LulzSec, a name synonymous with chaos, first appeared in 2011. “Lulz” is a mutilation of the acronym “LOLs,” and “Sec,” abbreviating “Security”. Targeting companies with hacks such as Sony Pictures, HB Gary, and Fox, 10 core members sought to teach the corporate world a lesson under the flag of Anonymous, the cyber activist group responsible for hundreds of hacking operations around the world. They wanted to show the world that they are trusting corporations with their private data, and that corporations didn’t care about their client’s safety. Other operations, they did simply for the “Lulz”. Sabu helped found the group LulzSec and worked closely with members such as Anarchaos, also known as Jeremy Hammond, to hack Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence and consulting firm.
Hector was arrested on June 7th, 2011, after the F.B.I. raided his New York home for previous hacking charges including conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. He originally faced up to 124 years in prison for those charges, but, the F.B.I. propositioned him with an offer to become an informant, continue as his alter-ego of “Sabu”, and help them catch the rest of the LulzSec group. Sabu agreed and only served 7 months in prison when initially arrested.
Since literally the day he was arrested, the defendant has been cooperating with the government proactively, sometimes staying up all night engaging in conversations with co-conspirators to help the government build cases against them. – Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore a secret bail hearing on August 5, 2011
Sabu would then enter “I.R.C.” or internet chat relay networks, signed in under his “Sabu” moniker and construct one of the most infamous entrapment schemes played out by the F.B.I. against cyber-vigilante group, Anonymous, ever. Under Hector’s direction, LulzSec was directed to infiltrate and extract over 200 gigabytes of data, including credit card numbers of clients, and then donate to charities such as CARE, Red Cross, and Save The Children, using the credit card numbers, (which were erroneously shown in plain text on the Stratfor servers), harvested from the databases during the breach.
Six people were indicted, across multiple continents, and given various prison terms or probation depending on their local laws and contributions to their activities within LulzSec. The most infamous sentence of them all was Jeremy Hammond’s who spread rage through the world of Anonymous when at his sentencing hearing he stated “he had no idea about the vulnerabilities of the Stratfor site, until Sabu told him, under the direction of the F.B.I.”. Hammond was then sentenced to 10 years in prison, and is currently serving his time in Manchester, Kentucky.
Sabu was later credited with the takedown of LulzSec by the federal government, credited for time served, avoiding 124 years in prison. The internet was furious. Activists would come together and campaign for the release of Hammond and the others. Casting a damning guilty verdict on Hector in the court of public opinion. Snitch, they would call him. Receiving death threats were a normal occurrence, and he then became a target for Anonymous operatives world-wide who sought a world of transparent government, free from the influence of big corporate lobbyists. Did Sabu just take down Anonymous single-handedly? Did he undo years of hard work that has led to change in both Tunisia and the United States? Why did he do it? To save his own skin? These are the questions of thousands of angry activists and political dissidents alike.
I myself know what it is like to be hated by members of Anonymous, also what it is like to be stalked, harassed, threatened, and even pushed to the point of wanting to end it all. The F.B.I raided me for my actions within Anonymous, primarily helping to expose a rape cover-up in Steubenville Ohio, and I am currently awaiting indictment with a potential prison sentence of 25 years. I turned to the media, to control the narrative and not become lost like Hammond, Barrett Brown, and so many other activists arrested. My plan has worked so far, and I remain free. Some members, (if you can call a leaderless collective group members), disagreed with my tactics, saying that I was seeking fame, not freedom. Some people associated with Steubenville have dedicated their every waking moment to stalking and harassing me, my family, my employers, and even my landlords in attempts to destroy me.
The noise that was being made in my direction caught the attention of Sabu, who messaged me on Twitter, telling me to keep my head up. I had never spoken to Hector before, but like so many others, had made my mind up about his betrayal to the mask of Anonymous. To me, he performed the ultimate betrayal. However, my mind was intrigued, curiosity piqued. Why did he care about how I, a stranger to him and a member of Anonymous, felt? Why did he proceed to give me advice to deal with the constant torment of people targeting my wife, my unborn child, and my businesses? What could he possibly have to offer?
I asked him one question, why did he help to out members of Anonymous to the F.B.I.? What was in it for him? Could he have gained financially? Was he seeking federal employment for his skills? What made it all worth it, to take away 10 years of someone’s life? I told him that I understood the wanting to stay free. He was facing 124 years and nobody was even physically injured, yet the Steubenville rapists destroyed a 16 year old girls life and only got 1 and 2 years respectively.
I, like many others, view the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as an archaic, hypocritical law based off the fear of the movie “hackers”, released in the 1980’s. For example, it was written to pertain to military computers, before a computer was a household item, and defines a “secure computer” as anything with a microchip. These days, virtually everything in your house has a microchip. So, in theory, I could be sentenced to 5 years in prison for hacking my own PlayStation, or microwave oven. The government looks at us like magical wizards, as my previous attorney, Tor Ekeland, once put it. They don’t understand hacking, so they fear it.
Hector proceeded to tell me how the F.B.I. really didn’t need his help to identify the members of LulzSec at all. He explained that the members of LulzSec had very poor, what is commonly called, “OpSec”, or operational security. Various subpoenas of social media networks, and communications networks led the F.B.I. to the actual identities. It would seem that they just needed to trump up the charges into something significant enough for the F.B.I to prosecute, as they don’t prosecute anything under $5,000 or a misdemeanor in the computer crimes division according to my previous lawyer.
So, their poor OpSec was their downfall. Did this mean, that in principle, Hector didn’t give up his allies? I was intrigued at the thought of a secondary narrative. He explained that Anonymous met it’s downfall by registering itself on social media such as Twitter, and Facebook. The registering of your profile on these networks leaves a digital footprint that the F.B.I. can apparently trace to your actual identity, regardless of the many precautions taken by members of Anonymous. Are any of us truly Anonymous? Edward Snowden recently revealed a powerful NSA monitoring program aimed at millions of innocent American citizens, regardless of our guaranteed constitutional expectation of privacy.
Hector went on to state that he “made his own mistakes” on previously visited forums and online communities. Mistakes, which may have led to his being “doxed” or had his identity outed by the group, BackTrace Security in 2012. Referring to Jeremy Hammond as “JH” in his Twitter direct message session with me, he stated that multiple members of LulzSec outed themselves in I.R.C. or logging into their VPN (virtual private network) called HideMyAss, who cooperates with United States and international authorities when subpoenaed. Hector claims that he only provided I.R.C. chat logs to the agents who arrested him. He went on to state that Hammond was profiled by the police, in my opinion, most likely from his previous stints in jail/prison due to activism and hacking attacks, and that his chat logs confirmed his profiling by the F.B.I. leading to his arrest.
Hammond, along with everyone else involved in Anonymous knows the potential consequences for being involved with such a politically charged movement. Government fears us, free thinkers endorse us, and we are the voice of the oppressed. A powerful megaphone in the world of cyberspace, the world’s largest sidewalk to protest on. I learned those consequences when the F.B.I. came knocking on my door, on the heels of the man who hacked Steubenville booster website, rollredroll.com coming out in the Herald Star, an Ohio Valley newspaper. I knew what it was like to be snitched on, sold down the river for protection, and abandoned. I still am facing indictment that could lead up to a quarter century of my life being washed down the drain for doing the police’s job for them. 6 school officials were indicted as a result of our involvement in the Steubenville case for helping to destroy evidence relating to the rape of a minor.
So naturally, I was skeptical of Sabu’s explanation, until he mentioned his family became targeted by the F.B.I. unless he cooperated. This is something I heard of before, they pull this with high profile hackers and political dissidents, even threatening Barrett Brown’s mother with prison time if he didn’t cooperate with authorities. A defiant Barrett Brown refused their deal and eventually the Fed’s case crumbled around them, giving Brown just 5 years in federal prison.
A little reading on Sabu, and you will discover that he was a high school dropout, who was unemployed at the time of his arrest, taking on the responsibility of adopting his aunt’s daughters while she was incarcerated. Living in his mother’s house in the Riis housing project on Manhattan’s lower east side, he was struggling to make ends meet and at the same time trying to make a difference the only way he knew how,– hacking.
I, myself, know what it is like to be a victim of circumstance, but again my bias kicks in. This guy sold out his brothers in arms. But, is it really self-preservation when innocent lives are at stake? His mother could have been prosecuted, and his cousins shipped off to one of the many dilapidated foster homes in New York, forever lost in the system. One could argue that Sabu was not thinking of himself, but in fact, think about the safety of those people who were always there for him, his family.
The F.B.I. has a peculiar knack of infiltrating groups, governments, and even Anonymous, starting “in-fighting” between its members to create chaos and dissent. Operations of such have been featured in the media, torn from the pages of many declassified documents, and classified documents alike leaked by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. Their goal? To destroy any political group that doesn’t serve their interest. Hackers and free thinkers alike are targeted by a government, funded by corporate lobbyists, and fueled by extensive greed. The Department of Homeland Security, the F.B.I., local police, fusion centers, and private-sector paramilitary groups are sometimes referred to the Domestic Security Alliance Council. The D.S.A.C. was outed in December of 2012, for working with banks to arrest peaceful protestors of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They even went as far, as described in the legally obtained documents by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, to authorize snipers to carry out acts of assassinations on the leaders of the Occupy protests all over the United States.
Let’s recap what that means. Corporations, and banks, lobbied to the sworn protectors of the American people, essentially paying them off, to eliminate any dissent from constitutionally protected, peaceful protestors. They were planning (illegally) to kill unarmed American citizens. Plain dressed officers, inciting riots to discredit the movement, and stalking law abiding citizens, violating the Constitution of the United States of America. These agencies still have yet to answer for their crimes, yet demand our trust and cooperation, after labeling the protesters “Domestic Terrorists”.
There are plenty of wars in the world that the United States has dipped its hands into, but one war in particular rages on since the inception of hierarchy itself. A war that many have fell victim to, and one that may have played a crucial role in Sabu’s cooperation with the F.B.I., A war on social class.
“When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die”.
-Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park