A plan by hactivist group Anonymous to expose the details of people connected to one of the world's most dangerous drug cartels is back on after being briefly canceled, according to a video from one of movement's figureheads.
"This was canceled earlier this morning by one of the people involved," Barrett Brown said. "Shortly thereafter, the assembled people held a vote and decided nonethless to go ahead with the operation."
But reports suggest the Mexican chapters of Anonymous had called off the attacks, fearing bloody reprisals from the deadly Los Zetas drug cartel which had previously killed bloggers and journalists.
Brown's video shed light on the risky undertaking, dubbed Operation Cartel, or OpCartel, which was hatched last month as a means to avenge the alledged kidnapping of an Anonymous member by Los Zetas.
The Anonymous member reportedly was abducted in the eastern Mexican state of Veracuz while participating in an anti-cartel march.
"It's Mexicans themselves, including those in Veracruz, who have conceived [the operation] and are effectively running it, not a bunch of Americans," Brown said. "It's not some sterotypical computer geek sitting somewhere else in safety. These people are on the ground."
Statfor tactical analyst Ben West said Zetas had deployed computer experts to track individuals involved in the online anti-cartel campaign.
"Those individuals involved face the risk of abduction, injury and death – judging by how [the] Zetas [have] dealt with threats in the past."
Sam Bowne, an instructor of ethical hacking said there could be major collateral damage.
"If Anon continues with this, they are going to get people killed and likely innocent people – other anons [the Zetas] can find or innocent people in Mexico who they accuse of being in the cartel," he said.
"Anonymous has declared a gang war with a dangerous gang, and Anonymous is entirely unprepared."
But Brown said the mission is not too dissimilar to other anti-Zeta movements, and Anonymous members who are participating are trained. (He did not say how the hackers planned to retrieve information about the cartel).
"What we're doing is not fundamentally different from what many other Mexicans have done, rightfully in my mind, in response to these cartels," he said.
"The fact of the matter is that this operation is going ahead whether or not I get involved, and that fundamentally there are lives in the balance here does not differentiate this operation from previous Anonymous operations."
West added in his dispatch: "This higher skill-set means that Anonymous could contribute to the effectiveness of the online struggle against the cartels or at least bring more publicity to the issue".
"It's important to remember that the U.S. has been engaging in its own electronic observation of the Mexican cartels for years. Anonymous likely won't be able to turn up more information than the US government already has, but they are able to publicise more information than the US government can."
With Darren Pauli.