By Mark Verstraete – Edited by Thuy Nguyen
Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York (Nov. 15, 2013)
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On Friday, November 15, 2013, Anonymous and Lulzsec-affiliated hacktivist Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to ten years in prison and three years of supervised release. During his supervised release period, Hammond is proscribed from using computer anonymity devices, such as Tor. See Ars Technica. Hammond was sentenced in a federal courtroom for the Southern District of New York with roughly one hundred supporters and friends in attendance. See RollingStone Politics.
Ars Technica and RollingStone Politics review the background of the case and the context of the sentencing. CNET provides additional background and commentary from supporters and others.
Hammond was sentenced under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act—the same act under which Aaron Swartz was prosecuted—for hacking the Texas-based private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Strafor. Wikileaks has published 5 million emails that resulted from the hack by him and five others in the hacker group Anonymous. These emails revealed, among other things, that government agencies hired Stratfor to collect information on activist organizations, including Occupy Wall Street and PETA. See Time U.S., CNET, and RollingStone Politics.
Hammond’s attorneys presented over 250 letters to the court that showed support for Hammond as a whistleblower, including a letter of support from Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. An online petition, signed by 4,000 people, also sought to classify Hammond as a whistleblower. See CNET. Hammond’s attorneys had asked for Judge Preska—the presiding judge in the case—to recuse herself because her husband had been a victim of the Stratfor leaks. See RollingStone Politics. This motion was denied.
Hammond claimed that the FBI in fact directed his hacking to certain foreign governments’ websites. Specifically, an individual with the nickname “Sabu” suggested Hammond with a list of target websites to attack, and this person turned out to be an FBI informant. Hammond also insisted that he would never have hacked Stratfor without the involvement of this FBI informant. See The Guardian.
The judge’s decision to sentence Hammond to ten years is significantly more stringent than the sentences received by Anonymous affiliated hackers in the United Kingdom. Mustafa al-Bassam—a United Kingdom resident that participated in the hack—received a two-year suspended sentence and 300 hours of community service. See The Dissenter. In its Memorandum of Law with Respect to Sentencing, the Government justified Hammond’s harsher sentence by calling Hammond a “computer hacking recidivist,” noting that he received a reduced sentence on a 2006 hacking charge. Memorandum at 1, United States v. Hammond, No. 12-cr-00185 (S.D.N.Y. Nov 12, 2013) hosted by cryptome.org. It also categorized his conduct as “cyber attacks” that, among other things, “harmed businesses, individuals, and governments” and “threatened the safety of the public and of law enforcement officers and their families.” Id. at 14.
In a prepared statement reproduced by the sparrow project, Hammond conceded that he broke the law but claimed “that sometimes laws must be broken to make room for change.” Hammond also noted in his statement that he was inspired by the actions of Chelsea Manning and other hacktivists who had undertaken great personal risk to disclose “atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.” As for Hammond’s future in the hacking world, he says those days are behind him.