Georgia Tech Dorm Room Raided in Connection with WikiLeaks Sympathizer Investigation

8:28 AM, Jan 29, 2011   |    comments
  • Zhiwei 'Jack' Chen
  • Kurt Heinrich and Ben McBurnett
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ATLANTA -- An international crackdown on WikiLeaks sympathizers has found a target in Atlanta.

Early Thursday morning, agents raided dozens of targets from the UK to the US. Five young men in Britain were arrested as part of the investigation into cyber attacks designed to bring down websites that have cut off funding for WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

In the US, the FBI executed search warrants on 40 different locations, including a dorm room at Georgia Tech. The FBI isn't saying anything, but the startled Tech students spoke with 11Alive's Center for Investigative Action.

"About 7 a.m. yesterday the FBI came in the door with about 10 people, I believe with flashlights, yelling 'Open the door'," said Zhiwei 'Jack' Chen, an 18-year-old computer engineering student who has become a person of interest to the FBI.

"He opened the door and they pulled him out into the hall, and they came in with flashlights and they told us to get out," his roommate Kurt Heinrich said.

"I got off my bed and they pulled all of us arm by arm out the door," Chen said.

They say drawers were spilled out, closets opened, and everything was searched.

"They confiscated everything from computers to laptops to the smallest USB drives. They pretty much took all my portable SD drives and pretty much everything I needed to do school work with," Chen said. An iPhone and camera were also taken, all belonging to Chen. "They did also ask if other roommates have used my computer or if I have used my roommates' computers."

According to the search warrant left behind, the FBI agents were looking for evidence of cyber attacks on websites like Paypal, Mastercard, Visa and Bank of America.

They were also looking for any records related to a group called Anonymous. The group is a loosely formed web of hackers around the globe sympathetic to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and has been going after anyone who has gone after him or his funding, including Sarah Palin.

"We have heard Jack mention [Anonymous], but we weren't that familiar with it," Heinrich said.

Chen said he was in a chatroom a few months ago, which may have linked him to the group when the FBI cast its net. "I thought 'Oh ,there are some intelligent people here to chat with,' and apparently that got me into some extreme trouble," he said, adding that he didn't realize the chat was about Anonymous until later.

"I'm not involved in the attack on these sites," Chen said. "I feel devastated personally. Pretty much my life's been invaded. [The FBI] required me to give all my passwords I have and they pretty much took all my accounts, everything."

Chen hasn't been charged with any crime and he says it could be weeks or months before he knows anything about the investigation. He is asking FBI agents to return his study materials and class documents.

At this point the FBI isn't talking about the case. The bureau instead referred 11Alive News to a press release that confirms the raids happened across the country and reminds the public that firm action will be taken against any cyber attacks on websites. 

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