On the heels of 25 arrests of Spanish-speaking anons last week, Anonymous was rocked Tuesday by the news that Hector Xavier Monsegur, the legal name of prominent antisec known as Sabu, has been cooperating with the FBI to hunt down other anon hackers from Lulzsec and Antisec.
The chatter on the anon IRC servers and anon-associated Twitter accounts ranged Tuesday from denial about Sabu’s involvement to outrage and hatred for Monsegur. One who worked with Sabu as part of Antisec, the miltant and pranksterish arm of Anonymous, described themselves as “emotionally devastated” and “shocked” by the news.
“Sabu was in my opinion a great guy. I was woken up today with the message that the arrests happened. It came to me like an emotional bitchslap,” said the anon in an online chat. ”I know why I got kicked out of antisec now,” the anon continued, intimating that Sabu did so to protect him/her from prosecution.
Another anon described Sabu as a mentor figure, saying Sabu had encouraged and taught him/her about Python programming.
“I honestly wouldn’t have learned without him actually taking the time to give me some really pro tips… and show me that there was almost no limits to what you could do with it if you were doing it right.”
But in the timeframe of Monsegur’s arrest — which occurred without public notice in the summer, this anon saw a change in Monsegur’s behavior. Monsegur became more distant, and while he’d always displayed an un-Anonymous desire for fame that drew criticism, “after a certain point everything just became about him-him-him. And he’d randomly send out some almost cryptic messages about how it was all for Anonymous etc etc, but at a certain point I just stopped buying that. I think a lot of people did.”
According to several anons, around this time Monsegur became interested in a wider range of operations, including those he’d not had previous involvement in.
But despite the changes and ultimate betrayal, many anons aren’t ready to condemn Monsegur after hearing about the arrests of fellow anons due to his cooperation with the feds.
“It was either 124 years for Sabu, or 10 years each for the others,” said the former antisec anon. “I get why he did it, but he damaged the collective because of his own problems. And Anonymous is not your personal army. Nor is antisec.”
The possible 124-year sentence for Monsegur’s crimes struck anons as out of proportion for his crimes. As one put it, “Sabu is approximately one Topiary and some cash less heinous than Bernie Madoff, according to the FBI using their measurement of prison time,” referring to the purported age of one of the Lulzsec members Monsegur snitched on and the relatively light sentence of the billion-dollar ponzi scheme fraudster.
The information from Monsegur has led to further charges for Ryan Ackroyd and Jake Davis, who were previously charged for alleged participation in a hacking spree last spring. His cooperation also led to the arrest and indictment of Darren Martyn, and Donncha O’Cearrbhail in connection with Lulzsec, and Jeremy Hammond in connection with Antisec. In particular, Hammond is being prosecuted for the high-profile hack of Stratfor, a private intelligence firm relied on by major corporations, which led to the distribution of Stratfor’s internal e-mail by Wikileaks last week.
Jeremy Hammond of Chicago appears to be a noted activist and hacker who has had previous brushes with the law, who has given a defcon talk on electronic civil disobedience, and even been profiled by Chicago Magazine.
On the day of the arrest, Monsegur’s guilty plea was unsealed, claiming 12 counts, including conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, among other charges. No details of a plea deal that lead to his cooperation have been released.
As for the long run, many anons don’t believe the effects will be profound.
“So the amount of information that both Sabu and crediblethreat (Hammond) have is pretty impressive,” said an anon speaking to Wired. “We can assume now that the FBI has all of that information. So long as Anons had taken measures to remain Anonymous when dealing with those people it will be business as usual.”
Anons also reposted a video recapping the group’s outsized influence in 2011, perhaps as a way to suggest that the arrests wouldn’t slow a group that has evolved from a malicious group of pranksters into a force to be reckoned with on the world’s stage.
The anon kicked out of Antisec by Sabu put it this way in a chat with Wired on the IRC:
Anon: we need to pick our lives back up
Anon: and go on
Anon: I’ll keep on doing what I have always done for Anonymous
Anon: You have seen it today
Anon: http://musterroom.com/ antisec goes on [referring to an Antisec-signed defacement of a small law enforcement chat site]
Anon: anonymous goes on
Anon: I think it was merely a speedbump for the collective
Anon: but a massive emotional bitchslap for individuals
Depending on what frame you look at Anonymous through, this may be true. While these arrests are devastating for the mediagenic hacking wing of Anonymous, other parts of the collective that more involved in traditional activism remain largely untouched. Anonymous activity against SOPA and other legislation in the USA, like the recent HR 347, and ACTA in Europe, are gaining steam. And the freedom ops involved with supporting protesters in the Middle East continue unphased.
That said, in what’s inevitably going to be a long war between the law and those in Anonymous who believe in a greater justice outside of the law, the law won a big battle Tuesday, no matter how anons try to spin it.
Photo: Newton Grafitti/Flicker