For those interested —
A timeline of events on drama related to Stratfor, Anonymous, and LulzSec:
I moved to New York City in January 2007, initially living in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, then near the vague border between Washington Heights and Harlem in Manhattan. During this time period, I met Vivian Shaw, with whom I would enter into a relationship that lasted four years. Around a month into the relationship, she asked me to move into her apartment with her in the East Village.
In late 2008, I practiced some involvement in and association with the hacking-related subculture described by media as “Anonymous,” although in general I had engaged in related activities going back numerous years (even into the mid 90s when I was a teenager). I lack advanced hacking skills (and have not had great interest in gaining those) and so my involvement was primarily on the “lulz” side of things (one shouldn’t underestimate the cultural importance thereof, especially in setting the tone and tenor of the space that defines hacking operations). (My association with this aspect of the internet subculture greatly predated the actual coining of the terms “lulz” or “Anonymous,” and I was regarded as the single most prolific and talented Wikipedia vandal of the early 2000s.)
At an early point I had skepticisms about Anonymous particularly for its early role in promoting US foreign policy objectives (ie, “color revolutions” of the Soros/State Dept model, with Iran being only the most blatant such case) — I sought to steer Anonymous more solidly in an anti-Zionist direction (and found ample ground to work on given remarkable already-existing aspects of the trolling subculture), against forces that actually qualify as the worst human rights abusers in the world: US militarism and Israeli Apartheid, and their associated intelligence structures.
In summer of 2010, Vivian and I moved to Austin together after she was accepted into a PhD program at the University of Texas.
Within the first month we were living there, we experienced an act of vandalism (or mild “sabotage” if I wanted to be dramatic about it) — suddenly one night we lost internet access. After attempting to resolve the issue for several hours, I called the ISP that night, and the person I spoke with on the phone expressed confusion given that ours was the single only account which lost access in that area, which apparently would generally be unusual. Soon thereafter, I found a cut and frayed cable directly outside our apartment unit door, but was unsure regarding a connection. It took around four days for someone to come to repair the problem. What we were told was that someone had illegally cut our cable in whatever place within our apartment complex where all individual unit cables are located — he said it was definitely cut illegally, as it was left frayed, and without an identifying tag which the ISP used when cutting cables (he initially thought there was a possibility that someone at the ISP had merely cut the wrong cable incorrectly).
When I told the repairman about the cut cable placed outside our door, he actually became startled. What he told me was that, whoever cut the cable, there was no identifying information on the cables themselves which would be understandable in order to match it to any specific account or, especially, a specific apartment unit associated with that account. He indicated that whoever did it would necessarily have needed to access the ISP’s own databases, and had no possible explanation as to how it could have occurred.
Around this time, I met someone named Ori Swed, who was also a PhD student at the University of Texas. His background in the Israeli military was as an intelligence officer overseeing the occupation of Palestine, and he had the sort of right-wing views on the conflict one would expect. (His actual scholarship seems remarkably poor, badly-written, and unoriginal.) A strange period of “probing” occurred in which, essentially, in any social situation in which I was around either Ori, or his wife Rachel Levi, both of them spent nearly their entire time speaking only to me, and asking me my views on nearly any and all events occurring in the Middle East region, very particularly making a point of asking me which specific news sources I was reading.
In autumn of 2010, there was a brief attempt by Ori to recruit me to the private intelligence company Stratfor. I knew what Stratfor was and had no interest.
During this time period, I did (and still do) suffer from cluster headaches, which at points in my life have been remarkably severe. (One learns to handle pain.) Over a period of several months, Ori, Rachel, and my ex-girlfriend Vivian attempted to convince me to allow Rachel to perform acupuncture on me. She claimed to have cured someone’s blindness through acupuncture in Israel, and she was described as “maybe the best acupuncturist in the world.” I was initially wary, but out of a profound sense of trust in perceived social peers, agreed to undergo the procedures.
The acupuncture resulted in an immediate nervous breakdown. My relationship with Vivian cracked under that stress. I will explicitly note that I sent multiple very politely-worded emails to Rachel Levi detailing my reaction, which received no responses at all. I will also explicitly note that Rachel Levi was not licensed to perform acupuncture in Texas (she did not appear in official registries and in any event had not been inside the US long enough to have attained proper certification), which actually made her actions felonies (compare with, for instance, someone performing dentistry without a license). To date, I am not certain what occurred regarding the acupuncture, or whether I was poisoned, drugged, inflicted with deliberate damage to nerve endings, or some combination of those.
My association with Anonymous continued.
Charting that a bit more — the main forum of Anonymous is the wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica, with its associated IRC channel. Discussing subcultural aspects of Encyclopedia Dramatica is beyond the scope of this specific blog post. However, the leading personality on ED for some time had been the hacker/troll known as weev. In the months following his arrest, the site first experienced waves of incremental censorship (the first article to go, deleted entirely, was one that I had primarily written) before eventually closing down at its original location entirely.
AnonOps (a faction at that moment effectively led by Barrett Brown and Ryan Cleary, associated with the anonnews.org site) launched an operation to “save ED”, and nearly all data was recovered and restored to new servers owned by Cleary. Cleary was then subsequently almost immediately arrested in association with attacks by LulzSec. At that time, there were already whispers in IRC channels that the closure of ED (and the strikingly uneven form of censorship on the site that preceded its closure), the arrest of weev, and the arrest of Ryan Cleary were related events.
I spent the summer of 2011 in New York City where friends of mine attempted to film a documentary about internet vandalism in which I was to be the main subject. A trailer was created, but the film has to date not been completed (the producers were not able to raise appropriate funds).
In September 2011 I moved back to Austin. I quickly found myself associated with Occupy Austin and spent some time there, eventually finding employment with an attorney who also was representing Occupy.
I met with Ori again at the end of September 2011 to discuss events. Regarding my experience from the acupuncture and general discussion that Rachel Levi’s techniques seemed unusual, he specifically told me that she practiced an arcane form of acupuncture handed down secretly, and the only books that describe such methods deliberately contain mistakes, but that otherwise he was just “very sorry” about my reaction. He explicitly asked me to promise that I would never mention Rachel Levi’s name in any legal proceedings, stating, strangely, “she can’t be compromised.” I refused, and he pointed his finger in my face (it was shaking, which indicated he was scared) and began threatening me on the basis of purported powerful connections he had. I asked him about Stratfor and the prior probing, and he merely answered that he was studying geopolitics as a student, and so was interested in those issues as a response. When I asked him about the internet cable being cut, he initially feigned non-comprehension, which I immediately saw through as I recalled Vivian describing to me in-depth conversations she had had with him on that specific subject. When I mentioned this, he then asked if I was accusing him of being the one who cut the cable, which I denied — however, by this point, he was standing up and leaving, feigning “offense.”
In the immediate period after this, I began checking into the IRC channel associated with Encyclopedia Dramatica again. I finally related my story to others, highlighting the role of Stratfor in those events. (From the stalker-blog of Daniel Brandt, who I ordinarily sort of respect, and have been dwelling in the same small internet circles as for a decade now, a partial list of regular ED IRC users. I do not appear on that list, but you can see Anarchaos. I could easily call myself one of the leading contributors to ED, but usually spent little time frequenting the IRC channel.)
I absolutely assert that I in no way violated any law in merely discussing the shadiness of Stratfor around these circles, and never insinuated to anyone that Stratfor should be a “target” for hacking operations. (But of course I knew what was happening in the ED IRC channel.) I do think that what Jeremy Hammond did was heroic, however, and that in exposing that level of fascistic corporate-government corruption, including up to involvement in crimes against humanity, that he rendered a service to his nation and to humanity which a decent society would applaud. Instead, he’s faced the same treatment as Bradley Manning. (In Manning’s case, we can at least note the severity of treatment, while unacceptable, might have something to do with his status in the military, handling by the military justice system which differs from the civilian justice system, and the actual plausible, if incorrect, framing of matters as that he committed the crime of treason in his actions; in the case of Hammond, as a private citizen he broke into the servers of a powerful private corporation but is being treated identically to Manning.)
(More recently, in San Francisco I went on two dates with a girl who, I found out on the second date, was Jeremy Hammond’s long-time best friend in Chicago. In probabilistic terms this seems confoundingly absurd to me, but I’m not specifically accusing anyone of being a police informant at this point.)
I feel my experiences with Stratfor and its associates in Texas, along with my involvement in internet activist circles immediately overlapping with Jeremy Hammond, gives me unique insight into this case. I’m posting this all publicly in public interest in hopes that the unique and scary travesties of justice involved in Jeremy Hammond’s case, in the greater reality of human rights abuses committed by or facilitated by private spy agencies like Stratfor (which have only been partially revealed by Wikileaks to this point), and in the particulars of my own personal situation (which I’ve also, for sake of my own privacy, not discussed the full personal emotional weight from) can be resolved through more open discourse.