A decade after Chris “Commander X” Doyon dropped out and fled the country because of a federal hacker attack, the long arm of US law enforcement reached out to pick him up from Mexico City, where he had sought political asylum this week . Doyon is now facing all original charges of coordinating a 2010 DDoS high orbit ion cannon (HOIC) attack on servers in Santa Cruz, California, as well as a new major charges of “Spring Bail”.
This came as a surprising twist for the homeless hacktivist who spent his years in Canada and then Mexico, issuing press releases, hanging out on Twitter, writing self-published memoirs, appearing in documentaries, and dating journalists like me – all with no apparent US reaction -Government.
All of that changed on June 11th when Doyon was arrested by Mexican police. This was confirmed by a press release from the U.S. Attorney General for the Northern District of California, where Santa Cruz is located, although no details were given.
But Doyon’s Mexican friends (and a filmmaker who profiled him) offered journalists their own account in an email:
Chris lives in a residential complex in Mexico City. On the afternoon of June 11, several armed, uniformed Mexican men who identified themselves as DEA agents attempted to enter the community but were turned away. They returned disguised as civilians with representatives from the US embassy, climbed the walls of the compound and took Chris away early that evening.
If that sounds pretty dramatic, well – welcome to Doyon’s world. The original DDoS incident in Santa Cruz was relatively minor. It was triggered by a new law affecting the homeless community that Doyon was a part of, and it only affected Santa Cruz’s servers for 30 minutes. The government only asked for a few thousand dollars in damages for investigation and redress, but the amount was just enough to break the $ 5,000 threshold in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which made DDoS a federal crime.
The incident occurred during the rise of Anonymous, the loose hacking collective in which Doyon played a minor role. Anonymous caught the world’s attention with its antiquated spirit of mischief, malice, and the occasional self-righteousness, and Doyon himself became embroiled in the covenant response to the group’s actions.
Doyon was not a “hacker” in the technical sense; he hung out in IRC chat rooms and could use tools like HOIC that had been developed by others. What he had in abundance, however, was a terrific grasp of personal and corporate mythology. After Doyon’s arrest and a subsequent flight to Canada, he told a Canadian newspaper that Anonymous “could well be the most powerful organization in the world”.
When Doyon announced his departure from Anonymous in 2013, he wrote that his “‘Commander X’ personality has become a bit like Batman, a kind of cyber superhero. But like Batman, the impossible role of ‘Commander X’ rests on” shoulders. ” of a simple man. And like all men, I have weaknesses, weaknesses – and limits. “
Doyon would “die alone in a strange land, my ashes spread in a strange forest”. But that was okay because “Commander X made a difference – he saved lives and inspired thousands to join this critical battle for the soul of mankind.” Commander X’s personality would “leave the stage of history and disappear into the mists of myth and legend”.
Oddly enough, the U.S. government seemed to accept one version of this story – that is, Doyon was someone who was really worth the trouble of tracking down, rather than an extremely petty villain who spent seven years in Toronto on the street begging for money and ate at McDonald’s and hanging out on Twitter before migrating to Mexico and seeking asylum there. In its announcement of Doyon’s arrest, the government provided a list of the agencies involved in the persecution of Doyon:
- The FBI in general
- The FBI’s legal attaché in Mexico City
- The FBI’s Cell Analysis Survey Team Unit
- Task Force Mexico City (consisting of agents from the Mexican Agencia de Investigación Criminal)
- Mexican State Police and Prosecutors in Morelos State (Fiscalia General del Estado de Morelos, Unidad Especializada Contra el Secuestro y Extorsión)
- Mexican immigration (Instituto Nacional de Migración)
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Mexico City office
- The U.S. Department of State, Office of American Citizen Services, Mexico City Office
Doyon was easy to reach by email for years and met regularly with journalists and filmmakers. Hell, I met him in a public Canadian park – and it wasn’t hard to arrange. Why it took Interpol and a cellular analysis survey team to find it remains obscure – and why it took so long. The cost here – to track down a refugee who caused thousands of dollars in damage – must have been enormous.
In any case, Doyon is back in California and has already had two brief hearings about Zoom in a federal judge. His pro bono Attorney Jay Leiderman, for a decade, has agreed to represent Doyon again.
Leiderman told me in 2012 that he believed the whole case should be closed. Most of the “damage,” he said, was just employee salaries, which were already being paid; he also thought the whole thing was essentially a political protest. “They didn’t harm the Santa Cruz computers, they didn’t go in and raped their servers,” Leiderman said at the time. In his view, the DDoS attack was “absolute speech under the First Amendment”.
“Dateless on Prom Night” was how Leiderman described the moment in court when he realized that Doyon was not going to appear. Now that his date is back in federal custody, Leiderman may get another chance to make his case. Doyon’s ability to avoid years in prison might depend on it.
Offer picture by Nate Anderson