Guest Post by Natter
This is not a time line, biography, or history lesson, nor is it in any way complete. There are numerous articles and opinion pieces of varying accuracy and bias available on the web that already attempt to do those things.
We’ll begin with what Anonymous is not.
Anonymous is not legion (digital bots don’t count), omnipotent, monolithic, or all that particularly skilled at what it does (there are some individuals who are very skilled in differing fields to be mentioned later in this primer). Anonymous is not anonymous, nobody ever is on the Internet. Anonymous does forget, they forgot all about attacking the Zeta’s drug gang very quickly. The Zeta’s do not expect them.
Anonymous is not just some pimple-faced kid sitting in his parents basement smoking weed, eating Cheetos, and gulping down energy drinks, (though that does pretty thoroughly account for the bulk of the Johnnie-Come-Lately teenage fanboy’s after the summers of 2009-2011). Anonymous is not just some fat comic book store employee on a trailer court Dell with a hard drive stuffed with furry tentacle sex Anime and kiddie porn, (though it does seem to have way more then the normal percentage of such individuals). Anonymous is not just the Ron Paul, Alex Jones, Troofer crowd, (though more then a few of those types do infest the lower ranks). Those individuals are the cannon fodder.
Anonymous is not what it was in 2008, although many of the most influential members and faction leaders remain.
Anonymous is not a freedom or democracy advocacy group, nor is Anonymous the slightest bit interested in promoting free speech, that doesn’t agree with its own nebulous, ill-stated, and often contradictory goals and talking point propaganda. Quite the opposite, Anonymous seeks to silence dissent both within and without the group and has demonstrated no qualms about openly using the digital online equivalent of terrorist tactics and lynch mobs to achieve this silence.
Anonymous is not leaderless. In fact, like almost all such organizations, its ridiculously easy to identify those leaders and the related organizational rank structure. By way of example; The pimple-faced weed smoking teen from the basement is not giving orders to AnonymouSabu, (only known unindicted survivor and unquestioned leader of the LulzSec faction), without receiving the verbal-digital equivalent of a Puerto Rican beat down. Nor is fat comic book store guy with the overstuffed Dell giving orders to dedicated long term Leftist and Anarchist professional organizers and agitators such as Gabriella Coleman, Barry Friedman or Neil Rauhauser. The wolf is rarely perturbed by fleas.
No, Barrett Brown is not a leader, or a spokesman for Anonymous. He’s the Fredo of the Anonfather movie. (After all, he called Rusty a fascist, when we all know Rusty’s an Imperial stooge.)
Anonymous is not at all responsible for starting the Arab Spring (nor was Wikileaks). It can demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt and in any number of ways that the Muslim Brotherhood had more to do with creating, influencing, and profiting from the Arab Spring uprisings then all other causes, except one. Hunger.
In fairness it can be pointed out that certain factions of Anonymous did help to facilitate and maintain free Internet contact with various Arab Spring nations as their former governments knee-jerked into full repression mode during those various uprisings. It remains to be seen just how beneficial that Internet access was to those nations or their people, who are still faced with famine condition food shortages and repressive governments now under new management, long after Anonymous collectively has forgotten about them.
Anonymous is not all that particularly original either. The fake “leaderless” method of organization is rather old as guerrilla groups and movements go, and was last most prominently used by the North American neo-Nazi and militia movements of the 1980’s. The individual cells concept is also quite old as a guerrilla strategy, even older then the very concept of organized warfare itself in fact, and it remains a standard operating procedure for Communist and Islamic terrorist groups, including al Qaeda. Modern online gamers also tend to group into individual cells, clans, and communities and more then a few Anonymous members are or have been on line gamers.
Which brings us back to Anonymous and what Anonymous once was and has since become.
Anonymous is currently, at best 10,000 to 20,000 vocally supporting individuals online world wide at any one time and depending largely on what time it is in the Western worlds school year. The vast majority of that membership is located within the US/Canada and Europe, with some large South American contingents. That vast majority is also little more then virtual cannon fodder in an online guerrilla war with very real consequences (long prison sentences and heavy fines in Western nations, torture and death for dissidents elsewhere).
Anonymous is also some 100 to 250 individuals of differing status, faction leadership, and skill level, many of whose faction members share membership among some or several faction leaders at any one time. Those upper level leaders are almost exclusively Western or Western based. While many of those leaders have openly denied membership in Anonymous, others have openly admitted to at least verbal support.
The part about Anonymous being born on the 4Chan website sub board /b/ in 2003 is true, but only to a certain extent, as many of the current upper level members can also be found in comments and posts/diaries on Daily Kos and other like politically like minded blogs going back to the same era. The part about confronting Scientology is also true, although most, but not all, of the Chanology era members have long since drifted away, disenchanted with the cult like atmosphere that has infested present day Anonymous.
There are also a handful of skilled professional “black-hat hackers” within that upper level of Anonymous. Some are coders and vulnerability/exploit hunters, defacement artists, credit-card account thieves, and/or stolen information dump specialists. Some of whom are very good at what they do and some whom are known to be employed by some of the largest ISP’s and information security companies in the world (think Comcast and McAfee size). At least one worked as the network admin of a frighteningly popular porn website, where he had access to the real names, passwords, and credit card account details of every single paying customer, including law enforcement and military customers.
The remainder of Anonymous leadership are the propaganda specialists, drawn from various educational and journalistic fields. Some of whom already have book deals and some of whom work for very large mainstream media outlets (think Guardian, CBS, RussiaToday, Wired sized).
Yes, Anonymous is connected to Wikileaks, at the hip, shoulders, and ankles. While Julian Assange has not been proven to direct or give orders to Anonymous, he clearly seems to use the power of suggestion to influence Wikileaks staffers (there aren’t many of those) who are also upper or leadership level Anonymous members (there are even fewer of those).
Yes, Anonymous is connected to Occupy Wall Street. By an umbilical cord. OWS began under the Anonymous name OpESR (Operation Empire State Revenge/Revolution). Canadian anarchist publisher Adbusters joined shortly thereafter. Anonymous and Adbusters were in the park weeks before the Day of Rage protests (which were also the single largest one day turn out for the Occupy Movement). The unions and other professional Left groups joined OWS during and after Day of Rage, bringing money, organization, numbers, political connections, a quickly disenchanted and abused Nancy Pelosi with the DNC, and as per usual, a take over by purge attempt. The Red Block always attempts to eat the Black Block after they mate. It is not always successful in this attempt.
Yes, Anonymous does have connections to certain Middle Eastern Islamist hacking groups, most of those Middle Eastern and Islamist groups are individual factions in and among themselves, forming temporary and uncertain alliances of convenience with Anonymous against mutual targets. At least some of those Islamist hacking groups are sponsored or run by their respective governments. Certain leadership members of Anonymous have also demonstrated direct and open communication with the social media accounts of known terrorist groups.
Yes, US law enforcement does know who the vast majority of those Anonymous leadership members are, and where they are located. In some cases, some of those Anonymous leaders may already be working as informants for various agencies (statistically most hackers do cooperate once caught), in others, particularly among the larger propaganda class, there is no evidence shown thus far that those individuals violated any laws. Yet…
As an aside, of the fourteen people indicted by Grand Jury for the first Paypal attacks, only two can be called leadership or upper level, the remainder are cannon fodder types, told to download a certain tool and fire it at Paypal. Given that the technical data log evidence appears to be open, shut, and airtight, their lawyers likely have made a terrible tactical error in pleading “not guilty.”
The San Jose Paypal 14 Grand Jury is rumored to be only the first of several Grand Juries and at least one RICO investigation impending for Anonymous. Some of which is very likely (or already has), to spill over into the various Wikileaks investigations, and some of which very likely involves certain paid DNC contractors. There strongly appears to be at least one, possibly several child porn indictments pending as well both in Europe and in the US.
Considering the current state of Justice department leadership, it’s probably for the best if both law enforcement and judgment moves very slowly and (a lot more) carefully on all of these related cases and investigations.By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 12:12 PM