“You cannot arrest an idea,” was Topiary’s last message to Anonymous, but he should have mentioned you can kill an idea. The internet counterculture known as Anonymous, which is actually not a hacking collective, found its most unifying moment coming to the defense of Wikileaks and the freedom of the press. Now, a year later, a small group of supposed Anons have assaulted Stratfor and made themselves direct enemies of the freedom of the press. Rampant misinformation has led the majority of Anons to support this action, and it seems the general belief is that Stratfor must be evil as it was hacked by Anonymous. In truth, Stratfor’s benign publication has been disrupted unfairly and without reason. The Anonymous subculture is in danger of losing all credibility, but more importantly all online Anonymity has been put in jeopardy by the actions of the very few.
Antisec and their leader Sabu, the small group which took credit for this hack, appear to act out of pure opportunism as a matter of course. While their belief that bad security, in itself, warrants exploitation has been expanded on at great lengths, it is actually completely contrary to Anarchist thought. Anarchists criticize those whose authority is gained solely through use of force, and support authority only when it has been proven entirely necessary. Antisec has used force time and time again, serving little to no positive purpose for society and ultimately placing the very concept of anonymity in a negative light for no reason at all. For example, Antisec’s Chinga La Migra release offered up thousands of e-mails from border police, claiming that this action would expose corruption. Not a single case of corruption was exposed, but the sensitive personal information of many border police was. Military Meltdown Monday, another attack carried out by Antisec, yielded 57,000 e-mails containing sensitive personal information of officers and no cases of corruption. Shooting Sherriff’s Saturday, yet another attack targeting law enforcement, yielded information from 77 different sheriff’s offices and again, revealed no cases of corruption and publicized the personal information of officers. Antisec’s use of force in these attacks and on Stratfor is demonstrably without purpose, the actions not of righteous Anarchists, but opportunistic criminals.
Antisec is treading on thin moral ice, engaging in some of the very same activity the US government used to weaken Wikileaks. Sabu claims to have stolen over a million dollars from the credit card accounts found on Stratfor’s servers, a punishment which can be compared to the pressure put on Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal to stop the flow of funding to the defense of Wikileaks. While Sabu also claims to have donated this money to charity, this arguably puts Antisec in a worse standing as the charities will likely have their accounts frozen and only suffer a loss. Misinformation has spread about the nature of Stratfor, maligning and misrepresenting its activities. It is entirely possible that this activity has been purposeful, as the campaign of disinformation against Wikileaks was. Antisec does not stand on the moral high ground, as I believe most Anons do.
Anonymous can disown Antisec. In the past, Anons have disowned wayward operations by general consensus. For instance, threats made against Westboro Baptist Church were completely disowned and written off as infiltration by the Phelps family. The most damaging attack against the Playstation Network, which took place at the height of Operation Sony, was denied even though the hacker left the Anonymous mantra on the Sony server as a calling card. Actions which run contrary to the sensibilities of the Anonymous subculture or are extremely unpopular are in fact always disowned. That’s why I wrote this press release on Sunday, disowning Antisec’s attack on Stratfor. The intentions of Sabu and his crew are increasingly unclear, and it is time for Anons to think critically about whether this type of behavior really represents Anonymous. This struggle is not just about saving face for the internet’s biggest counter-culture, but helping to preserve a future where online anonymity is a protected right.