Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said Monday that state and federal authorities were taking threats by the hacktivist group “Anonymous” to occupy the Iowa caucuses “very seriously.”
The loose-knit group rose to prominence after it launched retaliatory attacks on companies that ceased to do business with WikiLeaks.
“This has never happened before,” Branstad told reporters, according to the Des Moines Register. “We’ve never had this kind of threat made to our open process of giving people an opportunity to participate and we want to do all we can to protect people’s right to participate in this system.”
A video uploaded to YouTube in the name of “Anonymous” last week encourages protesters to occupy the campaign offices of presidential candidates in Des Moines and peacefully shut down the Iowa Caucuses.
“The Democratic Party has failed us,” the video said. “The Republican Party has failed us. Both parties are desecrating the American democracy and committing crimes against humanity on behalf of American people. Both parties are funded by the same mega corporations.”
Federal authorities warned in October that “Anonymous,” which has encouraged the protests but does not represent them, will likely use the protests as a motivation for continued cyber attacks on targets seen as antagonistic to the cause.
But whether the campaign, dubbed Operation Empire State Rebellion, poses an actual threat to the caucuses is unknown. “Anonymous” has no formal structure or political objectives. Anyone is free to participate in or initiate an operation in the name of “Anonymous.” The success of an operation usually depends on how many others decide to participate.
“I want to assure you that we take it very seriously and we will work with federal and state agencies and with local law enforcement,” Branstad said. “I think everybody recognizes we need to be vigilant in this and take it seriously.”
“I think it would be tragic if some shadowy group that won’t even announce who they are would be successful in preventing people from participating in this first real test in the presidential selection process.”