The hactivist collective Anonymous has hacked into the website of a lawfirm that defended a U.S. Marine who admitted having led the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.
However, unlike the group's other achievement of the day -- the interception of a conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard -- this one may have unwittingly snared innocent victims, whose private information was released as part of a massive leak of the firm's emails.
The lawfirm Puckett and Faraj represented Sgt. Frank Wuterich in his trial before a military tribunal, which concluded ten days ago with a plea bargain in which manslaughter charges were dropped in exchange for one plea of negligent dereliction of duty. Wuterich was sentenced to a demotion, loss of pay, and a 90-day jail sentence, but he was not actually required to serve any jail time.
As described by Russia Today, "On November 19, 2005, Wuterich led a squad of US Marines into two separate homes in Haditha, Iraq outside of Baghdad. The men opened fire on civilians, killing two dozen men, women and children, including an elderly man confined to a wheelchair. He would later admit to instructing his peers to 'shoot first and ask questions later' and insisted that, despite no weapons ever being recovered from the Iraqi homes, that the American fighters were under assault."
The outcome of Wuterich's case appears to have enraged Anonymous, particularly because of the way it contrasts with the treatment of Bradley Manning. “Can you believe this scumbag had his charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter and got away with only a pay cut?” they wrote on the hacked website. “Meanwhile Bradley Manning who was brave enough to risk his life and freedom to expose the truth about government corruption is threatened with life imprisonment."
Anonymous may have overstepped, however, when it leaked nearly three gigabytes of Puckett and Faraj emails, crowing, "How do you think the world will react when they find out Neal Puckett and his marine buddies have been making crude jokes about the incident where marines have been caught on video pissing on dead bodies in Afghanistan? Or that he regularly corresponds with and receives funding from former marine Don Greenlaw who runs the racist blog http://snooper.wordpress.com?"
John Cook at Gawker has begun combing through those emails and has already discovered that in addition to material on the Wuterich case, "the hack had a lot of collateral victims, including people that Anonymous might normally be aligned with. Like a lawyer for Guantanamo detainees."
The lawyer in question is a former partner at the firm, Eric Montalvo, who served as the attorney for teenaged detainee Mohamed Jawad and managed to get him a habeas corpus hearing after he had spent nine years at Guantanamo without a trial. The Anonymous leak includes nine months of Montalvo's cell phone records.
Even more shockingly, in 2007 the lawfirm represented a Marine accused of rape, and leaked emails concerning that case include statements from victims whose names had not previously been made public. One victim testified to recalling "a man in boxer-like shorts straddling me," while another told of how she "awoke from a drunken stupor to realize 'her tampon was pushed deep inside her.'"
"There's a wealth of data in the release that absolutely should become public," Cook concludes, "and I will eagerly pore over it. But there are unintended consequences to the approach."
Photo by U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons