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'Operation Free Assange': Anonymous take down UK government websites

Published time: August 20, 2012 19:20
Edited time: August 23, 2012 03:03
AFP Photo / Joel Saget

AFP Photo / Joel Saget

Several British governmental websites, including the Ministry of Justice, have been attacked by hacktivists in retaliation for Britain’s handling of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Under the campaign, which was branded “#OpFreeAssange,” Anonymous undertook a mission to take down justice.gov.uk and number10.gov.uk, the official site of the British Prime Minister’s Office. The websites are now operating normally once again.

Several Twitter accounts associated with the loose-knit Anonymous collective have acknowledged that the UK Ministry of Justice and the PM Office's websites had been targeted with a distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attack.

“#OpFreeAssange: TANGO DOWN! http://www.justice.gov.uk/ [500 Internal Server Error] [#Anonymous #WikiLeaks],” reads one tweet sent from the @Anon_Central Twitter account.

The hackers also claim to have taken down the website of another British government department – the Department of Work and Pensions. “Gov. of UK Expect Us!” reads a related tweet by Anonymous.

Assange, the founder and editor of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has been ordered by Swedish authorities to be extradited from the UK where he had been under house arrest. Two women from Sweden have accused Assange of sex crimes, although he has yet to be charged.

In fear of being sent to Sweden and then extradited to the US to be tried for his role with WikiLeaks, Assange applied for political asylum in Ecuador, which the Latin American country finally granted him last week after two months of waiting. Regardless, British authorities have refused to give Assange safe passage out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London so that he may travel overseas.

Before Ecuador President Rafael Correa approved the asylum bid, British authorities threatened to storm the embassy last week, prompting supporters of Assange and WikiLeaks to surround the building overnight in hopes of deterring any attempt by the UK to follow through with the extradition.

“If the UK did not throw away the Vienna conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching. And the world was watching because you were watching,” Assange told his supporters during his Sunday afternoon speech from London.

“So, the next time somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend those rights that we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark before the Embassy of Ecuador."

In addition to lambasting the British for coming close to violating international law, Assange asked for US President Barack Obama to “do the right thing” and end his war on whistleblowing, saluting accused WikiLeaks contributor Private First Class Bradley Manning as a hero whose release from prison must be made immediately.