With the news of the unsealed LulzSec indictment of alleged hacktivists Sabu, Topiary, Anarchaos, pwnsauce, kayla and palladium, we now know that Sabu found his apartment raided in June of 2011.
Roughly eight months have passed since then, during which time Sabu helped inspire or otherwise lead several attacks against businesses and governments. On March 6th, news broke that Sabu had been colluding with the FBI in recent months as an informant.
Indeed, since Sabu flipped and decided to work under the boot heel of the FBI, Anonymous has been quite active. Does this then implicate the FBI in Anonymous’ “crimes”? Anything goes in the “Land of the Free” when it comes to law enforcement, folks; especially when corporations are under attack (or, rather, being subjected to digital protests).
Anonymous, being the amorphous, many-tentacled digital organism that it is, very possibly executed some attacks without the help of the indicted LulzSec members. As I argued yesterday, Anonymous has grown beyond LulzSec. The recent Stratfor hack, however—the documents of which were published by WikiLeaks—was executed by LulzSec members.
The FBI’s press release states that in December of 2011 Chicago-based hacker Jeremy Hammond, or “Anarchaos,” messaged Sabu (Hector Xavier Monsegur) about vulnerabilities in Stratfor’s servers. The FBI then instructed Sabu to offer Hammond a server on which to store the Stratfor data. We know the rest of the story: Anonymous announces the Stratfor hack, and two weeks ago WikiLeaks began publishing the emails as the Global Intelligence Files.
Did the FBI encourage the hack? Only a look at Hammond and Monsegur’s chat logs would tell us what Sabu, or the FBI, was recommending. Hammond very well might have hacked Stratfor on his own, even without the FBI whispering in his ear via Sabu. At the very least, it can be stated that the FBI stood by as a private entity was hacked, then did nothing to stop the leak to WikiLeaks. There may not have been entrapment, but there certainly was a laissez-faire FBI attitude running through the Stratfor chain of events. Agents could have stepped in at any point before Stratfor’s emails were lifted and published on the Internet.
There is a logic to the FBI’s inaction, though: Let the hack and leaks unfold to the fullest extent, with possible prison time increasing in direct proportion.
The FBI’s lawyers most likely approved every action taken by agents via Sabu. The investigation was far too big to bungle, and, obviously, far more important to the nation than bringing Wall Street banks and investors to justice for selling fraudulent mortgage securities that triggered a recession. How could any of us have believed that Anonymous did less damage than white collar criminals and politicians? What idiocy!
On a slightly different note, the LulzSec indictment raises a very real possibility: That the FBI is running a monolithic false flag operation, not only to corral dissidents, but to lay the ground work for future internet regulation. Unlikely, but not impossible. The FBI is, of course, the stillborn of J. Edgar Hoover, a man who behaved as if the Constitution did not apply to him.
Maybe there still is some purpose for the symbolic power of Anonymous even after the indictment. Clearly, IRCs aren’t exactly the best place to discuss matters of digital protest and free information—Hammond was betrayed by Sabu in this way. As many critics of Anonymous often claim, the best hackers operate in the shadows. They aren’t interested in publicity. And many of the best often go into the security business or work for US intelligence agencies. Well, one has to pick a side after all, no? When money can be made, ethics and morality go right out the window.
Perhaps any would-be hacktivists inspired by Anonymous and LulzSec will learn something from the latter’s downfall and the uncertainty now surrounding the former. Perhaps those with the talent to hack the private communications and files of those corporations and government officials devoid of ethics and morality will do so either on their own, or with the help of those whom they can trust. And perhaps they will learn something about their covering tracks after seeing what has become of LulzSec.
Hacktivism need not be limited to Anonymous. Like everything, it will evolve.