claiming I’d spent the last couple of years harassing women on Twitter without citing any examples of this and claiming in the sub headline that I was now spreading conspiracy theories without citing any examples of that.
I just, I was done. I was going through [00:43:46] a lot of difficulties in terms of PTSD and stuff that caught up with me over the years and I wrote an article in Counterpunch just making fun of the article, referring back to the NPR article citing some of the articles from some of the military funded outlets like Radio Free Europe, that came out about me years ago and just explaining, ‘Hey so my goal for the next year as I said was going to be to try to alleviate the situation to try to convince the press that it’s not worth it to do this and then [00:44:16] when that is done when I feel we are ready we will revamp Pursuance; we will get back to work on it’, and I’m happy to announce today that that time has come.
Now with me no longer being within the immediate reach of the DOJ and having I think and I’m quite proud of this quite frankly because media reform was what I really got into all this for, before anonymous and all that.
I have made it clear to the press in several countries that I’m not going to tolerate libel that exposes us to [00:44:46] criminal malfeasance by the government at all, and that just because you’re a reporter or journalist as I was when I was dragged into cages by ex-military people, back to prison for giving interviews, that doesn’t mean I can’t voice very strong opposition to the shit that you guys do in some cases.
So long as I could explain it and you’re afraid to respond to it I’m going to feel justified in making those objections very strong to the extent that a particular outlet, New York times, the New Yorker or whatever is [00:45:16] willing to, explain or defend any of the things that’s done and there’s been quite a few, to an extent that really is shocking to me. I’ve learned things over the last couple years doing this research.
And so, I do feel that having made a few moves in the last six months in particular physically and otherwise that Pursuance can now proceed along [00:45:46] the lines that I envisioned it as.
It can do so in a way we all feel comfortable telling people in Bahrain or Egypt or India or the U.S, you can use this and you can expect it to be safer, not totally safe because nothing is, but safer and better suited than anything else out there. And so Pursuance, having been on hiatus for about nine months now is now back on [00:46:16] course.
So, in terms of timelines beyond that all the time I have provided have been wrong for the most part except to the extent that I have said I don’t know so I’d prefer not to do that. I don’t want to disappoint people. I don’t want to say things. I do take full responsibility for all the delays. Some of them have been for reasons I just discussed some of them had to do with the book which I’ve been Writing, the Memoirs I signed a deal on when I got out of prison, the Memoir Manifesto thing which has been delayed for some [00:46:46] similar reasons but is now finished. I turned in this final draft, I turned in the original draft two years ago, this final draft has been turned in.
You and I did a book back in the day you remember
GH: That’s right
BB: We got some of the money at least from Amazon. I spent that money.
GH: We tried. It was fun. I love that story.
BB: So that is now done. (memoirs) The plan was always that Pursuance would launch after the book comes out because the [00:47:16] book was necessary, not just as a book, and not just as a means of me being able to support myself and continue to do this stuff, but also to neutralize some of those press elements and police elements that are out there.
The book is also because I want to explain better, ‘Here’s why Pursuance is so needed, here are the problems, here are the specifics of these problems, here are the problems that are relevant to activism itself, here the broader problems, here’s the solution, here’s the examples [00:47:46] of a solution, the real examples of how we solve things that have not perhaps been fully conveyed by us and some cases, or the press because for whatever reason, here is the scope of how hopeful this kind of activism is, and here is the thinking that has gone into this solution, and here is the extent to which you yourself as a citizen who participates in this will be able to inform that solution further’.
So that’s what the book will do along with providing more opportunities for [00:48:16] people to get involved, to volunteer. Our first lead developer got in touch with me after seeing a wired article that came out that accurately explained when I got out of prison, you know, Barret Brown is back, he’s still crazy, he’s going to go after this this and this here’s what he’s building, here’s why it makes sense, here’s the pitfalls it might face, you know, that’s how we attract people. That’s how we bring in informed participants, by accurate representations in the public.
One of the other with the other factors that has made things more [00:48:46] difficult is that my Twitter account and the Twitter account of Pursuance itself have both been removed from Twitter over the last year and a half and there’s some articles about that by David Gilmour over on Dailydot, and Facebook more recently was also taken down.
So, I’ve lost a lot of the tools that I’ve historically used in the last couple years to organize these kind of campaigns, crowd-sourced investigation, crowd-sourced civics, so that [00:49:16] was a lot big part of the picture on how we would spread Pursuance.
We’ll get around these things and I feel that when my book comes out and my author status solidifies again, and they say you can’t actually take away his Twitter, he does have some presence here. I think I’ll get those back, or at least Pursuance will.
There are all kinds of other things I could whine about in terms of here’s the problem, Here’s why it’s not my fault and all that. But the main thing is that it has been my fault. I’m a notorious [00:49:46] drug addict, substance abuser, and a lazy person and getting out of prison was tougher than being in prison for me, and the last couple years, just the things I’ve come across have been very disconcerting and we’ll just leave it at that.
I started methamphetamines about a year and a half ago, and I’m glad I did it because when on methamphetamines I really wreaked havoc on a lot of these old opponents of ours, and elements the press, [00:50:16] police agencies and I really just outdid myself in terms of just bothering them. Just making a claim like, ‘look you don’t want to start an illicit conflict with me because I’m like a rabid dog who will be biting your leg’, and you know that may make me look bad, but I’m used to looking bad.
GH: I just want to make it clear to the audience that in order to get Back at your various enemies out there and have the energy to do so do not take the Barrett Brown School of Science and [00:50:46] do methamphetamines.
BB: Or if like me you’re willing to then go to rehab as I did a few months ago because you feel like, ‘I’m done now, my work here is done. I have terrorized everybody, everybody is going to leave us alone, are not going to be helping the police come after activists for donating to my legal fund’, that’s over, then go to rehab and then leave the country if you want to take those steps then you should do it. Take all the methamphetamines you need to.
GH: I am not endorsing that.
BB: Of course you’re not
GH: you know me. I’m a teetotaller.
BB: I know. You kill me. Anyway, so that is the best I can summarize. It’s a very baroque situation as usual. That’s what the situation has been and it’s one of the reasons I haven’t put out an announcement or updated Pursuance in quite a while.
I didn’t know what to say yet because things were still in flux. Now that things have settled down, I’m able to finally [00:51:46] tell people like ‘Hey, here’s that thing you’ve been waiting for. Sorry. It’s coming, here’s the deal. Mea culpa and also fuck you because you know all those things at once’.
GH: So, there was a hell of a lot there and I’m getting asked why I’m not talking as much and it’s because Barrett can talk for hours and it’s great.
One of the best reasons to have Barrett on your show, anyone else out there is you don’t have to prepare, just give him a question and then sit back, it’s amazing.
But a couple [00:52:16] of the things you brought up there that are really important, you brought up this idea that when the powers that be, the evils in control of everything the FBI’s the DOJ’s of the world…
BB: Control is too strong of a word
GH: Sure, but when the people who believe they are in control would like to continue holding on to that fallacy you don’t have a higher authority if you will, to reach out to and say, ‘Hey could something be done about this’, [00:52:46] because you can’t ask them.
It’s like telling your bully to stop punching you, that’s just going to encourage him to keep punching you. So at that point we need other structures and activism is one of those structures. So for me Pursuance is definitely going to be heading down that direction and I’m hoping it does what I want.
I have so many questions about the tools that I know aren’t even written yet. But your general idea, you had talked about anyone being able to [00:53:16] launch one. Does that mean that your goal is still a somehow centralized system, so you get those libraries or are we getting open source that we can run on our own servers or what are we getting?
BB: The answer to that is yes, and with the with the proviso as usual that whenever we’re talking about these specific mechanics, techno mechanics, you know me very well, you have fixed my computer number of times and so you know that the specifics of that are best [00:53:46] best referred to documentation that we have some of which is still subject to change out there, some of which is not yet published, but the answer is yes.
A lot will be decentralized. So these libraries I’m talking about for instance, on a Pursuance, on a particular server of process democracy, like think of it this way; process democracy is the mechanism that I have coined as the term for this, for this this procedure that I define in certain ways, and which can be run on a pad of paper and a pen and mail if need be.
[00:54:16] But it is best run for the most part, on a server or a series of servers online, and Pursuance itself, that we curate, in which we have a mechanism for deciding who gets in, and basically anybody who applies gets in unless their answer to our question is just terrible.
So, there will be a centralized server for the data library to the extent that a particular Pursuance or so that particular iteration of a Pursuance, a structure, I’m just trying to think of another word for the actual Pursuance, to the extent that that is made accessible to it.
So some cases, but I think probably very few, it will be proper and necessary and dutiful [00:55:16] to not make the structure of the Pursuance available in any way shape or form. That will generally be doing high-end operations assessing things that bite back like Deutsche Bank, Russia or any country at all frankly unfortunately.
For the most part, yes, the generally accepted custom will be to make your structure of Pursuance available to others in Pursuance, in the universe established there.
Anyone can take the same process democracy framework, [00:55:46] the software that runs it, and run on their own server. Now that leaves open a lot of questions so I’ll set that aside unless anyone wants to ask anything in particular, but I can assure you that the implications of that are something we have thought through quite a bit as much else here and hopefully pretty much all of it.
So if anybody does have any questions along those lines we have some answers to that and sometimes the answers are unfortunately ‘that could be the case’ or ‘that is one of the problems we run into when we invent anything or create anything’, but in many cases I’m happy to say we do have some pretty hopeful answers as to those kinds of problems that do come up whenever you have a platform, whenever you bring something out in the arms race that’s going on internationally.
GH: Anonymous and all of those fun tactics that were come [00:56:46] up with by others, and me, and everyone kind of early on have been used for great things and terrible things.
The issue here is always that if you give it more structure than an idea that is put out into the world then by its very nature, you are giving it a surface area for attack, be it a single person a single server a single programmer, whatever it might be, so you have to open these things up.
You [00:57:16] have to allow anyone to take them. Your general hope with this type of stuff at least in my case, has always been when we put ideas out there that help people actually organize, and organize stronger and better and especially more anonymously, like we did early on, we hoped and prayed that more people were good people than bad people.
And so, when you put a set of tools out there more often than not it will be used for good. So in the end [00:57:46] the greater good is served. You can’t do anything in the more general sense about the fact that you’ve put out an idea and the bad guys have now decided to use that idea.
The only thing you can do is, you know, like the current fun that is being done attacking qanon where a bunch of people like Kirtaner whose name I now know how to actually pronounce good, ol Aubrey there, are starting to fight against people who are using [00:58:16] Anonymous’ tactics.
Or generally just kind of piggybacking on the name in a way that we don’t like because they are not Anonymous. They’re being attacked and this goes back to the old adage of Anonymous being Anonymous’s worst enemy, you know.
Pursuance I would imagine that there will be a day when the Nazis throw up a version of it and another Pursuance pops up literally to fight that Pursuance. We had that happen with all of our old tactics, where the bad guys would take [00:58:46] our tactics and attempt to use them and then we would use those same tactics against them. So that’s how I would see this going. I mean is that your basic assessment?
BB: I read that assessment and I would say that I take even a more pessimistic view than you do.
GH: That was my decade-old pessimism speaking. I now have lost almost all faith in humanity. So, I’m there with you now.
BB: [00:59:16] Here’s the thing. unlike inventing a weapon or nuclear submarine or a submarine with weapons on it or sharks that shoot bees out of their mouths, a reference which you don’t seem to recognize because you don’t enjoy having fun.
We’re producing something here that is a format that does have natural appeal and thus will be more utilized. We can expect that in advance without being hopeful which neither of us are.
[00:59:48] I think I can articulate. Back in the 90s especially and up until today AM radio has been the province of conservatives. There are very few exceptions.
You remember Air America Radio came out around the 2004 election al, it wasn’t successful because for whatever reason we won’t get into it here, but certain kinds of people prefer certain kinds of formats.
Some people like reading, some people like to have Vlog posts and hyperlinks proving the things that are being said, some people like their President [01:00:18] to tweet stuff out that’s nonsense over and over again.
So, you know Biden for instance, as was pointed out by Trump jr or somebody who’s sighting some kind of evidence of the electoral fraud, Biden has far fewer followers than Trump, but he’s the President now, or is about to be. So that’s a great lesson.
There are differences in format such that if we are conscious of these, we can expect to put out something with the certainty which we rarely have, the certainty that this is going to be on [01:00:48] the whole better utilized and more utilized by our side, open society people in this instance.
I think it’s especially true because it doesn’t take that many people to think of a lie. It does oftentimes take a bunch of people to figure out the truth. Crowd sourced research, which is one of the things that I’ve spent a lot of time of course on, is a collaborative effort and the things we’re countering generally aren’t.
The things we are countering although there’s other people involved, as with most [01:01:18] things, we’re generally countering black box apparatus like Palantir, the CIA, GCHQ, shit that we see glimpses of whenever someone like Snowden comes along, leaks stuff or someone hacks deals here or there.
We have a situation in which the other side has all these advantages and most of the operations are being done from these very tightly wound apparatus of course, you always have qanon people you [01:01:48] do have distributed crowdsource nonsense, and that’s the case, that’s a fact.
But I do think that given that qanon itself almost certainly came from one of these black boxes, I haven’t followed it as closely as I some of you guys have, but I do know that has been the thinking for a while, that it was conceived and then operated or whatever or taken over or whatever or some combination thereof.
GH: It was taken over very quickly by those types, but initially it was just two people on 4chan, Paul Furber and Coleman Rogers trying to sell t-shirts.
BB: [01:02:18] Another lesson which may be contradictory to my lesson here, but still a lesson.
GH: But it went very quickly. I mean it was weeks later before it was off on YouTube and the conspiracy nuts were starting to move and then higher production value started coming behind it if you will, and then you noticed, you know the change.
But early on it was literally a ploy to sell t-shirts from one of those print-on-demand t-shirt shops from a couple of guys on 4chan. Like it was an absolute joke.
BB: And as you know better than anyone else a couple of guys on 4chan [01:02:48] can end up holding a great deal of power.
BB: Because you were once one of them and so yes, that’s a great lesson right there. Qanon could be an exception almost, but also an important part of the example.
I’ve always felt I think the last nine years since the Palantir incident, Team Themis when we first started to get a glimpse at these intelligence contracting firms and how they work with the FBI and GCHQ and so forth and what that entails, we’ve always been up against a certain kind of apparatus for the most part.
To the extent we have been against these, [01:03:18] it has generally been with the active participation, encouragement, pushing, supplying by the FBI or by Palantir and so forth. We’ve always found those connections in the end, long after we suspected they were there.
So it’s a situation in which they these advantages, their black boxes. We don’t have the things we should have and by putting them out there, the scales will tip in our favor even to the extent that there’s a great deal of use of it by people who can’t really make use of it that well on the other side.
People [01:03:48] who aren’t trying to find the truth and collaborate to do so and people who already have advantages in the Mercer family and Palantir and so forth.
And the reason I go on about this so much is because it’s one of the big concerns I had for a long time, a lot of us did. How can we expect this to be any better in terms of humanity’s fate than the internet or Facebook or a thousand other things and in this case, I do think [01:04:18] that we can, and I’m always happy to have other issues brought up because we do want to address them and think about them, but I do think from what we’ve been able to examine and hear and analyze that this will be a net positive for the open society.
GH: That is the most optimistic thing I’ve ever heard you say. so, I would like to address one key thing here. You have called me not fun now three times during this …
BB: You don’t play video games, you don’t drink, you don’t smoke weed
GH: [01:04:49] Okay, all I do is play video games. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
BB: What is your what Your steam code?
GH: On Steam I’m PFF Gregg if anyone wants to send the old connection, that is my old clan from the Counter-Strike days way back when. When you knew me, I wasn’t gaming because I was too busy doing activism. I had no time. The thing that I think really spoiled you on me having fun, the last like [01:05:19] the three times we really had the most fun I would say,
BB: Oh year, working on that damn book proposal
GH: Working on the book proposal or the couple of times we got to hang out in like bars with me, you, and Michael Hastings. You guys got smashed and I’m sitting there completely not drinking just drinking water and soda the whole time
BB: We call that not fun in the western world. What you’re explaining does not refute what I’m saying
GH: I was having fun.
BB: I’m glad you were having fun.
GH: Another one of those pieces of this puzzle that I think I want to see addressed a lot more by hopefully a Pursuance is what happened with Michael Hastings.
GH: I mean if someone wants to put up a Pursuance to try and figure out how to make me have some fun out there in the world. I’d love it because I need a little more of that.
BB: Regarding Michael Hastings, I’ll just say this ,you will love the last three or four pages the book [01:06:19] because it is a verbatim email.
You’ll love the last three four pages the book. I waited a long time on this to address this in any real meaningful way publicly. I wanted to get my ducks in a row and now I have.
In this case it’s less of a question of what happened, but what happened afterwards, and what didn’t happen and what should have happened. This was a journalist who died and the way that his work and himself and I’ll be the first to say this: A journalist or an activist, [01:06:49] our lives are expendable, they are absolutely expendable. There is nothing about any of us that should be memorialized and fetishized the way that Assange has been subject to no doubt against his will for the last 10 years. We are here to serve and to fight and to die.
Michael Hastings, his life, how he regarded all that stuff is meaningless. What’s meaningful is the work he did that was important and the things [01:07:19] he was working on and the extent to which that was essentially wasted.
His work was cut off from any potential further amplification and use. That was not something that anyone on the other side could do. The only people who could have done that was the working press in this country. The press failed in every measure possible to evaluate this. [01:07:49]
I’ll tell you this, over the last year and a half until about three or four months ago I was planning on committing suicide. One of the few reasons why I didn’t was because I knew what my obituary would look like. I knew this because I’ve seen Michael Hastings. I knew that nothing would be gained [01:08:19] from that. There would be nothing gained.
This is one of the things that has affected me a great deal. It’s why it took me so long to finish the last chapter of the book, because it goes into these things, and unlike everything else; prison, having my mom charged and so forth, being in the Shu, none of those things really did anything to me. I’m fine with those things.
The base character of our most important institutions, which [01:08:49] is journalism, the base character of those who have just slid into that over the years, and the helplessness that I see, I now have in the face of that, to force people to examine it, or just get them to stop doing it, was to me terrifying and again, like I said earlier, I’m glad I took amphetamines for a year and a half. I’m glad I terrorized Adrian Chen and John Cook, and Glenn Greenwald. [01:09:20]
The FBI can do whatever, but it’s really our colleagues, my former colleagues in the press that get to decide what the meaning of it is and they have not made the right decisions I think ever. Not in our lifetimes.
GH: We hung out with Michael. We talked to him a lot. One of my kind of oddly almost morbid things that I own, that I have here in my house, is [01:09:50] I still haven’t been able to take his Rolling Stone business card out of my wallet.
I still keep it there just as a reminder of how bad things went there, and how little we truly know about what really happened at the end. But for everyone who doesn’t know, as there’s going to be people who watch this who have no idea what we’re talking about, Michael Hastings was a journalist.
He was an investigative journalist and a very good investigative journalist [01:10:20] his work got the wrong people out of places they shouldn’t have been. It got McChrystal removed from the Middle East and just many other things. His work was important, and it was always punching up.
He was going after people who were in positions of power and shouldn’t be and who were abusing those positions of power. And in the end, I do truly believe that he was killed for his reporting. [01:10:50] I don’t believe the accident.
I don’t believe the stories of him being drunk and having some kind of a car crash. I don’t believe the stories that maybe the car itself had some kind of a malfunction. I believe that his car was actually hacked in some way.
What’s funny about that belief is, at first you say that to people like right afterward, literally the day it happened, and they tell you ‘you’re [01:11:20] insane’, and then that week on national TV General Alexander, former head of the NSA goes live on TV, and when asked that exact question says, ‘Yeah, we can do that like, the NSA’s had that technology for a decade’, like yeah, I mean it might have happened.
I don’t know, but you know it goes from an insane theory that just his friends are now passing around in some kind of, almost a way to deal with the grief, then it becomes a theory that needs to be investigated and never was. [01:11:51]
The night that it happened, I was on the phone that night with the people at Rolling Stone, his director, his co-workers like we got on a phone call, but like five of us with what little information we knew from the day before and that day because I don’t know, I don’t remember our conversations right around that time, but I was on the phone with him the night before and it [01:12:21] was crazy because there was definitely no sign the night before that he was doing that.
We were talking about specifically his next piece and the big thing he was working on and when he was going to come out to the east coast again, so we could meet up and all that fun stuff and then the next day he’s gone.
The media’s reporting on it was basically about this journalist who it was sad that passed away, in a way, but not in a super mysterious way that maybe he was reporting on something [01:12:51] the powers that be think he shouldn’t have, just ah it sucks that you know, maybe it was suicide by car. Maybe it blew up. Who knows? No, I think he was killed personally.
BB: Whether or not he was and I will say that if I were in charge of whatever let’s say Booz Allen Hamilton and if I was tasked with dealing with those journalists or whistle-blowers who of course as we know have been a major [01:13:21] concern of many governments for 15 years now, and I had to figure out which person it makes the most sense for us to get rid of, who based on their past performance over last two years, can we project over the next 10 years will cause much more trouble to the national security apparatus that we all believe in for some reason, I would kill Hastings immediately.
GH: And I think they did.
BB: I’m not stupid. I don’t have a position on that. I’ll put it this way when it happened, I was agnostic. I [01:13:51] remained agnostic for a few years. I have since had back channel conversations as I’m sure you have, that led me to believe that it’s definitely worth investigating and I do think it’s more likely than not.
What kills me is the fact that I should feel uncomfortable saying that. Knowing how this kind of thing is dealt with by my ex-colleagues who have no fucking idea about [01:14:21] any of this stuff have zero ideas about this stuff and are not worth killing. Which is the meanest thing I can say about them.
The fact that they get to decide ultimately, whether or not anything gets looked into and can even punish those of us who want to look into it, who think it’s our duty when a journalist dies under unusual circumstances that it should [01:14:51] be looked into in a way based on the evidence, which has to be picked up first. It can’t be discarded.
There’s a great deal of evidence that came out months later from the FBI and so forth that contradicts the original narrative that became the permanent narrative, being the media narrative.
It’s despicable and it’s unfortunate and again the reason is not because Michael Hastings needs to be sainted or because his life had special meaning [01:15:21] it doesn’t.
It’s because he served a function and the function is not a small one. It is news and media information that determines who gets to be president, who gets to be considered president, who gets to give advice that is taken seriously by a vast apparatus in the United States and elsewhere, which countries can be invaded [01:15:51] which countries can’t, who can die in Yemen, how many weapons can we sell the Saudis. These are no small matters.
There have been more articles about me taking a bath on webcam during the Zeta thing as a joke in order to show that I wasn’t being executed by the Zetas as most the press said I would be, than there are about Hastings and his coverage of things.
There’s not a single article out there, about the fact that a few months before he died, he was on The Young Turks [01:16:21] and he talked about having been under surveillance and he had been told this by his friends at Special Forces that he was under surveillance.
There’s not one article about the fact that, contrary to the FBI’s original claim that they had no interest in him and no files on him, which they later reneged upon a few months later and then they did show they had a couple of documents with some weird wording on them.
My gag order hearing which I was legally required not to talk about my case or anything involving it like Palantir and things I investigated as a journalist for a year and a half, [01:16:53] Michael Hastings is mentioned in there and they admit to having notes on him.
He was in my e-mails, he was involved in the Tunisia thing. The day after you brought me in to the Tunisia thing, I was already in touch with Hastings via my Gmail account, it was under discovery. He was member of Project PM early on.
Project PM was designated a criminal organization by the DOJ. We all know the DOJ investigated to try to identify every single person who contributed to my wiki, my journalistic wiki, and every single person who donated to my legal fund, they did that illegally [01:17:23] and they were sued for it later on.
So, the idea that Hastings, the guy who was already on their radar obviously and already a target of any number of interests around the world would not have been someone the FBI had files on when they had files on every single other person, including 17-year old’s in Norway who wrote for my Wiki, or was in a chat room, is not just absurd, it is something that to the extent that it is voiced or maintained, the person maintaining that should have their face spat upon and beaten. [01:17:53] I just can’t even tell you how worse it’s been. I prefer the FBI to my former colleagues.
GH: The last two conversations me and him had went similar to the last conversation the three of us had together, you know, those last two conversations me and him had the day before and three days before his passing.
He joked with me as he read some of the death threats he was [01:18:23] getting from military and former military about his articles that had gotten people removed from the field of battle. He thought it was both scary and funny.
BB: As things often are.
GH: Yeah, you usually laugh in the face of fear, whether you’re actually being strong or not, it just you know, it’s a natural reaction to these things. I mean you got to find the humor somewhere.
One of the stories I’ve told a few people [01:18:54] that you might remember is me, you, and Michael in New York, and we’re at a bar and you do a very deft move of changing the focus from you because at this point it’s probably eight months or nine months before you’re actually about to get raided and be in serious trouble, but you’re already very clearly, you know, not giving a fuck about whether it’s coming or not.
BB: I had been informed that I was [01:19:24] going to prison. So, I already knew. The charges just hadn’t been figured out yet.
GH: So, I’m sitting there yelling at you to slow it down a bit because you’re going to go to jail for the rest of your life and just, not to stop what you’re doing but to just know that you’re on your way to prison here and we’d like to not lose a friend.
So, do what you can to minimize your exposure.And you’re telling me basically in the nicest terms among friends who talk to each other like this to, fuck off with that, and that you aren’t slowing down at all and you quickly, I mean, I’m like three sentences [01:19:54] in and you say well this guy is just going to get himself killed.
I’m only going to prison. And we spend the next 10 minutes yelling at Michael about the fact that he’s getting you know; three and four death threats a day from ex-military and within a year and a half in my life you’re in prison and he’s dead.
BB: You’ve always given good advice. No one’s ever accused you of not giving good advice. It’s just that you’re not that fun.
GH: Yeah, you know like I mean, it’s one of those things where you look back on [01:20:24] different times in life when you were right about something and sometimes, you’re like well thank God I was right about that. You know, this is one of those times I really wish I was wrong. I think about it a lot.
BB: This is worth mentioning here just in the greater context, you know, this is all sad shit in a way. But WW2 in which both my grandfather were bombers, you never heard of them because they were among the millions and millions of people who voluntarily went and risked their lives to fight fascism. [01:20:54]
It was standard to expect he might die, or friends might die. It was standard. No one called you a hero for it. No one said you’re brave and all that. There were no articles about every single person like there have been for me and you, particularly me as a martyr as I was going to prison. It was just basic shit as a human, as a citizen. It really does alarm me the extent to which people come to me and say basically thank you for your service.
GH: Yeah, [01:21:24]
BB: Really, I’ve gone through very little compared to what someone in WW2 did. One of the main things that we’ve done aside from frameworks, aside from learning lessons about tactics and so forth what needs to be done is, there needs to be a very self-confident, self-assertive, perhaps even bullying movement to get people to accept that [01:21:54] self-sacrifice absolutely a hundred percent will be necessary.
In the absence of a rule of law, the absence of institutions that work and are fair and are decent and can justify themselves. What happens is you have something along the lines of chivalry or feudalism. You have trust networks, which are fine things to have, you have adventurers, [01:22:24] you have a heroic age.
A heroic age sounds fun, it sounds really cool, but it is not the ideal thing and it is what I’ve been preparing for and what you have been preparing for. There is time in which we have adventures and people who strike out against, but it is not ideal but any means, and so as much as I enjoy it, as much as I enjoy being a Homeric hero, not a hero in the positive American bullshit sense, like you saved people from our plane, but the trickster Odysseus, you know, [01:22:54]. That’s just not ideal. It’s not.
I have benefitted from all this. The money I’ve made in the last 10 years, what little there’s been, and the status I’ve gained has all been on the backs of the public who have been the true victims of all the things that I’m complaining about.
I came out of this smelling like a rose. It is the public in the US and in Yemen and in [01:23:24] every other country in the world who would have better benefited from a more open and less corrupt less insane authoritarian world.
They’re the ones who have suffered due to the sins of our opponents in different spheres. And so, I try to reiterate that because there’s a certain kind of person who finds it difficult to understand.
They can’t imagine why anyone can object to injustice unless it’s because they themselves are whining about it. [01:23:55] If it seems like a weird thing to bring up because I’m thinking very clearly of a number of our colleagues and the press, I’ve become more neurotic in the last couple years I’ll tell you that. I was always pretty neurotic, but always fun.
GH: I want to kind of clear something up. When you say rule of law, you’re not talking about the general sense of there are laws and the people have to deal with it. You’re talking about the ideal. [01:24:25]
BB: I’m an anarchist who longs for a republic. Look, I’m an anarchist because I have so little faith in the ability of most human beings at this point in time and probably in all time before us to maintain the ideals that they are so ready to assume that they practice. So, I’m a conservative Anarchist. I’m an anarchist not out of utopianism but out pessimism and out of experience increasingly.
[01:24:55] To me the rule of law is a beautiful idea. Government is a beautiful idea. There’s a difference between professing something and just everyone papering over something as we did for the last 20 years before [01:25:25] the Trump thing kind of knocked some sense into people and made them realize that just saying, oh we’re a unified America, we’re the Obama speech of 2004.
We are a divided nation, and we should be. Europe was divided in 1938 and it should have been. There are battle lines. They don’t happen to coincide with national borders at this point, but hopefully some day they will. [01:25:55]
GH: Very rarely have they. I mean look at Libya as a fine example of a set of borders that don’t actually work and don’t actually maintain any level of peace. in fact, they inflict damage on the people just by where they exist. So, our national borders have always been a bit of a problem.
BB: It’s the ethos which reminds us again how important ethos is and how easy it is to establish an ethos, but our ethos of American exceptionalism, [01:26:25] and just the narrative that has been allowed to exist even after it’s been nullified and contradicted over and over again over the last four or five decades. That is such an act of violence to allow that ethos.
Contrary to all actual facts, contrary to the situation globally and domestically, that has been the greatest act of violence perpetuated in our lifetime, even greater than the Arab genocide that our country has perpetuated [01:26:55] since I was in third grade.
I say that again and it may sound like I’m getting kind of crankish because I’m going to have these weird new emphasis as I keep reiterating in strange ways. But the reason for it I hope this will be better illustrated with the book which will be coming out in a few months finally.
I hope you will be better able to understand why I’m so freaked out and why I’m so focused on this. What seemed [01:27:25] to be kind of obvious things that maybe need to be repeated.
GH: So over here in America where you have so wonderfully left me, we have Nazis in the streets and in every major city and you’re now over [01:27:55] there having fun with all the Brexiters. So it’s not like you’ve completely left this level of insanity behind.
BB: I’m loyal to the queen I’ll tell you that
GH: As loyal as Australia
BB: Fuck Australia. Here’s a great thing about England. And again, I’ve had ties to England to an unusual extent for 12 years. I started writing for the Guardian 2009 and so forth and even before that. So, I’ve dealt with a lot of brits over the years and I’ve come to admire them in certain ways.
When you come over here and you meet like the guy upstairs who is Scottish, your random neighbor, just a random guy and you start talking about politics and he is totally cognizant of things that in the U.S people have to go to IRC chat to find [01:28:55] people who are cognizant in these things. You realize that a percent of this country is on a high level of awareness and ability to articulate their views versus like maybe 20 percent in the US, you start to realize, ‘Boy I sure am glad I let Gregg Housh back in the US and came here to England. Fuck Gregg Housh.
GH: I have as much money as I always had, none. You are of anyone who is not related to me, the person I’ve spent the most money on in my entire life.
Two of the computers that [01:30:25] the government stole from you during various raids and whatnot I had purchased and so I felt like I was being stolen from as well, it was just horrible.
I will say I loved your mom. I loved the time we got to spend down in Dallas. So, one of the things I’ve told people is I love going down there and actually staying in her guest room because it’s nicer than my house. She is a [01:30:55] wonderful person.
BB: Yeah, you like the cowhide barstools? And the western cowpoke art?
GH: She doesn’t just live in Texas. She like is that Texas mother
BB: She is that Texas mother. Yes.
GH: Yeah. So, you have a book coming. You’ve been working on this for quite a while originally, we started on one long ago that didn’t end up going anywhere.
BB: So, this book, I started writing it in prison and it’s finally been completed and sent in. There’s something else. I have this whole little thing I’m executing here with this book and elsewhere in which I have chosen to [01:31:55] further fortify my position vis-à-vis the US government to the press by putting out some information about my prosecutor Candida Heath.
The same one who presided over this cover-up over Michael Hastings and his files. Someone who I resent quite a bit. We were approached a few months ago by an individual in Dallas, a black individual who had [01:32:25] had several very bizarre encounters with Candina Heath and her husband, and a third person who I won’t mention here because they are not a public figure, and who made some claims that we saw and then followed them up with some links to some things and then a video.The video was being sold on amazon.com by digital download.
It turns out the Candida Heath [01:32:55] former Assistant USDA for the Northern District of Texas and current senior counsel for the DOJ’s internet evidence division, which is to say that she is in control of vast amounts of the evidence that is used in DOJ cases, and is also involved very closely as we’ve seen in documents recently, in International security related cases involving Russian hackers.
She has a great deal of blackmailable material out [01:33:25] on her that we now have because we were given it by one of her victims. It turns out that Candina Heath, this long time DOJ stalwart who tried to get me to, for those of you who are not familiar with this, tried to get me to plead to a linking charge for copying and pasting a link to information that was stolen from STRATFOR.
Had I plead to it which I didn’t thank God, it would have allowed the DOJ to go after anybody, journalists’, researchers, whatever for copying and pasting links in the future [01:33:55] which would have been vastly disastrous as the EFF and other organizations around the world pointed out back then.
It turns out she is into secretly filming herself having sex with black men, filming without their consent. One of her victims came forward with this stuff and then his Twitter account was deleted after he came forward with it. My Facebook account was deleted. [01:34:26] Long story short we have a 25-minute video that she produced, she was involved in producing, and that was being sold under a different name. She goes by the Queen of Spades in the pornography world. Spades for those who aren’t familiar is an archaic racist term for blacks.
Audio disconnected due to shenanigans.
AMA 1 — Heath
Heath is legendary for trying to establish dangerous precedents and engaging in overreach, most notably when I was prosecuted for the link but also in other, lesser known cases before and since. Regardless of what one thinks of the fascist little ex-Marine who was trying to give Eichenwald a seizure, Heath is a greater threat to our society than almost anyone she’s prosecuted. See the gag order hearing, when, as widely reported, Heath tried to stop me from writing due to a piece I’d done for The Guardian on the Snowden revelations having been “critical of the government” with a “tone” that was “a problem.” There’s lots more, much of which has been covered in the press, some of which will be in my book (many of the key documents are still not public).
AMA 2 — Press
Column — Friedman
Unfortunately, the mainstream press didn’t really have the gravity or the integrity of action to prevent other, even worse outlets from popping up. Had the New York Times not continued to employ Thomas Friedman even after it became clear that he was less than worthless in terms of explaining world politics, they would have more room to make their own case. Same thing with the Washington Post and Charles Krauthammer, who, as I showed in an old Vanity Fair online piece, was wrong about every U.S. military engagement since Kosovo. Those aren’t the only problems with these respectable national outlets, of course, but they’re very telling regarding the cowardice of editors and publishers who continued to promote incompetent commentators simply because they’ve made some vague name for themselves.
And of course WaPo’s failed attempt to identify some website that could sort out “fake news” is indicative of the chief fact of our press culture — that much of how it operates is haphazard at best, and that falsehoods can creep in to any outlets, regardless of pedigree, if its operators lose track of basic principles such as hiring competent people and firing incompetent ones. Personal relationships, inertia, ambition, and that sort of things are the chief problems facing our political press, rather than corporate interference or anything else of that sort.
To first question — that’s the most important question of our age, really, since there is a huge amount of talent, energy, and outrage that is going to waste for want of a reliable mechanism to harvest that energy. The purpose of the pursuance project, which provides a framework for “process democracy” whereby anyone may create their own civic entity for research, movement work, opposition, and the like, is to provide a better answer than currently exists. It takes some of the lessons we’ve learned over the last 15 years of net-facilitated revolutions abroad as well as effective campaigns in the West, facilitated by Anonymous and the like, and tries to maintain the fluidity, the agility, and the ability of anyone to have their ideas aired and acted upon, while also adding a degree of rigor to the process.
Check out that presentation I link to towards end of my post above and send it out to anyone else you know who’s interested in taking responsibility for the broken institutions that act in our name.