Cyber attacks on PayPal, AT&T and other organizations weren’t just attempts to cause chaos or anarchistic assaults on the establishment, according to attorneys defending the fourteen members of Anonymous arrested earlier this year. Instead, they were apparently part of a political protest over the treatment of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.
The 14 defendants were arrested during raids in July, but according to their lawyers, they weren’t up to no good. One attorney described his client’s actions as the result of being “concerned about the availability of information in today’s society,” while another characterized his client as “just a normal guy” who believed that he was “involved in a protest in a demonstration… There’s a social justice aspect to this whole thing that’s missing.”
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Another attorney, Graham E. Archer, claims that the idea that his client, Ethan Miles, is a criminal hacking genius are misplaced: “I don’t think he would describe himself as computer-savvy,” he explains.
This further extends the narrative that each of the fourteen suspects is miles away from what law enforcement and public perception would have believed of a member of Anonymous—instead, they’re “just like us,” which is either a comment on the media’s tendency to demonize what it doesn’t understand, or the pervasiveness of hack culture in today’s society.
All fourteen defendants have entered not-guilty pleas, and the next hearing has been set for November 1, 2011.
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Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.