PBS Hacker's First Draft: Obama Choking on Marshmallow

A hacker who posted a phony Tupac story on PBS's web site talks to Forbes

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On Sunday night,  PBS's NewsHour web site published a phony story about Tupac Shakur being found alive in New Zealand. The fake story (Tupac died in 1996), was the work of a hacker group named LulzSec who broke into the site and published thousands of employee passwords. But apparently there was a discarded idea before inspiration struck with the Tupac story. “I was gonna write about Obama choking to death on a marshmallow, but I figured Tupac would be funnier,” said Whirlpool, a member of LulzSec who spoke with Forbes's Parmy Olson.

The hacker said PBS was targeted two reasons: "Lulz and justice." The "justice" part of the equation was inspired by PBS's airing of "WikiSecrets,"a Frontline documentary critical of WikiLeaks that LulzSec members say unfairly portrayed the organization and its founder Julian Assange. "Lulz," meanwhile, is just another word for big laughs. “While our main goal is to spread entertainment, we do greatly wish that Bradley Manning hears about this, and at least smiles,” Whirlpool said. “From the start [the documentary] painted a negative picture on WikiLeaks, and it put a great deal of focus on discrediting Julian Assange and Bradley Manning." Whirlpool said the attack was carried out by four hackers in total and was rather easy because of PBS's "outdated" system.

Following the Tupac story, the group continued defacing PBS's site on Monday, posting a picture of an obese man eating a giant hamburger on its site and defacing PBS's press release. In response, PBS published its transcripts and videos from Monday's programs to ensure viewers what its proper programming was. In the past, LuzSec has also hacked Fox television affiliate, Fox15, hijacked its Twitter account and published hundreds of its employee passwords for reasons that remain unclear.

It's worth noting that some WikiLeaks supporters are opposed to LulzSec's attack on PBS. "Hacking a news org b/c of their message is an attempt to stifle free speech," tweeted WLLegal, an account run by Trevor Trimm, a WikiLeaks supporter who publishes legal news and opinions about the organization. He said the attack on PBS is "exactly what a supporter of #WikiLeaks should be against."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.