2011-03-13 Anonymous-Bank of America Employee Emails Story Appears to Have Some Writers Confused

ImageSeveral writers have published their thoughts on the bank employee emails posted by Anonymous. They appear to have been caught up in the news cycle, hoping to get ahead of this story and get the most traffic to their post. In rushing the story, at least a few have committed a basic failure of journalism, one that could easily be remedied by fact checking.

Juli Weiner at VanityFair.com writes, “A-ha! Bank of America is indeed the large United States bank whose internal documents and e-mails were rumored to soon appear on the Internet. But twist! The leaker of those documents was not WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, spectral nuisance and folk hero, but Anonymous, the rabble-rousing hacking collective.”

Angela Orr on Technorati writes, “Alluded to by the Anonymous community for months, leaks of Bank of America documents have finally begun to come to light, as the so-called #BlackMonday Operation began, today.”

And, at ComputerWorld, Darlene Storm writes, “It's unclear whether part one of the bankofamericasucks leak is the same information that BofA was afraid WikiLeaks would publish.”

Actually, it is incredibly clear. Look at the dates: they are all from days ago, the first one being sent out on March 10, 2011. This makes it impossible for Anonymous to be leaking whatever material WikiLeaks happens to hold.

This author can reinforce the truth that this is not material coming from WikiLeaks. An online activist with Anonymous tweeted this at me on Friday, March 11: “@kgosztola Shit will hit the fan. But it's not related to that hdd Mr Assange got hold on.”

What the “Anon” was referring to was the hard drive that Julian Assange supposedly has. Back on November 30, 2010, as Cablegate was just beginning, Assange said WikiLeaks was “sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive’s hard drives.” He didn’t know how to present the material then and, as he and WikiLeaks address various legal and logistical issues, it appears WikiLeaks is still developing how to present that material (if it contains revelatory information on the Big Bank.)

The confusion could have come from the fact that the site set up for posting the emails was originally launched for posting any leaked information from WikiLeaks on Bank of America. But, again, if one reads the emails, it is clear that this is not what Assange has been hyping (so there's no need for Vanity Fair to remind readers of this checklist).

Additionally, Courtney Comstock at BusinessInsider.com seeks to diminish the significance of the leak with a post claiming this is nothing special and just some whining from a former bank employee. She reveals her sloppiness in a section where she claims “the best emails are not available.”

Comstock is referring to specific lines on the page where Anonymous is presenting the emails: “# Tells me Boa is knowingly hiding Foreclosure information from Feds…", "So why do u want BoA head so bad?" and "So the waitresses knew what happens in BoA?"

This author had no problem getting to “the best emails.” For one, if the page isn’t loading, it may be necessary to sit there and keep refreshing constantly. That will eventually get you through. Secondly, if Comstock had been following the #BlackMonday hashtag closely, she would have seen the complete leak was posted as a file to be downloaded (and also as a torrent for seeding) to make it easier for the leak to be shared widely.

At 2:08 PM ET, Comstock has yet to follow-up and update her post. The information is available. But, perhaps, it’s best not to update with details because then you can display deference toward the Bank of America spokesman’s claim that “the extravagant assertions are untrue.”

Finally, Comstock writes, “There are just too many questions left unanswered in that email for this ‘leak’ to be anything significant.” This statement further displays Comstock’s ignorance, as the leak has just began. And Anonymous is smart to slowly release whatever it has if ‘Part 1’ is just the beginning. That’s how one makes a Big Bank squirm.

Anonymous has learned from WikiLeaks that you don’t dump everything you have on news dump Friday and expect to change public opinion on an illegal war and occupation of a country. No, rather, in order to be most effective and maximize the level of change or blowback, you release the information slowly keeping the target on edge as it wonders when this will be over and if it should just come out and state what is coming so that it can save itself just a little.

In conclusion, the biggest problem with coverage of this story is that there is this idea that Anonymous and WikiLeaks are working together. Recall, twelve days into Cablegate, WikiLeaks distanced itself from Anonymous: “These denial of service attacks are believed to have originated from an internet gathering known as Anonymous. This group is not affiliated with Wikileaks. There has been no contact between any Wikileaks staffer and anyone at Anonymous. Wikileaks has not received any prior notice of any of Anonymous’ actions.”

This project is the work of Anonymous and Anonymous alone. The hacktivist organization, in their operations aimed at going after Bank of America for ceasing to allow donations to be made to WikiLeaks through Bank of America, likely got lucky and made a connection with this employee.

Judging from the HBGary email leak, this is not an absurd notion. Anonymous has proven capable of getting employees within an organization to talk or act out, cooperatively in this case and aggressively in the case of HBGary.

As noted in a previous post, the big news is that other employees may be speaking out now that a channel between Anonymous and this disgruntled former employee has been opened. If successful, one thousand “axes will chop off all the heads of the hydra” and not just one head.

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