In search of the elusive press apology
I suppose you remember me from 2011?
I was with Anonymous, and your partner Ravi Somaiya came to me for info on OpCartel. I tried to send you along to the Mexican activists overseeing it, but you wanted me talking about it.
Then you ran an article stating the kidnapping as fact, which, as is now better established, it actually was.
At the time, I wrote to you, regarding the question of whether such a thing should be reported as fact, “Obviously if I were functioning as a journalist, that wouldn’t be sufficient.”
Later you expressed regret on Twitter that you’d reported it as fact.
A few days after that you wrote another article with Ravi in which you note that there’s been contradictory information about all this, etc, and it’s all quite a mystery, though you never get around to stating that you yourself reported it as fact, and did so after talking to some of the same people I did, whom I’d directed you to.
Then, based on ideas you note to have seen on Twitter, you claim me to be the “self-appointed Anonymous spokesman”, which is not actually a fact, as I’d noted for months and months, in magazine articles and TV interviews, etc; and suggest that my “book contract to write about Anonymous” is relevant to my attempt to do something with whatever materials I could get from the Mexican Anons.
Technically I did have that contract, but it was to serve as co-writer on a book about Gregg Housh, the guy who originally asked me to help deal with the press, and his own life and history with Anonymous, as could have been determined rather easily from the book announcements and articles from other reporters who actually did manage to determine that. And that might well have made it clear that I obviously had little to gain in that instance from things I did myself.
Also, this passage: “Why, some might wonder, would Mr. Brown, presumably a real person using his a real name, go public with this information, given the risk?” … seems to imply that you’re not entirely certain that I’m a real person with a real name, even though I was, at that time, a journalist who’d written for a large number of publications, in addition to the work I was doing for free, like trying to get NYT to pay closer attention to Palantir and Archimedes and other firms I’d been researching which later went on to undermine the 2016 election. I suppose this also helpes to imply you couldn’t get in touch with me to give me a chance to respond, whereas of course the reality was I couldn’t get rid of you two.
Anyway, I went to prison, got out, and found that Adrian Chen was somehow now writing about these same subjects.
[Link to 2014 piece on Adrian Chen showing his attempts to buy stolen emails from hackers he’d later report on without noting this intimate detail]
Anyway, I hope you’ll try to be more careful in the future.
- [redacted]: Hey , hope you’re well.
- me: indeed
- [redacted]: Just wondering if this Mexico thing today is bullshit. Have you heard anything?
- me: it’s not at all bullshit
- 5:19 PM [redacted]: I mean the rumour that a woman has been released by the Zetas.
- me: I don’t know about it being a woman, necessarily, but the release did apparently occur, but not in response to the op; the person was not known by the Zetas to be the Anon
- 5:20 PM This person can tell you more
- [e-mail redacted]
- I’m not sure what other details I can give out at this point
- [redacted]: Who is that person?
- The email address, I mean
- 5:21 PM me: a Mexican Anon whom I’ve been working with on this
- [description redacted]
- 5:22 PM [redacted]: Can you tell me, off the record, any details about the person who was taken? I’m not going to publish even the hint of a detail, as I don’t want to endanger a life. But it would help in researching.
- me: and perhaps more as other informants come to me as a result of the media coverage
- I cannot, you’ll have to ask this Mexican Anon
- 5:23 PM [redacted]: What evidence have you seen that the kidnap really happened?
- 5:24 PM me: None, nor would I have expected to as we have no intention of providing a chance that the person could be identified
- however, this other person might be able to tell you more.
- [redacted]: But if the person couldn’t be identified, how could the Zetas respond to the threat?
- 5:25 PM me: These Anons assumed that the Zetas knew who it was
- But obviously they had no way of knowing the exact situation
- 5:27 PM [redacted]: So, just to clarify: an Anon was taken by the Zetas. The video was released, then the Anon was released, but because the Anon was never identified it is not clear if it is linked to the op.
- me: That’s basically it, yes. But you really should check with [redacted]
- 5:28 PM [redacted]: I definitely will, thanks for the email address.
- me: no problem
- [redacted]: I’m going to ask a stupid question.
- If no one has any evidence a person was kidnapped, how do you know a person was kidnapped?
- 5:29 PM me: I’m relying on the account of someone I’ve known and worked with in the past and whom I believe to be telling the truth based on the nature of her responses as well as other details I can’t go into due to the present situation
- 5:30 PM Obviously if I were functioning as a journalist, that wouldn’t be sufficient. But in this case…
- 5:31 PM We already have journalists looking too fucking closely into who the person is, including a review of Mexican records, and as such we’re very reluctant to assist them in finding out more.
- [redacted]: But a responsible journalist won’t run the name.
- So what difference does it make?
- 5:32 PM me: If you take a few minutes to think about the process by which such a name would come up and the nature of the situation in Mexico, and concede that mistakes occur in journalism, you can probably guess.
- [redacted]: True.
- 5:33 PM me: Again, this would be of greater concern to me if the U.S. media bothered to pay attention to those larger issues on which I have already produced evidence.
- As it is, we don’t really need the trust of the media insomuch as that most of our operations are fait accompli when reported
- 5:34 PM So, we are confronted with the decision between risking someone’s life and proving that a person exists to reporters with whom we already have an ambivalent relationship
- [redacted]: I can see your argument.
- 5:35 PM But if you take me, for example, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that might make you think I’m not trustworthy with sensitive information.
- me: At any rate, even I have few details on this, so even if I wanted to — and of course I’d be happy to have this confirmed rather than have my outlets deem me untrustworthy — there’s nothing I could do.
- 5:36 PM No, you’re the exact opposite.
- The Times can be trusted to withhold even information that is of public concern.
- 5:37 PM [redacted]: Ha — I can understand your frustration, but the NYT’s news sense and yours will not always align.
- me: That’s true.
- [redacted]: But sometimes it will, obviously.
- 5:38 PM me: But again, I have few details to provide anyway, so I don’t want to waste your time on that particular issue.
- 5:39 PM [redacted]: Fair enough. Any details whatsoever — however minor — would be appreciated if you are so minded.
- me: Nothing more I can say about the kidnapping victim. I suggest you talk to [redacted] about it.
[Note: Despite consistent explanations to the Times and other outlets that no one was in a position to confirm the kidnappings, they were reported as fact by the paper — a decision the reporter later expressed regret for on his Twitter account, thereby helping to spawn a narrative to the effect that the original claims were now somehow under dispute. They were later claimed to be a hoax by at least one outlet, Gawker. Months later, Anonymous Veracruz participants would reveal to the Mexican press why they were initially reluctant to provide identifying details about the kidnap victim, who had spoken via webcam with several prominent activists after being released — that he had been involved in selling marijuana and his kidnapping stemmed from a dispute with a “minor” Zeta operative]