Anonymous hack of the Federal Reserve a just protest
Ty Johnson, The Oklahoma Daily
Anonymous is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented “organizations” in the world. One reason for this is it isn’t actually an organization, nor even a well-defined group of people. Another reason is the constant stream of fear-laden news reports of its activities.
“Though it isn’t a legitimate organization, or even a well-defined group of people, Fox News has deemed Anonymous domestic terrorists, and Canadian government officials report Anonymous is an ‘international cabal of criminal hackers.’”
Many of the Anonymous are principled and conscientious activists, who hack to protest and disrupt immoral corporate and governmental activities.
Anonymous hackers are criminals who attack private and government websites, explicitly disdain and violate intellectual property laws and release people’s personal information without their consent. But their intent generally is not malicious.
Anonymous’ most recent major action is its attack on the U.S. Federal Reserve. The group tapped the U.S. Federal Reserve’s emergency contact system to release 4,600 banking executives’ personal information.
This and other recent attacks are part of Anonymous’ Operation Last Resort, a protest against the structure of existing computer crime laws, spurred by the suicide of activist and Reddit co-founder, Aaron Swartz.
Before his death, Swartz was being prosecuted for illegally downloading numerous academic articles from Massachussetts Institute of Technology’s database JSTOR. Swartz’s theft was a protest against the sale of information produced in part by public funds. However, he did not attempt to profit from it financially. Although JSTOR didn’t sue Swartz, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz decided to prosecute Swartz anyway. Swartz’s family released a statement claiming his suicide largely was due to the overzealous prosecution by the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office.
Soon after Swartz’s death, Anonymous hacked MIT’s website and replaced the homepage with a memorial for Swartz. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s homepage also was replaced with a Swartz tribute. These “defacements” expressed disgust for a justice system that would have sentenced Swartz to up to 50 years in prison for advocating for free access to information.
Most of Anonymous’ major illegal activities are motivated similarly by ethical concerns. Their recent attack on several Israeli government sites was a response to what they referred to as the “barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people.” When the Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket funerals for children slain in the Newtown, Conn., shooting, Anonymous leaked the church members’ information and replaced the church spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper’s Twitter avatar with a picture that said “Pray for Newtown.”
Even if most people probably would agree with most of Anonymous’ moral stances, they most likely would disapprove of the illegality of their tactics. Such a stance is reminiscent of the attitude of many white moderates during the civil rights movement who agreed with the idea of civil rights but not with civil disobedience. In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr. indicts this questionable legalism by writing “...one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
It is naive to think democracy can exist when citizens have no power over the government. The right to vote is no safeguard against the overreaches of central authority; it is something the government allows you, and your choices often are between candidates who are hardly distinguishable. The only thing that can counter power is power, and in the modern world, one of the most effective ways to exert power is through the Internet. Anonymous, for all its faults and idiosyncrasies, is essentially a group of concerned citizens trying to provide a counterweight to the concentration of power. They are an integral part of our democracy.
Hunter Ash is a math and physics sophomore