On January 25, Anonymous, the international hacktivist collective, declared war on the U.S government. In the past two years, more than 20 Anonymous acolytes have been arrested in a string of high-profile operations, most notably disrupting online service of PayPal, MasterCard, and Visa in retribution for blacklisting WikiLeaks, and hacking a defense intelligence firm’s server and using the company’s credit card records to donate $1 million to war-related charities. Aaron Swartz, a figurehead of the Free Internet Movement who was facing 35 years in prison for downloading the online academic library JSTOR, committed suicide last month. Now, in honor of its fallen brethren, members of Anonymous say they have hacked and downloaded reams of compromising government documents, and likened the stolen data to “fissile material for multiple warheads” aimed at the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s the latest escalation in an unpredictable rise. Without formal organization or leadership, Anonymous has turned technological acumen and a general disavowal for the law into increasingly deliberate acts of political defiance.
Five years after the Wampanoag tribe shared a three-day feast of maize, venison, eel, and shellfish with a hapless group of English separatists in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Dutch governor of New York bought the island of Manhattan from the Canarsie tribe for $24 worth of gold. This week, thousands of New Yorkers will fly out of La Guardia for Thanksgiving, and those fortunate enough to do so in the evening will enjoy a spectacular view of the return on that investment; phosphorescent skyscrapers and over a hundred thousand streetlights trace a real-estate market valued at just under $1 trillion. Nowhere else has the memory of conquest been so thoroughly blotted out, and perhaps as an extension, nowhere else is a history of non-native influx more central to a city’s identity. But the transfer of title is not so complete in many parts of the country. At the Department of the Interior in Washington last week, where a tarpaulin banner on the portico façade encouraged visitors to “Celebrate Native American Heritage Month,” Secretary Ken Salazar commemorated our country’s original occupants in classic fashion: he hosted a land dispute between Native Americans and colonizers.
Hana Beshara, the head administrator of Ninja Video, a TV- and movie-streaming site seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in June 2010—and the subject of my article, “A Ninja In Our Sites,” in the January/February issue of the Prospect—was sentenced on Friday to 22 months in prison. Upon release, she will be required to complete 500 hours of community service and pay $209,827 in restitution to the film industry’s lobbying group, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Restitution payments have been set at $150 a month, which means Beshara is expected to give a chunk of her future income to the MPAA for a little over 116 years.