Halfway around the world, a 24-year-old in Montana had been using a Star Wars-themed website emblazoned with an image of a laser gun called a Low Orbit Ion Canon - with the goal of shutting down websites of WikiLeaks’ perceived enemies.
Since releasing a vast cache of diplomatic cables this month, the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks has been the focus of intense criticism: for divulging classified materials, embarrassing the U.S. government and potentially endangering lives.
But it has also engendered the frenzied support of an expanding and loosely defined global collective that seems intent on speaking out - and in some cases waging war on WikiLeaks’ behalf.
The most prominent of those groups is known as Anonymous, which this past week sought to disable the websites of several U.S. companies as part of what it called Operation Payback.
“This is going to be the biggest challenge to free expression and the right to publish truthful information since the Pentagon Papers,” said Marcia Hofmann, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that monitors privacy and free-speech issues on the Internet. “Regardless of whether you like WikiLeaks, it’s the right to publish truthful political speech that is on the line.”
Several other groups have expressed dismay over recent statements by U.S. politicians suggesting that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be branded an international terrorist.
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