Anonymous Group Says It Gave Syrian E-mails to WikiLeaks

Days after WikiLeaks began releasing a trove of more than 2 million e-mails stolen from Syrian officials, ministries and companies, members of an Anonymous group have claimed responsibility for the hacks and document dump to Wikileaks.

In a press release published Saturday, a group calling itself Anonymous Op Syria disclosed that its members hacked into multiple domains and dozens of servers inside Syria on Feb. 5 to obtain the e-mails, which it then gave to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks began publishing the e-mails on July 5, working with several media partners outside the United States, but didn’t disclose its partnership with Anonymous.

In its intro to the e-mail cache, WikiLeaks indicated that they came from 678,000 individual e-mail addresses and 680 domains, including ones belonging to Syria’s Ministries of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Information, Transport and Culture. At least 400,000 of the e-mails are in Arabic and 68,000 are in Russian.

The documents range from “the intimate correspondence of the most senior Baath party figures to records of financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations,” according to WikiLeaks.

The Anonymous team, composed of members of three groups known as Anonymous Syria, AntiSec, and the Peoples Liberation Front, says it had been assisting activists in Syria since protests began against the Syrian regime more than a year ago, and that the team worked round-the-clock shifts to hack the servers.

“So large was the data available to be taken, and so great was the danger of detection (especially for the members of Anonymous Syria, many of whom are ‘in country’) that the downloading of this data took several additional weeks,” says the group in its statement.

Last March, the group hinted at the treasure it possessed when it leaked about 3,000 e-mails from the personal e-mail account of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma to the Guardian newspaper in London.

Leaking the entire trove of e-mails, however, proved to be more difficult.

“We gave Syrian mails to Wikileaks after trying unsuccessfully to make a deal with Al Jazeera English,” a member of the group told Wired in an instant message exchange. “We like the Wikileaks concept, and they do a good job of releasing these kinds of things. We successfully released Stratfor together previously, and both learned from our mistakes there.”

Last December, Anonymous hacked into servers belonging to the U.S.-based security firm Stratfor and stole about 5 million e-mails, which the group gave to WikiLeaks. The e-mails were published in February.

The Anonymous member wouldn’t elaborate to Wired on the nature of the mistakes that Anonymous and WikiLeaks had learned from their previous partnership, but added that this time around, the team also gave copies of the Syrian e-mails to the Associated Press news agency, based in the United States.

“We gave a copy to the AP too, for the lulz,” the Anonymous member said.

The group noted in their public statement that there will be “many more disclosures of this type in the future as this wonderful partnership between WikiLeaks and Anonymous continues to grow stronger and change human history.”

So far, only a few dozen e-mails have been published from the cache.

In its intro to the e-mail cache, WikiLeaks boasted that they will “shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy” and “reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another.”

But to date, only one item of news value has been uncovered in the published e-mails, according to Forbes. This regards information that an Italian firm Finmeccania offered a communications system to the Syrian and Iranian governments, which the Italian and Spanish newspapers L’Espresso and Publico published in their coverage of the e-mails.