Published here are two of three interviews that I conducted to write my report entitled Anonymous: How Techies Became Terrorists. Since the publishing of my interview, I have seen twitter buzzing with tweets calling out the folks at “YourAnonNews” for their apparent “ego-fag” behaviour. I am not wholly aware of where this is coming from, but I have become somewhat annoyed at seeing my work used as “evidence” in order to advance some of the infighting between Anonymous actors.
My work stands alone. I was offered these interviews by members and former members of the “CabinCr3w” many months ago – in fact, in November to be exact. I was unable to take them up on their kind offer at that time. Instead, I conducted these interviews about a month before they were published (March 2012). I conducted three interviews with people in a safe manner assuring those that participated in these interviews that my purpose was neither to compromise them nor their work. These interviews were conducted in a mutually respectful environment with consent from all parties.
I stress that purposes of these interviews were not to advance a single persons ego. On the contrary, the purpose of every single one of these interviews was to advance research and knowledge and to shed light by providing access into a world that many do not see or understand – for which I am grateful to my three interviewees for providing me the time and the privilege of access into their lives and their work.
While many are saying that the timing of my interview is “ironic”, I want to turn this sentiment around and say that it is most ironic that the crux of my report, one that emphasises the value of having access to free flowing information and knowledge, an issue that lays at the heart and soul of many within Anonymous, that many are unable to see these interviews for what they are – as a contribution to that.
Had this interview been about egos, my participants would have been giving multiple interviews to the big media outlets that have been approaching them for months. Instead, they chose to give their first and only interview to me – because I work for “the little guys”. Cageprisoners is a little NGO that has been running on very few resources – but has managed to exist for almost a decade due to the dedication and the passion of human rights activists and lawyers who have made major career and financial sacrifices to “bring the voice to the voiceless” in this whole war on terrorism. We pride ourselves in providing our readers with primary sources, including interviews, all relating to the war on terrorism. This was precisely what my Anonymous project was about, and this is where my friends in Anonymous who gave me their interview 5 months after they offered it to me, chose to contribute.
My work stands alone from the Anonymous infighting. Simultaneously, the interviews “Jackal”, “Emmi”, and the interview with the “CabinCr3w” member who chose to not have his Anonymous identity revealed, also stand alone.
If I may reference the NATO document that I cite in my report, hopefully for the benefit of some:
“Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership. It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths. The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators prosecuted.”
Be careful of your infighting. Who better to heed the advice from than a Muslim American in our post 9/11 world?
In any case, below is my interview.
“Jackal” and “Emmi” are just two of thousands of Anonymous actors who have taken centre stage in emerging protests around the world. Together, the two of them also run the largest Anonymous account on Twitter, “YourAnonNews”, reaching over half a million followers. “Jackal” and “Emmi” sit down with Cageprisoners researcher Ayesha Kazmi to discuss what Anonymous means in light of protest, civil rights, and internet privacy.
Ayesha Kazmi: Can you both explain to readers what Anonymous is?
“Jackal”: Anonymous is about coming as a group to fight what we couldn’t do as one. The idea that the small guy can, for once, fight a war with the big corporations and the governments that try to hold us back. Anonymous is nothing, as it’s not a group, but all of us; as we all have something we would fight for. I’m not a member of Anonymous, as it’s not a group. I find myself driven by the idea that a mass of people from different backgrounds and ideals can work together for a task. That is what it means to me: the average person standing up. I wouldn’t go that far of saying there are shared goals, shared beliefs, common ideas, and ideals. But there is a common culture. For one operation, there can be a handful of us, to hundreds of people coming together. But for the most part it is small groups of people working on their own projects or even people like me that like to do what they are doing alone. It may look as if Anonymous is running around as a group, but that is simply not the case.
“Emmi”: To me, Anonymous is the people undivided, we are all the same and therefore have the same goal. It gives me a sense of unity with the world and the common people – anyone who isn’t 1%. It allows us to come together and fight those that we cannot on our own. Anonymous is an idea that everyone can operate anonymously if they so wish. It’s a privacy project, and as much as some of us feel the same there are obviously those within the idea that don’t. It allows for healthy infighting, and most importantly, exercising of our freedom to say whatever we’d like to. Since the dawn of human civilization there has always been this certain right to privacy, in our own houses, doing what we wish, because no one should be allowed to stop us if our actions in our own homes don’t harm others. But since the dawn of the internet what we may have taken for granted, that if your number and address weren’t listed in the phone book, no one could find you or anything about you, has been totally blown to pieces. Non-intelligent machines can gather every bit of info that they can possibly grab from the World Wide Web is our reality these days. Anonymous allows you to have a façade, so to speak, on who you really are so that you can conduct your business, whatever it may be, without also spreading who you are in real life.
Ayesha: Why do you participate in Anonymous actions?
“Jackal”: I can speak for what I fight for as I will only speak for myself. I have a long history in animal rights, environmental rights, and human rights. I don’t like to see people suffer and our world being taken advantage of. The only tactic I used is “d0xing”. I think this is a way to get back at just one person. I find it useful. I use the internet like a tool to find and spread of information in my “d0x” to make my point. My fight is the fight for information to be free, and for the wrongdoers to be wronged.
“Emmi”: This question depends on who you ask. Everyone will probably have a different answer. Me, personally, I’m trying to fight the inherent corruption with a system just due to it being a system with a very narrow leadership in terms of populace. I am fighting against the system in all its aspects. I aim to be that wrench that leads to anarchy, because anarchy to me is no rulers, not no rules. I want to head towards a global shift in consciousness where we no longer need a “leader”, where we can lead ourselves as humans with humanity, and just be nice to each other and share.
Ayesha: What does the internet represent?
“Jackal”: The internet is a crazy thing. Content can be made by anyone, ideas can be spread with the click of anyone’s keyboard, and anyone can speak out about anything. The powers at be, from governments to corporations and trade groups want to change this. Our voice has become too powerful. With the power of the internet we can do anything from topple governments to get a free education, but transparency is a word that puts worry in people of power as we have been built to believe what the MSM and their advertisers what for so long. The internet is knowledge, fun, boring, crazy, and “lolcats”. It’s the only place where you can build your own platform with no money, or blend in and soak up information. The internet is its own world: where people interact with no question of cultures and no wars about physical boundaries. The internet is common ground for all of us. We log in without an identity and build what we want. It’s the only place where you can learn about any subject you want – for free. The internet should be a model for a new way of governing in an off line world.
“Emmi”: I’m a product of the digital age, and I have been using computers since I was very, very little. Computer science also runs in my blood. I built my first one when I was super young and have been addicted to them ever since. The internet has opened up so many lines of communication that I never would have had, had I been born in a previous era. Growing up I was rather naive about it, thinking all people had access to this awe-inspiring resource, this collective pool of universal knowledge. And then I found out they didn’t, and that even some countries tried to keep people from their rightful knowledge. And so the internet became at once a tool of learning, to also a tool of organization and a platform for people who are in the thick of it to report what is REALLY happening. It’s information in real-time, and that makes it a tool invaluable to humanity. It represents transparency and knowledge. Almost one in the same, but not every country in the world is so lucky as America to have no national firewalls blocking things the governments don’t want their people to see. The internet is a HUGE source of knowledge and information and the fact that there are people out there working to deny the common person’s right to learn everything they can about anything they want is what I’d say is the fight for the freedom of information.
Ayesha: What do you make of government efforts to monitor and regulate the internet? Do you believe “National Security” is a valid rationale?
“Jackal”: I hate it. They don’t know what they are doing. The government wants the people not to have a voice and that is where it gets worrisome. The government is beginning to see what will happen if the people can speak out so freely in an open forum. From places like Egypt that has used social media to help them organize the fall of their government to Anonymous helping organize the black out of a hundred or so large profile sites for the protest of SOPA. We as a whole have a voice that is stronger than any law and our force as a whole can create change if we just use it. I think this so called “National Security” is a ploy to get the US into more wars. If you want to look at this way, you can say that who built it should have the most control of it at root level. But is it to say that it has gotten too big for them to handle it? Or, are they just not liking what has come out of the little project that was developed for internal use? I can see how the “little project got to big” and now they can’t control it, but I don’t see the harm in it. Yes, there are bad things on the internet. There is a part of the internet where kids are being sold for sex, where you can buy any drug known to man, or if you need a new credit card number there is a place for that as well. The point is, the government aren’t fighting these people with the same amount of passion. They are holding back and pointing to people that are speaking loudly in defiance against the government.
“Emmi”: No, I don’t. Because as we found out with Enigma, the best encryption is one that is public. I don’t for a second doubt that the government didn’t know that and that that was one of the reasons it decided to open the internet for use by everyone. It’s kind of like Tor. Tor is pretty awesome, if and only if there is a huge volume of users in your area. The more users in your area, the more anonymous you are. The fact is they are saying Anonymous is a threat to national security but secretly they must love us, gauging holes in their systems and finding vulnerabilities so that they don’t have to. And also, in my opinion, I don’t think any Anonymous actor would true use their prowess with technology to physically hurt other people. I do not see money as a form of pain. Except for those that don’t have enough, and if you’ve ever read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander then you know that poverty is needed in our particular flavour of “-ism”. Extreme poverty facilitates extreme wealth. I hate censorship in all forms. People need to know what is really going on in the rest of the world, not just what their governments want them to know. I have no idea what to call it, but it’s like the governments of the world are all nanny states and they’re all conspiring to keep their charges under rocks, and thereby keep them placid. But also a bit scary for the regular user who doesn’t really realize their rights are getting trampled. In my opinion, if things keep going as they are, in twenty years we’ll be the new China, and our firewall will be bigger and stronger than theirs.
Ayesha: How Anonymous fight internet censorship?
“Jackal”: We will find a new way to get that song. And porn isn’t going anywhere. I see why the entertainment industry wants to protect their product, but at the same time the artist should be in control of their product and not the labels. As a person that loves movies, books, and music and at the same time very vocal about me pirating I have to say that I hate censorship and believe that all forms of media should be free and open. As Cory Doctorow put it, we didn’t find our favourite artist by blindly picking up a book or a CD. It was shared. We went out with friends had a good time, and yelled the lyrics out the car window. We fell in love with the moment and the song was our soundtrack. The artist makes a couple cents but I go to the shows; that is where they make their money.
“Emmi”: It is Anonymous that keeps the holes open, the information free. My favourite part of technology is that it is flawed, it will always be flawed. Just because the government says you are not allowed to view something doesn’t mean that there isn’t backdoors and holes to get around those rules. It’s like the Matrix. The internet is the Matrix. There are rules and laws, sure, but rules and laws are made to be bent and broken. Especially stupid ones, like keeping knowledge away from people just to keep them stupid and placid.
Ayesha: Wouldn’t some people say that Anonymous are fighting two contradictory fights? One the one hand, you maintain the right to internet privacy, and on the other, you assert that there needs to be transparency.
“Jackal”: Privacy is for an individual where as corporations and government should be transparent.
“Emmi”: Privacy, as in, what I do behind closed doors is none of the government’s business. By transparency, I mean that it is the governments duty to us so that we, the people, know how this corporation of a country is run. Privacy is on an individual level, but when people are organizing together, especially with services to others, like the government, there should be absolutely no privacy. I think it should be a like a one-way mirror. We as the people, should be allowed to know what our governments and corporations are up to. It keeps us honest, and without it we are seeing the consequences of rampant dishonesty. The government and corporations should have absolutely no view into our privacy as individual human beings.
Ayesha: Are Anonymous actors terrorists?
“Jackal”: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. This now cliché variation of “quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” – Lucretius De Rerum Natura could never be truer. Yes to some Anonymous terrorise them, but who are these people? They are people that will kick you out your house without question. They are cops that beat peaceful protesters because they don’t have the smarts to handle the truth. And they are companies that rob, cheat, and steal to make a quick buck. They are the terrorists to many. I don’t give a fuck if they call me a terrorist. I have never asked for the government to do anything for me. I don’t trust them enough to give me a title. I will ask though: when will the government go after those terrorists that had a little tea party in Boston a bit ago? I heard their ringleader was John Adams.
“Emmi”: No, the government is. The definition of terrorist is “someone who causes terror”. Anonymous does not cause terror. We give hope. We spread hope. And maybe the mental tools to say we have finally had enough of the real terrorists. The “terror scare” is the red scare. Which is also the black scare. And the socialist scare. And the populist scare. And every other scare to the beginning of government. It’s propaganda. And if I’m a terrorist, I’m proud to be a terrorist. Because the only people who are scared of Anonymous are the governments! So if I am a terrorist, I wear the badge proudly. Anarchists who aren’t labelled terrorists are doing it wrong. The People should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of their people. So, in my eyes, I’m totes doing it right. Like, Totes Magotes. We live in such a nanny state today, it saddens me. You know my view on the government being scared, and my stance as an anarcho-communist is that there should be no establishment and everyone should share ‘n shit – no money needed. We got by without it for long enough, there’s no need to be dependent on it now. I mean, at what point did “Lulzsec” ever physically hurt a human being? I can say, truthfully, that I have physically hurt more human beings than hactivism ever will. I was a bit of a fighter in school. The fact that the government can be scared is what keeps me going every day
Ayesha: How has Anonymous affected you in real life?
“Jackal”: Due to what is going around us with the Twitter subpoenas and other restrictions to freedom of speech, privacy is a huge issue. I don’t hack or anything of the sort, but due to the fact that I speak out, I’m a target. I go to great depths to cover my tracks online as I know I’m being followed online and off line by law enforcement. There have been law enforcement agencies outside a few places that I have lived now countless times. It hasn’t really changed how I live, more than being aware of what is around me at all times. I worry about my loved ones more than anything. I know why I’m being watched. I’m loud, I speak my mind, and I stand up for what I believe. Because it’s not the words or views that the government wants, then I become a target. I’m just a person that thinks that a lot of wrong can be changed with a few solid voices.
“Emmi”: Well, it has definitely made me more wary of people on the internet and anyone who is too nice to me in real life – new faces and stuff. I keep a very tight knit group of friends offline. I have my activism circle of friends and my non-activism circle. They don’t really ever cross over, not that I wouldn’t like my close friends involved, just that it scares me to think they’d be targeted too. I tend to have sudden bursts of paranoia which lead to an even stronger resolve that what I am doing is right and that I am doing it right. As for the police watching me, they haven’t stalked me in marked cruisers or anything, but they know for sure why some of their personal information was publically leaked in a “d0x” on the internet after I was physically beaten at a protest. They should’ve kept their riot piggies on stronger leashes.