Truth Frequency Radio
Nov 17, 2013

jeremy-hammond-hacktivist-FBI-targets-truth-frequency-radio-chris-geo-sheree-geo-alternative-media-news-informationby Mike Masnick, Techdirt

from the of-course-they-did dept

We wrote, earlier this year, about LulzSec/Antisec/Anonymous hacktivist Jeremy Hammond pleading guilty to hacking Stratfor. While the other Lulzsec hackers who were arrested in the UK got sentences of one to three years, the fact that here in the US we have the CFAA, and the fact that the DOJ saw another hacktivist to railroad, it was expected that Hammond would get a much longer sentence. Indeed, he did: he was sentenced today to ten years in prison plus another three years of supervised release.

No one denies that he broke into Stratfor’s computers (as well as other sites and even governments). However, many people quite reasonably argue that he was doing so for the purposes of activism, not for personal wealth or benefits, and that fact should have been taken into account in his sentencing. The DOJ, of course, want to use Hammond as yet another example case of how they can throw the book at hacktivists. The Sparrow Project has a good account of what happened in the courtroom:

Jeremy’s lead counsel, Sarah Kunstler, who is 9 months pregnant and due to give birth today, delivered a passionate testimonial as to the person that Jeremy is, and the need for people like Jeremy during our changing socio-political landscape. She was followed by co-counsel, Susan Keller, who wept as she recalled her experiences reading the hundreds of letters from supporters to the court detailing the Jeremy Hammond’s selflessness and enthusiastic volunteerism. She pointed out that it was this same selflessness that motivated Jeremy’s actions in this case. She closed her testimony by underscoring that, “The centerpiece of our argument is a young man with high hopes and unbelievably laudable expectations in this world.”

They also include Hammond’s statement, in which he clearly states why he did what he did, and repeatedly points out that most of the sites he hacked (including Stratfor and foreign governments) were done under the direction of Sabu (real name: Hector Xavier Monsegur) who had already turned into an FBI informant. In other words, he’s suggesting that the FBI was more or less telling him who to hack, and then they get to turn around and throw the book at him.

The acts of civil disobedience and direct action that I am being sentenced for today are in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life. I hacked into dozens of high profile corporations and government institutions, understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison. But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice–and to bring the truth to light.

Could I have achieved the same goals through legal means? I have tried everything from voting petitions to peaceful protest and have found that those in power do not want the truth to be exposed. When we speak truth to power we are ignored at best and brutally suppressed at worst. We are confronting a power structure that does not respect its own system of checks and balances, never mind the rights of it’s own citizens or the international community.

The full statement is long, but well worth reading. The court forced everyone to redact part of the speech — where he names who else he hacked at the direction of Sabu, including foreign governments. When you think about this, it seems particularly obnoxious. Basically, the FBI had Sabu tell Hammond to hack into the computers of foreign governments and now Hammond gets the book thrown at him because of that. Does anyone think that the feds didn’t make use of that access to foreign government computers? It’s a pretty neat trick: trick a hacktivist to break into the computers of foreign governments for you and then throw him in jail for ten years.

In an interview Hammond gave to The Guardian prior to the sentencing, Hammond notes that his days of hacking “are done” but remains pretty defiant and supportive of hacktivism in general and against oppressive government action. He notes that one of the reasons he was such a target was he had access to an exploit that it appears the NSA didn’t yet have, which allowed him to get into those foreign government servers:

“I felt betrayed, obviously. Though I knew these things happen. What surprised me was that Sabu was involved in so much strategic targeting, in actually identifying targets. He gave me the information on targets.”

Part of Sabu’s interest in him, he now believes, was that Hammond had access to advanced tools including one known as PLESK that allowed him to break into web systems used by large numbers of foreign governments. “The FBI and NSA are clearly able to do their own hacking of other countries. But when a new vulnerability emerges in internet security, sometimes hackers have access to tools that are ahead of them that can be very valuable,” he said.

In that same interview, he notes he never would have hacked Stratfor if it weren’t for Sabu, noting he’d never even heard of the organization before that.

Clearly, Hammond broke the law. But it seems very, very wrong that the federal government clearly used him to break into places they wanted to get into (all of which now remains classified), and then threw the book at him and will lock him up for a decade.