Inside Anonymous’ Operation to Out Rehtaeh Parsons’ Alleged Rapists
The late Rehtaeh Parsons. via Facebook.
In the days following the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons—the teenage girl from Halifax who committed suicide after being gang raped, photographed, and harassed—the hacktivist group Anonymous is playing a game of chicken with the authorities in Nova Scotia. Anonymous says they have the names of four suspects, and are threatening to release that information if justice is not delivered. Those names have in fact been circulating in small online circles, but the information has been withheld from publication on Anonymous’s largest social media channels. All of this has caused a storm of negative feedback from those who view Anonymous’s actions as destructive “vigilantism” while Anonymous maintains they are only involved because “several crimes have been committed in Nova Scotia. A 17-year-old girl killed herself because the police failed to do their jobs.”
I spoke with a member of Anonymous who is directly involved with the operation to bring Rehtaeh’s rapists to justice, in order to get a better handle on their motivations.
VICE: How do you go about sourcing the information that has led to naming the four suspects?
Anonymous: The information we have gathered comes from a combination of internet research and informants. It’s a lot more like being a journalist than it is being a detective. We use advanced search techniques to comb the internet for statements, photos, videos, whatever we need. We can locate statements by suspects made years ago on accounts they may not even know still exist. We’ve also developed a level of trust with our online community and they feel comfortable speaking with us because they know we’ll protect their identities. We validate their information in the same way the police might, by cross referencing stories and doing background checks on the individuals who are providing the information. There’s also a psychological factor. It’s important to recognize the motives behind the person who is providing you the information. Some people just want to be involved so they’ll embellish their accounts or perhaps they want revenge. You can’t always count on a person’s memory either so it’s important to test them to discover if the story they are telling you has been compromised by time or their emotional state.
In this case, did your sources approach you?
Most of the sources approached us, but we tracked down quite a few of them by examining the online interactions of the victim and the suspects.
What have you learned about this case so far that you want people to know?
Only half of this case is about those four teenage boys and the alleged rape. The real guilty parties here are the adults that violated Rehtaeh. I would like to see those boys punished for what they did because I think it sets a terrible example for the other young men in Nova Scotia, but almost even more I would like to see the police and the school system pay for what they did to that girl. They had a responsibility to be there for her, to protect her, and to relieve her torment. They failed at every turn to help her. Now they’re all too busy blaming one another. The school claims they didn’t know. The police say they couldn’t find any evidence. They’re both guilty of incompetence.
Corpse Brides, Forced Abortions, Infanticide, and Child Trafficking: The Modern-Day Consequences of China’s One-Child Policy
Above: Nie Lina arrested for being pregnant (Image: All Girls Allowed)
In China, women are the runt of society’s litter. You probably already know about the one-child policy that has had families actively sidelining the fairer sex for years—a millennias-old preference for sons in Chinese society means that, if couples can only afford one child given the financial penalties for multiple kids, they tend to go for boys rather than girls. Predictions state that there will be between 30 to 40 million fewer women than men in China by 2020, which sounds like it’ll be a pretty lonely year for many in the People’s Republic.
The terrible male-to-female ratio in China has caused people to resort to desperate measures. There has been a rise in child-bride trafficking from both within and outside the country. Other parents have been so intent on their sons getting married that they have resorted to fixing up “ghost marriages,” where female corpses are dug up and reburied next to deceased bachelors so they can have a bride in the afterlife. Which I guess is a consequence you don’t normally have to consider when you’re drawing up social policy.
A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that the organization in charge of the one-child policy—the National Population and National Family Commission—will be merged with the Ministry of Health. This could prompt positive changes to the system, since corrupt family-planning officials will no longer be administering the punishments that have seen families charged up to six times their annual income for spawning multiple offspring. However, there are potential dangers too, most obviously in the fact that officials will be stationed in hospitals and health wards, which could deter women without birth permits (yep, birth permits) from seeking care and proper labor assistance.
Ma Jihong as her family found her, lying in an empty hospital (Image: Ma’s family).
This invasive method of population control—the answer to the legacy of overpopulation left behind by Mao Zedong—has created a long list of horrors that, besides child trafficking, includes infanticide, gendercide, infant abandonment, and forced abortions, all used by families desperate to meet the set child quotas. In 2009 it was reported that Chinese women account for 56 percent of all female suicides in the world. While it’s never easy or even advisable to attempt to pinpoint the cause of suicide, you’ve got to feel like a government that limits women’s access to motherhood and a society that treats them as second-class citizens may have something to do with how high that number is.
In June 2012, a Chinese woman named Feng Jianmei was seven months pregnant. Feng and her husband—both rural farmers—were unable to afford the $6,300 fine for having a second child, so she was carried into a van by policy officials and taken to a hospital. Her eyes were covered while they forced her to sign documents. Five men stood in the room as she was injected with a chemical agent that causes abortions. Feng’s story is not uncommon. The only rarity is that it was widely reported in the international news because a photograph of her and the stillborn baby lying in a hospital bed started flying around the internet (NSFW photo). While the world reacted with outrage, within her county, Feng and her husband Deng Jiyuan were scorned. In their hometown, protesters were led through the streets by the government and hung banners on a bridge that read, “Beat the traitors, drive them from the town.”
Bradley Manning Pleaded Guilty Yesterday: ‘I Did It’
After a blizzard blanketed the mid-Atlantic in early 2010, a 22-year-old soldier home on leave in Potomac, Maryland, braved the storm in hopes of locating an Internet connection that, unlike the one at his aunt’s house where he was staying, hadn’t been severed by nearly two feet of snow.
When Private first class Bradley Manning made it to a Barnes & Noble bookstore outside of Washington, D.C., he unpacked his laptop, logged-on to the complimentary Starbucks Wi-Fi and searched for some files he had burned onto a disc back in Kuwait before Christmas. It was in that shop, surrounded by comic books and minimum-wage-earning baristas, that the slight and bespectacled soldier uploaded classified and unclassified military files to the website WikiLeaks, an action that remains the target of both a CIA probe and a grand jury investigation three years later—and that yesterday landed Manning in court in Fort Meade, Maryland, where he pleaded guilty to ten criminal charges and will now likely serve twenty years in prison. “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information,” Manning said yesterday in court, which I attended, “this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.”
The government’s case—and public opinion about the young soldier’s act—has hinged on the assertion that Manning’s leak put the United States in danger by making sensitive military information public. The files leaked by Manning include the now-infamous “collateral murder” video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq, in which US soldiers mistake a group of journalists and civilians for insurgents and then kill them; US diplomatic cables about the collapse of three major financial institutions in Iceland; files on detainees in Guantanamo; and portions of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. “They capture what happens [on] a particular day in time,” Manning said about the war logs.
Manning was captured by American officials in May 2010—after he’d gone back to Kuwait to continue his service in an intelligence center—when the ex-hacker turned goody-two-shoes Adrian Lamo, who had been in communication about the files with Manning via email, tipped off the FBI. Manning was then accused of an onslaught of charges related to allegations that he supplied material to WikiLeaks. Since then, Pfc. Manning has been imprisoned without trial for over 1,000 days. Only during Thursday’s testimony, though, did he own up to those crimes and explain to the world with his own words why he willingly released materials that have changed history—if not in the way Manning had originally intended.
When he finally finished reading the 35-page statement prepared for the court Thursday afternoon, a handful of supporters and members of the press seated before a closed-circuit stream of the testimony across the Army base erupted in applause. The only other time they ever heard the soldier speak at length was this December when he testified to the conditions he endured while jailed in a military brig after first being detained. His treatment there was so egregious that the presiding judge, Col. Denise Lind, agreed to take four months off of any eventual sentence handed down.
But for voluntarily admitting his crimes during a pretrial hearing on Thursday nearly three years after the fact, Pfc. Manning stands to face upwards of 20 years in prison. After his case is formally court-martialed beginning in June, though, he could be sent away for life. Because he gave classified information to WikiLeaks and, thus, the world, the government says he sent that intelligence into the ether and helped aid anti-American terrorists. The government could legally execute the soldier, now 25, if they convict him on that charge.
People in the Ivory Coast Are Being Arrested for No Reason
The removal of Laurent Gbagbo from his position as President of Cote D’Ivoire last year should have marked a new era for a country previously torn apart by internal conflict. Having officially lost the 2010 election to Alassan Ouattara—and subsequently refusing to concede his position—Gbagbo was accused of effectively assuming the role of a tyrant. The country was embroiled in civil war, with horrendous violence and abuses of human rights towards innocent civilians perpetrated by both sides. The despot’s eventual arrest in May of 2011 was hoped to have marked the end to a very bloody chapter in Cote D’Ivoire’s history, but, for many, the situation now seems bleaker than ever.
While militant Gbagbo loyalists continue to mount attacks against President Ouattara’s military, the armed forces have reacted with the mass arrest and imprisonment of purported pro-Gbagbo loyalists. Cote D’Ivoire finds itself caught in a dangerous limbo where the government must be allowed to defend itself without impinging on the freedom of the innocent—a balance that is far from being attained. With the military increasingly relying on flexing its muscles to crush the militant threat, a recent report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests that the actions of Ouattara’s forces are perpetuating rather than quelling this seemingly endless cycle of violence.
The report also spoke of the makeshift detention camps that have been set up across the country to detain Gbagbo supporters, and the horrendous conditions that prisoners are being kept in. I called Matt Wells from HRW to speak about the organization’s findings and what the country’s future holds.
VICE: Hi Matt. So tell me about the military attempting to round up perceived pro-Gbagbo supporters.
Matt Wells: Well, you have neighbourhoods that—prior to the violence after the 2010 election—were heavily concentrated with supporters of one side or the other. The violence also takes on ethnic grounds, in that within Cote D’Ivoire you have certain groups within certain regions of the country that tend to support specific political parties and leaders.
So they’re just trying to silence any supporters, basically?
Yeah, what we saw after the string of attacks in August against the military was that the military often responded by rounding up youths from those ethnic groups en masse. Neighborhoods that were the sites of violence against pro-Ouatarra supporters in the post-election conflicts were targeted in particular. Neighborhoods such as Yopougon have long been a bastion of Gbagbo supporters, housing the militia men that the military want to weed out.
What about the detention centers that they’re taking them to?
They’re not official prisons or detention facilities, which means–right off the bat—that the conditions are going to be really poor. They’re former police barracks and, in some cases, impromptu military camps. You don’t have the sorts of facilities to humanely detain people. The people we interviewed were crammed into small spaces that became so overcrowded, large numbers had to sleep outside on the grass. They were watched over by soldiers at night, who would walk around, kicking people, or hitting them with the butts of their Kalashnikovs to make sure they couldn’t fall asleep.