Friday, August 26, 2011

"Anonymous 16" Arraignment on September 1st

September 1 is the arraignment date of many, if not all of the "Anonymous 16" arrested on July 19th. The following is a brief overview of the forthcoming legal process, simplified to be helpful to those who may not be familiar with the U.S. justice system.

Details about the indictment, which arises out of a U.S. federal court in San Jose, California can be found at the Department of Justice website, here: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/July/11-opa-944.html

14 of the defendants will be arraigned at the federal courthouse in San Jose. The defendants are charged with conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer, in connection with the Paypal DDoS attack #Op Avenge Assange.

In the simplest possible terms, the indictment means that the defendants have been formally charged. The law requires that they now be arraigned in federal court. This means that they will have to appear formally before the court to answer the charges that have been brought. An arraignment is generally a short process, the goal of which is to have the defendant plead guilty or not guilty. For more information, you can read about the process, here

All of the defendants are entitled to lawyers. Generally, a defendant is expected to pay for his or her own lawyer. But if a defendant is indigent, or doesn't have the means to pay, then a lawyer is appointed. In this case, the lawyer would be from the federal public defender's office. Because of the nature of this case, and the fact that the cases involves a war on information, the National Lawyer's Guild has agreed to help with legal resources, and arranged for private lawyers to take some of these cases. For more information about Anonymous and the NLG see anonlg.com.

Thus, the Anonymous 16 case will be litigated, most likely, by both public and private defense lawyers. As a member of Anonymous, a lawyer, and activist, I am also contributing time to the case. I do not represent any of the Anonymous 16. However, I have made myself available to advise the Anonymous 16 support network which has developed out of Anonymous itself.

This support network is growing daily. We have two anon lawyers, and expect that number to grow, in order to help the anon support network arrange communications and analyze the legal issues that arise in the case. We also have a team dedicated to fund raising. We need to raise funds and develop supporting materials for our website, and disseminate videos, fliers, and posters. We are actively seeking material for these projects in order to promote solidarity with the anons.

 The well-being of the Anonymous 16 is our first and foremost concern. The United States, with its tremendous resources, is attempting to curtail and criminalize the free flow of information that leads to government transparency. The United States has every reason to maintain the status-quo, as any deviation challenges its own massive, secretive intelligence community. Thus, the Anonymous 16 have been charged with very serious crimes in order to intimidate and harass both Anonymous and their supporters.

The good news is that by taking such a hard line, the United States government has admitted that Anonymous has been effective and powerful in its efforts. But those who have been arrested, and those who are on the front lines of this battle, already know that this will not be an easy fight. Therefore, we need to strengthen our efforts on behalf of the defendants, in order that they remain strong.

The government has gravely overreached in their charges. The charge of breaking into a protected computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1030, is defined here. There are strong arguments to be made that a DDoS attack does not fall within the purview of the statute at all. It is essential that we  develop both legal and technical arguments to assist with the defense, so that the Anons are aware of our support, and are not unduly swayed by pressure from the federal government to accept a heavy-handed plea agreement in this case.

Additionally,  we will develop ourselves as a resource going forward, in order to promote information about what does, and does not, fall within the statute, in order to lessen the possibility that the FBI will intimidate anons into coopering with the government, in either this or future cases.

Engaging the legal system in this way is a form of resistance. Therefore, we need to offer every appearance of solidarity in the face of this persecution on free information exchange and civil protest, by the U.S. federal government. This will be a long, difficult challenge, but for none more so than the arrested Anons. They will face emotional and financial hardship in their efforts to resist this outrageous prosecution. Let's show them that we are here for them, unequivocally.

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