According to the Anonymous “IberoAmerica” Blog and former Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown, the hacker organization’s plan — to release a list of collaborators with the bloody drug cartel Los Zetas — is back on.
Doubts about the project, dubbed #OpCartel, swirled amid concerns that the operation could result in reprisals from the violent drug gangs. The Guardian reported two members of the operation have said Anonymous is putting the brakes on their whistleblowing scheme due to concerns that people could be killed as a result.
Hackers planned the operation in response to the alleged Mexico City kidnapping of a member of Anonymous, only one of several incidents of the Zetas targeting tech-savvy information activists. In September, two bloggers who denounced the cartel on various social media were disemboweled and hung from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, with a chilling note from the Zetas warning against further online criticism.
To help diminish the risk of reprisals, Anonymous has told inexperienced activists who may not be employing adequate security measures to abstain from the operation, and told individuals associated with Anonymous to refrain from participating in pamphlet-drops or protests, or wearing Guy Fawkes masks — the organization’s most persistent symbol.
Former spokesman Barrett Brown explained the complex decision-making process in a YouTube address, “It [Operation Cartel] was started by a small number of [Anonymous members, called] Anons a number of days back. This was canceled earlier this morning by one of the people involved and reported in the media as having been canceled. Shortly thereafter, the people held a vote and decided to go ahead with the operation. And at the same time, you have people unconnected with the operation [who] are in the process of running down notes and otherwise planning for their own assisting operations.”
Brown told Talking Points Media in an email that “there is a great deal of enthusiasm; several of those who are running this are themselves in Veracruz, Nuevo Leon, and other Zeta territory.”
The IberoAmerica post read, “Are we afraid? Of course. Are we afraid for our lives? Obviously. However, we believe it is high time to say enough to the terrible situation caused by the falsehood of the government and lack of scruples of people who do not care about the welfare of their fellow human beings and have resulted in a deplorable state of ruin and disappointment in places like Mexico, a country that is on the verge of collapse.”
The initial retreat came on the heels of claims made by security company Stratfor — claims that they now acknowledge were unsubstantiated — that the cartels had hired security experts of their own to combat the online threat.
“Since we have seen evidence of cartels employing their own computer scientists to engage in cybercrime, it is logical to conclude that the cartels likely have individuals working to track anti-cartel bloggers and hackers,” a statement from Stratfor read.
“Those individuals involved thus face the risk of abduction, injury and death — judging by how Los Zetas have dealt with threats in the past.”
On Thursday Stratfor’s website added, “Anonymous has taken on many powerful entities in the past, such as major transnational corporations and governments. But the repercussions from participating in such operations were never as grave for online activists as they are in this case. Being identified and detained by Scotland Yard or the FBI is a far different situation than being identified and detained by Los Zetas.”