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As part of Operation Last Resort, the hacktivist collective released a series of hundreds of names and addresses attributed to the Witness Protection Program.
As of midnight Friday PST, Anonymous had hacked the front page of USSC.gov, replacing the normal content with a statement, a video, and a series of links to downloadable files.
Twelve hours later, the site, that of the United States Sentencing Commission, which sets sentencing guidelines for the federal courts, was down.
And 24 hours after that, the worldwide hacktivist collective allegedly dropped an “Anonymous Warhead,” as the subject line proclaimed in an email the Daily Dot received early Sunday morning from an Iranian domain. The leak contained a series of hundreds of names and addresses attributed to the Witness Protection Program, a program supervised by the United States Marshals Service to keep witnesses in danger safe before, during and after their testimony. (Due to the sensitivity of the information disclosed, the Daily Dot has elected to not link to the actual release.)
“Our anonfamily brothers in America have (thank the Prophet, PBUH) trust us with the labor of delivery to you the news of the hack of your Witness Protection Program’ for traitors and dogs. All their false names are revealed and as they cast eyes away from the path now all the eyes must be on them in their dark places.”
If it is what it purports to be, the release could put lives in danger, including those of women who have testified, or agreed to testify, against abusive men, as well as witnesses who have testified, or are scheduled to do so, against the leadership of criminal organizations. How these people are “traitors and dogs” is unclear.
Update: @AnonymousIRC, one of the more reputable Twitter channels for Anonymous activity, claims the “USSC on @doxbin is a fake,” comprised of data “ripped from a two year old document.”
The group’s original statement, mirrored on Pastebin, declares that “Operation Last Resort” is a response to the death of Aaron Swartz and last year’s FBI infiltration of Anonymous and subsequent arrest of several of its members. It makes reference to the Red October cyberspying campaign, saying Anonymous has done something similar and now intends to begin making use of the information it has gathered.
“We have enough fissile material for multiple warheads,” the group stated. “Today we are launching the first of these. Operation Last Resort has begun.”
The statement ended with a series of links, one for each member of the Supreme Court, formatted as “Scalia.Warhead1,” the first file to be leaked. Readers were encouraged to download the encrypted files.
In retaliation for the FBI’s actions, Anonymous is targeting the United States Sentencing Commission to get back at the Department of Justice. Or something.
“As a result of the FBI’s infiltration and entrapment tactics,” they wrote, “several more of our brethren now face similar disproportionate persecution, the balance of their lives hanging on the severely skewed scales of a broken justice system.” and now, “(w)ith 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”
Anonymous explains, again somewhat murkily, what it intends to do with the files on offer.
“The contents are various and we won’t ruin the speculation by revealing them,” they wrote.
“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.
“We have not taken this action lightly, nor without consideration of the possible consequences. Should we be forced to reveal the trigger-key to this warhead, we understand that there will be collateral damage. We appreciate that many who work within the justice system believe in those principles that it has lost, corrupted, or abandoned, that they do not bear the full responsibility for the damages caused by their occupation.
“It is our hope that this warhead need never be detonated.”
The threat can be read both as the publication of secret files and the triggering of worms secreted within the affected computers. The emotional torque behind this action seems to have build to an even higher pressure than normal.
These actions will be taken, according to Anonymous, unless there is “reform of outdated and poorly-envisioned legislation,” as well as “reform of mandatory minimum sentencing” and a “return to proportionality of punishment with respect to actual harm caused.”
The Daily Dot attempted to contact the U.S. Marshals Service on Sunday. The representative reached was unable to provide an email address to forward the document to and asked that we call back during regular business hours.
Correction: Several Anonymous entities have claimed that the leak is a hoax. The headline of this story has been altered to reflect this.
Screengrab via Anonymous/YouTube
Curt Hopkins has over two decades of experience as a journalist, editorial strategist, and social media manager. His work has been published by Ars Technica, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. He is the also founding director of the Committee to Protect Bloggers, the first organization devoted to global free speech rights for bloggers