Federal prosecutors in Texas have moved to drop all but one of the 12 fraud charges against Barrett Brown, a writer charged with crimes that involved data stolen by a member of Anonymous.
In a motion to dismiss (.PDF), the government today offered no reason for the move. Brown still faces a single charge of possession of stolen credit card numbers with intent to defraud, and a separate indictment for threatening an FBI agent.
The move comes a day after Brown’s defense attorneys filed a 48-page motion to dismiss the charges against him, on grounds that the government failed to substantiate that Brown had committed a crime. It also comes just as the Electronic Frontier Foundation was preparing to file an amicus brief next Monday on behalf of several journalism groups that have expressed support for Brown.
Brown, whose prosecution threatened to become a First Amendment test case, was charged with 12 counts centered around a link he posted in a chat room that pointed to a file containing data stolen from the intelligence firm Stratfor, or Strategic Forecasting. The data, stolen by Jeremy Hammond, a member of the loosely affiliated Anonymous collective, included company emails as well as credit card numbers belonging to subscribers of Stratfor’s service.
On Saturday, gun rights advocates will be organizing at least 121 rallies across the country in a “day of resistance” to President Obama’s gun violence prevention proposals. But some tea party activists are questioning the credentials of the group organizing the rallies, a Mesa, Arizona-based outfit called theteaparty.net that’s been criticized as a data-harvesting operation designed to vacuum up contact information and credit card numbers from unsuspecting and largely clueless conservative activists. They’ve complained that the group raises tons of money under the tea party name but doesn’t spend much to further the movement, and they’re skeptical of its move into the gun debate.
Robin Stublen, a Florida tea party activist and gun owner, is suspicious of the Day of Resistance event. “All my life I have been around guns of some sort,” he says. “Some are truly works of art. I respect them. I would never think of using them as the next political toy to make a fast buck. I seriously doubt if any of these so-called ‘leaders’ could tell the business end of a gun, let alone take them apart and clean them. They are opportunists and should be ignored.”
theteapary.net was founded by Todd Cefaratti, an Arizona man who is the CEO of a “lead generation” company for the reverse-mortgage industry and who has inserted himself into tea party politics in recent years. In 2011, theteaparty.net sponsored a truck at NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, and it made a big splash by sponsoring a tea party “unity rally” at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, last year. It’s been a sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference in DC this year and last, raising its profile among conservative activists.
Hacker collective Anonymous has just dumped 200 GB of names, email addresses and passwords for around 860,000 Stratfor users. Anonymous also exposed credit card numbers for 75,000 paying customers of Stratfor.
Stratfor, a security think tank, provides reports on international security and related threats to government and military personnel as well as to the private sector.
It is unknown whether Anonymous gained access to other, more sensitive information during the Stratfor hacks, which occurred on December 24.
“The time for talk is over,” wrote Anonymous last night on Pastebin.
“It’s time to dump the full 75,000 names, addresses, CCs and md5 hashed passwords to every customer that has ever paid Stratfor. But that’s not all: we’re also dumping ~860,000 usernames, email addresses, and md5 hashed passwords for everyone who’s ever registered on Stratfor’s site… Did you notice 50,000 of these email addresses are .mil and .gov?”
Anonymous’ motives for the attack are also somewhat hazy. In last night’s statement, representatives of the movement wrote, “All our lives we have been robbed blindly and brutalized by corrupted politicians, establishmentarians and government agencies sex shops, and now it’s time to take it back.”
In addition to the Stratfor attack and exposure, Anonymous is threatening a new action on New Year’s Eve, December 31.
A five-day trial for a Lafayette psychic accused of stealing thousands of dollars from clients opened Monday.
Nancy Marks, 55, owned Psychic Reading, 707 S. Public Road, in Lafayette. She is accused of 14 counts of theft and two counts of tax evasion.
According to police and court records, seven victims told police that Marks said she needed their cash to “draw out the bad energy” and their credit card numbers to see how frequently the number 6 appeared. Marks then refused to return the cash and used the credit cards to make purchases at Macy’s, Target and Sears, the police report said.
Marks is accused of stealing almost $300,000.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Foote told a jury of six men and six women that Marks preyed on vulnerable people and moved slowly and carefully in order to build trust.
She didn’t start out by asking for large amounts of money, Foote said. Rather, she would first suggest a meditation session or that a client use particular bath salts. Then, she would suggest that clients withdraw money in particular denominations and perform minor rituals with it themselves.
When the clients’ personal problems continued, Marks would suggest more “work” was needed and ask them to give her the money for safekeeping. One a few occasions, she returned small amounts in an attempt to pacify an angry former client, but the majority of the money was never returned, Foote said.
Valve’s Steam gaming forums were apparently defaced this past weekend and the company is investigating whether the intruders who broke into the digital distribution network made off with Steam users’ credit card numbers and personally identifying information, according to a message sent to customers.