Saturday 20 June 2015
Thousands of articles have been written about notorious FBI snitch ‘Sabu’. Universally it is accepted that his deceptions led to the downfall of the hacker group Lulzsec, that he was the protagonist in a host of resulting arrests and a primary reason Jeremy Hammond is now serving a decade in prison after accepting a non-cooperating plea deal to one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
As revealed by Hammond himself, Sabu was much more than a witness. He was an instigator. A recruiter. Mastermind. And, according to the official story, a turncoat.
According to Sabu’s sentencing document, he was a prize asset that worked long nights in pursuit of Anonymous members. Went above and beyond the call of duty in his perseverance.
His long and late hours are something I can personally attest to. More, I can tell you that the activities he undertook in his deceptions went way beyond the bounds of the traditional mandates of law enforcement.
I’ve often wondered if Sabu’s sentencing judge knows what he and his FBI handlers really got up to. I can only assume that the FBI failed to mention it in their letter of recommendation of leniency. Certainly nowhere in the judge’s sentencing notes does it mention that Sabu is more than just a liar. More than a vile betrayer of trust. Like many other independently documented cases involving undercover operatives in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and elsewhere, Sabu is not only a snitch. He is a sexual predator.
How I first came to the attention of the FBI is a matter of speculation. It could have been for the heinous non-crime of retweeting Tango Down announcements in 2011 and beyond. Perhaps it was purely by being a member of Occupy Auckland – whose two evictions, featuring ‘cops’ with fake badge numbers (perfect replicas no less) conveniently occurred in the days between the FBI raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion and the day the FBI were reported to have left the country. As my house was on the flight path from Whenuapai airbase, I actually witnessed their helicopters flying out. They were unmissable. Huge black monstrosities flying in formation, that crossed the sky faster than any airplane could.
Whenuapai airbase was of course, where Auckland Council sent all our siezed belongings from the four simultaneous 24/7 occupations of Auckland City. They claimed they were stored in an empty hangar. One can only but wonder whether the hangar was empty prior to the FBI’s departure.
Perhaps it wasn’t until 2012 that I came to their attention – when I began to piece together the timeline of the FBI raid of the Dotcom mansion and the injustice and civil violations endured by Occupy, documenting it and placing the FBI in the centre of that picture. To understand why that was of particular importance to us – imagine if the domestic investigation agency of a foreign country flew helicopters and armed personnel onto United States soil and exectued an armed raid on a U.S. citizen on the grounds of……copyright infringement. Would never happen, right? Well it happened to New Zealand, and to Kim Dotcom. The entire picture stank like rotten fish.
Whatever the reason (and there are dozens if not hundreds of others that could be imagined from my citizen journalism activities over the last few years) I, completely unwittingly, found myself spending up to 12 hours a day with Sabu online, for a two-month period in 2013.
There had been countless real-world attempts to insinuate agents close to me. I was hit on in bars by undercovers in polo shirts, cargo shorts and loafers. Had agents spend months getting close to my friends and fellow activists, only to get an introduction to me and be promptly smacked down. I had done too much reading; I knew full well who to trust and who not to and was able to determine quickly who not to trust.
But what I had never imagined was how Sabu got to me. He came at me from a world away from activism. Somewhere I had felt safe, years and years before ever becoming an activist.
Like Matt DeHart, I had been a guild leader, albeit on a different server. Matt’s main was reportedly a mage, mine was a holy priest. Running PvE t4-t11 and PvP s1-s13, my WoW playing had naturally diminished to nothingness with the advent of Occupy and my venturing into citizen journalism. But by mid-2013 I was playing again. Welcomed back into my group of old online friends, they were like a warm, soft blanket after nearly two years of the unending chaos of activism.
By that point I had the dubious accomplishment of having spear-headed the #GCSB tag against New Zealand’s NSA. Compounded with Edward Snowden’s ongoing revelations, months of daily campaigning on my part led to the involvement of major media figures, prolonged mainstream coverage, and eventually a series of protests and events that generated a nationwide movement against the spy agency, its illegal spying and cover-up legislation. The tag was one of our most successful undertakings, and now has over 50k tweets.
Having been fundamental to the creation of The Daily Blog, a publication which mirrored the Occupy NZ model of bringing together over 30 key New Zealand activism and political figures into one digital space to produce high-profile content for the people, I finally felt like I could have a break from the Occupy Savvy platform our media team had pioneered, eventually returning to WoW.
In restrospect, I should have known I would be vulnerable in that space. But at the time, all I saw was a bunch of old friends I had known for years and years and years. Never did it occur to me that someone like Sabu could be amongst them. Nor did I realise that he would engage in outright identity fraud to do so, or that the platform itself would become complicit to his immorality.
See – when most people look at a picture of Sabu, they see Hector Montsegur. Scumbag. When I look at Sabu I see ‘Mario Fernandes’ – combat rogue.
There really could be no more fitting class for Sabu. Rogues are backstabbers. They move in stealth. They ambush their victims. But once they are brought out into the light, they fold really quickly. Even a little night elf healing priest like me can solo them.
Soon after my return to the game, a lot of old friends started showing up. One was an old guildmate, one of the best PvE rogues on the server. He was someone who had been kind to me long before I was leader of a large guild or well-known player. Our friendship spanned back to 2006/7, some 4-5 years before I had become an activist and journalist.
The fraud was seamless. Sabu knew of conversations I had had with my friend so intimately that he was able to regurgitate and continue them as if he had been my friend all along. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Blizzard Entertainment, the parent company of World of Warcraft, must have supplied him with server logs dating back years in order to accomplish the ruse. That, or Sabu’s real name is Mario Fernandes, and he’s a bloody good rogue. I’m definitely going with the first theory.
Much later, after I had realised the deception, it did indeed come out that LEA’s had been using World of Warcraft to spy on activists. They conceded that the outcome of their investigations determined the platform was being used for…gaming. Not for crimes. For gaming. Well, duh.
For weeks upon weeks, Sabu just played the game with me. Chatted to me on my vent server and in game. I never (and have never) hid any aspect about myself because what I do is entirely legal. I am not a hacker. I am a young mother. I do not commit crimes. I do support activism causes and I do undertake journalism. All of which I started in the belief that, as human rights lawyers explained to us on the first day of Occupy Auckland, we have the right to freedom of expression, to freedom of association; the right to seek redress and to not be discriminated against for political opinion. Unfortunately ever since being told that, myself and my entire media team have had every single aspect of our lives interfered with, from our personal and professional relationships, our day jobs, to our living situations. Our physical belongings have been stolen and/or sabotaged, our computers and digital communications interfered with, monitored, compromised and/or stolen. Our heads fucked with. The war on us has been as much psychological as tactical and we have all paid a really high price.
Sabu was really good about not interrogating me, but just letting me talk. The more we talked, the closer we got. When I said sweet things to him, he’d tell me I was moving him to tears. He played on the emotional frequently. If he said something I found mildly suspicious and expressed as much, he would immediately withdraw to punish me. He was absolutely pro at guilt games and manipulation.
He had his sob story down pat – he was trapped in a dead-end shitty job, monitoring house alarms for a security company (lol!) and living with his Puerto Rican/Cuban parents in Florida. He would dutifully disappear to ‘work’ and text me while he was supposedly there, to tell me how much he missed me. All he wanted was a family and a life of his own. His Dad was a drunk; his mother abusive to his father. He felt trapped; and myself and my children were his ticket out.
He loved us. He wanted to marry me and move to New Zealand. He was saving his pennies as hard as he could to make this happen. He wanted to see me, so badly. So badly that he wanted me to Skype with him.
Skype was a dirty word to me – I had read enough of Snowden’s disclosures to know the company was a party to PRISM program and I told Sabu as much. I was extremely reluctant to use it and in fact my only webcam I had access to was my work laptop. I kept the camera stickered over, as I had been with cameras on phones. That’s ok, he told me. I could just watch him.
Our first Skype conversations were undertaken with me as voice-only and him voice and cam. His room was dark – he complained of poor lighting though in retrospect this was clearly deliberate. There was an ever-present bottle of whiskey or some other suitably dark spirit. The camera angles were never direct – always looking down on him from above or up from underneath. No full-frontal face shots. He was often wearing glasses though sometimes not.
Inevitably the conversation would turn to sexual innuendo, and eventually the cam sessions became outright sexual. He had zero qualms about climaxing on camera repeatedly. I had been single for nearly two years and, wholly believing that this person had been in my life for the best part of a decade and existed completely outside of the activism realm, I eventually dropped my guard and allowed him to see me on cam as well. Although he saw me topless, I thank the heavens that I never actually allowed him to see anything beyond that. He frequently begged, but I retained my reluctance, and the more he pushed to see more, the more I dug my heels in.
A modern-day Geppetto, he would instruct me like I was his puppet and he was the puppet master. Yet we now know he is the ultimate puppet.
Do this, do that. Show me this, show me that. Get better lighting. Lick your nipple. He would egg me on, and his insistence and the frequency of the acts became disquieting.
It was very unlike me to discuss personal relationships on Twitter in any capacity, but at some level I must have had significant reservations, because on a whim I sent a single tweet referencing what had become, indeed, mutual masturbation sessions between what I thought was two consenting adults.
Some time after having sent that one single reference, I received an anonymous message. The message was innocuous but I understood it’s meaning immediately. It contained a picture of the official FBI Orlando Twitter account and the FBI Boston account.
My heart sank and I knew. Not that ‘Mario’ was Sabu – I still didn’t realise that. But I knew that I was being played, and why.
Furious, I logged onto World of Warcraft. Sure enough, his character was online. He instantly greeted me. I replied simply, “So, how is working for the FBI?” There was a few seconds of nothing and I could literally feel the shocked silence on the other end. Then his character logged off, and didn’t come back. I could almost hear the “Abort Operation!” in my head. He was gone and not coming back.
It wasn’t until a long time later that I realised ‘Mario’ was ‘Sabu’. Not until I saw a picture of his creepy face. The first picture of Sabu that came out – of him attending court – was not the ‘Mario’ I knew, who had a lighter complexion and no visible tattoos; who was nowhere near as hefty.
But as later pics of Sabu emerged, there was absolutely no denying that he and ‘Mario’ were one and the same.
Obviously I do not take speaking about my experience lightly, but it is not something I have ever hidden. I openly discussed it on Twitter, long since, and sadly, this is not a situation that is rare in the activism world.
Is it shameful to talk about? Yes. Should it be? No. The shame belongs with Sabu. The shame belongs with those who obtain sex, or ‘netsex’, by deception, under the guise of an “investigation”.
The behaviour is clearly completely unacceptable. There is no way the public would approve of tax dollars being spent like this. The fact that these activities are not acknowledged by the FBI in their reports to the judiciary makes it clear they are personal trophies – collected by sick egos, to punish and discredit perceived enemies, rather than as evidence of any crime.
It takes a total and complete sociopath to be sexually aroused by their deception of another human being and apparently many additional sociopaths to fund it and cheer it on.
Victims should not take the shame upon themselves but remember that the responsibility belongs with those who devise and undertake these sick deeds. Sex obtained by deception is rape – no matter what the nature of the sexual activity or what the medium. The deception is coercion and the capturing of the acts via multimedia or otherwise is memorialising the unjustifiable. Agents who indulge themselves in obtaining sex by deception in whatever form, are no better than the college rapists who film inebriated girls being abused. That they use public money and work hours to do so exacerbates the impropriety. These are acts of social and professional fraud.
Having seen Sabu’s cyber-bullying of @FreeJeremyNet‘s @brazenqueer I’m well aware of the types of accusations that these agents level back at us. They apply as much negative pressure as they can to our ability to prosper, to live, to mother, to nurture others, then they call us bad mothers, deride us as bad human beings. Never once stopping to consider their own destructive influence in our lives.
Fortunately, I know the truth. I got off light. Not only was Sabu unable to establish anything other than that I had legally authored blogposts which it was already obvious by other basic means to establish I had authored (at that time I used Windows while blogging, for God’s sake…) but he was not able to entrap me into anything more egregious than showing my breasts, after-hours, at home on a work computer.
Thus the damage was largely reserved for my pride. Dashed hopes of a legitimate and lasting relationship. Embarrassment and humiliation.
Read more - endarken.co.nz
Suits, Spooks and Sexual Predators; What Sabu Really Got Up To With The FBI