Anonymous finds political support in Rhode Island. (IMG: Anonymous)
Tuesday evening was a quiet one on Twitter. At least it was, but that was before an elected official in the state of Rhode Island announced that he makes no secret about the fact he supports the idea that is Anonymous.
The Tech Herald reached out to the man who made those comments, Rhode Island State Rep. Dan Gordon, and spoke to him at length about his views and opinions. The call lasted for more than two hours, and extended far beyond the topic of Anonymous.
Gordon is a blue collar guy, and when he’s not serving his constitutes from Rhode Island’s District 71, (Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton), he’s a contractor in the construction industry. This is what he was doing when he fell into politics.
A Rocky First Term
He never had political aspirations growing up, and he was somewhat of a loner in high school. This lone wolf mentality may have something to do with the drama that surrounded his first term in Rhode Island’s state legislature.
At the time he ran for office, District 71 was essentially up for grabs. Gordon placed himself in the race because his opponent, George Alzaibak, was running unopposed, he told us. Gordon didn’t want Alzaibak as his representative, and knew he would regret it if he didn’t run against him. After talking with his family about running, worried his past may cause them embarrassment, they told him to do it.
It was a close race, one that Gordon ran with no budget. As an unknown, he had to go door to door to make his case to the voters. In the end, it was too close to call, and a recount showed that he beat Alzaibak by less than 50 votes.
Gordon has his own compass, and while he represents the GOP, he doesn’t always get along with them. For the record, he’s a Libertarian, and by all accounts he is the black sheep of local politics, with few friends.
In 2011, his comments about fellow Republicans led to him being kicked out of the Republican caucus. He’s also faced calls for him to step down from his post, but he ignored them, and announced instead that he would seek re-election this year.
“If they are so easily distracted by some of my past personal issues, then why don't they step down? I have been, and continue to be, laser-focused on the task at hand – moving this state forward,” Gordon commented to reporters last September.
The calls for him to step down, which were made by Rhode Island’s Governor Chafee, House Speaker Daniel Fox, and House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, stem from a records check after he went to the state police to file a cyber-stalking complaint over comments made against him online.
The police ran his name, and discovered that he was wanted in Massachusetts for eluding a police officer. Locally, he was charged with driving on a suspended license, but those charges were later dropped.
This led to him being arrested. The public learned that in 1999 Gordon served four months in jail for assault, and that he was charged with attempted murder in 2004 (the charges were later dismissed). In all, he had several run-ins with the law from 1993-2004.
Still, he served his time; a total of 6 months based on court records, and faced his personal demons. Despite the claims from some, his lack of disclosure concerning his past broke no laws.
When speaking to him, it is clear that Gordon has moved forward. Much of his past is attributed to PTSD from his time in the Marines.
He is Legion
As mentioned, Gordon joined the U.S. Marines in 1981. While some news reports have targeted his service, there is no doubt that he served. And it was during his time with the Marines that he learned first hand the meaning of camaraderie.
The Marines are a family, he told us during our conversation, even if you dislike a fellow Marine personally, you’d never think twice about going to bat for them, or – God forbid – putting your life on the line to protect theirs. This feeling of fellowship, complete acceptance, resonates with the Marine in Gordon to this day. This is why he has no compunction in saying “I get Anonymous. I am legion.”
He respects Anonymous, even if he doesn’t always agree with what they do. When it comes to the criminal acts performed by individuals under the banner of Anonymous as a whole, Gordon said that there will always be people within a movement that cross a line.
In this case, some Anons will break the law by exploiting website vulnerabilities and compromising data, defacing websites, or attacking them via DDoS. Gordon knows this happens. But the fact that some Anons cross the line is “not a reason to discredit an entire movement or idea,” he told us.
The attention gained by his pro-Anonymous stance comes in cycles. Recently he was allegedly targeted by The Jester, who claimed to have used a Zero Day vulnerability to target mobile devices after they scanned a QR code. Jester named Gordon as one of those impacted by the attack.
He responded to the Jester with a letter on Pastebin. The letter disputes the notion that he was attacked at all, and references the reasons why the Jester’s claims don’t hold water.
On top of that, Gordon also had to deal with an impostor on Twitter. Someone attempted to clone his account (@RepDanGordon) with @Rep_Gordon, the fake profile has since been deleted. Moreover, his legit account was hijacked for a brief time, but regained control over it before things got out of hand. It would seem his public association with Anonymous makes him a perfect target for trolling, but he isn’t bothered by it in the slightest.
Despite all that has happened in the last year, Gordon is still working for those who put him in office.
He was the first state representative to draft a resolution that would exempt Rhode Island citizens from sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA). The issue is the term belligerents, or more importantly, the fact that the term is not defined. While belligerents may be held indefinitely, it’s unclear who qualifies as a belligerent, and who gets to author that definition.
“Given the fact that the constitutions of Rhode Island and that of the United States are replete with guarantees of individual liberties, right to habeas corpus, and right to freedom of speech, the offending sections of that law are repugnant to the sensibilities of anyone that has a basic understanding of the foundation of this country,” Gordon said in an interview with WND.com.
Less than a month after going against the NDAA, Gordon introduced H7490, which led to the repeal of a 2% surcharge for imaging services that was paid by healthcare providers. While it might not seem like much, such miscellaneous fees add up when you consider the number of X-Rays that a healthcare provider requires in a given month.
He also introduced H7492, which will lower the state tax of those earning a military pension by $3,000 if they’re under the age of 65, and by $10,000 for those 65 years of age or older, when it takes effect in 2013.
As our call ended, Gordon gave a recent – and pointed example – of the good Anonymous is capable of.
A 26-year-old Syrian, Rami Ahmad al-Sayeed, was able to report on the devastation and chaos in Syria, because Anonymous helped him bypass Syrian restrictions on the Internet. Sadly, Mr. al-Sayeed lost his life when Assad’s forces launched a shell attack on BabaAmr.
Gordon also talked about an article written by Jon Blanchard. He too refuses to see Anonymous as a “gang of cyber terrorists.”
“Yes, the Anonymous movement is made up of a broad International coalition of online communities spanning the sometimes dark corners of AntiSec hackers, the wider world of DDoS (distributed denial of service) activists and even some prominent human rights and freedom of information advocates like Julian Assange,” Blanchard wrote.
“That said, sometimes “Anonymous” is just a single person with a cellphone camera or a YouTube account making sure evil does not go unwitnessed.”
Dan Gordon is a rarity. He’s a man elected to public office who freely associates himself with Anonymous. Even his introduction to the world of politics has some Anonymous-like roots. After all, he’s a state representative because he had an idea.
Gordon’s idea was that he could serve the people of District 71 better than the other guy could. As it turns out, the people agreed with him, and he was elected. Is he perfect? Far from it, but no one is.
Does this make him an Anon? Not at all. His free association however, does. It's as he said, he is legion.