Anonymous and scoring an “own goal” in the fight over internet freedom.

Well, Anonymous has done it again:

Nestled within the data dump, posted as both a BitTorrent release and posted on sites accessible via the Tor anonymity network, are more than 300 different email accounts from 56 law enforcement websites. Details from the ransacked Missouri Sherriff’s Association website also appear in the release, including user names and passwords as well as users’ home addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers – a move that’s sure to infuriate law enforcement officials even before they note the actual name of the hackers’ release, “Shooting Sheriffs Saturday.”

Also found within the release are various police training files, a list of users who have submitted information to an online “anonymous” crime tip system, and various server-related information and login credentials.

“We have no sympathy for any of the officers or informants who may be endangered by the release of their personal information. For too long they have been using and abusing our personal information, spying on us, arresting us, beating us, and thinking that they can get away with oppressing us in secrecy,” reads the hackers’ Pastebin-posted manifesto. “Well it’s retribution time: we want them to experience just a taste of the kind of misery and suffering they inflict upon us on an everyday basis.”

Like a band of poo flinging monkeys, they once again cheer their ability to strike at that man.

Forgetting that the Man has guns.  Much like the Anarchist bombers of the 19th century managed to drastically harm the very goals they claimed to be fighting for, what Anonymous has done is nothing less than provide those pointing to the fact that the internet needs more, not less control with concrete examples as to why they’re right.  We’ve already seen, in Bahrain, and other nations that yes, it’s possible for a national government to make fairly big strides to restricting the internet.

The biggest barrier, in fact is not technological, but social and political– our own courts have routinely struck down laws seen as too restrictive and the population itself remains hostile to the idea, at least in general. But releasing the names and identities of police?  Potentially endangering tipsters?

That’s a great way to lose this war, especially if there’s no incriminating material as part of the dump– people were willing to accept that a “Technical” violation occured in the release of the Abu Ghraib photo’s because it was plain that the acts being photographed were illegal, violations of both civil law and the UCMJ which those witnessing were obligated to report.  But this, if it’s just the identifying information of police, absent any other information, or criminal files with identifying information of suspects or witnesses, this will have no such defense. What it will do is to back the hand of those arguing that the internet is now as vital as any public utility and that groups like Anonymous must now be treated like terrorists, bringing the full weight of governmental power to bear on them– and that as a part of that, the internet itself must be more strictly regulated.

Such would require great effort– which to date has been an advantage, but the more acts like this, the more the real powers– the corporations and govenrments that actually make the internet work, will start to decide that the extra cost is worth the security.  And worse, so will the people, who rather than hearing about genuine abuses of government authority brought down by hackers, will see cases of latter day infants throwing temper tantrums because some of their associates were put in prison. That does not produce a sense of injustice on the part of the bystanders, merely a hope that the government has enough cells for all.

Anonymous is not the friend of internet freedom– Anonymous is the enemy and its members are working very hard to strengthen the hand of those who wish to end internet freedom.

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