A Canadian man who has publicly claimed credit for cyber attacks on free speech alternative website Gab and First Amendment domain registrar Epik has a history of being employed by the FBI.
Aubrey Cottle, who is also known by the nickname "kirtaner," serves as a spokesman for the liberal hacktivist group "Anonymous." Speaking to the media under his real name, he has strongly implied that he was at least partially responsible for the attack on Gab last February, as well as the leak of credit card information, personal addresses, and names of individuals who have registered domains on Epik in late September.
Cottle and Anonymous' sudden reemergence has been convenient for the federal government. A number of Donald Trump-themed websites on Epik were being sought out in subpoenas by the Department of Justice related to the January 6th protests. If the Epik leaks are proven genuine, the FBI has found itself a short cut to the private data of political targets.
"Kirtaner" is a controversial figure in the hacktivist community, including among leftists. Frederick Brennan, the former administer of 8chan, has even stated that Cottle openly flaunts federal laws and appears to not fear any consequences.
According to a collection of screenshots published by a rival group of anarchists verified by National Justice, Cottle has a long-standing employment history with both the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Cottle, in his own words, has stated that he helped the FBI develop a child pornography honeypot and that he has dealt "often" with the feds.
In another exchange, he went into detail about being approached by the Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS), and divulged that most young hackers are approached by the intelligence community to work for the state when they are identified.
The leader of Anonymous' most telling confession came in a tweet published June 6th, 2020, where Cottle writes that his group is at the minimum allowed to break the law with the permission of American and Canadian authorities: "i was the lucky one to have the blessing of alphabet agencies to weaponize anonymous (as an antiterrorism thing, to boot), those that came after me, not so much."
Anonymous, according to its own leader's words, appears to be a COINTELPRO style operation enabled by Canadian and American intelligence services. The trajectory of the group circumstantially supports this theory, as their targets ebb and flow according to Washington's interests at the moment, with targets ranging from the Syrian and Iranian governments during periods of unrest to a more recent emphasis on attacking China and Russia.
Domestically, the group has been fixated on releasing the information of local police officers, a website dedicated to enforcing Texas' anti-abortion law, and right-wing critics of the government.
Whether acts of cyber terrorism aimed at US citizens who use Gab, Epik and other free speech oriented websites and services are being conducted with the knowledge and even support of the FBI and CIA remains a question worthy of full investigation.