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Anonymous Hackers Meet the Long Arm of the Law

Civil disobedience isn't always glamorous--especially when it comes time to pay the piper.

Fourteen suspected members of hacking group Anonymous were arrested as part of a federal raid on Tuesday morning. Those under arrest face steep penalties for their alleged actions they indicate were designed to protect civil liberties.

That sounds like severe punishment for a group that is more or less operating under the guise of "civil disobedience." But, as any civil rights lesson will tell you: Part of being civilly disobedient is being willing to accept the consequences of your actions.

Fox News first reported the arrests, which--according to the Department of Justice--resulted from the group allegedly attacking PayPal in response to the financial service blocking WikiLeaks from receiving donations. (Side note: Does anyone else find it amusing that Anonymous turned the News Corp. hackers into hackees and then Fox News ends up being the first news outlet to report the Anonymous arrests?)

The suspects are charged with "various counts of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer," according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. Those charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, respectively.

Anonymous Has Been Busy

Anonymous certainly has done a lot recently that warrants some sort of consequences. Last week it allegedly hacked two government contractors and released 90,000 military addresses. The group also allegedly defaced Arizona Police websites and released data in protest of the state's new immigration laws.

It's hard to argue against a group that takes action against things it says are unjust. Anonymous is--in some ways--one of those groups. After all, its members are called hackers with a cause. Sure, the group's methods are extreme, illegal and harmful to certain parties, but it's fighting for transparency, accountability, and a free Internet.

If the suspects are members of the group, their response to the charges should speak volumes about what motivated them to help with the attacks. We can't wait to hear what they have to say.

Follow Paul Suarez @paulsuarez on Twitter or throw him in one of your circles on Google+. Don't forget to follow Today@PCWorld for the latest tech news and analysis.

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