Anonymous declared war on the New York Times this week, launching “OpNYT” on Wednesday. Unlike most actions by the crippled hacktivist collective these days, their attack on the Times doesn’t just consist of writing boring, unreadable manifestos (though there is a lot of that). Anonymous has leaked ‘secret’ correspondences between New York Times reporters and Anonymous members, meant to expose the Times’ “incompetence.” Unfortunately for Anonymous, the documents reveal the exact opposite.
Last night, Anonymous fameball Barrett Brown promised on Twitter that Anonymous would “release correspondence with NYT showing incompetence on [national security] reporting.” The correspondences were published soon after on the hacker document-sharing site Pastebin under the heading “The Secret History of the New York Times’s National Security Failure.”
But anyone looking for evidence of anything other than journalists doing their job will be sorely disappointed. The leak amounts to Anonymous whining that the Times has not breathlessly hyped all of the groups’ crackpot schemes and conspiracy theories.
One correspondence from 2011 consists of an Anonymous representative tipping off a Times reporter about the hack of the security firm HBGary, and the leak of a huge cache of their emails. The reporter responds:
“I told [redacted] that I don’t think this is an NYT story right now, but that I want to try and do something longer on all of this in the next week or two.”
The Times eventually did publish an in-depth article about the HBGary hack and revelations that the firm had proposed a plan to disrupt Wikileaks. But that was not enough for whoever wrote the press release accompanying yesterday’s leak. They complain that the Times didn’t see “fit to cover” every single boring detail in the leaked email cache.
The second supposedly incriminating leaked correspondence actually reveals how full of shit Anonymous is. It’s a long chat with a Times reporter during this year’s fake “Operation Cartel.” If you remember, OpCartel was a campaign against Mexico’s notorious Zetas drug cartel, supposedly launched in retaliation for the Zetas kidnapping an Anonymous member. There was never any proof that the kidnapping occurred, and the Zetas conveniently “released” their prisoner before the operation even started. This was the “Canadian girlfriend” of Anonymous campaigns.
In the leaked chat, the reporter asks, “What evidence have you seen that the kidnap really happened?”
“None,” responded the Anonymous rep. “Nor would I have expected to as we have no intention of providing a chance that the person could be identified.”
The reporter continues to press the Anon for even a shred of evidence:
[redacted]: I’m going to ask a stupid question.
If no one has any evidence a person was kidnapped, how do you know a person was kidnapped?
5:29 PM me: I’m relying on the account of someone I’ve known and worked with in the past and whom I believe to be telling the truth based on the nature of her responses as well as other details I can’t go into due to the present situation
5:30 PM Obviously if I were functioning as a journalist, that wouldn’t be sufficient. But in this case…
5:31 PM We already have journalists looking too fucking closely into who the person is, including a review of Mexican records, and as such we’re very reluctant to assist them in finding out more.
[redacted]: But a responsible journalist won’t run the name.
So what difference does it make?
5:32 PM me: If you take a few minutes to think about the process by which such a name would come up and the nature of the situation in Mexico, and concede that mistakes occur in journalism, you can probably guess.
Good job, New York Times, for not running with this particularly unbelievable Anonymous fairytale.
All signs point to OpNYT being a stunt by Barrett Brown, the former Anonymous spokesperson who recently scored a six-figure deal for a book about Anonymous. Brown reappears whenever there’s an opportunity for free publicity, and has recently appeared in the press stoking the overblown hysteria over the Trapwire surveillance system that appeared in some leaked Wikileaks emails earlier this month. The press release announcing OpNYT was written in the same insufferable prose as Brown’s—The Times is described as “a filthy, poorly-composed whore.” And Brown was the press’ main point of contact during both the HBGary hack and Operation Cartel; I’d bet he was the Anonymous representative in at least one of those correspondences.
OpNYT is another reminder of Anonymous’ sad decline: the once-feared hacktivist group reduced to a brand stamped on a huckster’s latest package of premium bullshit.