March 30, 2012. Adrian, Michigan. Among the many groups fighting the US federal government – actively, passively, politically or spiritually – two such underground US groups had reason to celebrate this week. In a sign of just how widespread the movement has become, one group is from the extreme left and the other is from the extreme right. One victory came on the defensive front, while the other was a minor offensive action. And it was much more important for the moral of its group than for the results it accomplished.
Members of the Hutaree Militia in Michigan, acquitted of conspiracy to overthrow the government this week. Image courtesy of the LA Times.
This column refers to these various groups as the ‘rebel underground’, for they’ve never been collectively given a name before. In reality, they are the whole of the American people – frustrated, victimized and angry. Unfortunately, they’re also afraid for their safety and lives just because they’ve consistently spoken out against what they consider criminal acts by an out-of-control US federal government. Afraid but determined, they fight for the cause of freedom anonymously, off the grid in big city apartments. Or they meet and train in secret, in the darkness of the mountains and deep woods. Some are kids armed only with computers. Others are old military veterans armed with much, much more. This is America’s underground rebel army.
The Michigan Militia
While the state of Montana is the most well-known for producing organizations like MOM (Militia of Montana), Michigan has actually been the most active state in the US for militia freedom fighters. Mark Koernke, aka Mark the Militiaman, has been the standard bearer for the Michigan Militia for more than two decades. One decade ago, Koernke was charged and convicted of assaulting police, resisting arrest and fleeing the police. Like the trial in Detroit this week, federal authorities were never able to convict him of any terror or conspiracy-related charges. Five years ago this month, Mark the Militiaman was released from prison after serving his entire sentence. He wasted no time getting right back into the action.
The ripples from Mark ‘the Militiaman’ Koernke’s activities surfaced again this week in US federal court in Detroit, Michigan. There, court records show that it was the government’s surveillance of Koernke that led federal agents to the Michigan Militia group known as the Hutaree. Two years ago this month, federal agents arrested 9 members of Michigan’s Hutaree Militia for plotting to “levy war against the United States.” In other words, it was yet another federal trial accusing Americans of conspiracy to overthrow the federal government.
If the Hutaree Militia espouses the same principals as Koernke, the American people were in no danger from their militia group. Koernke has always been a ‘defensive’ militiaman, not an ‘offensive’ one. In the end, that’s exactly the verdict US federal Judge Victoria Roberts and the court’s jury came to.
Instead, this variety of militiamen spends their time training and waiting – waiting for the federal government to collapse from either its massive debt, out of control power authoritarianism or even a vote of no confidence by the American people. Or if you ask them, they’re waiting for the government to make the first move. Typically, they insist that move will be in the form or martial law or the mass internment of Americans in outdoor camps. In the event any of those things ever happen, the Michigan Militia is ready and waiting. But to strike the first blow in an attempt to spark a modern day American revolution – that’s just not the group’s philosophy.
Based on the not-believed testimony of the single government informant, 2 of the original 9 members of the Hutaree Militia in Michigan were previously released without charge. Earlier this week, all 7 of the defendants were acquitted of charges involving conspiracy to harm the United States. The informant had testified that the group planned to launch surprise attacks against police facilities and other government installations using guns, bombs and even weapons of mass destruction. The testimony was found not credible.
Judge Victory Roberts explained while acquitting all 7 militiamen of conspiracy to attack the US federal government, “The government's case is built largely of circumstantial evidence. While this evidence could certainly lead a rational fact-finder to conclude that something fishy was going on, it does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants reached a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States government."
Interviewing David Stone’s wife Tina after conspiracy charges were dropped against her, her husband and their two sons, Associated Press quotes her saying that the family’s “Hutaree days are over.” She also laughs off any suggestion that the family and the other militia members had any intention, or ability, to overthrow the US federal government. "They couldn't overthrow F Troop," she told AP, referring to the 1960s TV satire about soldiers in the Old West.
Finally yesterday, the remaining 2 defendants received their judgment. David Stone age 51, the alleged ringleader of the underground cell, and his 23 year-old son Joshua Stone, each pled guilty to possession of a fully automatic machine gun. The elder Stone faces up to 44 months in prison, while his son faces 33 months.
"It's amazing how someone can take a comment out of context and make it to whatever they want it to be," AP reported the senior Stone saying.
AP and the Detroit Free Press interviewed a number of the jurors after the 7 Michigan Militia defendants were acquitted of all charges. One juror remarked, “I heard talk and talk and talk, and no action…I was shocked by the effort to bring these people to trial." Another juror said, “The case seemed lacking some information to confirm the charges." And a third explained that she kept “waiting for the big piece of evidence" that never came.
LulzSec Strikes Back
In the second victory by the American rebel underground this week, the hacker group LulzSec carried out a successful cyber attack. It isn’t so much the attack itself that raised eyebrows, as well as the spirits of the group’s supporters. The surprise is that the attack happened at all. Most observers, including global police forces and the US federal government, believed the hacktivist group LulzSec had been all but destroyed earlier this month.
On March 6, government agents carried out arrests of a number of the group’s members, including possibly its highest ranking and most potent fighter Hector Monsegur in Manhattan. When the government unsealed its indictments against the individuals, it also exposed a revelation that shocked the underground cyber community to its core – the 28 year-old LulzSec leader had been working as a government informant since his arrest eight months before. It was with his involvement and assistance that agents were able to bring down some of the most famous, albeit anonymous until now, cyber hackers in the world.
These were the men and kids responsible for launching repeated successful cyber attacks against such formidable foes as the FBI, Scotland Yard, the US Army, the Dept of Homeland Security and even the CIA. The indicted individuals were charged with hacking the private intelligence corporation that works for the US federal government and many multinational corporations – Stratfor. In the attack, financial information was stolen from the private government cyber-mercenary army and used to make $700,000 worth of purchases and ‘donations’ to an array of grassroots social and political organizations.
At the time, many wondered if the arrests of its main leaders would destroy the group. LulzSec sympathizers breathed a sigh of relief however when it was announced that the group carried out another successful attack this week. To them, that meant that at least someone was still out there carrying the banner for LulzSec. This time, the hacktivists’ target was the data banks of a company that serves US Army personnel.
For the last couple years, the larger and more public cyber rebel group Anonymous has been getting all the headlines. LulzSec, Anonymous’ partner in philosophy if not crime, was considered more of a smaller all star team of social hackers. This most recent LulzSec attack reveals the depth and ability of some of its remaining members still roaming free.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the hackers attacked the website MilitarySingles.com. The online singles and dating site caters to military servicemen and servicewomen. "We have enacted a series of security procedures in response," Robert Goebel, CEO of ESingles Inc., which owns the site told the Tribune, "Regardless of whether it was a true claim or false claim, we’re treating it as though it’s true just to be safe."
It appears that the cyber attackers did no obvious damage to the company’s servers or other computerized infrastructure. Instead, LulzSec members stole 170,937 email addresses of average US soldiers, single ones anyway. They then proceeded to release them all on the internet. As far as cyber attacks go, it wasn’t much of an accomplishment. A small private company like ESingles doesn’t have anywhere near the security in place that the FBI or CIA does. This was a low-level, low-skill theft at best.
The attack also wasn’t in the spirit of LulzSec attacks. The three main underground cyber rebel groups – LulzSec, AntiSec and Anonymous – have typically targeted only the wealthiest and most powerful individuals around the world. Whether it’s Sony, the Vatican, Syrian dictator Assad or all the various agencies of the US federal government and military, the hacker groups have usually avoided causing harm to the average, low-level employees of the targeted corporation or agency.
The groups steadfastly consider themselves the defenders of the 99 percent. Their targets are almost exclusively found among the world’s top 1 percent. Targeting a small website to expose the emails of average US soldiers just isn’t in line with group’s modus operandi. Perhaps it’s the next generation of LulzSec hacktivists, learning as they go. The inexperience obvious in the simple theft itself fittingly couples with the inexperience in philosophy of whoever carried out the MilitarySingles.com attack.
But as LulzSec sympathizers will admit, it’s not the size of the attack or the target that matters this time. The fact that there are still LulzSec hactivists out there somewhere is the real news. Just how talented, smart and capable they are, is yet to be revealed.
TOP SECRET AMERICA
The top-secret world the government created in response to Sept. 11, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs or how many people it employs. 20pg Special Report. Click here for more info.