SUNDAY UPDATE: According to the BBC — and to the group’s Twitterfeed — LulzSec has disbanded. The BBC indicates no reason for disbanding has been offered. To the contrary, I found the LulzSec explanation reasonably clear… and not inconsistent with considerations set out below.
Original post from early Friday morning:
This week three very different men were arrested in three very different places suspected of three very different crimes.
Is it just me or do the three share something important?
Tuesday the Pakistani military confirmed the detention of Brigadier Ali Khan (top left). The soon-to-retire head of regulations at Army General Headquarters is suspected of using his military connections to support Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamist political and religious movement.
Also on Tuesday — half a world away — the head of La Familia cartel was captured. According to Excelsior, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas (middle), age 37, “was arrested in Aguascalientes by elements of the Federal Police, without fighting or deaths reported from the action and was later transferred to the facilities of the SIEDO in Mexico City.” (SIEDO or Subprocuraduría de Investigación Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada or Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Special Investigations.) Additional coverage is available in English from the Houston Chronicle.
According to The Guardian, “A British teenager has been charged with five offences of computer hacking. Ryan Cleary, 19 (right at age 13), was charged with offences, including a cyber attack on Monday on Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). Cleary was arrested on Monday evening at his family’s home in Wickford, Essex. His arrest was linked to a series of cyber attacks by a group called LulzSec, which investigators believe had targeted websites including ones belonging to the US government and the electronics giant Sony.”
We can be more confident of the criminal complicity of Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, aka El Chango or The Monkey, than of the other two. La Familia has been one of the principal Mexican drug cartels since at least 2006. But it was founded in the 1980s as a quasi-religious organization seeking to protect and purify Michoacán, an impoverished region — and Mexican state — west of Mexico City. El Chango was one of a handful of founders. In the broadest terms the La Familia narrative has a striking resemblance to the origins of the Afghan Taliban. Religiously inspired reform, resulted in power and was followed by the abuse of power. By the 1990s the group was allied with the Gulf Cartel, in recent years it has established an independent power base. Even in the murderous context of the Mexican cartels La Familia is known as especially violent. Jesus Mendez Vargas has defended the use of violence as a form of “divine justice.”
Brigadier Khan has not yet been charged, much less convicted. According to the Daily Times (Pakistan), “There are contradictory reports that the detained brigadier had been targeted due to his concerted campaign to promote self-reliance and do away with the need for US assistance. The last straw is said to be his outspoken criticism of the US raid in Abbottabad after which he was arrested.”
There is plenty of smoke suggesting burning embers of religious radicalism in the Pakistani military. The group Brigadier Khan is accused of assisting is banned in Pakistan and other majority Muslim nations, but is not on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. According to the group’s English language website, “Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political party whose ideology is Islam. Its objective is to resume the Islamic way of life by establishing an Islamic State that executes the systems of Islam and carries its call to the world.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir opposes US-Pakistan cooperation. While the Brigadier’s attitudes and actions are currently beyond knowing, the leadership of Hizb ut-Tahrir is clear in it’s criticism of the United States and the current Pakistani political and military elite:
Even though Pakistan is a strong Muslim country, with an army bigger than America’s, and braver due to the Muslims’ love of Shahadah, you have cheated the people of their right to security by siding with the enemy. Due to your alliance with the open enemies of the Muslims, America’s presence in the region has led to unprecedented insecurity, with America’s private military organizations and intelligence orchestrating a campaign of assassinations and bombings, as they did in Iraq. You added to the harm upon the Muslims, by sending the Muslim soldiers to the tribal areas to fight on behalf of America, just like Musharraf before you. Until now 30,452 people have been killed and injured since 9/11 in America’s war of fitna. Some 2,273 Pakistani soldiers including 78 officers, two Major Generals and five brigadiers besides others, have lost their lives while 6,512 sustained injuries, even though the Western crusaders have only sacrificed 1,582 of their own troops! You are cheating the Muslims of their strength when America is at its weakest, with its allies abandoning it and its economy crippled and collapsing, when there is ample opportunity to allow America’s crusade to collapse rather than supporting it with the blood of Muslims.
To in any way compare LulzSec to La Familia and Hizb ut-Tahrir is, perhaps, to invite an apocalyptic hacker attack on HLSWatch. So… if we disappear, thanks for the memories.
The teenager arrested on Tuesday has been charged on five counts, mostly involving denial-of-service attacks. His involvement with the LulzSec collaborative of hackers has not been specified. But some link was confirmed by LulzSec via its Twitterfeed, “Clearly the UK police are so desperate to catch us that they’ve gone and arrested someone who is, at best, mildly associated with us.”
LulzSec has claimed responsibility for a series of successful attacks on the CIA, Sony, PBS, and others around the world. Wednesday they brought down the President of Brazil’s website. Earlier today Lulzsec hacked the Arizona Department of Public Safety data repository and released a broad array of information. They describe themselves as, “a team of entertainment and security experts that specialise in the production of malicious comedic cybermaterials.” The attack on Sony’s PlayStation network left that system offline for a month. Not much laughing by the company or its roughly 77 million customers or its depressed shareholders.
The Arizona attack has been explained as a protest against state laws perceived as unjust toward immigrants. The hackers’ motivations are not always clear. On June 17 LulzSec outlined its purposes in a post at Pastebin. Self-entertainment is big; so is exposing the vulnerability we all share online. They want to protect us… and “spread fun, fun, fun.”
I want to be a hero. I want to protect the vulnerable and punish the unjust.
Is this what motivated Ali Khan to follow his father into the military? The Non-Com’s son committed his life to the Army and advanced to brigadier. Ali’s wife, Anjum, claims, “He loves the Pakistani army more than his life, and he can’t even think of betraying the institution.” His sons are junior officers, proud parts of — until recently? — the only reasonably functioning element of Pakistani society. Who is to blame for the dysfunction of Pakistan, including attacks on the military itself? What and who is the source of this shame? What enemy can the brave Brigadier bring to justice?
Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, seeing family and friends disappear into the prison of poverty and madness of drug addiction, was motivated by love of neighbor. According to a Drug Enforcement Administration backgrounder La Familia, “has a strong religious background. It purportedly originated to protect locals from the violence of drug cartels. Now, La Familia Michoacana uses drug proceeds to fuel their agenda that encompasses a Robin Hood-type mentality – steal from the rich and give to the poor. They believe they are doing God’s work, and pass out bibles and money to the poor. La Familia Michoacana also gives money to schools and local officials.” He only decapitated predators (and threw their heads onto dance floors).
According to the Daily Mail the young Mr. Cleary is a deeply troubled man seldom leaving his bedroom, fearful, and suicidal. Yet when asked what he did all day online, he reportedly replied, “God’s work.”
In November 2009 the Times of London published an indepth profile of Goldman Sachs. It included an interview with the unlikely-to-be-arrested CEO of the firm, Lloyd Blankfein. Even while skid-marks from the crash of capitalism were still smoking, Mr. Blankfein was confident of his purpose.
Is it possible to make too much money? “Is it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful?” Blankfein shoots back. “I don’t want people in this firm to think that they have accomplished as much for themselves as they can and go on vacation. As the guardian of the interests of the shareholders and, by the way, for the purposes of society, I’d like them to continue to do what they are doing. I don’t want to put a cap on their ambition. It’s hard for me to argue for a cap on their compensation.” So, it’s business as usual, then, regardless of whether it makes most people howl at the moon with rage? Goldman Sachs, this pillar of the free market, breeder of super-citizens, object of envy and awe will go on raking it in, getting richer than God? An impish grin spreads across Blankfein’s face. Call him a fat cat who mocks the public. Call him wicked. Call him what you will. He is, he says, just a banker “doing God’s work.”
I should probably leave it there. The case is sufficiently made for anyone who has read this far and cares to consider the case. But I will be tediously explicit: My ability to mistake my own desires as God’s intention is significant. I am not alone.
So, some will say, we have further proof for the dangers of divine delusion. Especially as a believer I agree that danger and delusion are involved.
The issue is how to engage the threat. I don’t perceive secular empiricism as a promising near-term therapeutic regime. Too many most in need of the therapy are evidently immune to it’s ministrations. Might we extract a vaccine from the virus itself?
In his 1927 book, “Does Civilization Need Religion”, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:
Religion intensifies selfishness when it adds sanctity to a respectable selfish life and creates a self-respect which is impervious to emotions of contrition. If the religious ideal is to gain any potency in modern life it must be able to convict men of sin and inspire them to a conversion. But the sins of which they need most to be convicted are those which are covert in the social and economic relations which custom has hallowed; and the conversion of life which is most needed is that which will express itself in terms of the economic and political relationships in which men live…
Religion is therefore under the necessity of developing the critical faculty even while it maintains its naivete and reverence. The necessity of cooperation between the naturally incompatible factors of reason and imagination,of intelligence and moral dynamic, is really the crux of the religious and moral problem in modern civilization. The complexity of modern life demands that moral purpose be astutely guided; but moral purpose itself is rooted in ultra-rational sanctions and may be destroyed by the same intelligence which is needed to direct it. Both humility and love,the highest religious virtues, are ultra-rational; yet they cannot be achieved in an intricate social life without a discriminating intelligence which knows how to uncover covert sins and to discover potential virtues. The incidental limitations which every historic type of religion reveals can be dealt with only if the religious devotee can be persuaded to regard the values of his religion critically…”
Religiously-inspired terrorism — or mayhem or pride — is usually the signal of an immature and ill-considered religiosity. The most effective solution may be in cultivating a more discriminating and self-critical engagement with the religious domain.
In other words, love others and approach God with deep humility.