Anonymous vows to ‘destroy’ Westboro Baptist Church over Sandy Hook picket plans

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, December 17, 2012 9:23 EDT
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A Westboro Baptist Church member pickets a Jewish synagogue in Los Angeles on June 19, 2009. Photo: Flickr user k763, creative commons licensed.
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Update (below): Westboro spokesperson’s Twitter account hijacked

Second update (below): Westboro spokesperson responds to ‘Anonymous’

Third update (below): Westboro website taken offline

Members of the hacker collective “Anonymous” published a trove of information over the weekend purporting to be the individual names, email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses of every adult member of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church after the group announced plans to picket Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.

“Your impact and cause is hazardous to the lives of millions and you fail to see the wrong in promoting the deaths of innocent people,” an “Anonymous” video featuring a computerized voice says over ominous music. “You are self-appointed servants of God who rewrite the words of his sacred scripture to adhere to your prejudice. Your hatred supersedes your faith, and you use faith to promote your hatred.”

The voice goes on to explain that members of the collective have decided “to execute an agenda of action which will progressively dismantle” the church. It doesn’t say how, but warns that “attrition is our weapon,” and that the campaign may be long.

The church said on Twitter that it would be picketing the school where 26 people, 20 of them children, were killed by a heavily armed gunman on Friday. The anti-gay hate group blamed the tragedy on same sex marriage equality. The hate group tends to pick highly controversial sites to protest — like soldiers’ funerals and areas affected by natural disasters — but the Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the protests are constitutionally protected speech.

As with anything “Anonymous” does, it’s impossible to say if this will come to pass, what forms the campaign may take or if it’s even going to happen at all. But it does take some amount of skill to procure the sheer volume of detailed personal information the hackers published over the weekend.

It’s not clear if that’s the worst they can do — it has been in the past — but then again, Anonymous has been allegedly behind a number of high profile attacks, including taking credit card giant MasterCard’s website down twice.

Update: Westboro Baptist spokesperson’s Twitter account hijacked

The Twitter account of Westboro spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper was hijacked on Monday morning by a hacker claiming to be “Cosmo the God,” a 16-year-old who allegedly orchestrated several major hacks against companies like CloudFlare, AT&T, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix.

It’s not clear if this hacker actually is the notorious Cosmo, who was arrested recently and ordered not to access the Internet as a part of his parole. The minor ultimately gave a lengthy interview to Wired that caused companies like AOL and Amazon to beef up their account security precautions. It could, of course, also be someone merely impersonating Cosmo.

Second update: Westboro spokesperson responds to ‘Anonymous’

Shortly after the official Twitter account of the Westboro Baptist Church confirmed that hackers had indeed leaked its private members list, Margie Phelps sat down with progressive talk show host David Pakman and responded to the group’s threats directly.

“They’re working in the background all the time,” she said. “Anonymous is irrelevant. They’re so yesterday.”

The church’s statement on Twitter, however, claimed they had never heard of the hacker activist group.

Third update: Westboro website taken offline

GodHatesFags.com, the Westboro Baptist Church’s home on the Internet, was taken offline Monday by a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack ostensibly launched by hackers with Anonymous. The hackers vowed via Twitter to keep the church’s website offline for as long as possible, or potentially take it over completely.

This video is from Vimeo, published Sunday, December 16, 2012.


Photo: Flickr user k763, creative commons licensed.

(H/T: Salon)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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