As the US moves closer to a military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army has made one of its most obvious political statements yet. Earlier today, the group successfully defaced the Marines.com recruiting website, posting a plea for service members to refuse any orders to attack Syrian government forces. "Obama is a traitor who wants to put your lives in danger to rescue al-Qaeda insurgents," the page read earlier today, as shown in a screenshot from The Wall Street Journal. "The Syrian army should be your ally not your enemy. Refuse your orders and concentrate on the real reason every soldier joins their military, to defend their homeland."
The SEA's references to al-Qaeda are in line with a common refrain from al-Assad, who describes opponents of his government as terrorists. Along with the text, the page showed images of people in US military uniforms, their faces obscured by signs like "I didn't join the Marine Corps to fight for al-Qaeda in a Syrian civil war." Fighting in that war, however, seems more likely every day. Since an apparent nerve gas attack left nearly 1,500 dead in mid-August, blame has been largely placed on the Assad regime, though UN weapons inspectors have yet to make an official pronouncement.
"I didn't join the Marine Corps to fight for al-Qaeda in a Syrian civil war."
Two days ago, President Barack Obama announced that he would ask Congress to authorize an attack on Syria, which had crossed the "red line" of chemical weapon use. "What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?" he asked. He is backed by the French government, which also favors a "limited" strike. That strike, however, is not supposed to actually deploy Marines or any other service members to Syrian soil. "This would not be an open-ended intervention, we would not put boots on the ground," Obama has promised.
The SEA, meanwhile, has kept up a steady flow of hacks, sometimes to disseminate pro-Assad propaganda and sometimes simply for visibility. So far, the group has compromised the Financial Times, The Guardian, the Associated Press Twitter feed, and The Onion among others; it's most recently suspected in an attack that took down The New York Times' website last week. Currently, the Marines recruiting site appears back to normal, and a spokesperson has denied that the attack was a serious compromise. "The site itself was not hacked but ... visitors were redirected" to the defaced page, they say.