Charges in US web-link sharing case reduced

Anonymous mask A US journalist faced charges for sharing links to documents stolen by the Anonymous hacking group.

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The US government has applied to drop some charges against a journalist who shared web links to stolen documents.

In 2012, Barrett Brown shared links to documents stolen by Anonymous hackers from intelligence firm Stratfor.

Sharing the links led to charges of identity theft because the documents listed, among other things, thousands of credit card numbers.

Mr Brown still faces several other charges that might mean he faces decades in jail.

Prosecutors working for the US government have applied to drop 11 of 12 charges against Mr Brown that relate to him sharing links to the documents stolen by Anonymous hackers.

The links were shared by Mr Brown as part of his work for Project PM - an organisation he helped to create that publicises and investigates information shared by whistle-blowers.

Digital rights groups and freedom-of-speech advocates criticised the link-sharing charges saying that, if they were upheld, it could dissuade other whistle-blowers from sharing information.

The documents contained email addresses for 860,000 people who subscribed to Stratfor's information feeds as well as credit card details for 60,000 of those customers.

Kevin Gallagher, a spokesman for a group set up to help defend Mr Brown, said the documents were not shared with an intent to steal but to expose links between Stratfor and other parts of the US intelligence community.

If the court agrees to the dismissal, Mr Brown still faces one charge concerning the link-sharing. In addition, he still faces charges on two other indictments relating to the Stratfor leak. The trials to consider the charges are expected take place in April and May.

If found guilty on all charges Mr Brown could face up to 65 years in jail.

In May 2013, Jeremy Hammond, one of the Anonymous hackers who helped steal the data from Stratfor, was given a 10-year jail sentence for his part in the hack.

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