The FBI arrested 14 people between the ages of 20 and 42 on Monday for allegedly launching a cyberattack against PayPal. A federal indictment against the suspects was unsealed in the U.S. District Court in San Jose. Law enforcement claimed that the suspects were members of the group Anonymous, and that the attack against PayPal was part of Operation Avenge Assange, in response to PayPal suspending the account of the Wikileaks founder. Anonymous also claims responsibility for disruptions to the Visa and MasterCard websites last December, also in retaliation for those companies suspending payments to Wikileaks, but Monday’s arrests and the ensuing charges focus solely on PayPal.
Lawyers representing one member of the group, twenty-year-old University of Nevada, Las Vegas journalism student Mercedes Renee Haefer (also known as MMMM and No), compared the case against the hackers to the federal prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times during the height of the Vietnam War. “If I were the federal government,” said Attorney Stanley Cohen of New York, “I’d be much more worried about people that are killing and assassinating people all over the world than 18- to 20-year-old young people with politics.”
Haefer and the others are charged with “various counts of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer.” Hearings will begin today, with the two California natives appearing in court on Thursday.
The other arrests included Scott Matthew Arciszewski, 21, Christopher Wayne Cooper, 23, aka “Anthrophobic;” Joshua John Covelli, 26, aka “Absolem” and “Toxic;” Keith Wilson Downey, 26; Donald Husband, 29, aka “Ananon;” Vincent Charles Kershaw, 27, aka “Trivette,” “Triv” and “Reaper;” Lance Moore, 21; Ethan Miles, 33; James C. Murphy, 36; Drew Alan Phillips, 26, aka “Drew010;” Jeffrey Puglisi, 28, aka “Jeffer,” “Jefferp” and “Ji;” Daniel Sullivan, 22; Tracy Ann Valenzuela, 42; and Christopher Quang Vo, 22. The name of one more person arrested has been withheld.
Meanwhile, Fox News reported that police in London arrested a sixteen-year-old who is allegedly behind the LulzSec hacks. Forbes suggests that the combined arrests may have netted several of LulzSec’s key members. Nevertheless, LulzSec has continued to tweet regularly since the arrests.