Hacker collective Anonymous and the drug cartel Los Zetas had a showdown, and the cartel blinked.
But questions have been raised in some quarters about whether the whole affair was an elaborate, if not potentially dangerous, hoax.
According to a translation of a message posted on the Anonymous Iberoamerica blog late Thursday, “On this day, our Anonymous friend retained by the Zetas cartel has been released.”
“We have taken great care to verify his identity through contact with peers and friends and we can say that, while bruised, he is alive and well,” the posting said.
The Anonymous member was released just hours before the November 5 deadline set by the hacker collective for a retaliatory action against the cartel for the kidnapping. In an ultimatum delivered last week via YouTube, the hacktivists vowed to release the names and addresses of an unspecified number of people associated with the drug syndicate, which has been attributed with thousands of deaths and gruesome acts of retribution, including beheadings.
Following the release of the abducted anon, self-appointed Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown declared he would release the information on Zetas collaborators contained in some 25,000 Mexican government emails anyway because the cartel didn’t know the person it released was a member of Anonymous.
Brown, who has reportedly signed a six-figure deal with Amazon to co-author a book on Anonymous, later backed off his threat when he discovered that the Zetas did indeed know who they were releasing and left a note with the abductee threatening to kill ten people for every name of an alleged collaborator released by Anonymous.
“Nonetheless,” he wrote, “several of the 25,000 emails are being sent to Der Spiegel for confirmation, and in the meanwhile I will be going after other cartels with the assistance of those who have come forward with new information and offers of assistance.”
Anonymous has fueled the hoax questions by revealing little information about the victim in the affair. Also, the information it has released has often been inconsistent. On several occasions, Anonymous has vowed to release more information about the victim, but so far, it hasn’t made good on those promises.
“We don’t have enough facts to draw any conclusion at this point,” Fred Burton, an analyst for Stratfor, a private intelligence firm, told The New York Times. “It’s amazing to me, this whole set of circumstances.”