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Republican National Convention Info Wars: Anonymous, Anarchists, Protesters & Police

Aug 27, 20127 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

There seems to be mass confusion regarding RNC demonstrations; can you separate fact from fiction?

The 2012 Republican National Convention is being held in Tampa, Florida, with a slightly revised schedule due to the tropical storm. All of downtown Tampa is within the RNC security perimeter. There are about 90 high-definition cameras connected via a wireless network, according to Indybay. 31 surveillance cameras are fixed-point and about 63 surveillance cameras have pan/tilt/zoom capabilities that can be remotely aimed and zoomed in to 20x optical. All videos will be stored for four years. There have been 1,700 beds set aside at the local jail, a video court system setup for first hearings, “extra shifts of public defenders on call to quickly process ‘troublemakers’,” 575 portable toilets, two misting stations, bottled water and city workers to provide emergency medical care. Otherwise, there seems to be mass confusion regarding demonstrations; can you separate fact from fiction?

Just as anyone can claim to be a part of Anonymous, anyone can spread misinformation and disinformation. Anyone can attack a site or make a video and claim it is from Anonymous. Anyone, yes even cops, can be “armed” with a can of spray paint, but is it fearmongering or was some member of Anonymous responsible for graffiti of a Guy Fawkes “V for Vendetta” mask found on a Tampa building, along with a “pile of bricks and pipes” on the roof? If so, does the act of one person speak for an entire collective?

Sarasota private investigator Bill Warner said, “This is pretty bad. There’s a lot of trouble coming our way.” While police were allegedly trying to determine if the YouTube videos claiming to be by Anonymous were tied to the graffiti and bricks, Warner claimed it was definitely done by Anonymous and warned of the coming danger. “Have they more locations with those bricks on roofs some place around town?” Warner said. “I don’t know, but they’ve done it already. They’ve done surveillance around the area. They know where to go. This is right across the street from the hotel where the media is going to stay.” Furthermore, not everyone who wears black automatically is a part of Anonymous either, but Warner made a blanket statement that “members of the group historically wear all black” and warned RNC attendees “to keep their eyes open and be prepared.”

The flipside of that is a “resistRNCpress release to Tampa RNC law enforcement which states, “You have been told that we are coming to commit acts of violence and destruction. We are not. We utilize peaceful means to promote peaceful ends and to stand up for justice…social, economic and environmental justice. You have been told that we are coming to fight the police. We are not…. If you are ordered to assault a non-violent peaceful crowd, we ask you to defy your orders. Stand for justice.” On Sunday, about 100 Occupy RNC people marched to the Bank of America plaza and protested against the “one percent.”  Some of the demonstrators were armed, but only with “crayons and stickers” to make signs such as “You stole our money; we want it back,” reported the Miami Herald.

Not every “Occupy” protester is a part of Anonymous; not every member of Anonymous believes in violence, but recent videos claiming to be from Anonymous do call out PI Bill Warner, the police, and claim flower-power protests don’t work and instead call for a rebellion. The video ANONYMOUS: Message 2 RNC Activists F.B.I TPD & PI Bill Warner also states that they are not domestic terrorists. Many others say the video is a fraud and was not created by Anonymous. There had been previous confusion and reports of law enforcement using drones for RNC surveillance in Tampa, but according to a statement from George Ogilvie, spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service which is overseeing security, “The Secret Service is not aware of any drones being used for the security planning of the national special security event.”

Then CNN claimed seeing an intelligence bulletin prepared by the FBI and DHS which said “anarchists could try to use improvised explosive devices.” CNN reported the law enforcement bulletin stated, “FBI and DHS assess with high confidence anarchist extremists will target similar infrastructure in Tampa and Charlotte, with potentially significant impacts on public safety and transportation.” (Charlotte, North Carolina, will host the Democratic National Convention in September.) Tampa activist Kelly Benjamin told BuzzFeed the anarchist plot is “old school fearmongering” and another activist called it propaganda.

Softpedia added that one Anonymous video reportedly “speaks of a conspiracy that’s about to be enacted by President Barack Obama. According to the hackers, the US president is planning a ‘massive scale civil unrest using the Department of Homeland Security.’ Part of this civil war, as the activists call it, will take place at the RNC.”

The second video advises RNC protesters to “take out the cameras planted all around the city, jam police communications by using radio frequency jamming devices, and take down the barricades set in place to prevent protesters from going into the city,” Softpedia wrote. The alleged hacktivist video said, “We advise anyone who is going to RNC to bring some kind of respiration device to protect their lungs. This could be a gas mask or a respirator for painting that is equipped with a filter.”

Indybay reported on the numerous items recently banned by new laws in Tampa, including:

gas masks or similar devices designed to filter all air breathed by the wearer in an attempt to protect the respiratory tract and/or face against irritating or noxious gasses or other materials; water guns, super-soakers, and water cannons; air rifles, air pistols, paintball rifles, explosives, blasting caps, switchblades, hatchets, axes, slingshots, BB guns, pellet guns, sling shots, blackjacks, metal knuckles, nun chucks, mace, ax handles, crowbars, hammers, shovels or any club or bludgeon; rope, chain, string, strapping wire, cable, string, line, tape, or any other material of a similar nature, having tensile strength greater than 30 pounds and length greater than 6 feet; containers filled with urine, fecal matter, blood or any other bodily fluid; and much more. Flagpole and protest signs will be banned unless they are less than less than 2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Large puppets would be prohibited if their parts fit into several of the prohibited item categories. Guns, however, are allowed, if you have a carry permit.

Sam Rosenfeld previously wrote, “Anarchists and Extreme Left Wing groups are not synonymous with protesters, but in the effort to combat the former, law abiding protesters are often dragged into the fray, subjected to mass arrests, CS gas and other indiscriminate, ineffective means that don’t actually contribute to either upholding the law or constitutional rights.”

Many of us are trying to separate fact from fiction, misinformation, disinformation or even if the videos were put out by Anonymous. Bruce Schneier told Tampa Bay Online, “It could be a 15-year-old in the basement. Anonymous is a lifestyle. Anyone can say they’re with Anonymous.”

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.