The online activist group Anonymous is threatening to hack U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday to protest what it considers the administration’s attack on Internet freedom and disregard for the law.
The international collective of hackers says it is preparing to take down live Internet streams that will be broadcasting the annual speech in which the president reflects on what the country has experienced politically, socially and economically, and where it’s heading.
“We reject the State of the Union. We reject the authority of the President to sign arbitrary orders and bring irresponsible and damaging controls to the Internet,” Anonymous said in a statement. “The President of the United States of America, and the Joint Session of Congress will face an Army tonight.”
The tech-savvy activists have been effective in the past. Hackers united by Anonymous have overwhelmed the sites of MasterCard, Amazon.com and PayPal in support of the activist group WikiLeaks. They have also hacked the websites of the U.S. Justice Department and the geopolitical analysis group Stratfor.
But bringing down the State of the Union streams will be difficult because so many different websites and news agencies will be broadcasting the address, including the Voice of America.
Anonymous complained that Obama’s speech will not address issues it cares most about, including an executive order on cyber security, the proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a defense funding law and the use of military drones.
President Obama “will not be covering the secret interpretations of law that allow for warrant-less wiretapping and surveillance of any U.S. citizen without probably cause of criminal acts,” the Anonymous statement said, referring to CISPA, which is being reintroduced for consideration in Congress this week.
CISPA would allow the government to look at Internet traffic with the help of private tech companies. Advocates say it will help defend the country against cyber threats and attacks. But critics say it will allow the government to spy on the public.
Anonymous also criticized Obama for not discussing the National Defense Authorization ACT, which the hackers called “an act of outright tyrannical legislation allowing for indefinite detention of citizens [completely] outside due process and the rule of law.”
The president signed the NDAA into law last month, outlining how U.S. taxpayer funds will be allocated to the Defense Department. The $633 billion act includes provisions that hinder Obama’s pledge to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In its statement, Anonymous paid tribute to Aaron Swartz, an American computer programer and Internet activist who committed suicide last month. Swartz became a rallying figure for advocates of information and Internet freedom after federal prosecutors charged him with being a cyber thief for illegally accessing and downloading subscription-based academic journals.