By now, anyone who watches television, reads a newspaper or surfs the Internet has heard of Anonymous, the hacktivist collective that declared war on oppression, child pornography, big government, and Internet censorship. Anonymous and their affiliates have taken part in highly publicized attacks on Paypal, USSC. Gov, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Church of Scientology, the Department of Justice, the Israeli Government, Strategic Forecasting, and many other prominent targets since the group was founded in 2003.
Describing Anonymous is complicated. The public knows them from their YouTube videos announcing their attacks, complete with a spokesperson wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, voicing their battle cry, “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” The world hears about the latest Anonymous hacking adventure from the mass media, who hype every episode as if we were watching the doomsday scenario in the movie: WarGames.
Anyone can join Anonymous, simply by participating in the movement, and supporting the group’s principals. In reality, Anonymous are not hackers, they are activists who use their hacking skills as a tool of civil disobedience to fight against the system they oppose. In their worldview, they are fighting tyranny. The government, of course, views them simply as criminals and cyber-terrorists.
On January 25, 2013, a person or persons claiming to be Anonymous hacked USSC. Gov, the website of the United States Sentencing Commission. The attack, called Operation Last Resort, attracted a storm of media attention and supporters initially celebrated the event as a triumph over the Leviathan know as the Federal Government. The website was defaced in memory of Internet Activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide several days earlier; a list of demands was posted, along with a link to download an encrypted file claiming to contain information about prominent public figures that would “bring down the government and cause chaos.”
A week after Operation Last Resort, the file remained encrypted and no information was released. The government basically ignored the threats and Janet Napolitano continued to demand a crackdown on the so-called cyber terrorists.
Behind the scenes, people in the hacktivist movement were beginning to wonder what exactly was going on. Why would anyone go to the trouble of hacking an important government website, make serious demands cloaked in threats of retribution, and then drop the issue? People began to wonder who was really responsible for the attack on USSC. Gov and what was the true purpose of Operation Last Resort?
All hell broke loose when a group named Anonymous X-SecT began to ask these same questions publicly on their websites and Facebook pages. They also offered some possible answers. They wondered if Anonymous was really behind Operation Last Resort or if it was a false flag attack by an intelligence agency of the United Sates Government. Was Operation Last Resort intended to identify anyone who downloaded the data bomb and build a file to be used against them in a government crackdown?
Anonymous X-SecT also raised another frightening possibility. What if Operation Last Resort was actually the effort of a highly sophisticated criminal organization, intended to gather personal information and hijack users computers? Could Operation Last Resort have been the phishing expedition to end all phishing expeditions, designed to enrich powerful cyber criminals?
Instead of receiving a rational response that resulted in a productive dialog, several members of the hacktivist community decided to attack Anonymous X-SecT. They claimed X-SecT betrayed the movement and proceeded to hack their websites and Facebook pages. Obscenity laced messages were directed at X-SecT, along with a good deal of personal slander.
Clearly, the response from a vocal minority of the community was to try and shoot the messenger. Instead of addressing the issues X-SecT raised, and inspiring dedicated activists to work more effectively for change as Anonymous X-SecT had intended, a small group decided to impose a heckler’s veto on their own allies.
All of these events took place in full view of the public on the Internet, and eventually came to the attention of The Inquisitr’s Wolff Bachner, who wrote a detailed article about Operation Last Resort and the issues raised by Anonymous X-SecT.
After the article was published by The Inquisitr on Thursday, January 31, 2001, several reader comments were posted below the article that criticized Anonymous X-SecT, including one that contained a threat to take over X-SecT’s Facebook pages and groups. Co-incidentally, The Inquisitr received a tweet from Anonymous X-SecT, offering to sit down for an exclusive interview. The group said they wanted to clear the air and explain why they went public with their criticism of Operation Last Resort.
As a rule, Internet activists are not overly fond of the press, and they rarely grant interviews. The Inquisitr decided to accept the offer, and in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, February 2, 2013, Wolff Bachner conducted a no-holds barred, one-on-one conversation with Xero Flux, the spokesperson of Anonymous X-SecT.
INTERVIEW WITH XERO FLUX OF ANONYMOUS -X-SECT:
Wolff Bachner: I’m here with Xero Flux, who is the designated spokesperson for Anonymous X-Sect. He will be answering our questions about his group and the uproar created when X-SecT decided to criticize Operation Last Resort.
Before we discuss the infighting in the hacktivist community, I’m sure our readers would like to know more about your group.
The name of your group is Anonymous X-SecT. How are you affiliated with the hacktivist collective that has come to be known as Anonymous? Is there an actual structure or can anyone use the name Anonymous?
Xero Flux: Our individual affiliations vary drastically. As does the entirety of anonymous. Eventually after using chats long enough you can get to know certain people. It goes from there depending on those involved. People tend to link up with those they feel they can trust. Usually small groups form and operations develop. We have yet to see an operation that utilized all of anonymous and its collective power.
We do want to make clear before we go further that Anonymous X-SecT is not a hacking group (nor has ever claimed to be or done a single hacking or illegal activity), but yes we understand the general perceptions within the public that anyone with that “anonymous” tag is a shadow hacker. This simply is not the case. In fact the large majority of anonymous “members” are not hackers, but rather activists, protestors, artists, and everyday people.
We have the same contact within the structure of anonymous as anyone. Being that anonymous has no structure there simply is no “official” communication method. So when an operation appears, you have nobody official that can confirm it whatsoever. You either follow the band wagon, or don’t participate.
In theory nobody can join anonymous because we are all anonymous to begin with, but as anonymous has evolved so have the unspoken rules. In the older days once identity was exposed you were out, that was it. Now, people like me who have not hidden their identity’s are just as welcome. So yes. Anyone can claim the anon tag or step up and be a voice, create a sect, and so on. The only thing that can stop a corrupt cell or person claiming the anonymous banner is if the message is corrupt enough that other anons will we react appropriately. Anon is becoming more volatile as each week passes, and for awhile X-SecT has been a lone voice in the community trying to repair the holes we see that are popping up.
Since there are no official rules, the majority usually keep to certain agreements; (for example You do not hack or assault other Anons, you do not rat out those you have worked with on specific operations, and the one we have broken today, by speaking with media.) We do this because with recent events we no longer have the ability to do our work effectively and if other anons wont back us up, we will do whatever we can to assure our opinion, information, and opinion is released to the public.
Wolff Bachner: What are the goals of your group? Do you have a specific philosophy or do you follow the anything goes, free for all attitude that the mainstream media always refers to when they describe the hacktivist movement?
Xero Flux: We have no one goal, but what binds and keeps us together is the defense of our freedom of expression, the protection of internet freedoms, and to take back our birth rights of true freedom from the tyrannical governments who have hijacked them.
As for a purpose, we would have to say simply to raise awareness and assist those seeking answers on what is going on around the world as well as to aid those frightened, confused, or scared after coming to grips with some of the data we share. We do not tell people what to believe, as we only give them the data in the hopes of stimulating their minds. We let them do the rest on their own, but we are there if they could use a friend, an opinion, or even someone just to relate with during a rough day of coping with the situation. We are all in this together and we feel obligated to do what we do, because we can. We all found each other for a reason! We do not believe in coincidences.
We do have some basic internal guidelines within X-SecT. While we all believe in total freedom, we understand the chaos that comes from zero organization. In example if we speak as X-SecT as I am right now, we have to make sure you do not add your personal opinion unless the majority of the sect agrees. (Determined through internal debate and discussions) We also have basic decency rules for our public pages/sites/posts. Adult content, irrelevant postings, spam, the usual unwelcome eye sores to any online media is not tolerated. We believe in freedom of speech, but when trying to raise a point on information that shakes the core of the person you are speaking with, if they see for example a half naked babe posted right after – they will most likely not take us seriously. It’s hard enough getting folks to honestly look at facts in this day and age. We are not the only ones who employ this type of basic common sense and decency, so yes the mainstream media is distorting the facts on this one, big surprise!
X-Sect is a year old this week and we have only had to remove one person. So, overall this system is working for us very well.
It’s very rare if not impossible to get all sects on board with a single operation or ideal with so many people involved, and the vastly differing views on politics, religion, and society that come along with that. This is partially why Anonymous is what we call in a make or break phase. How Anonymous as a collective handles these ridiculously accepted internal issues and how the public relations pans out will either give anonymous more strength, or divide it further into chaos. We URGE all Anonymous to unify. Stop the infighting, stop the drama, get back to what got you started in the movement! Most importantly, when you see childish behavior speak out. It’s only becoming so prevalent because its tolerated.
Wolff Bachner: How do you plan to achieve your goals? What can you, as a small group of concerned Internet activists, do to affect change and keep the World Wide Web free of government control?
Xero Flux: By doing what we have been doing as X-SecT for a year now. Posting, commenting, sharing videos, bugging the guy on the street to research the NDAA and so on. We have seen first hand after aiding new comers that they turn around and do the same. Essentially we are all ripples of the same truth waves. Almost a cyber version of pay it forward. This is how anonymous is growing so quickly and has such an influx of non-hacking members. Once the ripple effect is large enough we expect the truth to be nearly impossible to keep hidden behind the distorted lies, and smear campaigns..
At the moment, admittedly no we do not have the magic answer to fix the internet censorship issue, but we believe the answer will not be hard to produce once the majority of the world are ready for real change. So we move on with providing information and aiding those willing to learn. In the hopes one day we will have enough awareness to create that effective change.
Wolff Bachner: Why did Anonymous X-SecT decide to risk the wrath of the community and come forward with your concerns about Operation Last Resort? Why were you concerned about Operation Last Resort?
Xero Flux: We are always speaking out, this time it just happened to be on something with the name anonymous attached to it. As with all our research we researched with neutral views and were left with many questions, little information, and a lot of risk. We spoke out immediately for two main reasons:
1) To protect ourselves digitally by stating and making clear we had nothing to do with this operation. As we feel this is being used to tag anons for future false flags, arrest, or even assassination.
2) To warn our brothers and sister so they would see our concerns and collectively address them. Nothing hurts us more than to see people mislead without looking at facts or asking questions. It hurt us greatly to see allies following something with such shady signs of manipulation.
Wolff Bachner: What do you think is the real purpose behind Operation Last Resort. Have you been able to pinpoint any specific evidence that makes you think Operation Last Resort was a false flag operation or a scam?
Xero Flux: That’s a tricky one. Nobody really knows (of who is talking) and that’s the problem. All we do know for certain is the operation leaders enjoy asteroids… and playing games with the American public as well as fellow anons. When they threatened the US government with chaos if demands were not met we feel they crossed a very serious line that puts not just those participating in danger, but anyone under the anonymous banner.
We honestly just feel this is a set up as detailed in your previous article. Our list of concerns has not shrunk since they were posted.
Anons with ability to hack USSC would not play games like this, make threats, and produce no data. Then ask the public to download an unknown file. None of it adds up to what we have seen with other larger projects. No collaboration of sects, just bang here it is!
Wolff Bachner: Who is attacking Anonymous X-SecT for speaking out about Operation Last Resort and why are they doing it?
Xero Flux: This is one we need to be careful with as we are not out to slander people, but according to “self admissions” they are Antisec’s (Ben Burnette and DaBlack Packet) who are doing the hacking, while they have younger uninformed anon goons spamming and trying to troll us into oblivion.
As for why such an attack – ask them, as they have changed their reason at least 3 times now and by the time I write it down it will have changed yet again. These people have no moral code and are not legitimate freedom fighters, they are self admitted trolls that also claim to be anonymous. After what we have seen, documented, and discovered we can say with 100% certainty they are not working for good or the collective itself.
Hacking a website that thousands visit over personal grudges hurts all those people locked from that information. All because they disagreed with an opinion.
They started all this by one day demanding I (Xero) take down the page on our website regarding this operation, or our website would be hacked, “final and only warning” -DaBlack Packet.
We refused and still do. It is our right to question whatever we wish and we refused to be pressured or censor ourselves. We did not insult anyone and we clearly stated our concerns and left it at that. The following day you published the article regarding our stance and that’s when they went ballistic.
Within hours they had hacked just about everything we had control of. Spamming, insulting people on our accounts, deleting our posts, kicking admins. Just utterly defaced our community. Affecting over 3,000 people in private groups we created for others, which they also destroyed by closing. All this because they didn’t get their way in censoring our opinion on the operation.
We have a hard time believing random hackers with this type of access and skill are spending this much energy on us. It all appears to be pressure from the top. Factor in Facebook still not replying to a single one of us and both hackers are still posting as us as we speak here. Why would Facebook allow this? Who really knows, but sadly, this is not the first time we have been put through this with them and their complete lack of assistance.
Wolff Bachner: Operation Last Resort, and the confusion about who was behind the attack on USSC.Gov, has created a quite a bit of chaos in the internet activist community. Is there a sense among Anonymous X-SecT members, and in the larger community, that the movement is in jeopardy?
Xero Flux: Well, before this operation went public there already was much worry that the movement was being hijacked as well as split apart. This is also why we took it slow in our reaction to this operation. As not to make rash decisions during critical times.
Many anons also believe along with us that these types of attacks and operations are classic signs and tactics of a divide and conquer agenda, while others are blindly supporting this operation for whatever reason they have concluded. Most, from our polling, appear to be the younger, less experience anons that get sucked up into these types of psyops.
Wolff Bachner: The great majority of Americans base their knowledge of Anonymous on what the mainstream media tells them. They think of Neon in the Matrix, hiding in his tiny room, hacking the planet to spread chaos and bring down the system. The government has portrayed Anonymous as a group of dangerous criminals, who will crash trains, tamper with traffic lights, shut down power plants, and empty people’s bank accounts; an out of control collective that is endangering people’s very lives.
Is the media giving an accurate picture of internet activists or is there more to the hacktivist movement? Is the government misrepresenting the movement in order to crack down and take control of the World Wide Web?
Xero Flux: Is the media giving an accurate picture of what we are about? Absolutely NOT. Some independent media outlets do spread the message properly, but the usual suspects – you know, the alphabet channels, definitely distort the message and use well known tactics to fit their agenda. The big media machines will not give anonymous members who are not paid off a voice, it is that simple. We have written enough emails and made enough phone calls that if they wanted real answers, they could have them. Instead we don’t even get a sorry not interested reply.
Wolff Bachner: Why are so many people willing to openly identify themselves as part of Anonymous and run the risk of serious legal issues, financial damage, and even imprisonment?
Xero Flux: This is a great question and one we hope it opens the eyes of some of your readers who may doubt anything we have to say. Simply put, we have no fear. We are sick of waiting for a hero to arrive and will not tolerate the lies, distortion, and manipulation any longer. With a mask on you can only do so much. Hacking a website will only do so much. Those who risk themselves like we do honestly do it for the greater good even though many may see it as the opposite.
When the game is in the 4th quarter, and 30 seconds are left on the clock, you don’t have time to pussy foot around, and for activists like us a mask is in the way, its takes away our credibility, and aids sites like Facebook in banning us for not providing proper identification. All bumps in the road that many would rather just drive over and pray they don’t bottom out.
Wolff Bachner: Is hacking really the main activity of the community or are most of the people who self identify as Anonymous also using legal means of protest to build a movement for change?
Xero Flux: Absolutely not. In fact it’s the least you see going on. Yes, Operations attacking pedophiles go an all the time, and others are ongoing, but in regards to the size and amount of people participating, it’s not even a small fraction of those who would be called or call themselves anonymous. Most if not all large hacks by anonymous were done by small groups of people, not the collective itself. Many just love to jump on the bandwagon to feel as if they did it. They need to feed that ego.
Wolff Bachner: Do you believe Anonymous can, or even should, evolve to become a more focused movement for change and personal freedom? Can the hactivist movement find a place as the internet’s version of Occupy, without having to rely on hacking and other illegal activities?
Xero Flux: Yes it can, but it will take serious dedication and courage from those in the shadows, as well as those on the “front lines” as we call it. Front lines being when you deal with the public directly trying to make your case and share the core information the media machines distort.
It’s amazing how scared of information so many people are. We can easily evolve if the majority does not allow a select few to determine the direction the collective moves. To grow and survive anon must learn to utilize the great power of so many voices and separate skill sets.
Assuming hacking can solve world issues is pretty much a pipe dream at this point. The activist angle is the only viable angle left to legally keep the message spreading in order to increase the effect the collective has. Until these issues are addressed, groups will just continue to argue with each other and be pitted against each other by the manipulators. The power of one person’s voice is so under-rated…. If people only understood the power their voice has if they truly stand up and use it. Combine that with the size and scope of anonymous and you have an unstoppable collective capable of anything.
Wolff Bachner: Aaron is gone but his work lives on. Without addressing the dispute over Operation Last Resort, what would you like to say about Aaron Swartz and his contribution making the world a better place?
Xero Flux: We have nothing but love for Aaron, and his work. We just want to make sure that is noted. As for his work, he is an inspiration. He had the courage to do what he felt was right, and deserved a heroes welcome, not attacks from a so called government of the people. We can only hope to build from the ripple he has created. We will always be grateful to him for his dedication and courage.
Wolff Bachner: Is there anything you would like add before I thank you for time, and we go our separate ways?
Xero Flux: You pretty much nailed it. The only thing we would like to add is we expect heavy assault when this is published, and we accept that. However we are not here to play cloak and dagger games. We are here to share information on what is going on with the world. So to anyone who is involved in new operations assaulting us, just think for a moment that you are assaulting people who have done nothing but assist thousands openly. While those accusing us of everything but the kitchen sink came out of thin air and go unquestioned.
THE ROAD AHEAD FOR ANONYMOUS X-SECT AND THE HACKTIVIST MOVEMENT:
Those of us who are old enough to have lived through the 1960’s, especially those of us who participated in the Anti-War movement and the Hippie rebellion, have seen this before. An idea gives birth to a movement for change. People unite to build a better world and they risk everything to work for their goals.
At first they are successful. The movement is fresh, young, full of energy and people truly believe in the possibility of change. But slowly and surely, their own success comes back to haunt them. The establishment fights back, the media latches on to the latest hot topic to sell more ad space, and the police begin to crack heads.
Then the infighting and paranoia starts to take over, dedicated activists turn on each other, and all the good that was accomplished is washed away in a sea of chaos and destruction.
Hopefully, the new generation of activists will learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and not allow themselves to meet the same fate as the protesters of the 1960’s. Dreams of a new world gave way to drug addiction and death and the movement plunged into darkness.
Today, there are more than a dozen military conflicts taking place on planet earth and hundreds of thousands have died. Poverty and disease is widespread and the world economy is controlled by a few hundred billionaires and major corporations. Faith and spirituality is being exploited by religious extremists determined to prove their G*d is the strongest.
Politicians come and go, promising Hope and Change but nothing ever changes. How many of us are better off today than our parents were in their prime? How many of us have massive debts, a low paying job, and no prospects for a decent future? Is working until we die, while living hand to mouth, an acceptable fate for each of us?
Anonymous struck a chord with millions of activists who have had enough of the status quo and broken promises. The movement is much more than a few talented hackers, hiding in the shadows. There are millions of energetic people, ready and willing to come out from behind the mask and unite with common purpose to find newer and more effective ways to battle oppression and tyranny.
The next step is up to the hacktivist movement. Will they fall into chaos, as we did in the 1960’s, and consume their dreams in flames or will they rise like the Phoenix from the ashes and triumph to build a new and better world?