Another Anonymous crack of another US corporation has again yielded a significant insight into the operation of the US military-political establishment.

The US law firm Puckett & Faraj successfully defended Frank Wuterich, who was leading a Marine patrol in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005 that massacred 24 men, women and children and then tried to cover it up. In a plea deal in January, Wuterich pleaded guilty to “negligent dereliction of duty” and had a pay cut and a demotion. No one has been sent to prison for the massacre.

The “punishment” serves as a dramatic counterpoint to the treatment of Bradley Manning, accused among things of leaking video of another unpunished murder by US forces in Iraq, involving Apache helicopter attacks on unarmed men and children in 2007, which resulted in the deaths of eleven people including two journalists. The US military’s only response after a “review” of that incident was to recommend that journalists wear identifying vests to avoid being killed.

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In response, Puckett & Faraj had its website defaced and a trove of emails stolen by unidentified people associated with Anonymous, later called “cowards” by the firm in a tweet laden with probably unconscious irony. The emails are now starting to surface. The crackers still had access to the firm’s IT even after news of their exploit was broken, which prompted Wuterich’s lawyer, Neal Puckett, to email colleagues asking them to explain what exactly had happened. “Can someone explain to the old guy what the author means?”

Puckett emails colleagues after receiving an email headed “YOU GOT OWNED, YOU SICK, TWISTED RUBBISH”. As the panicked realisation that they’ve been cracked takes hold, another member of the firm declares: “This may completely destroy the Law Firm.”

But the operations of the law firm shed considerable light on some of the inner workings of military industry and its close links with the US governmental apparatus. An extensive set of emails demonstrate how the firm went about its work of trying to get the charges against Wuterich reduced or dropped altogether, by lobbying congressmen. The firm worked closely with Republican congressman Allen West, a former Army lieutenant-colonel and Iraq veteran who himself had managed to avoid serious repercussions after leading the abuse of an Iraqi man in 2003, for which he was eventually fined $5000 — a case in which West was represented by Puckett.

West introduced Puckett to the Assistant Commander of the Marine Corps, Gen Joseph Dunford, to whom Puckett then wrote proposing to brief him on the “chilling and as yet undiscovered facts” of the Wuterich case. “As a retired Marine officer (and possible TBS classmate of yours in 1977),” Puckett piously wrote, “I feel an obligation to brief you on issues that extend far beyond the court-martial and the interests of my client.” Dunford’s response is (as yet) unknown.

Washington “superlawyer” Mark Zaid was engaged by the firm to reach out to other congressmen and military officials, though apparently not to the satisfaction of Puckett. After Zaid reports that Californian Republican and former chairman of the Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter would be “willing to help see about making this whole case go away”, Puckett complains “Hunter blew you off.” Another retired marine colonel who “is also willing to do what he can, including talking with the current Marine Commandant who he knows, about dropping the case”, “doesn’t have the horsepower”, complains Puckett.

West is clearly the firm’s key man and Puckett is anxious to cultivate him. Puckett sends out a spam email in September 2010 to everyone he knows asking them to attend a West fundraiser later that month. “Our friend, Allen West, a retired Army LTC, is running for Congress in the 22d District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale area). We would not normally send you a request like this, but we know the character of Allen and his truly unselfish intentions to serve this country once again.”

Puckett even tries to influence media coverage, writing to right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin “to bring something to your attention, not for attribution to me since we’re in trial”, complaining about mainstream media coverage of the trial and attacking one of the witnesses against Wuterich.

The firm’s website remains down a week after the attack, despite Puckett asking his IT provider to “help us cure the problem immediately” on February 3.

The crack emerged at about the same time as it was revealed another activist associated with Anonymous was able to access and record a teleconference between the FBI and Scotland Yard discussing tactics about the investigation and prosecution of the group and some alleged members in custody. The invitation for the teleconference had been sent to a wide group of US, British and French law enforcement officials, suggesting someone within one of those groups either has some sympathies with Anonymous or an inter-agency agenda to push.

Either way, the impression that the days of the military, political and law enforcement establishments operating without public scrutiny are coming to an end strengthens with every activist exploit.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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