By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 20, 2007
A computer hacker promoting Turkish nationalism posted a video and message on a U.S. Vietnam memorial Web site in recent days, blocking one of the site's search functions while defacing the site with a statement against the United States and Israel.
Users of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site -- at http://www.thewall-usa.com-- who searched for U.S. casualties by date were sent to an all-red Web page adorned with a symbol from the Turkish flag, a short video, and messages in Turkish and English. The English messages attacked Kurds, the United States, Israel and Armenia.
According to translations, the Turkish message read: "Is there any equal or likeness to our martyrs at Gallipoli?" It is an apparent reference to the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 during World War I, during which soldiers from the Ottoman Empire repelled an Allied operation to capture Istanbul, suffering heavy casualties of more than 250,000. The video called it a "story written in blood."
A "Turk Defacer" took credit for the hack, which users reported yesterday to the FBI, the National Park Service and the 4/9 Infantry Manchu (Vietnam) Association, which maintains the site. The message was removed and the search function restored by last night.
Jim Olberding of Ames, Iowa, said he found the message yesterday while researching Vietnam casualties. Olberding -- a Vietnam War veteran whose son is an Army captain with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan -- said the message offended him. "They're attacking American veterans," he said.
The site -- a memorial to veterans and a historical repository that gets heavy traffic around Memorial Day and Veterans Day -- was attacked days after the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington was defaced with an oily substance. Officials with the 4/9 Infantry Association said they received 200 e-mails from users alerting them to the hack. The group's leaders were in Memphis over the weekend to celebrate the association's 10th anniversary and did not know when the hack took place. The nonprofit bought the Web site about eight years ago to ensure that it would endure.
"These kinds of groups are opportunistic and are going to do whatever they think they have to do to get their message out," said Cheryl Criteser, the association's secretary-treasurer. "I've gotten death threats, I've gotten all kinds of negative stuff from other countries. I just figure they're wackos."
A spokesman for the Turkish Embassy in Washington said yesterday that the hack did not seem to be part of an organized group.
Staff writer Jill F. Bartscht and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.