Raw documents concerning FBI informant Jennifer Emick, HBGary, Sam Biddle, Special Agent Daniel Borsuk, and Anonymous

Bloomberg panel on cyber security, a few months before I was dragged to prison by a SWAT team, and a few months after FBI first executed search warrant over my work

May 7 2012 — Sam Biddle, then with Gizmodo/Gawker, asks me to email him. Turns out he’s writing about the admitted FBI informant Jennifer Emick, who as Biddle will note in his resulting article worked for “secret clients” (mostly HBGary, starting after Anonymous hack that reveals the Themis scandal in Feb 2011; her correspondence with the firm’s executives was hacked around this time by the obscure hacking crew UGNazi, while her chats with her FBI handler are now also available). I provide him with a lengthy treatise on what she’d been caught lying about in her claims to other press over last year, plus documentation of her habit of harassing family members of suspected Anons and even an ex-girlfriend of mine who praised the Anonymous Tunisia campaign on Twitter. Nothing of what I told him made it into the article; indeed, things I’d refuted were nonetheless published. It was an odd incident; later, Biddle would celebrate my sentencing — making him one of two prominent media professionals known to have done so, with the other one being white nationalist Robert Stacy McCain, whom I’d doggedly pursued in my earlier years and who likewise did much to present Emick’s falsehoods as truth, even allowing her to write blog posts about me and related matters.

On Mon, May 7, 2012 at 2:39 PM, Sam Biddle <sbiddle@gizmodo.com> wrote

Thanks for the quick reply. I’m actually just wondering if you can provide me with a quick overview of your relationship with Jennifer Emick, and how she’s become such a target within the community. thanks, sam

— Sam Biddle Staff Writer, Gizmodo Twitter: Sam Biddle

— — — Forwarded Message — — — — Subject:Re: Barrett hereDate: Mon, 7 May 2012 16:17:53 -0500From:Barrett Brown <barriticus@gmail.com>To:Sam Biddle <sbiddle@gizmodo.com>

Well, it would be difficult to give a brief overview on that, as this
actually goes back years to when she was involved in Chanology and got
into some massive dispute with other participants. I wasn’t around
then, as I only got involved with Anonymous when OpTunisia began. I
first encountered her under her Twitter handle “FakeGreggHoush” -
Gregg Housh is one of the guys who helped to launch Chanology and was
outed by the Church afterwards, and she blames him for whatever went
down back then. I’m assuming you’ve talked to her, in which case she
will have probably told you that Housh is responsible for any number
of terrible things that happened to her back then. She will have also
told you a number of things about me. One of the things she’ll
probably have told you is that I threatened her. This is true in a
sense; I threatened to “dox” her after she had spent the day
attempting to dox various Anonymous participants, all of whom she
terms “criminals” and occasionally “terrorists.” She claims to have
given the message I left her to the FBI, which is probably true; she’s
an FBI informant of some sort, or at any rate has been in perpetual
contact with a special agent to the FBI who has been looking into
matters relating to Anonymous for a while. Recently she claimed on her
Twitter account — which is now changed to “AsheraResearch” — that I
tried to hack her phone.

The thing about Emick is that she denied being “FakeGreggHoush” for
almost a year, and denied being the “Asherah” behind Backtrace
Security. Those of us who claimed that she was, and who pointed to her
personal disputes with a handful of others as the likely source of her
obsession with the movement, she constantly dismissed as “idiots.”
When a profile was done on me and my early work with Anonymous on the
matters of Tunisia and HBGary, she again claimed not to be Emick and
cited some other person as her real identity. Later she publicly
threatened to “expose” the writer, Tim Rogers, to his editor for some
unspecified thing. Incidentally, that article just won the National
Magazine Award a few days ago. And, of course, she spoke at Defcon
last year, thereby confirming that she was in fact Jennifer Emick. Her
explanation for having concealed her identity was that she was afraid
for her life, which probably wouldn’t explain why she was nonetheless
willing to show up at a convention full of Anons. If you’d like to
know more about the ways in which she leveraged this untruth into a
means of libeling others, you might want to speak to “Laurelai,” or
“Stuxnetsource” on Twitter, who was one of the people she convinced of
this.

The other person I would suggest you speak to is her former “partner”
in Backtrace Security, who went by “Hubris” and spoke with her at
Defcon and other conferences. They had a sort of splitting up
recently, and apparently she’s threatening to sue him over the company
name. She’ll tell you that he’s recently suffered a nervous breakdown.
I see no evidence of his; having had to deal with him when he’s come
into some of the collaborative documents we were using for
investigations last year, he doesn’t seem to be acting any differently
now then he did back then. He’s backtracesec on Twitter, and not long
ago he published e-mail correspondence between the two of them that
will give you a sense of their activities together.

I really would have preferred not to be involved in all of this, but I
was very upset at the very haphazard way in which she was going after
people who involved themselves in the Anon movement. One of them was a
woman with whom I had a sort of relationship and who was very
enthusiastic about the Arab Spring operations; one of Emick’s partners
threatened to dox her and her 16-year-old daughter last year, and of
course Emick — who was still denying that she was Emick — defended
this as reasonable since the woman was allegedly “consorting with
criminals.” Here is a link to conversations I had with Emick, under
her name “Asherah,” around that time, as well as with one of her
partners, Zud: http://pastebin.com/yPvN5TFL

She actually posted the entirety of this conversation herself from her
Twitter for “context,” so its authenticity is not disputed. If you ask
her about the incident, she will now claim that my girlfriend is 24
years old, and thus it’s impossible for her to have a child that old -
something she said a few weeks ago on her Twitter feed. She is
thinking of an entirely different girlfriend, who is referenced in an
article about me, and who I’m not longer dating. That’s one of the
problems with her approach to “investigating” people — she will not
admit to mistakes. See the conversation linked to above for a better
sense of that.

Finally, I will note, and her estranged partner will confirm (as he
has done on Twitter recently), that Emick collaborated with executives
at HBGary — Greg Hoglund and Jim Butterworth — against Anonymous after
the episode in which HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr wrongly announced
that he had discovered Anon’s leadership, and HBGary was hacked, with
the e-mails revealing a series of conspiracies whereby Barr and others
were planning to set up activist groups for fraud. Apparently she was
never paid for her work despite turning in an invoice, but I can’t
confirm that. All of this was suspected for a while, but only
confirmed recently after the UGNazi group hacked her e-mails and
released portions of them. Likely she will tell you that some of them
are real but some of them are fake; HBGary made the same claim when
their own e-mails were released a year ago. Apparently she signed an
NDA with them, which is understandable; Aaron Barr, with whom she
appears to have been in contact as well, is also restricted from
talking about what he did at the company, although a great deal of
that is of course known by the e-mails, and what the e-mails show is a
pattern of extraordinary dishonesty and a willingness to set up
activists using techniques that are still relatively unknown, and thus
impossible to defend against. Here are the FBI/Emick e-mails that the
hacker group released: http://ugnazi.com/dumps/pics/FBI/

The reason I have to keep up with all of this is that I was raided by
the FBI last March, and there’s some sort of sealed affidavit as well.
I have no way of knowing how much of Emick’s “work” for the agency
contributes to whatever they might think I did — as you’ll see in the
conversation, she was in the habit of gloating about how I would be
imprisoned — but my concern is that she has been quite wrong about a
number of matters, has nothing to lose by being wrong, and clearly has
a very strong psychological need to feel a degree of triumph over
those associated with Anonymous, regardless of whether or not the
means of that triumph are ethical or truthful. And of course the FBI
didn’t seem to have any problem using someone as a “witness” or
whatever she was to them who was also harassing many of the very same
people, lying about them, and all the rest.

If you any specific questions about any of this, please feel free to
ask. As you can probably tell, this is a complex story, and to the
extent that you look into it, you’re going to find a lot of bizarre
little departures. I don’t doubt that Emick has been the victim of
some terrible behavior, and I’m sure she’s upset about the ways in
which the internet can be cruel, but she’s very clearly taking out her
frustrations on a large number of people who got involved with
Anonymous for positive reasons, who have nothing to do with whatever
disputes she had years ago, and who aren’t used to having to contend
with someone who has so much time on her hands and so little concern
for those who might be unfairly targeted by her own network of people,
some of whom are very cruel indeed.

Sam Biddle’s resulting article was widely panned by everyone with knowledge of the situation — even including another FBI informant who knew Jen and worked with the same handler to track Anonymous activity, as seen in the below excerpt of an email sent to Biddle (and later leaked, along with additional correspondence, by a third FBI informant working under the very same handler as the other two, to whom she’d sent a copy).

Neither this nor another message containing links to logs refuting some of Jen’s story were enough to get Biddle to make any corrections to an article that served only to discredit an activist movement of which dozens of suspected participants had been raided at gunpoint by FBI agents for possible roles in DDOS attacks on MasterCard’s corporate website, for instance (40 U.S. households were hit in late January alone). As of today, the article itself has been read by over 270,000 people and cited elsewhere in the press. It was one of HBGary’s greatest victories, coming as it did while many of us were facing the prospect of decades in prison and would depend upon public awareness to raise legal funds and challenge dangerous precedents sought by the DOJ, such as occurred in my case. That the individual cited as having made the most explicit threats against Emick was in fact Emick’s own former partner, an ex-military man whom she’d happily sicced not only on Anons, or those wrongly believed to be Anons, but also their families, and in some cases their children.

In his defense, Biddle did offer Hallissey a chance to respond to his piece. It is telling that this offer was extended to another FBI informant, and not to me or anyone else belonging to the movement that Biddle broke every journalistic convention in order to libel.

Two snitches will provide balance

A few years later, when I was sentenced against a backdrop of widespread sympathy for my case and renewed attention to the research that my volunteers at Project PM and I had conducted without pay, pursued by our subjects, Biddle celebrated the additional two years I was made to serve, along with the $890,000 restitution added by the judge regarding a hack overseen by the FBI itself. He also got my charges wrong, then made a correction; he still left one out, this being the one they had settled on to justify the case itself — accessory after the fact for calling the executives of Stratfor and offering to arrange for the hackers to redact anything in the emails they’d stolen that might get the firm’s contacts abroad injured or killed. Biddle was not overly scrupulous about any of this:

Way back in 2011, things were going very well for Barrett Brown, a hacker groupie-cum-journalist who’d made some friends in Anonymous, the once-fearsome online collective. Today, he was sentenced to 63 months in prison after aiding them in their reign of crimes and bullshit theatrics.

Most of his links went to articles by Adrian Chen, of whom I have written more elsewhere. The one establishing “crimes” led to his article on the March 2012 FBI raid in which the feds searched my apartment and then my mother’s home in the course of carrying out a search warrant. As Biddle’s polar opposite number Michael Hastings pointed out in Buzzfeed, and as Chen naturally failed to note, the warrant listed Project PM’s website, the firm Endgame Systems — and HBGary, for which Biddle had done such a favor already.

A few years after that, both Biddle and I were writing for The Intercept — myself as a columnist who often wrote from the hole, where I was held for “investigations” and sometimes actual offenses like possessing a cup of hooch; Biddle in my old beat, covering firms like Palantir, though nary with a mention of the conspiracy against the press and the public itself that tied it to HBGary and left my friends and I as the ultimate casualties, with my mom sentenced as collateral damage. Lately, Biddle’s Palantir articles have failed to even mention the Cambrige Analytica scandal it was caught in just a year prior. But his most notable story was that of Reality Winner, which he was given to work on with several colleagues just two years after chortling over my own fate, and five since smoothing the way for it with Emick.

Happily I would win the National Magazine Award while in prison. A few months ago I burned it. Sadly, I could only burn it once.

***

Jennifer Emick (Asherah) explains why she gets to look into the children of political enemies, just like her employers at HBGary. I pasted this convo — which was also logged and made party of my discovery — shortly after the conversation occurred in late March or early April 2011. Emick at this point was still denying being Asherah, and vice versa. It starts with a brief intro, in italics.

Banned from everywhere

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store