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Anonymous explains self amid WikiLeaks drama

A group that supports WikiLeaks through attacks on Web sites of organizations it deems enemies has apparently issued a press release to try to explain its motivations.

The Anonymous group that has been attacking Web sites of organizations that it deems enemies of WikiLeaks has apparently issued a press release to explain its motivations and structure.

"Anonymous is not a group of hackers," Anonymous representatives wrote in a statement (PDF) issued today. "We are average Internet citizens ourselves and our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness every day."

The group said it does not intend "to steal your personal information or credit card numbers" and does not plan on attacking the "critical infrastructure of companies such as MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, or Amazon." Instead, Anonymous said that its Operation: Payback is designed to "raise awareness about WikiLeaks and the underhanded methods employed by the above companies to impair WikiLeaks' ability to function."

"It is a symbolic action," Anonymous said. "As blogger and academic Evgeny Morozov put it, a legitimate expression of dissent."

Anonymous has launched a slew of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks over the past week on companies, government agencies, and organizations that it believes are "impairing" WikiLeaks. The group took both and offline earlier this week.

Anonymous noted in the apparent press release that there were "calls" to take down, but it claims those attacks never materialized.

Citing Amazon's decision to stop hosting WikiLeaks on its servers, Anonymous confirmed that some of its members wanted to target the online retailer.

"After the attack was so advertised in the media, we felt that it would affect people, such as consumers, in a negative way and make them feel threatened by Anonymous," the group wrote. "Simply put, attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones would be in bad taste."

But that didn't stop the organization from attacking PayPal for preventing users from donating money to WikiLeaks in support of its efforts. Anonymous asserted that it was not trying to hurt PayPal's "ability to process payments," but that it had been slowing the company's "network down just enough for people to notice and thus, we achieve our goal of raising awareness."

Assuming the press release is real, the decision on the part of Anonymous to explain itself is an interesting one. The group seems to be concerned with being viewed as vigilantes who launch online attacks to the detriment of consumers. It also seems to fear the possibility of being misunderstood and wants to distance itself from the belief that it's a rigid organization acting at the behest of a handful of leaders.

"Anonymous has a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives," the statement said.

Also today:

• Police in the Netherlands are investigating an apparent attack on police and prosecutor Web sites in that country after arresting a 16-year-old individual yesterday for allegedly being involved in Anonymous attacks on financial institutions. A police representative told the Associated Press that authorities "assume it is hackers," but said that they were "not sure yet."

• Moneybookers, another online-payment company, was targeted by Anonymous this morning. The site was reportedly down for a few minutes. Anonymous targeted Moneybookers for informing WikiLeaks in August that it had shuttered its account on the service due to the controversy surrounding the organization.

• Although sensitive documents have already been leaked, the U.S. government apparently is working to limit such revelations in the future, Wired is reporting. According to the publication, the U.S. military is asking troops "to immediately cease use of removable media on all systems, servers, and standalone machines residing on SIPRNet." Wired claims that directive came from a document it obtained. The document was reportedly written by Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, the commander of the U.S. Air Force's Network Operations.