Was LulzSec bust part of a play against Julian Assange?
Some observers see the LulzSec bust as an "intermediate step" in the pursuit of a more prominent fugitive: WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange.
March 13, 2012 — CSO —
Last week's arrests of five LulzSec leaders was major news in the hacktivist world, but it looks like that takedown may have been just an intermediate step in pursuit of a more prominent fugitive: WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange.
The first shock to the loose affiliation of political hackers known as Anonymous, of which LulzSec is a spinoff, is that those arrested last week had been turned in by their leader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, 28, of New York, known by his alias "Sabu."
Monsegur reportedly had been cooperating with the FBI since last summer. He was arrested in June and pleaded guilty in August to a dozen criminal charges.
And, according to multiple sources, Monsegur also provided an FBI-owned computer to facilitate the release of five million emails taken by LulzSec from the Texas-based, global private intelligence firm Stratfor, which are now being published by WikiLeaks.
An internal email from Stratfor says that the U.S. Department of Justice has already obtained a sealed indictment against Assange.
In a March 7 blog post, D.J. Pangburn, staff editor at Death and Taxes, wrote that the FBI had confirmed that in December 2011, Chicago-based LulzSec hacker Jeremy Hammond (one of the five arrested), whose alias is "Anarchaos," messaged Monsegur about vulnerabilities in Stratfor's servers.
"The FBI then instructed Sabu to offer Hammond a server on which to store the Stratfor data. We know the rest of the story: Anonymous announces the Stratfor hack, and two weeks ago WikiLeaks began publishing the emails as the Global Intelligence Files," Pangburn wrote.
The significance of those emails is a matter of debate. Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, wrote in a Feb. 27 blog post that, "this kind of e-mail treasure trove should be a gold mine for research into how Stratfor does what it does -- provided one can separate the fake emails from the real thing & On the whole, however, this ain't that big of a deal."
Kevin McAleavey, founder and chief architect of the KNOS Project, agrees. "The 'spooks' all over our government not only have no use for Stratfor, but consider them to be a sad joke," he says. "I can see no real reason that there would be anything of national security need to protect them or their so-called 'assets.'"
Or, as one comment to the Drezner blog noted, "the biggest story here is the birth of the Anonymous-WikiLeaks alliance."