A monstrous crime allegedly took place in Steubenville, OH this August -- the rape and sodomization of a 16-year-old girl over the course of several hours by a group of local high school athletes known to their peers as "The Rape Crew." The story began making headlines in December, but most people didn't hear about it until New Year's day, when a hacktivist group designating itself part of Anonymous posted an in-depth, disturbing set of dossiers and documents that it dubbed the Steubenville files.
"On December 23, 2012 a cell within Anonymous called 'Knight Sec' took up the cause of giving a voice to the victim of this horrible crime and began unraveling this conspiracy of silence designed to protect a group of these high school football players," the site says in a mission statement. The group gathered intel from students at Steubenville High School, from illegally hacked email accounts, and from Facebook messages and tweets posted by those who participated in or witnessed the assault. (Note to those who conflate brutal gang rape with broad comedy: nothing is ever truly erased in cyberspace.)
The site, LocalLeaks, included information on the accused attackers and the town leaders who seemingly protected the perpetrators. It suggested that a rape gang has operated in Steubenville since the 1970s. And it included a 12-plus-minute video in which a college freshman named Michael Nodianos joked about the crime, claimed that he'd taken a turn raping the girl, and delighted in the idea that someone had peed on the victim after she'd been dumped on a lawn. Even for those who had read the New York Times' long, detailed December 16 article on the case, this clip of sociopathic braggadocio was a scary and revolting jolt. Anonymous made the world take another look at Steubenville, and Steubenville would not be the same. We may never be the same.
After we exchanged a few correspondences, an individual designating himself as a high-level Anonymous member consented to a rare email interview. The conversation touches on the impact the group has had on the investigation and the victim's take on LocalLeaks. It includes a preview of information on the date rape drug that will soon be on the site. While the identity of the correspondent is unknown, the emails were verified by Jay Leiderman, a California attorney who has worked with members of Anonymous.
"If you are asking if we broke the law, the answer is: yes," writes the member. Why take the risk? The hackers want justice. They write: "Nothing has so completely moved the staff of LocalLeaks with such heartbreak as this disclosure has. When we were presented with the copious body of material that is the source for this disclosure, all the LocalLeaks volunteers began working around the clock to organize, analyze, fact-check, verify."
But even though the group is willing to break the law to bring horrific information to light, this person seems ambivalent about what it means to fight for justice in the age of hacking.
"It is not our place to assign blame. Our mission and purpose is only to reveal the truth."
I would love to talk to you about what you are doing and why, record it, and put it online if that makes sense. (Assuming you will use a voice changer). I do appreciate the correspondence and would ensure that I did everything to continue with this anonymity.
I am afraid that will not be possible. I am an extremely high level actor within the Anonymous collective and am currently being actively hunted by the FBI, NSA, CIA, four separate police agencies and at least three death squads. As such, my personal security is paramount and I only grant voice interviews to large mainstream media networks with which I have a working relationship. I am sorry, all I can offer you is an E-Mail interview.
I will be referred to as Anonymous, Editor In Chief of LocalLeaks.
Some points on this story. First, when we founded LocalLeaks, we based it technologically on the WikiLeaks model -- but we decided upon some important philosophical differences. One of those was strictly enforced anonymity of all staff and volunteers. NO ONE is allowed to associate their real identity with LocalLeaks. This was done to remove the personality cult and safety issues surrounding WikiLeaks.
Secondly, there is a deeper story here than simply the material in the "Steubenville Files." This disclosure is unprecedented and historic in it's size, scope -- and political impact. With the release of the "Steubenville Files" LocalLeaks has begun to redefine what revolution could mean in the this century and placed a new star on the political firmament of humankind. In the disclosure industry, LocalLeaks is now on a par with WikiLeaks in power and importance.
How did Anonymous originally find out about the case in Steubenville? Was it the New York Times piece or something else?
After you began disclosing information, did you find that law enforcement responded?
The political and legal impact of this disclosure on Steubenville is unprecedented and unfolding. We have DEFINITELY made a huge impact, yes.
What does the accuser think about ANONYMOUS and have you talked to her and her family?
The victim fully supports the efforts of Anonymous, LocalLeaks, and Occupy Steubenville. I cannot comment on who does or does not contact us.
Have you talked to the alleged victims lawyer at all?
Do you believe that this rape crew has been active for awhile and with the full support of the school coaches?
Worse. Our research indicates that this is cultural and that various iterations of the "Rape Crew" have been active in Steubenville since at least 1975. And we have victims' testimony going back as early as 1966.
How are you reaching out to other young women who might have been raped by this group?
There are quite a few alleged vicious and horrific acts from this group, what shocked you the most?
What shocks me the most is not anything to do with the perpetrators; what shocks me the most is those adults in power and authority who worked so hard to cover it up.
It seems that there are many incestuous relationships in this town that affected how people in authority responded to the situation. Who do you think bears the most blame for how this incident has unfolded and been handled?
It is not our place to assign blame. Our mission and purpose is only to reveal the truth.
At some points in the night it is suggested that there were many people watching this rape. Can you confirm if this is true and whether you have been able to figure out roughly how many were there?"
Everything we can currently confirm about that night is listed at the appropriate section near the bottom of the disclosure entitled: "What REALLY Happened That Night." We are updating the disclosure daily as we work through and analyze the unprecedented volume of leaks still pouring in.
Do you think those witnesses should be prosecuted?
As I stated, it is not our place or mission to take any position on these questions. Our job is to tell the truth to the best of our ability.
When some of the group that were there that night had taken photos on their phones and deleted them, were you able to have access to them?
Do you think that there is something that happens within a group setting that stops people from speaking up?
I have no idea.
Have you seen the movie The Accused?
As a mom with three boys, that [Nadionos'] video caused me to have a sleepless night and question what we are doing wrong as a culture that allows such monsters to flourish. Do you have any thoughts about this?
Do any members of Anonymous have kids?
There are approximately 250,000 Anons worldwide -- and yes, many have children.
Can you tell me if you are female or male?
Was the victim 15 when she was raped or 16?
She was and is 16.
I heard the attorneys for the accused talking about how the young girl had sent a text to one of the boys saying "I know you didn't rape me."
We believe that text to have been forged in the days after the rape, when the perpetrators had custody of the girl's phone.
The defense team was using this as an example to show the alleged victim did not think she was raped.
The text message is a forgery. The victim found out she was raped in the same manner the world did, by reading about it on social media the day after it occurred. She has always known from that moment that she was raped and has never believed otherwise.
When and how did she get her phone back?
The boy who took it gave it back several days after the incident.
Did they ever get a confirmation of the date rape drug in her body?
We have no idea what the authorities in this case do or do not know. We have confirmed that a date rape drug was used and we know what drug, who administered it and when it was administered. We even know the drug dealer who supplied it. All of these details will be released on the disclosure page in the coming days.
Let's talk about some of the lesser known individuals in this case, starting with Jim Parks, who runs a private fan site for the Steubenville football team and who you allege is close to many of the players. You gained control of his email and put that information online, and there was a lot of pornography, including a picture of a young woman in what looks like a school or public bathroom with her clothes up to reveal her thong underwear.
Has Anonymous gone in to see if Parks is using a hidden camera? Do you know if law enforcement has looked into this?
No. We have no reason to believe any photos were taken without the knowledge of the subjects. The scandal is the source of some of the photos, which we believe are sent to Parks by Steubenville high school students including the "Rape Crew."
In those same files of Jim Parks are there emails that discuss the incident and suggest a coverup?
We don't know, they are still being analyzed.
In your diligence reviewing Parks' files, could you identify other young women that may have been raped in a similar manner to the alleged victim we've been discussing?
We found one woman that strongly resembles Samantha Deitrich, who was raped under similar circumstances [as the victim from this August]. We do not yet have a positive ID for any of the other girls in Parks' little collection.
Have you contacted them?
No comment on who we do or do not contact.
Can you give me any names? Or a way to contact them?
Absolutely not. We are a disclosure platform we do not supply anyone with any information whatsoever on our sources. In fact our job is the exact opposite, to forever protect and shield their identities.
What about Makenzie Santuro, the girl who allegedly helped lure the victim to the party where she was drugged and raped? Do you believe she should be prosecuted?
It is not our place or mission to take any position on these questions. Our job is to tell the truth to the best of our ability.
Did Santuro have incriminating photos?
We do not yet know the answer to that question.
Has she helped you at all, or been silent?
She has not contacted us.
Why do you think Anonymous is being hunted by the FBI et al. -- because of the illegal hacking or the fact that you are shedding light on corrupt situations?
I think that those who send the FBI and other law enforcement after us are frightened of us.
Give me a little perspective on the Anonymous view of our government.
Most of us are anarchists and as such are against the very concept of government.
Do you think this is a collective group of corrupt officials that we just happened to elect or something worse?
It is the position of LocalLeaks that wherever there is anything less than complete transparency there is corruption and wrongdoing. So pretty much everywhere, yes.
SINCERELY -- Anonymous, Editor In Chief