Anonymous Hacks The USSC Website (Did You Notice?)
Had this happened a generation ago, it might have meant something. Yesterday, it likely evoked a chuckle and a face palm. Post Booker and some actual crack reforms, it was a big nothing. They posted the screen shot of awesomeness together with another needlessly lengthy manifesto.
Welcome to the club. But the USSC? That's like posting a scathing music review concluding that David Cassidy isn't a great singer and expecting anyone to care. To the extent a message was sent, it's that you don't know who wields power. To the extent you think anyone is going to get shaken up over this, your message isn't that scary.
Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the “discretion” of prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain.
We have been watching, and waiting.
The time has come to show the United States Department of Justice and its affiliates the true meaning of infiltration. The time has come to give this system a taste of its own medicine. The time has come for them to feel the helplessness and fear that comes with being forced into a game where the odds are stacked against them.So you guys can hack an outlier agency that has drifted into relative irrelevance. Got it. Have a nice day. The USSC is symbolic of nothing other than government bloat. The guidelines don't enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Citizens do that to each other. We do it each time we elect a legislator who calls for tougher laws. We do it each time we demand the creation of a new crime because of the tragic death of a child. We do it whenever we elevate safety over freedom. And that's what Americans do.
This website was chosen due to the symbolic nature of its purpose — the federal sentencing guidelines which enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers — the federal sentencing guidelines which are in clear violation of the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments. This website was also chosen due to the nature of its visitors. It is far from the only government asset we control, and we have exercised such control for quite some time…
The guidelines were a manifestation of popular will, People cheer whenever the bad guy gets put away forever. Since ordinary citizens never think it can happen to them, reality notwithstanding, they are harsh and utterly uncaring when it happens to someone else. And suddenly it touches the Hacktivist community and you need to do something about it, so you muster what little understanding you have of the problem, fed by the handful of simplistic myths that have gone viral over the past two weeks, and you think you've got the magic bullet that's going to fix the problem.
One such myth that has spread throughout geekdom is that the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, is the problem. I twitted yesterday that she "one cog in a very large wheel. She looks just like all the other cogs, even though you've only noticed her." That generated a slew of responses to the effect that destroying Ortiz will send a message to all the other cogs.
Not likely. For one thing, the other cogs don't care. For another, you aren't sending a message of shock and awe, but childishness and foolishness. I realize you don't think so, but the way one gauges a message isn't by the passion of the sender, but the impact on the recipient. The irony is the backstory that Carmen Ortiz was using her vast power to pave her way to the governorship of Massachusetts. Not after we ruin you, the great unwashed warn.
What they aren't recognizing is that prosecutors, to the extent they use their office to go into politics, are able to do so because people love prosecutors, adore that they've locked away bad people forever. This isn't a reflection of prosecutors, but Americans. You want to scare people into submission? How about educating the Luddites instead? Get rid of Ortiz and there will be a
You think hacking a website scares these prosecutors? The mob has killers going after them, and yet they persist. Your awesome screen shot doesn't cause nearly as much pain as a hollow point bullet. No, really.
By taking out the USSC website, you disturbed nothing while annoying the government. When the head of the FBI cybersecurity squad gets done laughing, he's going to find someone else to prosecute. It may not be one of you, but it will be someone, or more likely, a whole gang of people with computers. And they have guns. Pissing them off over nothing isn't effective. It's just begging for retaliation, and the government has no sense of humor (or irony).
Stewart Baker, who has never met a government regulation he couldn't justify, questions whether this bit of theater, including the threatened disclosure of private files about the Supreme Court justices, will serve as a wake-up call:
Not that any of the justices have shown much enthusiasm up to now, but the alternative to bad isn't necessarily good. Things can always get worse.
Finally, I wonder if this incident won’t affect the Supreme Court’s approach to cybercrime issues. As Frank Rizzo once said, a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. If that’s true, every time Anonymous mugs one of the Justices in cyberspace, it could be making the Court just a little less enthusiastic about limiting the tools the government uses to deter computer crime.
It's not that I'm unsympathetic to your purposes. I've got somewhere on the order of 5000 posts here discussing the problems we face as a society, trying to illuminate what overcriminalization, overreaching, oversentencing, means to all of us. My solution is to educate, so that ordinary people come to realize that the excesses of government affect them and are a blight on their lives and the future of our nation. It's a long, arduous process, with no easy answers, and it often feels futile as people lack the ability and concern to see beyond their momentary self-interest. But I keep trying.
You think you've got the magic bullet solution, hack a website and the government crumbles? Spill the beans about an individual and all the others will curl up in the corner in fear? Whoever is coming up with your strategy and tactics has much to learn about the enemy.
To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, for every complex problem, there is a solution that's clear, simple and wrong. This one doesn't help, and likely hurts. There is a big difference between winning a fight with the playground bully and taking on a government. More importantly, if you're going to start a fight, make sure you're fighting with the right people.