Early Saturday morning, the US Department of Justice Sentencing Commission website, www.ussc.gov, was shut down and has remained offline for some time. Numerous Anonymous press shortly began to clamor that the hacktivist collective was responsible for the shutdown, and to add insult to injury, has also collected a bundle of leaked documents intended to embarrass the USDOJ for their part in the suicide of noted Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
In a video posted online, Anonymous spokespersons (using the now iconic “computerized voice” with dramatic decree) mentioned the death of Swartz—who committed suicide after a heavy handed case by the USDOJ put him in the crosshairs for over 30 years of prison time for downloading scholarly documents from JSTOR via Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s network with the intent of distributing them freely.
Numerous memorials for Aaron Swartz have appeared in the two weeks since his death, including one on GitHub (a hackerspace designed to archive code for open source programmers) and numerous media outlets. Shortly after his suicide, MIT began their own internal investigation into their own part of his prosecution at the hands of the DOJ and petitions have appeared online asking for the removal of Massachusetts D.A. Carmen M. Ortiz for her use of excessively heavy-handed tactics in Swartz’s case.
The attack is already being investigated by the FBI, according to Richard McFeely, of the bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch.
“We were aware as soon as it happened and are handling it as a criminal investigation,” McFeely said in an e-mailed statement to Reuters. “We are always concerned when someone illegally accesses another person’s or government agency’s network.”
Purported leaked document designed to embarrass the USDOJ for their part in Swartz prosecution
The video released by Anonymous cites two hashtags to designate #OpLastResort and #WarHead1. Operation Last Resort is intended to spread this document as far and wide as possible, even seeding it onto BitTorrent trackers, but it hasn’t been examined yet by any news source to see what it contains or what its contents might be.
The video makes sweeping claims that Anonymous has infiltrated the USDOJ across numerous vectors and that the USSC website is just one of many, chosen for its symbolic nature in that the reason Swartz committed suicide had to do with the extreme potential sentence he faced for simple network intrusion.
Citizens of the world,
Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the “discretion” of prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain.
The use of leaked documents from government agencies has been used repeatedly by Anonymous-affiliated hacktivist groups to show how weak security can be. During the rampage of LulzSec, the hacker group leaked documents from AZDPS showing various forms of malfeasance (and private e-mail conversations) and AntiSec leaked documents from FBI-affiliate IRC Federal.
This is the changing face of protest in the Information Age as groups such as Anonymous made up of no set members, set on a trajectory of reactionary rage against apparent misconduct use the tools they have to crack open less-guarded vaults of information and release them to the public. However, like all activities by Anonymous, it’s currently hard to tell if they’ve exfiltrated anything worthwhile—or if it’s just e-mails exchanged through the USSC website, which would not have been very juicy anyway.
No doubt, we if these files have much criminal or cultural value they will appear on Wikileaks and an analysis can be made.