Inside the Electronic Disturbance
Theater's battle with the Pentagon
By Winn Schwartau
Network World, 01/11/99
The battle between the Electronic
Disturbance Theater (EDT) and the
Pentagon is a potential watershed event: The
first time - that we know of - that the U.S.
military launched a cyber counter-offensive
against people within the United States.
On September 9, 1998, the EDT launched a
denial of service program called FloodNet
against a Pentagon Web site. "Floodnet
causes persistent re-searching of the targeted
site's local search engine every nine
seconds," says EDT member Ricardo
Dominguez. Essentially, it chews up CPU
time and resources.
Dominguez and the EDT call their
cyber-protest performance art on the
Internet, meant to focus on the plight of the
Zapatistas, a rebel group that supports the
rights of Indians in Chiapas, Mexico.
Because the U.S. supports the Mexican
government in opposing the Zapatistas, the
EDT considers the Pentagon a legitimate
According to highly placed Pentagon sources,
the Floodnet assault was pre-announced by
the EDT so the Pentagon was able to prepare
for it. Its response was orchestrated by the
Defense Information Systems Agency
(DISA), which has experience with both
defensive and offensive cyber-tools.
Once the attack began, the Pentagon
launched a denial of service attack of its
own. Requests from the EDT browsers were
redirected to a Java applet called
'hostileapplet,' which Dominguez says
crashed the browsers. The applet fired a
"series of rapidly appearing Java coffee cups
across the bottom of the browser screen
coupled with the phrase 'ACK.' FloodNet
froze," he says.
After the Pentagon's response, the EDT said
it would consider a lawsuit against the
government. The group is now in discussion
with a Seattle based attorney who himself
wants to join the EDT, according to
Dominguez. They have promised to
announce their legal intentions soon.
On January 1, the group made good on
another promise, to release FloodNet to the
public. This is a potentially disturbing event
that could further empower push-button
As for the EDT? "We will continue to
develop tools, tactics and theory for the
development of HTML activism and the
larger umbrella of hactivism," Dominguez
says. These methods are to be used by
communities suffering under armed
aggression who normally have "no means
and are without voice."
"Remember," Dominguez says, "FloodNet
was not created by hackers or terrorists, but
by artists and activists who wanted to create
a simple point and click tool that would bring
civil disobedience to the HTML community."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon's counter-attack
raises questions regarding whether the U.S.
Government and the military should be
launching cyber-attacks within the U.S., even
as a defense measure. Posse Comitatus, an
1878 law, bans the use of the military in
domestic law enforcement. Whether the law
applies to cyberspace is the subject of heated
debate within Washington, and insiders
suggest current laws will have to be rewritten
to find a new place for the military in