In an effort to identify leaders of Anonymous, the FBI arrested an autistic New York man and then used him as a cooperating witness to help snare a notorious fellow hacker who was subsequently indicted for his central role in a series of high-profile online attacks, The Smoking Gun has learned.
In return for the hacker’s cooperation--and in light of his autism--Department of Justice officials initially agreed to defer prosecution on a criminal complaint charging the man with hacking Gawker Media, an illegal incursion that yielded registration information for more than a million individuals who signed up with the popular blog network.
Federal prosecutors eventually dropped the hacking charge altogether, according to court records that were kept under seal long after the hacker’s arrest by a team of FBI agents. Investigators were concerned that if the man’s cooperation became public, he would be harassed by hackers then being targeted by the FBI. Additionally, disclosure of his cooperation, prosecutors contended, “would jeopardize substantial ongoing investigations into the defendant’s former co-conspirators, many of whom are suspected of carrying out substantial computer hacks against several businesses.”
So, to “help ensure the defendant’s safety,” Thomas “Eekdacat” Madden became, for a time, “John Doe.”
The 26-year-old Madden, whose cooperation has not been previously disclosed, lives with his parents in Troy, a city 10 minutes outside Albany. An only child, Madden graduated in December 2010 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he completed a double major in computer science and mathematics, according to school records.