Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon of Sputnik Radio's By Any Means Necessary spoke to Barrett Brown, a celebrated journalist and activist for freedom of information. Brown spent four years in federal prison for his work alongside hacktivist group Anonymous.
"I don't see how any of the scenarios inform us, one way or the other, about the Russian angle. Anybody who's claiming that this shows that anyone was working with Russia, I think, is over-reading things. I certainly haven't seen it, and I follow the Russian connections pretty closely."
Brown, who spent six months under intense FBI scrutiny over his associations with hacktivist groups like Anonymous and LulzSec, lent some of his expertise in the lifestyle and habits of a fugitive. "The other thing is these conversations took place over Twitter DMs, and when people… are under surveillance and under pursuit, as I have been, they will change communication methods in the middle of conversations — something I've done a number of times."
"It has to be remembered that these may be the entirety of WikiLeaks communications with Donald Trump, Jr. — or it may not. It may be the entirety of WikiLeaks communications with the Trump campaign in general — and it may not. That's something we may learn more about as some of these people get indicted and making deals, which they will."
"Obviously the important thing is that the FBI investigation," said Brown. "They have actual documents, we're not going to have to depend on anyone's opinion or testimony. We're going to see a lot more about what communications occurred. These communications between Assange and Donald Trump, Jr., they tell us a lot about a particular subject. They don't tell us much at all about these other subjects."
Brown himself voiced support for the notion of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, although he added that he was open to changing his mind. "Ever since really the election itself, there was enough involving Manafort and Carter Page and Roger Stone and some other things I was hearing, that when I've started to hear about this idea of collusion between Trump and Russia, it struck me as plausible. These publicly documented financial transactions and secret meetings that were paid for and lied about, that kind of thing. I think the theory holds its own, as we keep seeing all these things that should not have been there if it's at a theory just made up out of whole cloth."
"A lot of the people who were and have continued to assess this as collusion have been acting in good faith. They're not just looking at existing information and extrapolating from that, they're finding patterns that would later reveal more evidence and stuff that happened. What we publicly know doesn't amount to a full comprehensive case of collusion, but it does point in that direction."
But, Brown added, even if there is collusion between the Trump team and Russia (which has consistently denied any such thing) it doesn't mean much. If anything, it would make Trump's team the norm for Washington these days.
"We're getting a better a better view of what happens when we have a very complex and very consequential state apparatus. Elements of other countries can use that apparatus for their own ends, and there's plenty of people on this side who will happily cater to those people. We're seeing a lot of that — Paul Manafort is a great example, but we already had some pretty good examples. The Bush family, for instance, which goes back to Saudi Arabia…. Even what was publicly known and generally understood was pretty egregious."
"Beyond that, we have got nations like Bahrain which use companies like Corvus in DC as an extension of their state apparatus. Corvus does propaganda and [public relations] for Bahrain. When the ambassador from Bahrain does interviews with the Washington Post, a representative of Corvus must be in the room. They go out, and they try to discredit pro-democracy opposition membership."
"People in this country will absolutely take money from Saudi Arabia, or Bahrain, or whatever other country," Brown said. "They would sell surveillance apparatus to the previous regime of Tunisia or Egypt to help them identify dissenters and torture them. So we have this web of people who are from a nation, technically, but are of all worlds and are happy to to make themselves helpful to whatever dictatorship or whatever will pay them."