Anonymous threatens, then cancels, attack on drug ring

When an Anonymous follower was allegedly kidnapped by the Zeta drug gang in Mexico, supporters said they would retaliate by naming criminal collaborators -- but then backed off

When the Anonymous movement has a bad day, supporters get arrested. When the Zeta drug cartel has a bad day, nearly three dozen of its members are killed and dumped on a Mexican highway.

Now the two worlds have collided: One arm of Anonymous has called out the Zeta gang for allegedly kidnapping a supporter. In a message posted earlier in October on the Anonymous Mexico blog, hackers that align themselves with the Anonymous philosophy promised to publicize the identities of Zeta collaborators, unless an unnamed supporter was freed.

"You have made a great mistake by taking one of us -- free him," the group said in a video posted online featuring a person in a black suit, red tie, and trademark Guy Fawkes mask popularized by the movie "V Is for Vendetta." The only information released about the allegedly kidnapped Anonymous supporter refers to him being part of Operation Paperstorm, a grassroots effort to distribute pro-Anonymous propaganda.

The group that posted the video claimed it could identify journalists, police officers, and taxi drivers who collaborate with the Zeta crime syndicate. The gang, which operates in the eastern state of Veracruz in Mexico, has found itself embattled in a war over territory in the state's capital, also named Veracruz. In September, 35 bodies of alleged Zeta members were dumped out of two pickup trucks and onto a highway in Veracruz, purportedly by members of a rival gang.

The group posted the video on Oct. 6. On Saturday, the website of former Tabasco attorney general Gustavo Rosario Torres was defaced, accusing him of being a Zeta collaborator. The accusations are not new, however: In 2008, anticrime activists came forward with a taped conversation allegedly between Torres and a deputy talking about a $200,000 cocaine deal. It's unclear whether Anonymous has any new evidence against Torres.

The threats gained attention after global intelligence firm Stratfor penned an analysis of the incident late last week. If supporters of the Anonymous movement accuse people of collaborating with the Zeta gang, it could put those named at risk, even if the accusations are false, Stratfor warned. In addition, any threats carried out by some of Anonymous supporters, who likely believe they are immune because they live in other countries beyond the reach of Zeta, could endanger supporters within the country, going beyond mere arrests, the analysis concludes.

"Any Anonymous activists inside Mexico who are targeting or perceived as targeting the Mexican cartels will be just as vulnerable as online journalists and bloggers as the cartels seek to make them examples of what happens when someone exposes or publicizes damaging information about cartel activity," Stratfor writes.

Zeta has not shied away from targeting its online critics. In September the crime group hung two people from an overpass with a nearby sign warning bloggers and "online snitches" to beware, according to Wired. Later the same month, the decapitated body of another social media reporter was found with a similar warning.

>Worried about the impact on both misidentified people and Anonymous followers, other supporters of the Anonymous movement worked to dismantle the operation over the weekend. In effect, the group canceled the attack, according to online news site Milenio.

But the fractious Anonymous movement is not of a single mind. A member known as Sabu has claimed the operation, code-named OpCartel, will continue.

"OpCartel is very much alive and like I said to others in private our war is on corruption on both sides of the spectrum. Vamos a GUERRA!" claimed the person going by the Twitter handle anonymouSabu.

This story, "Anonymous threatens, then cancels, attack on drug ring," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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