Personal statement from Director

We are excited to announce that We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists will be appearing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on October 19th, and then online October 30th.  We hope to be adding dates and locations in the coming weeks so check back here for details.

I am a strong believer in independent documentary’s ability to tell stories and uncover truths that are too challenging or uncomfortable for the mainstream media.  In a world where most national media you see comes from a handful of major corporations, independent film is one of the last bastions where an unencumbered voice can still get through.

But there is a big problem.  Traditionally there is almost no market for this kind of independent journalism.  What many directors like myself, hope is that the internet will help create a new marketplace that can exist outside the landscape of big blockbusters, copyright abuse, and controlled news sources and still be vibrant enough to create great work.  That puts pressure us – myself and my fellow documentarians – to come up with ways to bring our work to audiences and still earn a living.

Louie CK did us all a favor when he self-released his first stand up (aside from just being hilarious.)  He showed the world a new model was possible.  Our film about hacktivists, a culture of people I think represent one of the most important phenomena of our time, has managed to garner incredible interest and enthusiasm.  But we have turned down offers from traditional media sources so that we could do the same thing as Louie and attempt something different.  That is because I believe a new marketplace and a new direction for journalists is key.

There have been so many recent examples of big corporations or oppressive regimes trying to silence or intimidate filmmakers that it would be impossible to outline them all here (I’m working on another piece about this now.)  But from 32 year veterans of the NSA speaking out about surveillance to protesters like Pussy Riot, these voices represent critical information, important perspectives, abuses of power, courageous whisteblowing and topics that powerful people just don’t want you to hear about.  A  sustainable path is the only way independent voices can be heard and can continue to create disruptive and challenging documentaries.  I hope filmmakers and journalists are up to the challenge, because the world needs it.
So please come out and support the film during our theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles and do whatever possible to support us when we release the official version online on the 30th.

Many thanks,
Brian Knappenberger
Director:  We Are Legion:  The Story of the Hacktivists


Occupy Wall Street celebrates its one year anniversary

Courtesy of Twitter / @macfathom

September 17th marks the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. The movement, which started in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, quickly spread around the world. Protesters are marking the anniversary by holding marches in 30 cities across the globe, according to USA Today.

The L.A. Times reports that some New York protesters are wearing hats and masks, bringing birthday cakes, and blowing horns to celebrate Occupy Wall Street’s birthday. This morning, as NYPD officers blocked the marchers from heading towards the stock exchange by setting up metal barricades and asking for worker IDs, smaller groups split off and headed toward targets like Broadway’s Bank of America building.

According to The New York Times, as of this afternoon, 146 protesters have been arrested “for impeding vehicular or pedestrian traffic.”

Former “Anonymous Spokesperson” Barrett Brown is arrested during TinyChat session

Screenshot Courtesy of YouTube / raincoaster

On Wednesday, September 12th in Dallas, Texas, self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown was arrested while participating in a TinyChat (see the video here). Approximately two minutes into the video featuring Brown and a woman being identified as his girlfriend, loud noises are heard in the background, the video goes black, but audio of the arrest continues. Brown was interviewed extensively and can be seen in We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists.

It has been confirmed that Barrett Brown was booked into Dallas’ county jail that night, then moved by the FBI the following morning.

According to the Associated Press, this occurred just hours after Brown posted a video titled “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe” on YouTube (see the video here).  In the video Barrett discusses the obstruction of justice charges that his mother may face due to a laptop that he claims to have hidden on her property without her knowledge.  Turning his attention to FBI agent Robert Smith Brown threatens him in the video, saying “…I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids.”

International Business Times reports that in response to Brown’s arrest, AntiSec has posted a file containing the names, addresses credit card numbers, and other information of thirteen seemingly random government employees. The statement that allegedly comes from AntiSec states:

“Barrett Brown, our controversial hated/loved friend (doesnt matter what kind of shits he does, he’s still one of us) seems to have been v&’d…again… so well, we think Barrett deserves at least we bring some kind of retaliation for this FBI shit against him…We have these 13 credit cards details as teaser, and aprox. right now (should be we think…) we would be dropping an undeterminate amount of credit cards potentially belonging to govt officials…”

FinFisher discovered in emails sent to political dissidents

FinFisher’s homepage

It is a powerful spyware sold ostensibly to governments to fight crime, but evidence that the technology is allegedly being used to spy on political dissidents has been uncovered.

The software in question is called FinFisher, manufactured by the UK surveillance company Gamma Group. Security experts have known about the existence of FinFisher for some time, but haven’t been able to locate a copy. What makes the software so sophisticated, says the New York Times, is that it is engineered specifically to thwart detection.

That is, until last month, when Morgan Marquis-Boire and Bill Marczak, two independent security researchers, said that they have identified FinFisher in malware-rigged emails received by three Bahraini pro-democracy activists in May. The spyware was designed to send information back to a server in Bahrain.

The pair said the spyware has the capability to take screenshots of the users’ computer screens, record Skype conversations, log keystrokes, and control infected computers remotely. Their findings, first reported by Bloomberg, was published by the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs’ Citizen Lab last month.

Researchers from Boston-based security firm Rapid7, reports the New York Times, have now found FinFisher being used in 10 other countries besides Bahrain.

In a statement issued to the New York Times, a Gamma spokesperson maintains that FinFisher is only sold to governments to monitor criminals.

News outlets want veil of secrecy lifted on Manning trial

 Anonymous supporters of Bradley Manning at a San Francisco rally. Photo courtesy the Bradley Manning Support Network.

The New York Times and the Associated Press are among more than 30 news and media outlets that want full access to information on the court martial of Bradley Manning, the Army soldier who allegedly leaked troves of classified material to WikiLeaks.

POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein is reporting that they have filed an amicus brief with the military’s highest court, the Court of Appeals of the Arm Forces.

Gerstein adds that while hearings in the Manning case have been done largely in public, there are motions and briefs the prosecution and defense are using that the news media and the public don’t have access to.

“The inability to view court documents filed in connection with a particular judicial proceeding burdens the news media’s constitutionally protected right to collect and disseminate the news and severely curtails journalists’ ability to do their jobs effectively,” lawyers Gregg Leslie and Kristen Rasmussen wrote in the brief.

Military prosecutors have argued against granting public access to court martial filings, pointing to the Freedom of Information Act one way through which the public can obtain information on the Manning case. But, Gerstein says in his blog post, the military has rejected previous requests seeking court records on the Manning case.

Atlantic Media, Dow Jones, Gannett, Hearst, CNN, along with POLITICO and its parent company Allbritton Communications Company, also signed onto the brief.

Hackers take down Swedish government websites in support of Assange

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, leaving Royal Court of Justice on July 13th, 2011. Photo courtesy acidpolly.

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange allegedly took down several Swedish government websites on Monday, the AP reported.

The websites of the Swedish government, armed forces and the Swedish Institute were incapacitated by denial-of-service attacks for several hours.

After the attacks, an unnamed group of hackers claimed responsibility on Twitter and warned the Swedish government to takes its “hands off Assange.”

Assange is currently under asylum at Ecuador’s Embassy in England, the AP said. He is fighting extradition to Sweden to face questioning on sex crime charges.

AntiSec releases 1 million Apple UDIDs allegedly taken from the FBI

Image by Luminant Media

A group identifying itself as part of AntiSec has said they posted 1,000,001 unique device identifiers numbers (UDIDs) used by Apple, apps, and ad networks use to identify users, according to PC Magazine.

A statement released by AntiSec claims that the UDIDs are just a portion of the twelve million culled from a database on the computer of FBI agent Christopher K. Stangl, who is a member of the bureau’s Regional Cyber Action Team. The statement claims that in addition to UDIDs, information that was gathered from an FBI computer in March also included ”user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc.”

The FBI responded with a tweet denying the claim.

The FBI’s official statement on the matter reads, ”The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed. At this time, there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data.”

According to Wired, Agent Stangl may have been targeted due to his inclusion in an FBI email the group intercepted earlier this year. The email between U.S. and European law-enforcement  gave the details for an upcoming conference call between the groups to discuss Anonymous. Anonymous later published the alleged audio from the meeting in February.

At the Request of Anonymous, Gawker’s Adrian Chen Poses in a Tutu with a Shoe on his Head

After Anonymous released a statement that said in part they wouldn’t give any more interviews about the September 4th release of 1 million unique Apple UDIDs “till Adrian Chen get featured in the front page of Gawker, a whole day, with a huge picture of him dressing a ballet tutu and shoe on the head,” Chen decides to take them up on the offer.  The leakers claimed the information was gathered from an FBI computer in March and also contained “user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc.”  If this is true, it has huge privacy implications.  Chen, who has long had a love/hate relationship with Anonymous, then dressed in a tutu and posed for the picture in the Gawker offices with what he said was a 9 1/2 men’s Reebok.