I have been sitting on this screen shot from @LulzWarefare since it happened in March, but my motivation for this is a little bit older. I was reading on Nile valley hydropolitics when I noticed the Hala’ib Triangle and the associated area of Bir Tawil. Both Egypt and Sudan claim Hala’ib and due to the wording of the treaties that govern this dispute neither country claims Bir Tawil – it is terra nullius, land unclaimed by any nation state. There are two other notable unclaimed bits in Africa – a strip of land between Niger and Burkina-Faso was finally divided in an agreement in 2013, and Western Sahara was the scene of the Kafka-esque “wall war” from 1975 until 1991.
Even rarer than unclaimed land in the age of GPS satellites are sovereign entities without geographic territory. The Knights of St. John were expelled from Jerusalem in Malta by Napolean in 1798, where the order had resided since 1530. They have never established another state, but the 13,000 members, 80,000 volunteers, and 20,000 medical personel celebrated their 900th anniversary this year.
And most important of all, the Knights of St. John can issue passports.
So there is some precedent for a non-territorial entity existing at a diplomatic level, issuing passports, and otherwise behaving as a ‘virtual state’. The Principality of Sealand, established as a home for a pirate radio station in 1967, has de facto sovereignty, but the population is apparently just Prince Michael, the son of founder Paddy Roy Bates. One has to imagine this location would be willing to provide a PO box for a virtual organization without asking too many questions.
Anonymous has given de facto recognition to Gaza in the form of extensive support during #OpIsrael in late 2012. If Julian Assange’s Australian Senate campaign succeeds, Anonymous will have another friend in the halls of power, as Assange would be joining Icelandic PM Birgitta Jónsdóttir in her support of privacy and human rights.
While there have been various declarations that are more weighty than @LulzWarfare‘s tongue in cheek pronouncement, I believe I am the first to note the similarity between what Anonymous does and the role played by the Knights of St. John.
What happens next?
Anonymous has already demonstrated transnational peacekeeping capabilities, raining fire on Israel for their mistreatment of Palestinians, and bringing similar heat to the government of Myanmar for its persecution of the Rohingya. They clearly have an ability to act on par with that of the Knights of St. John.
There is a small logistics problem in that members of Anonymous lose all standing once their names are known. This has all sorts of implications for identification (public/private keys?), biometrics at border crossings, and so forth. I leave the deep thinking on how to handle this to those more focused cryptographic research.