But this action was not merely a routine police action against "vigilantes" undertaken in the ordinary course of a state's operations against what it characterizes as it criminal element.U.K. police arrested five men in dawn raids Thursday morning, alleging they were part of the Anonymous attacks on the websites of Visa, Mastercard and Paypal, which were conducted to show displeasure with the financial services companies that cut off donations to Wikileaks, according to the BBC.Three of those arrested were minors, while two men aged 20 and 26, were also arrested. There’s no indication at present that those arrested were ringleaders in the loosely organized attacks in December. Previously, Dutch police arrested two teens for their role in the attacks.In the attacks on the financial service companies, thousands downloaded a tool called LOIC — or Low Orbit Ion Cannon — that joined their computer to the group attack on the target of the moment. However, the tool did nothing to hide a user’s IP address, making it possible for the target website to hand it’s server logs over to the authorities to track users down via their IP addresses. Ryan Singel, U.K. Police Arrest Five Men in Wikileaks/Anonymous Payback Attacks, Threat LevelPrivacy, Crime and Security Online, Wired, Jan. 27, 2011.
Today's arrests were coordinated by the Metropolitan police working in conjunction with other UK forces and international agencies."They are part of an ongoing [Metropolitan police] investigation into Anonymous which began last year following criminal allegations of DDoS [distributed denial of service] attacks by the group against several companies," Scotland Yard said."This investigation is being carried out in conjunction with international law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US." Josh Halliday, Police arrest five over Anonymous WikiLeaks attacks, Guardian U.K., Jan. 27, 2011.
In a statement released today, the Pirateers voiced their concerns over the role the companies had played in attempting to silence WikiLeaks' attempt to unmask the US government's diplomatic duplicity:
"Many believe that the revelations made by WikiLeaks unveil the questionable behaviour of elected representatives and therefore that it is in the public interest for this information to be revealed," the swashbuckling file sharers stated, adding: "Actions by certain companies to block services for or donations to WikiLeaks are seen as forms of censorship that, while not directly caused by national governments are seen to be supported or encouraged by them."
"In the face of governmental and corporate attacks against WikiLeaks," the pirates continued, "individuals around the world have tried to fight back in the only way they feel available to them under the label 'Anonymous'."
Offering a muted defence of Anonymous' direct action, the Pirate Party's statement continued:
"While the Party will never condone any illegal actions, it can understand the frustration felt by many who feel powerless in the face of multinational corporations and Governments unwilling to step in. (From Pirate Party slams police over Anonymous arrests Warns of WikiLeaks war, Thinq.co.uk. Jan. 27, 2011; see also Pirate Party Statement Concerning "Anonymous" Arrests, Jan. 27, 2011).
While the outcome of the unrest in Egypt could have enormous implications for regional security, longtime Middle Eastern analysts said there was little the administration can do to directly affect events.Unless it can be subordinated to the framework of the state-law system, it remains a threat, even if it does not aspire to assert the same authority as that traditionally exercised by the state. Anonymous is demonstrating that its ability to avoid dominance can overcome even blockages of the technologies that helped bring it to life. "But with most of the Internet down in Egypt, the folks at Anonymous are apparently resorting to a positively prehistoric technology: fax machines.Members of the group are organizing to fax copies of the Egypt-related cables that WikiLeaks released today to schools in Egypt. The hope apparently is that if they can get the faxes into the hands of students, students will distribute them to other protesters. " E.B. Boyd, Anonymous Goes Old-School, Attacks Egypt With Faxes, Fast Company, Jan. 28, 2011.
"What strikes me is how irrelevant we have become," said Robert Grenier, a retired CIA officer who served in the region for 27 years and now is chairman of ERG Partners, a financial and strategic advisory firm. "The people behind the current protests in Tunisia and Egypt certainly don't look to the United States for any kind of support, moral or otherwise." (From Joby Warrick and Perry Bacon Jr., Obama urges Egypt to heed protests, pursue reforms, The Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2011.)
There have been signs for years that ideology is less effective in recruiting and mobilizing citizens. This is because party and non-party forces using ideological rhetoric have failed to realize socioeconomic change and true political reform. Also, this week’s protests were organized by youth movements and organizations who were able to recruit in the virtual world. Amr Hamzawy, EGYPT: Day of anger suggests a new protest scene driven by youth, free of ideology, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 28, 2011.
If an organization other than the state can control mobilization of large parts of a population it can affect not only the issue that is the subject of the mobilization but can assume a role as an important political player in other areas. That makes them potentially a threat to the state and its elites. And in Tunisia and Egypt also a threat to that other great source of political ideology--organized religion. Consider a recent Anonymous Release on that point, OPERATION EGYPT - ANONYMOUS PRESS RELEASE - 26/01/2011. That is a lesson from out of the mobilizations in Egypt and Tunisia--not about the power of Anonymous to manage political change in states but of the power of Anonymous to invoke ideology to contribute to a mass mobilization that then takes on a life of its own and can threaten the state apparatus. And mass mobilization is a toll that can be invoked by anyone--even very young people. That is possibly the most unnerving lesson for states. Their educational systems, and their adherence to ideologies of mass movements and democratic activism can now be detached from the state and sometimes invoked against it or other non-state actors, by people or groups acting independently. The arrests thus remind us that while most people do not yet Anonymous seriously, states do. And they are now expending substantial resources to attempt to manage Anonymous.