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Behind Sabu’s review of ‘CSI: Cyber’

Who's more qualified to weigh in on a show about a hacker turned informant?


Austin Powell

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 9, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 8:42 am CDT

Last week the Daily Dot published a review of CSI: Cyber. The CBS show focuses on a hacker who quickly flips after being caught by the authorities. What made the review notable—and what’s caught the attention of the hacktivist community—wasn’t the criticism itself, but who wrote it: Hector “Sabu” Monsegur, the former Anonymous hacker turned FBI informant.

A hashtag campaign bubbled up on Twitter over the weekend, and today, some members of Anonymous released a Pastebin doc about it. Critics contend that by contracting Monsegur for the review (and for his report on the blockbuster Blackhat) that we were endorsing him and his efforts with the government, and that the review called into question our reporting credibility.

To be clear, the Daily Dot has led the industry in its investigations into Monsegur’s role and impact—both financial and personal—as an FBI informant. Working through a cache of sealed court documents—thousands of previously unseen chat logs and police records from the prosecution of hacker Jeremy Hammond—we found that Monsegur (not Hammond) actually directed the 2011 Stratfor hack, one of the most significant and costly cyberattacks of the last decade.

We followed that up by revealing, for the first time, the 30 countries Monsegur led cyberattacks against while working as an FBI informant, with particular emphasis on his coordinated attacks on Turkey. These investigations called into question not only the FBI’s stated timeline of events, in regards to the Stratfor hack, but also its ability to monitor its own informants. It’s worth noting that our investigations are ongoing.

We go where the news takes us, unflinchingly following it when it contradicts the official story of those in power and when it means that the most relevant voice on a subject may come from an individual who many find distasteful.

We understand the plight of Jeremy Hammond, the hacktivist whose guilty plea hinged on Monsegur’s actions. We were there at his sentencing and we’ve visited him in prison. We tracked his downfall and betrayal at Monsegur’s hands in painful detail. Our contracting of Monsegur is not meant to undermine Hammond’s difficult situation but to provide rare perspective about a program of national interest—not unlike when we reached out to noted hacker Gregg Housh to dispel some of the media-created myths that surround hacking culture. Simply put, no one is more qualified to discuss the realism of a show about a hacker informant than the world’s most notorious hacker informant.

At the Daily Dot, we strongly believe that every voice matters. Even on a subject that we, as a company, feel passionately about, like net neutrality, it’s a core part of our mission to hear and explore multiple sides of every major issue. The Daily Dot does not necessarily agree with or endorse the views in each story it publishes. As a news organization our job is to illuminate dark corners and share a variety of perspectives. It is up to our readers to agree or endorse for themselves.

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Mar 9, 2015, 4:26 pm CDT