Among the many threats to national security, the Obama Administration seems to fixate on the imagined dangers posed by conservative Christians and has often gone to lengths to associate them with neo-Nazis or the KKK.
But in any realistic assessment of threats posed by homegrown groups, it’s liberal extremists who pose a real danger, in the form of groups ranging from the New Black Panthers to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
That point was driven home again over the weekend when the computer hacker group Anonymous infiltrated the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission as an act of revenge for the death of Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz.
Swartz recently committed suicide because he was facing the possibility of up to 35 years in prison for hacking millions of academic documents for which a fee is normally charged and posting them for free.
Swartz’s family and friends blamed his death on the government. In its attack on the website, Anonymous criticized the U.S. justice system for meting out punishment disproportionate to the damage caused by crimes.
While they may have a valid point about the seeming randomness of many sentences in the justice system, that doesn’t excuse anything Anonymous did.
Swartz killed himself. No one pulled a trigger or filled his glass with poison. Swartz didn’t want to face the troubles he brought on himself.
He hadn’t even been convicted yet, much less sentenced. The 35 years was merely an outside possibility based on the charges he faced. The way courts work, it is likely some of the charges would have been dropped, and any halfway decent lawyer could have bargained down the sentence for someone like Swartz to a fraction of the maximum.
Swartz was not a victim. He was a thief who stole documents worth millions of dollars from their rightful owners, just because he had made it his personal mission to force all information to be free.
All authors have a right to make money from their work. They always have. Swartz’s zealotry about free information is not based on historical example or ethical need. He simply wanted it, he got caught, and then he killed himself so he wouldn’t suffer the results of his criminal endeavour.
Anonymous is taking up Swartz’s cause or at least using his example to press their own list of “demands.” The hackers threatened to release secret Justice Department documents if their demands are not met.
Like Swartz, Anonymous is not acting out of principle. If it has any information the American people truly should know, then it needs to release it, not play games like petulant teenagers. If not, then it needs to stop acting like hooligans.
Anonymous is not a bunch of heroes. If anything, the hackers are reminiscent of the spoiled Occupy Wall Street throng who feel a sense of entitlement and who are willing to make a mess until they get their candy.
Meanwhile, as Homeland Security hunts for those elusive conservative terrorists, groups like Anonymous seem to be running free.