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March 10, 2011

In News

As army private Bradley Manning suffers for his alleged megaleak of secret documents to WikiLeaks, one group of hackers seems determined to make sure that others feel his pain.

Over the weekend, the loose hacker collective Anonymous declared that it will go on the offensive against those who are currently detaining Manning in a Quantico military brig, keeping him in solitary confinement and forcing him to strip nightly and stand at attention naked each morning.

In a crowdsourced document used to coordinate the group’s actions, Anonymous members name Department of Defense Press Secretary Geoff Morell and chief warrant officer Denise Barnes as targets and call on members to dig up personal information on both, including phone numbers, personal histories and home addresses. The goal of the operation, for now, is to “dox” the two officials, the typical Anonymous method of publishing personal information of victims and using it for mass harassment.

“Targets established,” reads the document, before naming Morell and Barnes. “We’re in the ruining business. And business is good.”

The group, which is calling its attack “Operation Bradical,” also lists demands as follows:

“Manning must be given sheets, blankets, any religious texts he desires, adequate reading material, clothes, and a ball. One week. Otherwise, we continue to dox and ruin those responsible for keeeping him naked, without bedding, without any of the basic amenities that were provided even to captured Nazis in WWII.”

One member of Anonymous, who tells me he’s not associated with the action, says that doxing will likely include “ruin life tactics” such as “ordering them pizza, sending them thousands of boxes, reporting them to police for drug abuse, sex offenders list, tricking their ISPs into canceling the Internet, messing with their social security numbers, false flag, fax harassment, phone harassment, email bombing, subscriptions to magazines, diapers, tampons.”

Nasty as they may be, those tactics seem relatively harmless in comparison to the attack that Anonymous recently launched against the security firm HBGary Federal in retaliation for one executive’s threats to unmask leaders of the hacker group. HBGary Federal chief executive Aaron Barr had his email archive hacked and published online along with that of his colleagues. HBGary Federal’s website was defaced and Barr’s Twitter account hijacked. After a series of scandals were revealed in the company’s published emails including a plan to launch cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns against WikiLeaks, Barr resigned last week.

Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown told the Tech Herald that harassment of Quantico officials will be just the first step in a “media war” against those detaining Manning. “Manning is an absolute hero,” Brown told the news site. “If this means me going to f#*king prison, then that’s fine.”

Last week Manning was hit with 22 charges for his alleged role in a massive leak of classified information to WikiLeaks, including a charge of “aiding the enemy” that can carry a penalty of death. Since those charges were filed, Manning has been forced to strip naked nightly in a tactic that Quantico officials say is legal and aims to prevent suicide attempts, but others claim is designed to degrade and punish the young private. According to Manning’s lawyer David Coombs, Quantico officials have declined to state their full reasons for Manning’s stripping publicly to avoid “because to discuss the details would be a violation of PFC Manning’s privacy.”

“The Brig’s treatment of PFC Manning is shameful,” Coombs wrote in a statement Saturday. “It is made even more so by the Brig hiding behind concerns for ‘[PFC] Manning’s privacy.’ There is no justification, and there can be no justification, for treating a detainee in this degrading and humiliating manner.”