New York, NY - Governments the world over are now fighting cyber wars, sometimes with other states, a variety of enemies and increasingly with their own citizens.
Internet experts, electronic engineers and secretive "directorates" of web warriors are very much in demand as more and more regimes monitor every tweet and Facebook page they consider threatening.
China's old Great Wall kept intruders out; its new great firewall censors internal expression. Israel has trained a cyber army to plant viruses in Iranian nuclear plants while Iran filters websites with anti-government rhetoric.
All the while, the United States publicly supports a free internet - while using advanced technology to spy on it.
A growing industry of security companies and specialists have found ample employment serving what is now a global military-industrial-internet complex.
Today, in the online age, high-tech surveillance systems are a high-growth sector. There used to be fears of official surveillance when people complained of clicks on their phones. The clicks are long gone. What used to be feared is now assumed. Paranoia is the new normal.
But there is also a growing anti-spying movement using technology to fight secrecy and challenge government overreach. For every measure designed to control the internet, there are anti-measures underway to free information.
There's WikiLeaks, which continues to make public documents that were never intended for public consumption.
The US government doesn't take kindly to the leaking of these documents, however improperly classified. It's embarrassing if only because what's really going on so often conflicts with the official narrative of our beneficence.
That's why they are throwing the book at a lone soldier, Bradley Manning, whom supporters feel should be considered a hero for revealing wartime abuses that were intended to be kept out of the public eye.
The US "Justice" Department has also apparently secretly indicted Julian Assange for crimes that have yet to be made public.
Democracy Now reports:
This suggests the FBI has insight into the internal discussions between Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and the hacking group Anonymous. Although no motives have been confirmed, some believe this is part of a larger strategy to build a case against Julian Assange. An internal email from Stratfor recently revealed that the US Department of Justice has already obtained a sealed indictment against Assange.
If all this sounds like a police state tactic, that's because it is.
How much longer will we wait for judges to be hooded, as they were in some foreign wars against terrorism, to rubber-stamp the convictions of those who are unknowingly on some official enemies list?
We don't know.
Now, the latest Spy vs. Spy adventures involve a secret war against the international "hackeratti".
The FBI is now going through the motions of what it calls "chopping off the head" of a shadowy group of cyber activists or criminals, depending on your point of view on the organisation called "LulzSec".
Last summer, according to the website Ars Technica, in one of those secret operations that are becoming all too common, the FBI arrested "LulzSec mastermind Sabu". In real life, he is 28-year-old Hector Monsegur, who has since been working with the FBI after pleading guilty to computer hacking crimes.
The Guardian has posted the full text of some of the documents from the indictments against LulzSec members. The paper also has an analysis of the court papers, detailing Monsegur's cooperation with the FBI. The story notes Monsegur providing the FBI advance notice of attacks, which the FBI apparently allowed to proceed. 'The FBI even provided its own servers for members of hacking collectives to use.'"
WikiLeaks tweeted a link to LulzSec chat logs from last August, saying the text shows that "FBI informant Sabu tried to entrap anonymous hackers with $ for info".
As it turned out, the hacking community became suspicious of Sabu, who was considered reckless, and in a process called "doxing", they exposed him.
The FBI said they caught him when he used a home computer and not software like Tor that ensures a false identity.
Sabu wasn't an affluent middle-class Ivy Leaguer, but lived in a public housing project on New York's Lower East Side, where he was quickly arrested by agents who monitored his online activity and "turned him" by threatening many years of incarceration. Reportedly, he feared he would lose access to children he was taking care of if he didn't go along.
In turn, he took down five of his online fellow hackers with him. He has since made a deal that turned him into an informant to spread disinformation.
His arrests may have spread paranoia in the larger community that calls itself "Anonymous", but their activists insist they are not ready to turn themselves in.
This bust so far has not, nor is it likely to, win the ongoing online war. As another Ars Technica report explains:
LulzSec is pretty small compared to the overall Anonymous movement. There's no reason to believe 'that the hacktivist element of Anonymous will fall apart because of this', one security company executive notes.
In fact, hackers associated with Anonymous have already retaliated against two dozen websites owned by Panda Security overnight, saying the act was revenge for the arrests of LulzSec hackers.
The daily AM New York reports:
Anonymous downplayed the bust in messages posted online, including two Twitter accounts associated with the group, and said it will go on.
Here are two of those representative tweets cited in their report:
"#Anonymous is an idea, not a group. There is no leader, there is no head. It will survive, before, during, and after this time," wrote a user with the handle @AnonOps.
@AnonymousIRC added: "We're sailing close to the wind, our crew is complete and doing fine."
And so this battle continues, online and off, in courts and in backrooms, where security companies and government agencies fight a covert war against a covert offensive by a growing number of technically sophisticated activists.
Fascinating are the comments affixed to the Ars Technica reports:
Said one: "A site called 'Death and Taxe' downplayed the arrests' impact on Anonymous, noting that the belief that 'Sabu' was a rat has been circulating in the hacking community for months. 'Anonymous has grown beyond LulzSec and Sabu,' the article states."
In another post, Sabu was ridiculed. "My overriding impression of 'Sabu' is of a keyboard warrior, dishing it out to the great enemies of freedom, who upon discovery by the authorities started crying for his mummy in between shouting 'it's not fair!'"
The FBI's story was also questioned. "I doubt they caught him because he didn't hide his IP address one time. That seems like a cover story so they don't give away the method they used to actually catch him."
Finally, there was this: "It's always only a matter of time before any criminal is caught. Except for the government criminals of course!"
And so, the debate continues. As government regulations stiffen, and as the tenacity of the hackeratti deepens, more confrontations are certain as our increasingly technological infrastructure becomes one more global battleground.
News Dissector Danny Schechter now blogs at Newsdissector.net. His latest book is Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street. His latest film, on Wall Street crime, is Plunder: The crime of our time. He does a show on Progressive Radio Network. Send comments to email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.