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What Were They Thinking?

Many digerati were all aflutter over brazen raids conducted by the FBI against those who allegedly participated in last years DDoS attacks against certain financial-service companies who refused to do business with Wikileaks. Operation Payback, as it was called, included members of 4chan and /b/, as well as other "anonymous" participants who felt it was the Right Thing To Do.

An unknown (but apparently guessable) number of the Operation Payback participants used LOIC, or Lower Orbit Ion Canon, an interesting open source network attack application. While it can be useful by itself, it's real power is in numbers. According to an Ars Technica article;
In the attacks on the financial-service companies, thousands downloaded a tool called LOIC—or Low Orbit Ion Cannon—that joined their computer to the group attack on the target of the moment. However, the tool did nothing to hide a user’s IP address, making it possible for the target website to hand its server logs over to the authorities to track users down by their IP addresses.
So much for anonymity. The Wikipedia entry for LOIC notes that "well-written firewall rules can filter out most traffic from DDoS attacks by LOIC, thus preventing the attacks from being fully effective." Quoting again from the same Ars Technica article:
The denial-of-service attacks attempted to shut down the websites of Visa and MasterCard—which would have had little effect on the credit card giants, since few people ever visit their homepages. However the attack on PayPal focused on the interface used by online merchants, and reportedly caused some slowness, though no outages, to merchants for several hours.
What we have here are bunch of clueless cyber poseurs who're guilty for pulling the "cyber equivalent of a campus sit-in."

And so, in our current over-criminalized society, where nearly everything we do is illegal and demands the ultimate response, the FBI and its friends across the water in Great Britain swung into action and conducted a series of jack-booted raids on a bunch self-important amateur cyber protesters.

I haven't a care for either group in the story up to this point. What I do have a care about are the testosterone amped FBI agents who have more firepower than sense and the full authority of US law to use it in just about any way they deem appropriate. The cyber protesters are nothing to loose sleep over; the FBI, on the other hand, are now a living nightmare.

Which leads us to the individual who started this whole mess in the first place: Bradley Manning.

There's an article on Wired that reports that the Army commanders were warned not to deploy Manning to Iraq. And they were told why in no uncertain ways. Instead, they elected to ignore the warnings because they needed his skills, and they were short-staffed. And once they deployed him, then forgot all about him. Until he strolled through the cheese-cloth security at Forward Operating Base Hammer and released all those lovely cables to Wikileaks. You would have thought after Ft. Hood that the Army would have learned to pay better attention. This is just one example showing they didn't.

The question isn't what were any of these fine folks thinking, the question that needs to be asked is if they were thinking at all. I'm afraid of the answer. The actions by all these unthinking groups is creating a perfect storm of unintended consequences, one of which is the continued and accelerating erosion of our Constitutional rights in the name of national security and safety.

And you know what old Ben Franklin had to say about that.


  1. sounds more an more like what we saw in Germany in the late 30's


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