Hacktivist organization, Anonymous, is threatening perhaps their biggest play ever: a massive WikiLeaks-style exposure of sensitive U.S. government secrets. As proof of their power, they announced details of the plan on hacked government website, the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC.gov). Citing the recent death of free information activist Aaron Swartz, they explain, “With Aaron’s death we can wait no longer. The time has come to show the United States Department of Justice and its affiliates the true meaning of infiltration.”
Swartz was facing up to 50+ years in prison and a $4 million fine after releasing pay-walled academic articles from the popular JSTOR database. Some legal scholars have argued that releasing copyrighted material, or breaking the “terms of service” of a website, should not carry such harsh penalties. Anonymous is demanding that legislation be passed to no longer consider such violations a felony–a law that Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CrunchGov Grade: A) has already introduced.
If legal reforms are not enacted, Anonymous has threatened to activate files containing embarrassing or incriminating secrets.
“The contents are various and we won’t ruin the speculation by revealing them. Suffice it to say, everyone has secrets, and some things are not meant to be public. At a regular interval commencing today, we will choose one media outlet and supply them with heavily redacted partial contents of the file. Any media outlets wishing to be eligible for this program must include within their reporting a means of secure communications.”
It appears that the secrets will come a cost: Anonymous claims that there will be “collateral damage” if they are reluctantly forced to expose the information, presumably related to individuals who they think are associated with, but responsible for, the offensive laws.
For added effect, Anonymous made USSC.gov editable. “Feel free to upload snapshots of your improvements with the hashtag #USSC. Failing that, we find that highlighting large sections and pressing the backspace key has a great therapeutic effect…”
As of this writing at 3am PT, the encrypted files on the page are no longer downloadable, but the hacked site remains intact.
We’ve seen Anonymous angry before, but the death of Swartz and the recent prosecution of some of their members seems to have pushed them over the edge. Big news may be coming very soon.
Listen to the full message below: