The headline over the online story in the New York Times was uncharacteristically misleading: “Hacker Who Helped Disrupt Cyberattacks Is Allowed to Walk Free.”
The “hacker,” Hector Xavier Monsegur, wasn’t merely a leading figure in the online Anonymous splinter group “LulzSec”; in many respects, he was the ringleader. As profiled in former Forbes London bureau chief’s 2012 tome “We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency” and substantiated in online conversations recorded by other members of LulzSec and subsequently barred from entering into evidence, Sabu was the self-righteous one who first led to attacks on repressive regimes and, later, to “shits and giggles”-style fun, like hacking PBS and posting a fake story claiming Tupac Shakur is alive and residing in New Zealand.
Today, Sabu strolled free from a New York courtroom following a sentence of “time served.” All told, Sabu spent seven months in prison. One of his “co-conspirators,” Jeremy Hammond, is doing 10 years of hard time.
As the storyline goes, the FBI zeroed-in on Sabu early. Sabu, who had children relying on him and had known too many people sent to prison, quickly agreed to cooperate with investigators, giving them an around-the-clock eye and ear on the goings and comings of the hacking collective.
But his role as mole belies the fact that, in many instances, it was Sabu leading the charge. He wasn’t a quiet conspirator, but the one convincing his crew to break the windows and pick the locks of the World Wide Web, only to report back to his handlers on the how’s and when’s of the operations.
It was almost entrapment. Almost. It certainly smelled and tasted like entrapment. It was entrapment seafood spread, but made with that fake crab meat that comes from that ass-ugly fish. You know the kind?
I’m sure the whole ordeal helped make some FBI agents look golden. It also provided valuable lessons to those who would be online anonymously: chiefly, trust no one. This lack of organizational structure surely limits the effectiveness of the collective (even anarchists can’t achieve anything without someone calling the shots), and it reminds one to never reveal too much about oneself — or anything at all — if one’s final object is to remain, well, Anonymous.
Sabu has walked. The only walking the others in LulzSec are doing is in the exercise yard.