In recent years we've learned that the FBI has no problem with using informants to organise, encourage, and assist computer hacking at a global level, and now it seems GCHQ has been in on the double-standards game too: launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against chat servers hosted by Anonymous in 2010/2011 in order to scare off supporters of the movement.
Under the banner JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), agents also attempted to infiltrate and disband political dissidents that may have only been loosely connected to the Anonymous movement, at times spreading malware in chatrooms in order to identify and arrest internet users.
These disturbing revelations have only come to light, as you may have guessed, through Edward Snowden's collection of classified NSA documents.
In understanding the ramifications of this particular operation, let's look at how the UK quantifies and tackles DDoS attacks: to conspire to commit such an attack is punishable by up to 10 years in prison per count, the same as hacking itself.
As someone that, as a teenager at the time, had to sit across a table from Scotland Yard detectives while they read me my rights for roughly 90 different computer offences (up to 900 years in prison) and then was later made to stand in front of a police sergeant as he described me as a threat to national security, I was under the impression that the UK government took DDoS attacks (or in my case, just being around people that launched DDoS attacks) very, very seriously.
But when it comes to their own dabbling in this confusingly modern crime, it seems that push doesn't even need to come to shove before they're taking down public chat servers in an effort to halt communication between individuals that may potentially commit the very same crime in the future.
Acephalous online collectives
Why do British government spooks so brazenly attempt to inhibit the activities of acephalous online collectives and not, say, the hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church, or chat networks that encourage racism or paedophilia?
Or maybe the more important question: how can they even be permitted to launch these attacks at all? There's no justification for how nonchalant a democratic government can be when they breach the very computer misuse rules they strongly pushed to set in place.
When we look at what Western governments are doing - snooping on our emails, infecting our computers, intercepting our phone communications, following our avatars around in online games, backdooring our public encryption, discrediting our Internet viewing habits, encouraging illicit activity and even engaging in their own illicit activity - we have to ask ourselves: who are the real criminals here?
The innocent kids who were giddy over Anonymous' first popular operation since the attacks on Scientology, or the people with titles getting paid to break the law in a desperate attempt to stop it?
However this situation develops, we must thank Snowden (and the journalists reporting on his files) for continuing to bring these shocking exposés to light.