Activists from the hacker collective known as Anonymous assumed control over the homepage of a federal judicial agency this morning.
In a manifesto left on the defaced page, the group demanded reform to the American justice system and what the activists said are threats to the free flow of information.
The lengthy essay largely mirrors previous demands from Anonymous, but this time the group also cited the recent suicide of Reddit co-founder and activist Aaron Swartz as has having “crossed a line” for their organization. Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison on computer fraud charges.
Prosecutors said he had stolen thousands of digital scientific and academic journal articles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the goal of disseminating them for free.
Anonymous says Swartz was “killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win — a twisted and distorted perversion of justice — a game where the only winning move was not to play.”
“There must be a return to proportionality of punishment with respect to actual harm caused,” it reads, also mentioning recent arrests of Anonymous associates by the FBI.
In their statement, the hackers say they targeted the homepage of the Federal Sentencing Commission for “symbolic” reasons.
The group claimed that if their demands were not met they would release a trove of embarrassing internal Justice Department documents to media outlets. Anonymous named the files after Supreme Court justices and provided hyperlinks to them from the defaced page.
As of press time the commission’s site had been taken offline but an earlier attempt by CNN to follow the files’ links yielded dead-ends, mostly offline sites.
The file names use an “.aes256″ suffix, denoting a common encryption protocol. The same system was used to encrypt the Wikileaks Afghan war documents before their release.