And Now, a Message from Mr. Fawkes . . .

by wjw on December 13, 2011

The hacker collective Anonymous has, to no one’s surprise, come out against the National Defense Authorization Act, which recently passed the Senate on a 93-7 vote.

For those of you unfamiliar with the act— which may be most of you, since the mainstream media seems too caught up in the doings of the Kardashians and the Republican Flavor-of-the-Month to report anything about this— it contains a provision jointly authored by John McCain (R-Ariz) and John Levin (D-Mich) that (1) declares that the United States of America— every inch of it— is now a war zone,therefore giving (2) the United States military the sole authority to arrest and indefinitely detain without trial members of al-Qaeda on American soil, while (3) explaining that United States citizens are not subject to military arrest and detention (4) unless someone says so, and (5) PS, you’re in al-Qaeda if we say you are.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is fucking nuts.

Yet another demonstration of why the popularity of congress ranks somewhere below that of, say, Casey Anthony.  I can only imagine that 93 senators were so swollen with privilege, power, and hubris that they could never in a million years imagine that this power would be used against them.

It seems to be something the politicians came up with on their own.  The FBI (which has arrested over 400 terror suspects since 2001) didn’t request this bill, and neither did the military, which has neither the training, experience, or personnel to do the FBI’s job.  in fact, under this bill, it would be illegal for the FBI, or any other civilian agency, to arrest a terror suspect.  Only GI Joe is allowed to fight H/y/d/r/a/ al-Qaeda.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, though he hasn’t made the threat lately.

Admiral John Hutson, the former Judge Advocate-General of the Navy, has spoken against the bill:

“The enemy is just laughing over this, because they will have gotten another victory.  There’ll be one more victory. There won’t be any bloodshed or immediate bloodshed, there’s not a big explosion, except in a metaphorical sense, but it is a victory nonetheless for the enemy. And it’s a self-inflicted wound.”

“In this war, the enemy doesn’t have to win,” Hutson said. “They can cause us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do, such as indefinite detentions, in the name of fighting a war,” he said, noting that the country has already subjected itself to invasive scrutiny that would not have been tolerated before Sept. 11, 2001.

In the case of the defense bill, the detention provisions would raise key questions about basic legal concepts that have long underpinned guarantees of freedom in America, including the habeas corpus right to contest being jailed and the Posse Comitatus Act passed after the Civil War to limit the military’s role in law enforcement.

“This is an asymmetric war. In asymmetric wars, you want to pit your greatest strength against the enemy’s greatest weakness,” Hutson said. “Our great strengths are our ideals and our system of justice.”

Or, as Anonymous put it in their inimitable style:

…the detention mandate to use indefinite military detention in terrorism cases isn’t limited to foreigners. It’s confusing, because two different sections of the bill seem to contradict each other, but in the judgment of the University of Texas’ Robert Chesney — a nonpartisan authority on military detention — “U.S. citizens are included in the grant of detention authority.”

The passage of this law is nothing less than an outright declaration of WAR against the American People by the military-connected power elite. If this is signed into law, it will shred the remaining tenants of the Bill of Rights and unleash upon America a total military dictatorship, complete with secret arrests, secret prisons, unlawful interrogations, indefinite detainment without ever being charged with a crime, the torture of Americans and even the “legitimate assassination” of U.S. citizens right here on American soil! (You kinda get the feeling that Anonymous is looking forward to all this.)

(Ironic that the spokesman is dressed as Guy Fawkes, who died following a completely looney, unsuccessful attempt to impose a religious dictatorship on Britain.  I’d guess they haven’t read the history, but instead saw the movie, where the bad guy was blown up by the good guy in the Guy.)

This isn’t a left-right issue.  Civil libertarians on all sides of the political spectrum are appalled. 

All is not lost, fortunately.  The Senate bill will still have to be reconciled with the House version of the bill, the revised bill passed by both houses, and then signed into law by the president. And then survive the inevitable court challenges, assuming of course that not all the judges have been arrested and confined to some steel-walled institute run by the Corrections Corporation of America.

So in the meantime I suggest that you contact your representatives in Washington, and tell them that you really like having civil liberties and that you oppose the provisions of this bill.

And we can also lay down a few bets.  Anonoymous, on the grounds that the Senate has declared war— or, as they put it, “WAR”— on America, have now declared war— or WAR— on the Senate.

Who do you think will win?

Patricia Mathews December 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Walter, I have contacted both Senators and my representative about this. But I think the old definition of “We’re Americans – we have rights!” has given way to “we’re Americans – look at all the goodies we have to consume!” Or have you noticed that nobody speaks of “the American citizens” any more, but rather, “the American consumer”?

I think – not original with me, but courtesy of John Michael Greer – they’re anticipating a domestic insurgency of massive proportions when the supply of consumable goodies dries up, and this Act is the tip of the iceberg. Remember, very few people alive remember how it was before the Cold War “war on subversives” or grew up steeped in history.

Sean Craven December 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

When I posted on this a little while ago? I worried I’d fallen for an Onion story. The overwhelming support the bill received is what kills me. I think they may not know what they look like from the outside.

TC/The Writer Underground December 13, 2011 at 9:50 pm

So we’ve driven Al-Qaeda underground, killed most of its leaders, foiled several domestic attacks before they got off the ground, documented multiple abuses of domestic surveillance laws already in place, and yet we feel compelled to further erode our civil liberties?

Jason Erik Lundberg December 14, 2011 at 3:50 am

It’s true that this law is a horror, and makes utterly no sense. But whoever in Anonymous came up with that video completely undermines their message when they ripped the entirety of V’s speech, almost verbatim, from the film, and tried to glue it into another context. If Anonymous is really going to do something about this, then tell us, but don’t just vomit back the Wachowskis words without having them make any sense.

And what’s the point of even having someone in a Guy Fawkes mask in the video anyway, except that it references the film? Or the fifth of November? It’s December 14, already! The person there isn’t even the one speaking; that’s done by text-to-speech generator. Anonymous is frankly smarter than this.

wjw December 14, 2011 at 5:51 am

So the video just copies the speech from the film? Okay, it makes more sense now. It was full of references that don’t seem to apply to the current situation.

Yeah, unless Anonymous is planning on blowing up the Senate, this was major fail.

S.M. Stirling December 14, 2011 at 6:26 am

A number of Anonymous types were going to have a go at the Mexican drug cartels.

The Zetas and other cartels promptly started kidnapping, chopping off heads, and announcing that they’d simply kill 10 random civilians for each and every Zeta collaborator named by Anonymous.

Anonymous caved immediately, with quivering lips and blubbering sobs.

This illustrates a simple fact: really bad guys are utterly immune to this sort of thing.

It can hurt only governments, religions or other organizations that are law-abiding or quasi-law abiding and have some sense of restraint or responsibility.

It’s like the guys who did that “Piss Christ” exhibition some time ago. They were asked why they didn’t do a “Piss Koran” and they bluntly answered that they were afraid to.

The lesson here is that you will be targeted by people out to undermine and/or humiliate and/or make you look weak and foolish…

… just as long as you have any sense of self-restraint at all.

But if you’re a bloodthirsty lunatic who massacres without limit at the slightest provocation, you can prevent people from undermining or disrespecting you quite easily, because these types, the Anonymous and Wikileaks and so forth, are utter gutless wonders who only attack safe targets.

So it pays to be a bloodthirsty lunatic and you get nothing but grief for being a good guy.

Ralf The Dog. December 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I have attended a few Occupy rallies and purchased some supplies for them, so I guess I am on the deletion list. It has been fun knowing you all. I guess I will catch you in the next life.

wjw December 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Steve, I call bullshit.

The Zetas kidnapped a member of Anonymous who was engaged in some kind of pamphleteering action. Anonymous demanded his release, said they would name Zeta accomplices, and named one police official just to prove they could.

The Zetas released the Anonymous member, and said that they would kill 10 civilians for the name of every accomplice revealed. Anonymous, having achieved their primary objective, prudently decided not to put innocents at risk and decided not to reveal further information.

I have not heard of any “quivering lips and blubbering sobs.” If your information is better than mine, please provide it.

What would you have had them do, Steve? Buy a bunch of guns and fight the Zetas in the streets? Let the Zetas kill hundreds of civilians? What is your definition of cowardice, here?

Anonymous isn’t afraid of the Zetas because the Zetas can’t hurt them. The Zetas don’t know who they are and can’t find them, and because Anonymous is spread throughout the world, even if the Zetas knew them, they couldn’t reach them.

In the meantime, Anonymous goes on opposing totalitarian governments, exposing pedophiles, and revealing information on Potemkin corporations. And getting arrested, of course. (And =not= rolling over on their colleagues, which is what hackers could previously be counted upon to do.)

A number of their actions are half-brained and silly, but then they’ve got a lot of fifteen-year-old hackers in the mix, which tends not to tip the balance toward maturity.

But they pretty much know who the bad guys are, and they take action against them. And of course they’re outlaws, so they get arrested.

But I wouldn’t call them cowards.

DensityDuck December 15, 2011 at 1:19 am

“Anonymous isn’t afraid of the Zetas because the Zetas can’t hurt them. ”

Well, except for that one guy, presumably.

“What would you have had them do, Steve? Buy a bunch of guns and fight the Zetas in the streets? ”

Maybe they could *not* come off all hard-core like they’re doing anything other than pranking the squares. Although heck, even Gandhi never realized how much his method of protest depended on a society that believed in civil order, the rule of law, and a free press.

S.M. Stirling December 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm

DensityDuck: “Maybe they could *not* come off all hard-core like they’re doing anything other than pranking the squares.”

— yeah, precisely. I ran across a lot of these guys’ spiritual ancestors in university back in the early 70’s, always talking about “resistance” and so forth.

Amazing how those self-professed anarchists and revolutionaries screamed for the authorities (and mommie) if someone else decided to see ’em and raise ’em about the rules not applying, and things got rough.

Walter: “The Zetas released the Anonymous member”

— several other blogger-hactavists were tortured, beheaded, disembowled and their bodies left on public view, by way of making a point.

“prudently decided not to put innocents at risk ”

— pudently decided not to put themselves at risk.

“Anonymous isn’t afraid of the Zetas because the Zetas can’t hurt them. ”

— tell that to the ones gutted and beheaded and kidnapped. Oh, maybe those weren’t “really” Anonymous because… they could be found? Bit of a circular argument there…

And if they’re not afraid, why did they stop? The Zetas told them to fuck off and shut up or else, and they did exactly what they were told. The reality principle comes to the cyberverse.

As for finding them, you get one, you hold his head under water until he squeals, you get more… everybody talks in those circumstances.

And the Zetas and their ilk (or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard or whatever) can operate anywhere they please, as far as killing some hapless nerd they’ve ferreted out is concerned. Shooter comes in, kills, leaves. Or the person just disappears. Unless it’s prevented by… ooooooh, maybe the FBI? On whom fearless Anonymous has declared “WAR”?

(Then there’s Barett Brown, formerly fearless Anonymous spokesperson, who has prudently self-disappeared himself from Texas to a more salubrious clime.)

Note that they’ve now decided to expose “corruption in the Mexican government” while carefully leaving the Zetas and the others alone.

Oh, gee, that’s risky.

Orwell pinned these types back in the 1930’s, when he noted that pacifism and similar movements were -always- objectively pro-totalitarian, because that sort could only operate in a democracy.

He had particular fun pointing out that Gandhi did his best to hinder the Allied war effort while publicly relying on passive resistance to oppose a possible Japanese invasion, and advising the Jews of Europe to adopt his methods to shame Hitler.

Ralf The Dog. December 16, 2011 at 8:05 am

Mr. Stirling, you are assuming Anonymous knows who anonymous is. Lets say I was a member of Anonymous. Lets say you were some bad guy who managed to track me down. Lets just say you stuck my head underwater while you used my private parts for an ashtray. I decide to talk.

“I know this guy on IRC, he goes by the name of Zippy. I don’t know what country he lives in, however, he tends to log in at about 2:37am CST so he might live in Europe or, he could work nights….”

Just because Zetas accused the people they gutted of being Anonymous, that does not make them so. They could just as easy grab some disposable people, torture them, then call them Anon.

wjw December 17, 2011 at 7:33 am

Well yes. As Ralf points out, it’s hard to squeal on people whose names you don’t know, who you’ve never met in person, and whose address you don’t happen to possess.

The Zetas have killed four bloggers (as well as hundreds if not thousands of other people, presumably). I can find no news reports claiming that any of these guys were members of Anonymous, but rather online types who reported Zeta activities on their blogs, WHICH ANYONE COULD READ. Not very anonymous, if you ask me.

As for the Zetas sending hit teams into other countries to waste annoying hackers, history does not offer many favorable examples of armed thugs operating outside their culture and language, and without local support, doing very well at such things.

But to the point, Steve: you claim that Anonymous are, collectively, a bunch of sniveling, weeping, cringing little cowards. I would like to better understand the lofty perch from which you make these judgments.

Let’s assume that a colleague of yours has been kidnapped by the Zetas, the most violent gang in all Mexico. You want your colleague released. What courageous acts would you perform in order to put Anonymous in the shade?

Pete Johannsen December 17, 2011 at 7:55 am

The thing about Anonymous is that any attempt to characterize their actions is doomed to failure. It’s not a group, in the tradtional sense. It’s like the two of you are playing chess, and trying to figure out where to place the swarm of bees or the squid on the board.

When we look at the videos put out by the Anon Veracruz, is it a group of bloggers striking a blow for decency in the middle of ground zero of the drug war? Is it another drug cartel putting on the mask to force a reaction from the Zetas? Is it an internal faction of the Zetas trying to embarrass their information security wing? Is it a couple of kids doing poppers and making up stuff for the lulz? Who knows?

The biggest war that Anonymous has right now is internal, with a large block of people trying to start grief wars with governments, religions, wall street, and so on…versus all the guys that thinks this is a violation of the whole point of the thing, griefing for fun. There are as many parodies put out by anonymous of their own videos as there are calls to action.

While I don’t think there is any question that there are tons of cowards and reprobates that don the mask, it doesn’t take a lot of searching to find people who are taking great risks in an attempt (sometimes a misguided attempt) to make the world a better place.

In my home city, there is a stuttering, dying occupy movement. And I am not helping it in any public, noticable manner. Basically because if that became public it would put my career in a permanent tailspin. But I have contact and relationships with those that can and do help out. And some of the people out there going full Guy Fawkes are my coworkers, men and women who have placed their belief in what is right over and above their personal safety and financial security. And it shames me.

If they are cowards, we need a new word for what I am.

S.M. Stirling December 20, 2011 at 2:45 am

Walter: In that scenario I’d just go to the police and blow the whistle anyway and consequences be damned. A pity if someone dies, but we’re all going to die someday anyway. When matters less than how or why.

If you let yourself be blackmailed, you’re a slave.

My basic point here is a disdain for people who try to talk the talk without being ready to walk the walk.

Also for social parasites; people who take advantage of the rules and protection of the same system they’re pretending to oppose.

wjw December 22, 2011 at 7:43 am

That is a courageous enough solution, Steve, though of course the hostage would be killed, and most likely so would you.

It wasn’t particularly an option for Anon. The information they’d gathered was =from= the government— they threatened to release the government’s own files that they’d been sitting on.

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