Continued from page 1

Barrett Brown is not a hacker. He is not a criminal,” said Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit that defends press freedom. “[He] was an investigative journalist who was merely doing his professional duty by looking into the Stratfor emails, an affair of public interest.”

The group’s general secretary, Christophe Deloire, said Thursday that the 105-year prison sentence Mr. Brown faces is “absurd and dangerous,” noting that Jeremy Hammond, who pleaded guilty for the actual hack on Stratfor, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

“Threatening a journalist with a possible century-long jail sentences is a scary prospect for journalists investigating the intelligence government contractor industry,” Mr. Deloire said.

Mr. Gallagher said the charges “criminalize anyone who links to original source documents,” as Mr. Brown did to a cache of emails and other data stolen from Stratfor by Hammond. He said Mr. Brown faces obstruction of justice charges because he refused to tell authorities where his laptop is.

“That is criminalizing reporting,” he said. “He didn’t want to give up his sources.”

Mr. Gallagher said the campaign is gathering momentum but needs to raise at least $190,000 to cover the legal costs of the trial, expected to start in September.

He linked Mr. Brown’s case to others, like that of Aaron Swartz, a hacker who killed himself in January after being indicted by a federal prosecutor for hacking into computers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“These overprosecutions contribute to an atmosphere where people don’t feel comfortable” with law enforcement or intelligence officials present, he said.

Not everyone agrees.

DefCon speaker Matt Joyce accuses Mr. Moss of “burning bridges” at “a moment in our nation’s history when a great deal is at stake.”

“There’s a hell of a lot of people working in or for the federal government. Most of those folks, are perfectly fine and decent human beings,” he wrote.

Others are more cynical.

“I think it’s good PR to create media controversy to sell more tickets,” said former hacker Kevin Mitnick. “Jeff works for the Feds, doesn’t he?”

Indeed, Mr. Moss is in many ways a poster child for the recent embrace of hacker culture by the computer security establishment, in both the government and private sectors.

He is the chief security officer for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit that doles out domain names, and is a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Story Continues →