The man that Australia's Federal Police once described as "a self-proclaimed leader of the group ‘Lulz Security’ (Lulzsec)" has been sentenced to 15 months of home detention, after a local magistrate decided he was just a very naughty boy.
Flannery was sentenced last week in a case that has to date evaded law reports and media attention other some mentions on radio news (heard by your correspondent) and a lone Tweet below from Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Emma Simkin.
Matthew Flannery initially thought to be head of global hacking group LulzSec sentenced to 15months home detention #gosford— Emma Simkin (@SimkinEmma) October 16, 2014
The radio reports mentioned remarks by sentencing magistrate to the effect that Flannery was clearly not an international hacking mastermind. That Flannery was done for defacing the website of a local council probably helped magistrate D. Lee to make up his mind.
Consideration of this case should not end with Flannery's sentencing, because the AFP is one of the agencies demanding greater powers to deal with terrorism – powers which Australia's federal government is keen to provide. Those new powers include very wide network-tap provisions for Australia's intelligence agencies, including the collection of individuals' photographs when passing through airports, whistleblower rules that make it an offence for journalists to report on security agencies' activity and data retention legislation.
Further pondering of the case is worthy because this was not the first time that the AFP has over-stated a case. In 2013, it was identified as providing advice to the government based on discredited and hyped cyber-crime figures, as reported here by Crikey.
Much more recently, the AFP has been accused of letting media believe an object seized in terror raids in Sydney was a weapon likely to be used during terror attacks - possibly even beheadings in Sydney's suburbs - when the "weapon' seized was a plastic sword common in Shiite Muslim households.
The same organisation, earlier this year, ended up red-faced when it raided a television station (Channel Seven) over a proceeds of crime investigation, only to have the Federal Court rule its warrants were invalid. Ultimately, the action against the TV station was abandoned.
That the AFP's initial breathless warnings about Flannery's activities were discredited in a small regional court means this error will receive little attention. Yet the call for extra powers for Australia's intelligence agencies will forever be based, in part, on the apprehension of a significant "hacker'. ®