If Glenn Greenwald’s appearance last week put some fire in your belly, you’ll want to catch him in a new documentary about hackers and their haters. The Hacker Wars, opening at Village East Cinema this Friday, finds Greenwald and others sharing thoughts about trolls and hacktivists like Sabu, the East Villager who became possibly the most hated hacker of all-time when he became an FBI informant.
The film, directed by Vivien Lesnik Weisman (Man of Two Havanas), follows Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, the “reviled troll” who Gawker called “the internet’s best terrible person,” as he’s sentenced to three and a half years for outing an online glitch that made the email addresses of 100,000 AT&T customers publicly accessible. “This is why I’m going to prison, is arithmetic,” he says outside of the courthouse. “Fuck this country!” We follow Weev as he becomes possibly the first person to live-tweet from the clink, goes on a hunger strike when his books are taken from him by guards, and eventually sees his sentence overturned after nearly 14 months served (he’s now suing the government for 14 million dollars — in bitcoins, naturally).
If the names of hacker groups LulzSec and Goatse Security mean anything to you, then you won’t get much out of this film aside from a banging soundtrack consisting of hacker-themed hip-hop, chiptune, and dub step. But for the uninitiated, The Hacker Wars, with its goofy 8-bit graphics, serves as a campy, breezy introduction to the world of Anonymous and its various spin-offs and enemies (first and foremost, the FBI). Among others, you’ll meet Barrett Brown, a chain-smoking journalist turned Anonymous spokesperson, and see chatroom footage of his arrest for his role in exposing credit card information associated with private intelligence company Starfor. You’ll also get to see footage of Julian Assange tearing up a dance floor.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much new here about hackers like Hector “Sabu” Monsegur, co-founder of LulzSec (one of the group’s more amusing accomplishments, shown in the film, is commandeering the Fox News ticker in midtown). For that you’ll have to read the New York profile of the hacker turned FBI informant who worked out of an apartment in the Jacob Riis Houses on Avenue D; that piece goes into greater detail about how Sabu became an anti-establishment “comic-book supercriminal” online while surviving on unemployment benefits and raising two children IRL. But The Hacker Wars at least offers some footage from the day of Sabu’s sentencing. According to hacktivist Subverzo, the judge “fellated him” by letting him off.
Loaded with commentary from journalists, lawyers, and the obligatory academic, the documentary naturally ties the hacking movement (however “neutralized” it was by the FBI’s infiltration via Sabu) to increasing concerns about government surveillance. Some choice words come from Thomas Drake, the NSA whistleblower and Snowden precursor who faced 35 years in prison. The former senior executive at the NSA now works at an Apple Store in Bethesda.
Hacker Wars opens Oct. 17 at Village East Cinema, 189 2nd Ave, at East 12th St.