Posted on | October 25, 2012 | 13 Comments
(NOTE: When I first began reporting on “The Kimberlin Files” in May, the involvement of Democrat consultant Neal Rauhauser struck me as particularly newsworthy. Rauhauser gained notoriety for his involvement in the 2010 “TwitterGate” episode, and the report that Rauhauser was involved in Brett Kimberlin’s harassment of Aaron Walker indicated a potential link between Kimberlin’s activities and the official Democrat Party political apparatus. For the past five months, Rauhauser has been constantly attempting to smear and harass individuals he has targeted as critics of Kimberlin and himself. In recent weeks, it appears, Rauhauser’s tactics have increasingly targeted Jennifer Emick, a well-known online researcher who has helped expose criminal hackers associated with “Anonymous.” Last week, Ms. Emick contacted me and offered to provide her own assessment of Rauhauser’s activities, which she has consented to publish here. — RSM)
He is also involved, since 2008 or so, with the Anonymous hacktivist collective, trolls from Encyclopedia Dramatica, and the Occupy Wall St. movement.
A number of conservative bloggers claim he has targeted them for harassment, and there seems to be good evidence that many of these claims are true. He is certainly intolerant of opposing points of view.
Neal is reportedly a diagnosed sociopath and narcissist. His whereabouts are generally unknown, as he appears to be an under-employed itinerant who takes great pains to conceal his location. He appears to have no fixed address, and claims to move around a lot, primarily between Illinois and Washington, DC.
He describes himself as a hacker, and frequently writes about his fascination with the romantic portrayals of hackers in novels like Snowcrash and Neuromancer. He is very proficient technologically, and has worked in IT for many years.
Neal is a prolific blogger, who produces up to several dozen posts per day on a number of topics. Most are rambling, expansive conspiracy theories involving people in politics, government, and defense. Sometimes, he makes threats that would get most people visited by the Secret Service.
Neal keeps extensive online enemies lists, where he profiles individuals and organizations he believes are part of a conspiracy against himself, his employer, or various political figures on the left. Of course, he has much to fear, as his targets are all “mental patients.” He exhibits extreme paranoia about being spied on by the government and right wing political operatives.
He simultaneously claims that people he has targeted for his attentions are “stalking” him, while making overt admissions he is deliberately provoking and harassing them. Neal’s MO seems to be to fixate on an individual or group as responsible for one of more conspiracies, write extensively on these people, and then claim victimhood when one of his targets takes notice.
Neal Rauhauser began attracting attention in 2010, when he and his associates began trolling and harassing conservatives on Twitter. The game appeared to be a “troll and switch” operation, and Neal bragged about using parody accounts and offensive, threatening tweets to enrage owners of Tea Party related twitter accounts. Their reactions were then cropped and collected into Neal’s Flickr account.
Under the pseudonym strandedwind, Neal published several conspiratorial-minded essays, wherein he theorized that conservative opinions on the internet were “centrally controlled” and organized. He called for “aggressive” tactics against these posters. At the same time he was promoting extreme anonymity for people like himself, Neal expressed a desire to prevent those who did not from being able to express their own opinions, via organized harassment campaigns.
He theorized that it was necessary to prevent “violence” from conservatives by locating the people behind pseudonymous accounts, and harassing them at their homes or places of employment, in order to locate their “handlers.” He encouraged people on the left to “ambush” these people, hunt them, expose their identities, and legally and illegally harass them. While he and his goons planned to stay undetectable.
In the same essays, he encourages his followers to react in kind to this perceived coordination, calling for an “organized response.” He asks his followers on the left to create false identities as conservatives, infiltrate their communities, and expose their identities:
“I’ve engaged the Progressives I know who are moving undercover as low key right wing supporters.”
He first speaks here of having people arrested or committed:
“We would very much like to see such people rooted out and committed before they cause any harm, or if warranted, a quick, accurate report leading to their arrest ahead of any attack.”
Despite Neal’s claims to be on the right side of the law, he published a number of oddball PDF guides promoting hacker techniques for creating and managing false “personas” online. These described how to use TOR, VMs (virtual machines), and other techniques to create untraceable sockpuppets. In these documents, Neal bragged of owning hundreds of false personas, and even bragged that his Twitter-spamming accounts were “undetectable.”
He openly admits these tactics are an illegal violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service (tos)
In 2008, Neal co-founded an organization called Progressive PST, which offered its “services” to Democratic candidates for office,
promising to use its resources to promote candidates’ messages on Twitter:
“It’s the first of it’s kind, professional Twitter campaign tool and has been used by progressive local, state and federal political candidates as well as for progressive causes nationwide.”
This appears to be just the sort of “centrally controlled” astro-turfing he would later accuse conservatives of engaging in. In any case, it seemed Neal liked to use his Twitter expertise to harass tea party adherents.
Anonymous, Neal’s Personal Army
Again in 2008, Neal seems to have encountered and become fascinated with internet trolls, especially the 4-chan associated anonymous trolls who participated in “Project Chanology.” Neal frequently cites his relationships with trolling/harassment groups, and describes learning and employing harassment techniques from this group, such as posting slander about rivals on harassment sites such as Encyclopedia Dramatica.
This is also when he appears to have developed relationships with Anonymous opinion leaders such as Gregg Housh, with whom he continues to have a personal relationship.
Neal is associated with various “Anonymous” related twitter accounts, which seem evident by their singular fascination with Neal’s own enemies. These accounts have been used to promote “Encyclopedia Dramatica” pages about Neal’s enemies, most of which contain curious references to the “penis pumpers” troll group Neal brags of associations with (and occasionally tries to pin the SWAT attacks on).
I have played “conflict cupid” on a number of occasions since the start of 2012, assessing targets, finding groups of activists, hackers, or trolls who would enjoy bedeviling them, and then laying the trail of dots for the bully’s conspiracy minded collaborators.
I have been sorely tempted to point him out to various actors – a guy like this, he could really produce some high quality entertainment for 4chan, Something Awful, Encyclopedia Dramatica, etc.
Neal comments on his attempts to sic Anon/ED trolls on Zapem:
“I’ve long wanted to get the ZAPEM I picked up last fall off my shoe – stinks up the house, people look at me funny on the Metro.
I did not, however, intend to rub it off here. I was more hoping the b-tards would make her the Boxxy of 2011 or maybe FYAD would take an interest, but I’ve been looking at that one crudely named blog run by that untraceable troll who sounds an awful lot like me, and it seems ZAP is about to get livetrolled by the EDiots on Encyclopedia Dramatica’s IRC server.”
In his writings, Neal frequently conflates the SWAT attacks with what he refers to as “Weinergate,” a conspiracy theory of his own making. Neal weaves all of his victims into a large conspiracy theory, which encompasses all of his obsessions in one package. He proposes that disgraced congressman Anthony Wiener was “set up,” conveniently, by the very same people he accuses of stalking him. His conspiracy theories have expanded to include HBGary, government contractors, and various conservative Twitter users, as well as random passers-by, IRC users, etc.
Neal has posted dozens of blog posts and essays, most outlining an ever changing, meandering theory behind what he believes was a hack plot perpetrated on Wiener by Neal’s own adversaries. He goes on to insist that after hacking Weiner and causing him to resign, these same individuals perpetrated SWAT attacks on themselves, and inexplicably, blamed Neal.
During the 2008 election cycle, Neal and his company appear to have used a number of his prescribed methods to harass members of the Tea party, and other conservatives using Twitter as a platform for free speech activity. Many of the Twitter accounts involved in the attacks were members of notorious Anonymous trolling groups, who communicated openly with Neal while making filthy, degrading attacks on conservative Twitter users, presumably to provoke violent or otherwise amusing tweets to add to Neal’s “Wingnutwatch” Flickr Gallery. Many of these trolls adopted “beandog” avatars and referred to themselves as the “beandog militia.” A number of these accounts are still actively harassing enemies of Neal.
Rauhauser now refers to the whole episode as a lark, a “troll” that he played along with for laughs, and ridicules the victims of his harassment as “kooks.” The targets of this onslaught of harassment were un-amused, and collected a large body of evidence suggesting Neal and Progressive PST were behind the attacks.
Politically motivated Harassment
Beginning in 2011, at least four persons who were receiving attention from Neal Rauhauser have been subject to “SWATting” attacks, a prank used primarily by hackers to abuse and harass. In a SWAT attack, an emergency call is placed using what appears to be the victim’s own home phone number (a technique known as ‘spoofing’), and describing a dire emergency that results in a swift, often dangerous police response.
Neal has vehemently denied his role in these attacks, choosing to variously blame the victims themselves (or their associates) or his own former associates in an Anonymous-affiliated trolling group:
“I have some stuff on the most likely swatter. Don’t get excited, I think it’s a beanie and they are wicked tricksy. I hunted them a bit after 2010 and decided it was hopeless – too complex, too dangerous for me to handle”
He does not explain why members of Anonymous or trolling groups would be interested in Neal Rauhauser’s political enemies or fixations. Most notable of these victims is Mike Stack, who Neal believes is the author of a conspiracy against Anthony Weiner- because Mike’s tweet was the first he noticed.
Neal fixates on his victims, simultaneously complaining of being stalked or harassed while meticulously documenting the lives of his victims- posting everything from the names of their employers and children, to satellite photos of their homes and worse. He complains that he is being “talked about,” then goes on to meticulously document his calls to employers, landlords, and relatives of his victims.
“Internet predators who seek out and manipulate conspiracists should face job loss, jail time, public and private humiliation, and any other consequences that can be arranged for them.”
From the same document:
Despite Neal’s denials, he is clearly familiar with spoof cards and Swatting. he also freely admits using other harassment techniques against his perceived enemies. A favorite technique of Neal’s is to characterize his opponents as “schizophrenic” or “mentally ill,” then make “concerned citizen” complaints. As described in his 2008 manifesto on Open Left, he likes to accuse his stalking victims of targeting him, and describes the techniques he uses against them:
“A call from a concerned adult with the right information and tone can trigger a visit to both the subject, as well as a friend or family member.” Neal, describing an actual attack on one of his victims
“We would very much like to see such people rooted out and committed“
Lulzsec and the hack of HBGary
The 2011 attack and intrusion by Anonymous into the servers of security company HBGary seems to have fortuitously lined up with the interests of Neal Rauhauser. Although nothing relating to Neal or his associates was discovered in the documents, Neal took an enormous interest, and it was not long before the company was woven into Neal’s conspiratorial essays:
The lack of attention on Team Themis is puzzling at first — this is quite literally the Watergate of our age
In 2011, just days following the HBGary intrusion, a bizarre PDF appeared, unsourced, on thinkprogress.org, a carefully crafted fraud mplicating HBGary in an attack on Velvet Revolution, via the non-existent “Team Themis.” (The Themis proposals found in the HBGary hack were ultimately rejected, and the project never got off the ground.) This oddball twitter account appeared the same day as the PDF.
Later, when Neal spots my request for a copy of his fraudulent dump, he has a public freakout, runs to Lee Fang, and begs him not to reveal the origin of the faked document? (Note also the third attempt to create an impression of inside knowledge of the SWAT perp.)
It is also not the first time Neal has tried to insert himself of Brett Kimberlin into the HBGary/Chamber of Commerce scandal, first via the appearance of a forged “Team Themis” report outlining Kimberlin’s Velvet Revolution as a focus of investigation, and again when Neal dropped a fraudulent CoC document leak. This torrent was fed by Neal directly to “Anonymous spokesperson” Barrett Brown.
My Own Story
I first observed Neal in 2011, when he seemed to be just about everywhere. Having seen some of the material about him, I did my best to avoid him. To my later regret, this also meant avoiding some of the people who came to me asking for help investigating the matter, due to my expertise on Anonymous and hacking groups. The politics were complicated, I was wary of involving myself with people whose politics were radically different from my own (Disclosure: I’m a lifelong liberal who once worked for Acorn), and to be honest, Neal’s obsessive stalking was not something I wanted to add to my list of personal inconveniences!
Unbeknownst to me, I had already attracted Neal’s attention.
In April, 2012, my personal information, including my address and social security number, pictures of my children, etc., were placed in a file on the notorious “doxing” website doxb.in. I was accused of being a member of the inner circle of a hacker known as the “Jester,” with whom I did not even have a friendly relationship. This was largely viewed as retaliation for passing information about various hacks to the FBI. The site’s owner has had a mysterious, longtime grudge that seems unrelated to Anonymous.
In May, 2012, my personal emails were hacked, ostensibly by an Anonymous-attached group known as “UGnazi,” who were mostly known for outrageous, silly pranks and credit card fraud. (They deny involvement in the hack) Among the materials taken were a smattering of SMS messages between myself and others, trading information relating to Lulzsec, the HBGary hack intrusions, etc.
The night of the attack, I received numerous harassing phone calls, which culminated in an attempted SWAT attack on my residence. A man using my phone number called in a report of a dispute involving men with guns, but misreported the address, so I was able to step outside and defuse the situation.
The same week, someone filed a fraudulent tax return in my name.
The same night as the hack and the followup SWAT attempt, very late, I began to receive text messages from Neal Rauhauser. He bragged about me being the “chewtoy” of “Big Bad Anonymous.”
Neal’s texts, while intrusive, were artificially friendly – but the mask soon dropped. He became hostile, and made a number of overt threats, culminating in a demand that I spy on and report on his various enemies, specifically, Tom Ryan and Aaron Barr. He was specifically fixated on HBGary, and my acquaintance with them. He outlined a conspiracy theory involving the creation of “false flag” operations.
At one point, Neal claimed to have access to a “natsec editor” used by members of Congress. When I questioned him on the legality of this claim, he became silent. I shared this text with a blogger I had become acquainted with, who sensationalized it, and exposed my identity to Kelly Hallissey, another Anonymous-affiliated hacker who began attacking me in May. It turns out that Hallissey and Rauhauser were already quite well acquainted.
Neal stayed silent for the next two months, but was apparently quite active behind the scenes, assisting Hallissey with an extremely loud and confrontational harassment campaign against me and anyone who publicly stood up for me. The harassment included vile attacks on my children, threats of rape, threats to post my children’s pictures and location on pedophile websites, and violent physical threats.
Credit accounts were applied for using my information. I placed a hold on my credit, which was removed by another person impersonating me. Kelly routinely passed my address to members of anonymous, often with breezy promises to provide “gas money.”
I continued to receive regular harassing phone calls, my personal online accounts and business accounts were repeatedly attacked, and I received continual ddos attacks on my home internet connection. In early October, an individual once again gained access to my personal emails. (It turns out one’s SSN is a magic key – once known by hackers, it is next to impossible to keep them out) They also invaded my Amazon, Ebay and Skype accounts. In every case, the hackers looked for evidence of a relationship with HBGary, and in one case, attempted to communicate with Aaron Barr while impersonating me. Both Hallissey and Neal made announcements of the hacks before I was even aware of them.
My two harassers soon began openly associating and socializing on Twitter, IRC chat and video chatting networks, and even created an IRC channel, #treehouse, openly dedicating to harassing, discrediting, and plying me with false information with the stated hope of poisoning my efforts at intelligence gathering. (Which assumes I blindly pass on any dumb claim or rumor I read?) There was also quite a bit of discussion aimed at identifying my friends and acquaintances.
In September, Neal and Kelly approached Barrett Brown, self identified Anonymous spokesperson and close friend of Gregg Housh, with a document they claimed was obtained in the attack on my emails, and which was critical of Brown, Kimberlin, and Rauhauser. This appeared to be quite obviously written by Breitbart researcher Mandy Nagy, with a number of details I have no personal knowledge of.
They also gave Brown copies of texts from early 2011, claiming that some brief exchanges were evidence I was part of yet another conspiracy with HBGary to “frame” members of Anonymous for unspecified crimes, and to harass Barrett at their behest – a calculated ploy the narcissistic Barrett couldn’t resist.
Brown, who had already been subject to raids on his home in relation to his anonymous activities, reacted very badly. Although he correctly concluded the document was not authored by me, he credulously accepted the rest of the conspiracy, and made a series of videos threatening the FBI and myself. He was shortly after arrested, and is awaiting trial on charges of threatening a Federal agent.
This has not deterred Kelly or Neal, who continue to harass me and my family, even going so far as to try and obtain copies of a PPO request I filed against them in early October (if they are patient, they will receive their own copies at my expense.) Both continually protest innocence, while passing around information from my personal accounts and bragging about the attacks.
The same week my email and Skype accounts were breached, Kelly bragged in an IRC chat about having a pizza sent to my home. The delivery arrived at 2am, and the pizza was inscribed “404.” The driver was instructed to read [redacted threatening message] This unexpected late night “prank” was quite disturbing, as Kelly had openly solicited others in the past to harass me and others while dressed as pizza delivery drivers. (One of these was asked bluntly whether he possessed a firearm)
This incident was followed by almost a dozen deliveries of food to my house. Drivers were repeatedly instructed not to knock before entering. Running commentary on events was provided by both Kelly and Neal, although UGNazi stepped in to take credit. Neal posted this charming video on his blog.
This was followed two days later by a visit from my local police department, who received a phone call from Neal- who had feigned concern for my mental health. Neal had previously openly bragged before the incident on his blog about my so-called “Vacation notice.” This is a tactic he has mentioned frequently in the past, and he brags about having pulled this stunt on numerous occasions.
Along with his faux-sincere concern troll, he used the opportunity to try and implicate @ZAPEM as a SWATter. I’m sure he hoped for a tidy inconveniencing of not one, but two of his obsessions in one go. The police were not amused.
He continued to brag after the call, making over a dozen blog posts claiming to be making police complaints about my “harassment” of Neal, which has always been non-existent. Neal repeatedly and forcefully intruded into my life numerous times before I started to publicly document his obsession.
Neal’s word salad includes such disturbing imagery as:
“I will drag you into my stream of conscious and hold you under until the bubbles stop.”
On Tuesday, October 11, the account of a very well known Rapper, Souljaboy, was hacked by UGNazi. My address was broadcast several times to over five million of his followers, inviting them to a party at my residence. Both Kelly and Neal were aware of this before I was, as both seemed to believe it was quite humorous. I received dozens of visitors to my house over the course of three hours, all people looking to meet a celebrity. Photos of my house, with the address visible, were posted all over Twitter. Neal continually made light of the situation, and despite the fact that my Twitter account is private, obtained and posted my comments about the incident on his blog, as well as photos of my house.
If Neal thinks his intimidation and discount-Moriarty tactics will mute his victims, so he can obsess and create conspiracies in peace.
I guess he doesn’t know me.