Notorious hacker group “Anonymous” is targeting the U.S. government for what it considers the unjust incarceration of former Army Private Bradley Manning.
Manning, 23, stands accused of leaking classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks and is being held in solitary confinement at a military brig in Quantico, Va.
In an interview with MSNBC, Barrett Brown, a spokesman for Anonymous, spoke of his group’s “guerrilla cyber-war.” Leaning back in his chair and answering questions through a cloud of cigarette smoke, Brown, a college dropout and part-time freelance writer, said he advises the group and participates in internal strategy sessions but is not personally involved in hacking.
MSNBC reported that Anonymous has threatened to harass the staff at Quantico “to the point of frustration.” According to FOX, the group named Department of Defense press secretary Feoff Morell and chief warrant officer Denise Barnes as targets in a “dox” attack, where personal information is published online to encourage mass harassment.
“Operation Bradical” demands that “Manning must be given sheets, blankets, any religious texts he desires, adequate reading material, clothes and a ball” or Anonymous will attack.
The threat is being taken seriously, since the group attacked and defaced the corporate website of cyber-security firm HBGary Federal last month after learning that the company planned to expose and identify some of its members. Those events led to the resignation of HBGary Federal Chief Executive Aaron Barr.
“When we break laws, we do it in the service of civil disobedience. We do so ethically. We do it against targets that have asked for it,” said Brown in the MSNBC interview.
An online activist associated with Anonymous and known as Topiary Gardenslayer said, “There is no reason to believe the American government should be an exemption” to cyber-attacks if activists believe something “particularly corrupt or oppressive,” has occurred “or that it has gone too far with censorship.”
A senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, David Castro, describes Anonymous as the “digital equivalent of an angry mob: fickle, unpredictable and dangerous.” The hacktivists have helped fuel protests in the Middle East by shutting down government websites, attacked the corporate websites of Visa, Mastercard and PayPal last fall and recently took on the Westboro Baptist Church.