The FBI calls them cyberterrorists. In 2015, the Bureau put a prominent member of the group on its terrorism watch list and arrested another after he threatened to blow up seven football stadiums using “dirty bombs.” Members of this anarchist mob have been investigated, arrested and jailed for cybercrimes in the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and many other countries.
They are “Anonymous.”
In 2007, a Los Angeles news affiliate described them as “an internet hate machine.” Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called Anonymous a serious danger and said that when discussing potential cybersecurity threats in the agency, “We often used Anonymous as Exhibit A.”
Tony Ortega, on the other hand, calls these same people “rascals,” vocally supports the group, and complains when he feels they are not adequately acknowledged for perpetrating hate against others, especially Scientologists. He has been a steady booster since his days at Village Voice when he praised Anonymous for its attacks on the Church of Scientology, ignoring the already well-established reputation of Anonymous for criminality and hatemongering on the internet.
Not surprising from a man whose obsession with Scientology makes even a semblance of honest comment on the religion impossible.
In 2008, Anonymous launched a series of cyberattacks against Church websites, followed by a promise to sabotage the Scientology presence on the internet and a video encouraging harm against the Church and its individual members. Anonymous members were “encouraged to read Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto” as handbooks for all-out war aimed at the “annihilation of Scientology.”
The terrorist group glutted Church phones and fax machines with threats of violence, including threats against its leaders. Online hate speech incited others to engage in violence and participate in the harm.
On February 13, 2008, Anonymous posted this chilling video threat on YouTube:
“We are an elite Anonymous. On the 13th of March 2008 one 5 kilogram pack of nitroglycerin will detonate in the Churches of Scientology across the United States of America. ... This will be the world’s biggest terrorist attack on a religion. Lives will be lost.”
The posting included a threat to execute the President of the International Church and kill “countless other” Scientologists to “strike fear into the hearts of every member.”
The online hate campaign continued throughout the next year, calling for continued acts of violence against Scientology Churches and their members, including more than 40 death threats, 55 bomb and arson threats, and more than 100 other threats of violence targeting Scientology Churches throughout the United States and other countries. Anonymous also launched Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against Church websites. In all, more than 3.6 million harassing emails and 141 million malicious hits were leveled against Church servers.
Soon after these attacks, two Anonymous members were arrested and sent to federal prison and ordered to pay restitution for their part in the felonies. The U.S. District Judge hearing one of the cases described it as a hate crime.
One of the most vile attacks involved Anonymous member Mahmoud Almahadin. Dressed only in brief undershorts and covered with Vaseline and pubic hairs, Almahadin ran into the New York Church of Scientology and smeared the goo over books, a video screen and shelves. Almahadin was arrested and convicted of malicious mischief.
Authorities described the incident as a hate crime. Tony Ortega called it a “stupid prank.”
Where the rest of the world sees anarchists, hatemongers and cyberterrorists, Tony Ortega sees folk heroes. In his blog he describes anniversaries of their most vicious efforts to instigate hatred against the Church as amusing moments of “nostalgia.”
“The protests were not only happening all over the place,” he wrote “but the protesters themselves were very clever, looking for creative ways to disrupt Scientology’s usual ways of doing things.”
Translation: To Tony Ortega, hate crimes, assassination threats, death threats, bomb threats, vandalism and violence are acceptable as long as they are directed at Scientologists and their Church.
Tony Ortega joined masked Anonymous members in their hate gathering. He attended their private parties as an “honored guest.” In 2012, at a backyard picnic, a handful of anti-Scientologists and Anonymous members presented Ortega with a special “award of recognition” for his years of concocting hate blogs targeting the Church and its members.