Activists, Law Enforcement Face Off on Eve of 'American Spring'

Activists, Law Enforcement Face Off on Eve of 'American Spring'

It’s been an extraordinarily busy few months for the FBI and cyber-related task forces.  The arrests of several prominent hackers associated with Anonymous have had the hacker collective pointing fingers at suspected “snitches” on the inside and lowering their profiles in recent months.  But as Occupy gears up for its American Spring, Anons are trying to gain footing again and mobilize for the cause.

Still, the collective will be doing so without several of its champions.

You’ll recall that on March 6, 2012, an unsealed indictment revealed that “Sabu”  – a key member of the Anonymous offshoot LulzSec – had become an FBI informant, sending much of the hacktivist universe into a tailspin.  

Sabu, whose real name is Hector Xavier Monsegur, was arrested on June 7, 2011.  As part of a confidential plea deal, divulged only to a judge and several other officials in a secret bail hearing on August 5, 2011, Sabu worked with government agents for nearly a year to expose several of his fellow LulzSec cohorts.
While many individual arrests of Anonymous hackers have taken place, one begins to see the bigger picture when recent events are viewed collectively.  

  • Jeremy Hammond (a/k/a Anarchaos, sup_g, burn, yohoho, POW, tylerknowsthis, crediblethreat) a “Food Not Bombs” activist and self-identified member of LulzSec, was arrested in Chicago, Illinois on March 5, 2012.  The criminal complaint charged Hammond with crimes related to the hacking of Austin, Texas based global intelligence firm Stratfor in December of 2011.  Hammond, whose mother is a self-proclaimed Tea Party activist who says her son was raised by a father who thinks Michael Moore is too conservative, has a long history as an anarchist activist in Chicago, including his involvement in protests against the 2004 Republican National Convention.
  • Ryan Ackroyd (a/k/a kayla, lol, lolspoon), another member of LulzSec, appeared in court on March 6, 2012 for his alleged involvement in the high profile hackings of Stratfor and private security firm HB Gary and HB Gary Federal, as well as Sony Pictures, FOX Broadcasting, PBS, Infraguard and others.  
  • Also charged in the same complaint as Ackroyd were Jake Davis (a/k/a topiary, atopiary), Darren Martyn (a/k/a pwnsauce, raepsauce, networkkitten) and Donncha O’Cearrbhail (a/k/a palladium).
  • On April 5, 2012, after previously pleading not guilty last October, Cody Kretsinger changed course and entered a guilty plea in court for his alleged involvement in the hacking of Sony Pictures, for which he was indicted on September 22, 2011.
  • On April 4, 2012, John Anthony Borell III (a/k/a ItsKahuna), was indicted by a federal grand jury for his alleged involvement with attacks on the Utah Chiefs of Police and the Salt Lake City Police Department.  The 21 year old, an alleged member of the Anonymous offshoot CabinCr3w, was arrested in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio on March 20, 2012.  He is scheduled to go to trial in June and remains in an Ohio halfway house in the meantime.  Borell claims that his father, an attorney in Ohio, will be representing him.
  • Also on March 20, 2012, federal agents arrested Higinio O Ochoa III (a/k/a/ anonw0rmer) of Texas, for his alleged involvement in online attacks against various law enforcement agencies, some of which were said to be in support of the Occupy movement.  Also alleged to be a member of CabinCr3w, Ochoa ‘s arrest sparked debate within the Anonymous community over whether or not he might have become an informant for the FBI in order to avoid or minimize any future sentencing.
  • And in March 2012, after initially fighting a subpoena from the Suffolk County, MA District Attorney’s office, Twitter turned over non-content information for another alleged member of CabinCr3w, Guido Fawkes (a/k/a @p0isAn0N) after p0isAn0N posted the home phone numbers, names, & addresses from various Boston Police Department officers online in relation to activity associated with Occupy Boston.

As I wrote in March at Big Government:

With the arrival of the Occupy movement and the increasing political push to demonize corporations and law enforcement as Occupy’s plans for an “American Spring” draw closer, many are expressing concern that cyberattacks like HB Gary and the others detailed in the Monsegur indictment will also increase.  Given that Anonymous has become so closely aligned with Occupy and various elements of the activist left – most notably the anti-war and anti-imperialism movements, a trend that we noted here at Big Government as the “New Institutional Left,” it seems a valid concern.

Let me reiterate for a moment what was posted at the October2011.org website in February, where the post references that Occupy Phase 2 will focus on collapsing “pillars of power” in the upcoming “American Spring“:

As an introduction to the talk, Margaret Flowers referenced the “Pillars of Support” defined by Robert Helvey in his book “On Strategic Non-Violent Conflict.” The idea is that “when important pillars of support are sufficiently undermined, the government, or the opposition, collapses just as a building will collapse upon itself when its support structure is weakened and gives way.” In our society, those pillars are the police, the military, civil servants, media, the business community, youth, workers, religious organizations, and NGOs. Not every pillar has to stand at the same time, of course.

The right to freedom of speech is one of our most cherished freedoms in the United States.  But as many of us who defend capitalism and free markets and who have spoken out against some of the more negative activities related to the Occupy movement have come to experience first-hand, many activists associated with Anonymous have taken justice into their own hands.  And justice to them does not always include free speech for dissenting opinions.  

Without the crucial pillar of police support, a large majority in this country would find themselves without the same freedoms that some in Anonymous purport to protect.  It is not my place to say whether or not any of the law enforcement actions above have been heavy-handed; only due process will inform us in the end.  But what is clear is that law enforcement does serve a purpose in protecting the speech of companies and individuals who have every much a right to voice their opinions on issues as the activists who oppose them.  

While the new institutional left’s upcoming “American Spring” this May is expected by many in the Occupy and Anonymous movements to be a reinvigorated popular uprising, the collective of recent events would appear to illustrate that the people as a whole are not going to tolerate the intentional breakdown of crucial pillars of support that have been in place for years to protect the rights of all, and not just the rights of some.

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