FBI informant says he helped Turkish hacker group RedHack

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu
WASHINGTON, D.C.
Published 14.04.2016 20:54

The American hacker who is believed to have led attacks on government websites in more than 30 countries in 2011 and 2012 claimed that the U.S. government disregarded his interactions with the Turkish hacker group RedHack, with which he brokered an alliance with his own group, AntiSec. Evidence has suggested the FBI was aware of the hacking of Turkish government websites.

Hector Xavier Monsegur, also known as Sabu, formerly a hacktivist when caught by the FBI in June 2011, was given a choice of collaborating in taking down other hacktivists as an FBI informant. Sabu proved to be an efficient asset, playing a key role in the arrest of Jeremy Hammond, a wanted hacker with Anonymous at the time.

A 2014 Daily Dot report based on the court reports and chat logs said that Monsegur directed Hammond to hack hundreds of websites outside the United States, including Turkish government website servers. Monsegur contacted a member of RedHack in a chatroom on Jan. 25, 2012, and Hammond passed on the unauthorized access to these servers to RedHack.

Monsegur resurfaced in the Turkish media due to his connection to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who last month arrested Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab in Miami on allegations of evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. Bharara was the same U.S. attorney who released Monsegur in return for his cooperation with the FBI in 2014.

Daily Sabah reached Monsegur and asked him about the claims that the FBI used him for international hacking operations in 30 countries and handed over intelligence to other U.S. government agencies.

"I highly doubt the U.S. government cared much that I had interactions with RedHack. The U.S. government was more concerned with attacks focused towards U.S. infrastructure," he said, via email.

RedHack was able to infiltrate Turkish police websites, the Interior Ministry website and the Turkish Land Forces Command website in spring, 2012. Bharara has said the FBI notified foreign governments about this after Hammond was arrested on March 5, 2012. Monsegur stated the FBI would contact the appropriate embassies or governments when foreign attacks did occur to inform them of what they knew. However, Turkish officials have not confirmed any such information coming from U.S. authorities in 2012.

Monsegur also told Daily Sabah that he helped RedHack because they asked him to.

However, some experts do not agree with this. One expert, Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University, previously told The New York Times that "the court documents in the Hammond case were striking because they offered the most evidence to date that the F.B.I. might have been using hackers to feed information to other American intelligence agencies."

Monsegur believes Hammond raised similar claims in his defense to get a lighter sentence, and he adamantly refused the allegation that the FBI used him and Hammond to hack foreign government websites to acquire information. "I do not work for the government, I have no debts to the government, I have nothing to gain from defending them and I have nothing to lose with them. The best I can do is answer your question and, honestly speaking, the answer is: No."

Monsegur's statements also a reminder that the FBI's guidelines for confidential informants strictly forbid informants to constitute a crime while they are cooperating with the authorities. On the other hand, leaked chatroom logs and court documents show that Monsegur aided a hacking operation against foreign governments with the approval of the U.S. government. According to reports in the American media, the FBI maintained 24-hour surveillance on Monsegur's activities and was well aware of his intentions.

Daniel Stuckey, an American writer who also published articles about Monsegur and his activities, said on Twitter, "The FBI did not care nor closely monitor these Turkish hacks. Hacks of foreign countries were happening more because FBI wanted hacks of US targets to stop."

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