Most charges against Brown to be dropped

The U.S. government filed a motion to dismiss most of its criminal case against self-
proclaimed Anonymous spokesman and journalist Barrett Brown — including all charges related to a hyperlink Brown had posted that pointed readers to online files where they could access thousands of stolen credit card numbers.

Besides carrying the threat of significant jail time for Brown, the charges raised broader First Amendment issues: Are journalists complicit in a crime when they point people to illicit information?

Brown’s hyperlink was posted in his Internet relay chat channel in 2011 and led Web users to information stemming from an Anonymous hack of Strategic Forecasting, which resulted in the leak of thousands of credit card numbers and hundreds of thousands of e-mails from Stratfor’s customers. The same hyperlink had already appeared in a separate chat room.

Brown was arrested nearly a year later in 2012. Civil liberty and First Amendment groups protested. “The right of journalists — or anyone for that matter — to link to already-public information, including sensitive information, is in serious jeopardy if Brown is convicted,” wrote Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury in a blog post about the case.

Despite the motion by the government Wednesday, Brown still faces one charge of possessing stolen credit card numbers from the original indictment as well as charges for allegedly concealing evidence from the FBI and making threats against an FBI agent. Before he was arrested, Brown posted a YouTube video titled: “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe.”

Brown still faces the possibility of significant jail time. According to news reports, the maximum sentences on the remaining charges amount to 70 years.

— Andrea Peterson

Venture will finance
women in business

Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein was in Washington on Wednesday to help the World Bank launch a $600 million fund to finance women-owned businesses in developing countries.

The Wall Street powerhouse seeded the fund with a $50 million investment, while the World Bank contributed $100 million through its International Finance Corp. The team hopes to attract other corporate investors and donors to raise the target.

The new venture, called the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility, aims to help close the estimated $300 billion credit gap that the IFC says exists for women-owned businesses. The facility will extend lines of credit and shoulder risk with local banks in developing countries to provide 100,000 women financing to grow their companies.

For Goldman, the venture is an outgrowth of its 10,000 Women initiative, which has provided business training to female entrepreneurs since 2008. Blankfein said by the end of 2013 the program had helped 10,000 women from 43 countries though a network of 90 academic and nonprofit partners.

As for the new fund, Blankfein said, “We hope the facility will demonstrate to banks, other commercial ventures around the world what powerful investments women are.”

Danielle Douglas

Also in Business

— From staff reports, news services

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