Some say it infringed on the free speech of those who weren't charged with any crimes

Hacktivist group Anonymous was the target of a cyberattack launched by British spies, according to more document leaks by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. 

According to NBC News, the British version of the U.S.' NSA -- called the Government Communications Headquarters Communications (GCHQ) -- launched a cyberattack against the hacktivist group using its Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) division.

The documents detailing the attack were pulled from a 2012 NSA conference called SIGDEV via PowerPoint presentation. 

In an operation called "Rolling Thunder," JTRIG launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against the internet relay chat (IRC) rooms, which are used by members of Anonymous. 

JTRIG agents also posed as Anonymous members to infiltrate IRC rooms and locate those responsible for attacking government websites and stealing personal data back in 2011.

In 2011, Anonymous attacked PayPal, some major credit card companies and government websites such as those for the FBI, CIA and GCHQ. This was called "Operation Payback" for the prosecution of Chelsea Manning. 

The documents show that JTRIG was out to bust those responsible, and launch covert cyberattacks. JTRIG even used social networks like Facebook and Twitter to warn its suspects that hacking and DDoS attacks are illegal. Phone jamming and other undercover operations were used by JTRIG as well.

It seemed to have worked, as the documents show that 80 percent of those in the IRC rooms vanished within a month after receiving the warnings. 

JTRIG was also able to locate those responsible for the 2011 attacks and even convicted a hacker who stole 8 million records on PayPal. 

While the operation proved successful, many say JTRIG went too far with Rolling Thunder because many of the Anonymous members involved were teenagers, and JTRIG's focus and attack on communications among hacktivists means the agency infringed the free speech of people who were not charged with any crimes. 

Gabriella Coleman, an anthropology professor at McGill University who is writing a book about Anonymous, said that targeting Anonymous "amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs."

Source: NBC News

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