I’m not really sure how prosecutors can, in good conscience, indict someone over allegations that literally ultimately resulted in a single article on the LA Times website appearing in its edited version for only 30 minutes and attach the maximum penalties of 25 years in prison and/or a $750,000 fine to a conviction. That type of prosecutorial overkill is an acceptable way to intimidate someone to reveal information about Anonymous? That’s not what our justice system was designed to do.
That the US government largely succeeded in using extra-legal and extra-judicial means to cripple an adverse journalistic outlet is a truly consequential episode: nobody, regardless of one’s views on WikiLeaks, should want any government to have that power. But the manifestly overzealous prosecutions of Anonymous activists, in stark contrast to the (at best) indifference to the attacks on WikiLeaks, makes all of that even worse. In line with its unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers generally, this is yet another case of the US government exploiting the force of law to entrench its own power and shield its actions from scrutiny.Prosecution of Anonymous activists highlights war for Internet control
For far to long, Anonymous has stood by with the rest of the world and watched in despair the barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people in the so called “Occupied Territories” by the Israel Defense Force. Like so many around the globe, we have felt helpless in the face of such implacable evil. And today’s insane attack and threatened invasion of Gaza was more of the same.
But when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all Internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand. As the former dictator of Egypt Mubarak learned the hard way - we are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch. To the IDF and government of Israel we issue you this warning only once. Do NOT shut down the Internet into the “Occupied Territories”, and cease and desist from your terror upon the innocent people of Palestine or you will know the full and unbridled wrath of Anonymous. And like all the other evil governments that have faced our rage, you will NOT survive it unscathed.
To the people of Gaza and the “Occupied Territories”, know that Anonymous stands with you in this fight. We will do everything in our power to hinder the evil forces of the IDF arrayed against you. We will use all our resources to make certain you stay connected to the Internet and remain able to transmit your experiences to the world. As a start, we have put together the Anonymous Gaza Care Package - http://bit.ly/XH87C5 - which contains instructions in Arabic and English that can aid you in the event the Israel government makes good on it’s threat to attempt to sever your Internet connection. It also contains useful information on evading IDF surveillance, and some basic first aid and other useful information. We will continue to expand and improve this document in the coming days, and we will transmit it to you by every means at our disposal. We encourage you to download this package, and to share it with your fellow Palestinians to the best of your ability.
We will be with you. No matter how dark it may seem, no matter how alone and abandoned you may feel - know that tens of thousands of us in Anonymous are with you and working tirelessly around the clock to bring you every aid and assistance that we can.
According to the Observer’s BetaBeat, “Anonymous has already begun defacing multiple pro-Israel websites, including Falcon-s.co.il and Advocate-israel.com. They’ve also compiled an Anonymous Gaza Care Package, which contains basic safety and surveillance avoidance information, as well as instructions for how to jigger an internet connection if Israel takes down Gaza’s servers. Another document posted to Pastebin outlines how to connect to dial-up in the event of an internet outage.”
Last week, the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta did his best to paint a nightmarish vision of the supposedly imminent threat that cyberterrorism poses to the USA. Virtual attacks from foreign enemies could apparently result in a Pearl Harbour of the digital age – derailing trains, cutting power supplies and contaminating drinking water (see the exact plot of Die Hard 4 for further examples).
He preached his warning after a recent surge of DDOS attacks played havoc with the networks of several large US corporations and the Shamoon virus downed more than 30,000 computers belonging to oil and gas companies in the Persian Gulf.
However, despite this apparent fear of cyber-invasion, well-circulated theories suggest that America’s own digital espionage is far more advanced and dangerous than any that has been designed to harm them. It’s perhaps for that reason that hacktivist group Anonymous have called bullshit on Panetta’s claims. [++]
Even if spectacle alone is insufficient to engender political change, it is hard to overstate its importance for publicising issues and clarifying political stakes. With Anonymous, it is not simply that their DDoS tactics dramatise specific issues, such as with their campaign in the winter of this year against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. It is that in their totality - as a masked entity bearing the name Anonymous - it relays an urgent message about anonymity to contemplate. Given the contemporary reality of a corporate and state controlled surveillance apparatus, Anonymous stands out, compels, and enchants for a very particular reason: it has provided a small but potent oasis of anonymity in the current expansive desert of surveillance, much like the one quite literally being built in the Utah desert right now by the NSA.
In an era when most of our personal data is archived online - in a time when states and corporations collect, market, and monetise our plans and preferences - there is indeed something hopeful, one might even say necessary, in Anonymous’ effacement of the self, in the cloaking of their identities, in striking at legislation seen to threaten privacy, and seeking to expose the depth and extent of privatised government contractors that have rapidly emerged as a security apparatus parallel to that of the national government.
The more immediate danger in portraying Anonymous as a diabolical, nebulous hydra is that fallacious arguments such as this will only serve to strengthen the arguments of those who seek stiffer legal penalties against protest activity. Alternatively, we could face the current, depressing realities of the state of surveillance - and the surveillance state - and inspire individuals to join the fight against efforts to undermine individual freedoms, while we still can.
[…] Their digital protest tactics, when successful, essentially squat and block access to some of the internet’s biggest domains, but only their internet-facing website. By design, if companies are following basic security best practices, the important financial payment processing, trading networks and other core infrastructure is not sitting wide-open on the internet waiting to be attacked. If it were, any security professional would describe such a setup as reckless malfeasance and those sites, where downtime spells financial hemorrhage, would have been hacked to shreds long before Anonymous came on the scene. Their DDoS tactics are a political stunt; the sites that are more vulnerable to DDoS tend not to be actual important infrastructure, just a symbol of that infrastructure.
Over three years into political operations, the closest we saw to a “false flag” operation was with the small hacker group Antisec who were the source of some of the most risqué actions to date (and thus controversial among Anons as well). One of its most outspoken ex-members, Sabu, as it turns out, was also an FBI informant. But even having an FBI informant at the heart of Antisec, there is no compelling evidence that he steered other members into dubious waters that they were not otherwise willing to sail in; in fact, another member with a long history of radical activism, Jeremy Hammond, seems to have quite willingly taken the personal risk of breaking into servers in order to leak politically sensitive information.
While government officials and law enforcement are painting Anonymous as one of HL Mencken’s “imaginary goblins” poised to menace the public, it’s worth noting that national governments around the world have aspired to control the internet, and have been developing statutes that erode individual rights and privacies, long before this entity came to prominence. Anonymous is more a reaction to these trends than a cause. The brutal, depressing and dire fact of the matter is that an expansive surveillance state is not here to come but is already in our midst. The surveillance state is so well entrenched that if Anonymous were to vanish tomorrow, or never had happened in the first place, it is doubtful that the trajectory of the expansion of the surveillance state would be deterred. It seems misplaced, even disingenuous, at this juncture, to blame Anonymous’ actions for increasing the rate at which governments and security companies seek to control the internet, private data, and online freedoms. [++]