Members of Anonymous, a collection of digital pranksters working for democracy in the dark places of the Web, said Saturday that they had hijacked the site of the U.S. Sentencing Commission as well as a trove of sensitive documents to take revenge for the death of Internet freedom advocate Aaron Swartz.
Swartz has become a martyr for hackers and activists fighting for a free and open Internet since he killed himself just over two weeks ago in the face of a threatened prison sentence many have said would have been disproportionate to his crime. Shortly after his death, Anonymous hacked MIT for its role in enabling a U.S. prosecutor to push for a brutal punishment for Swartz.
“The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch involved in sentencing, was replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago ‘a line was crossed,’ ” The Guardian reported.
“In a message posted on the website and in an accompanying YouTube video, the hackers said they had infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information they threatened to make public.”
The group likened the captured information to a nuclear weapon, saying it had “enough fissile material for multiple warheads” that it could launch against the Justice Department and its associated organizations if its demands to reverse the policies that led to Swartz’s death were not met.
“By late Saturday morning, the USSC website was offline, but cached versions could be found where the message appeared,” The Guardian wrote.
A pulse-pounding propaganda film describing the broad civil liberties context surrounding Anonymous’ hack and promising to do more appears below.