Targeting Jeremy Hammond
Hammond is one many victims. Some call him the other Bradley Manning. They do so for good reason. He founded the web site HackThisSite. In 2003, he created it after graduating from high school.
On March 5, 2012, FBI agents arrested him in Chicago. They’d been investigating the Anonymous hactivist group. They use computers for political activism.
They’re connected likeminded groups. They include LulzSec, Internet Feds and AntiSec.
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Hammond’s an AntiSec member. He and five other computer hackers were charged with high-profile cyberattack crimes. Accusations allege he committed them against corporations and government entities.
His views are clear and unequivocal. “I have always made it clear that I am an anarchist-communist,” he says. “I believe we need to abolish capitalism and the state in its entirety to realize a free, egalitarian society.”
“I am not into watering down or selling out the message or making it more marketable for the masses.”
His commitment led to his undoing. He believed betrayal was a click away. “We know we’ll finish in prison,” a fellow hacker said. “Jeremy knew he’d be raided.” It’s why he worked quickly. “He wants people to remember him.”
He never imagined one of his own would betray him. Hector Xavier Monsegur (aka Sabu) was a trusted ally. He ended up conspiring with FBI agents instead. More on that below.
On March 6, the FBI’s New York Field Office headlined “Six Hackers in the United States and Abroad Charged for Crimes Affecting Over One Million Victims.”
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Five face charges. A sixth pled guilty. Hammond was named. He pled innocent. He’s “charged in a criminal complaint relating to the December 2011 hack of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor).”
It’s an Austin, TX “global intelligence firm.” One or more observers call it The Economist a week later. Its reports are suspect. Some have value. Others lack credibility. It’s hard separating wheat from chaff.
Hammond’s charged with giving WikiLeaks millions of emails. Prosecutors claim he harmed about “860,000 victims.”
“In publicizing the Stratfor hack, members of AntiSec reaffirmed their connection to Anonymous and other related groups, including LulzSec.”
“In December 2011, HAMMOND conspired to hack into computer systems used by Stratfor….”
He “and his co-conspirators, as members of AntiSec, stole confidential information from those computer systems, including Stratfor employees’ e-mails as well as account information for approximately 860,000 Stratfor subscribers or clients.”
He “and his co-conspirators stole credit card information for approximately 60,000 credit card users and used some of the stolen data to make unauthorized charges exceeding $700,000.”
He “and his co-conspirators also publicly disclosed some of the confidential information they had stolen.”
Hammond’s charged with one count of computer hacking conspiracy, another relating to computer hacking, and one more for conspiracy “to commit access device fraud. Each count carries a maximum” ten year sentence.
Michael Ratner’s a prominent human rights activist. He’s Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) President Emeritus. He’s Julian Assange’s legal advisor. He’s currently teaching human right law at Columbia Law School. He lectures at Yale Law School.
He visited Hammond in prison. He attended his bail hearing. It was “very hostile,” he said. Two criteria are at issue – flight risk and danger to the community.
Proceeding were orchestrated to deny. “(T)he judge had probably decided this case before the arguments went on, because she essentially read an opinion after an hour and a half into the record, denying bail to Hammond.”
He was entrapped. FBI officials used an informant named Sabu. “He set up the crime for Stratfor. The FBI gave him the computer that Stratfor documents were actually uploaded to.”
“There’s a pretty clear case of entrapment.” They’re trying to get WikiLeaks the same way.
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officials or agents induce, influence, or provoke crimes that otherwise wouldn’t be committed.
It doesn’t apply in cases of willful lawless intent. Government may aid, abet, or facilitate doing so.
Entrapment involves government officials or agents initiating the idea, persuading victims to go along. Otherwise they’d have had no intent or willingness to do so.
Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that subjects weren’t entrapped. Otherwise due process convictions are prohibited.
When Washington wants them, judicial fairness seldom occurs. Guilt by accusation suffices. Juries are intimidated to convict. Right-wing judges actively assist.
FBI officials made Stratfor documents available. Whether or not the company was involved isn’t clear. Entrapping Hammond was “a government-made crime,” said Ratner.
Federal District Court Judge Loretta Preska denied Hammond bail. Her ruling was hostile. It included “really bad errors in it that I think should be remedied in his entitlement to bail.”
A week later, it was learned that information about Preska’s husband was released. His name is Thomas Kavaler. He works for Cahill Gordon & Reindel. It’s an internationally known financial/corporate law firm.
His password was revealed. Doing so made his emails accessible. Hammond’s between a rock and a hard place.
FBI agents set him up. Judge Preska is hostile. Federal court rules are clear, said Ratner. “(I)f there’s any appearance of impropriety, appearance of – you know, of a closeness to the case, that basically you have to recuse yourself,” said Ratner.
“You have to do it automatically, even if the defendant doesn’t make a motion.” Preska has an obvious conflict of interest.
Washington wants Hammond convicted. They want him imprisoned for decades. They want a message sent other hackers. Replicate Hammond and you’re next.
They want to make an example of high-profile targets. They prioritize Assange, Bradley Manning, and hackers.
Hammond’s held in New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center. In late January or early February, he was moved to solitary confinement. Doing so constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. It’s torture by other means. It violates 8th Amendment rights.
He’s denied virtually all outside contacts. Visits are limited to counsel. He’s allowed restricted phone contact with his brother.
Commissary visits are prohibited. He doesn’t get enough to eat. What’s served is deplorable. Prison food is no way to stay healthy.
On December 7, Rolling Stone headlined “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State.” It called Anonymous “a leaderless, nonhierachical federation of activists with varying agendas.”
They keep a low profile for obvious reasons. They conceal names and use aliases. Hammond was part of an Anonymous subgroup called AntiSec.
It calls itself a “popular front” against “corrupt governments, corporations, militaries, and law enforcement of the world.”
It has a dozen or less core member hackers, anarchists, free speech activists, and privacy advocates.
Social engineers are also involved. They’re skilled in “tricking even the most security-conscious into giving up their passwords and other data.”
Hundreds of activists access its internal communication channels. They’re called Internet relay chats.
Core members spent weeks trying “to ruin Stratfor.” They secured more than 200 gigabytes of data. They destroyed company database files. They defaced its web site.
They posted company secrets online. They revealed 860,000 names, emails and passwords. Several dozen belonged to top-secret people. Their identities were leaked for the first time.
Hammond champions “cyber-liberation.” He’s called an “electronic Robin Hood.” He’s a “modern-day Abbie Hoffman.” A friend said he’s shrewd, intelligent and impulsive.
Prior civil disobedience resulted in multiple arrests. Charges ranged from defacing walls with anti-war slogans to staging a “noise demo” at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Before his March 2012 arrest, he and other Anonymous members waged war on “rich and powerful oppressors.” They shut down prominent web sites. They included CIA, FBI, major banks and credit card companies.
They supported liberating Arab country struggles. They attacked Egyptian, Tunisian and other regional country web sites.
They broke into NATO computers. They accessed the GEO Group. It’s one of the world’s largest private prison operators. They hacked Booz Allen Hamilton.
Prior attacks didn’t rise to the level of harming Stratfor. Breaching its computer system cost the company millions. Doing so focused worldwide attention on “the murky world of private intelligence.”
AntiSec originally planned to use hacked credit cards. They wanted to make contributions to worthy organizations. After the fact, they decided otherwise. Hammond wasn’t charged with credit card theft.
Friends call him brilliant. He was politicized early on. He criticizes “blind patriotism.” He opposed Bush’s war on terrorism. In high school, he founded an underground newspaper. It encouraged students to challenge conventional political discourse.
Most of all it urged “think.” “Wake up.” Your mind is programmable. If you’re not doing it, someone will do it for you.
On the first day of the 2003 Iraq war, Hammond led a 100 students to a downtown Chicago anti-war rally. Months later, he enrolled at the University of Illinois/Chicago (UIC). He became an prominent campus activist.
He lasted a year. Hacking got him suspended. School officials said he wasn’t welcomed back. A friend said “if you work within the system, they f..k you over.” Hammond dedicated himself to working outside it.
He joined the radical Chicago community. He was a fixture at major and minor demonstrations. He made sure his presence was known. He was much more than a street-level agitator.
He was equally active online. It became his primary weapon. He challenged government and major corporations. He wants change. He chose electronic civil disobedience to achieve it.
“If corporations and governments are out of line today,” he said, “it’s up to cowboys of the electronic age to turn over the system and put the people on the top.”
At the 2004 DefCon hacker convention, he championed disruptive electronic civil disobedience, saying:
“We’d like to see every method of disruption possible, whether it be shutting down the power to Madison Square Garden, or defacing 10,000 different Republican web site.”
“We’d like to see RNC delegates get harassed on the streets. F..k ‘em up! Shut ‘em down!”
FBI agents took note. They saw a tape of his speech. They visited him in response. They asked if he intended to bomb the RNC convention. He said his address featured radical hyperbole.
At the same time, he envisioned digital insurgency – an “Internet Liberation Front.” He and fellow hacktivists began breaching web sites. They gained access to confidential information.
FBI agents began building a case against him. They spent months doing so. He was never charged with credit card theft.
He used hacking to target dark forces. His friend Sabu used computer skills as a career-builder. He preferred “white-hat Internet security consulting.”
In his early 20s, he freelanced for a Swedish Internet security firm. He later worked for LimeWire. It’s a peer-to-peer file-sharing company.
In 2010, he was the sole guardian of two small cousins. He called them his daughters. He was drifting. He sold marijuana and fenced stolen goods. He began hacking for profit. He stole credit card numbers to pay bills.
He connected with Anonymous. He called it a movement he’d been waiting for his entire life. It gave him a mission. He began working through Internet relay chats (IRCs) in Anonops (its network).
Hammond is radical and revolutionary. Sabu’s main goal is career advancement. He hoped working with the government would help. At the same time, he shared Hammond’s loathing for police.
He had his own criminal past. He’d been in jail. He’d “been in the game for over a decade,” he said.
Hammond trusted him. It wasn’t clear why. Most hackers work sub rosa. It’s safer that way. Sabu was more open. He bragged about his skills. He used them deceitfully.
In June 2011, he launched AntiSec. He called it “the biggest, unified operation among hackers in history.” Hammond took note. He was intrigued with its targets. They included “banks and other high-ranking establishments.”
In late spring 2011, rumors suggested FBI agents infiltrated Anonymous chat rooms. Sabu declared AntiSec a revolutionary movement. He urged thousands of Twitter followers to join the cause.
“Rise Up. Resist,” he posted. No one doubted his sincerity. He began working with a behind-the-scenes operator called “anarchaos.” He wasn’t as skilled as he claimed.
Persistent rumors suggested he was compromised. He became increasingly unreliable. He rarely got directly involved in hacks. Hammond grew suspicious.
He and others got tired never seeing him get his hands dirty. No one ever saw him hack anything. He’d always been a fixer. He brought information given him to others. They could use it as they wished.
A hacker no one knew about told Sabu about a security hole in Stratfor’s web site. He told others. After the organization was hacked, Sabu announced it on Twitter. It became widely known.
In June 2011, FBI agents approached him. They had incriminating evidence against him, they claimed. They had enough to imprison him for life.
Within hours, he cut a deal. He agreed to betray fellow hackers. He spent months collecting information. According to official documents, he helped build the Justice Department’s case. Federal prosecutors call him a model informant.
News of his role emerged when Hammond was arrested. Anonymous members were shocked. They found it hard to believe one of their own would betray them. According to one:
“We’ll never know the extent that the FBI went to turn him into a traitor.” After the fact, some Anons said they suspected it all along. Something about him didn’t wash. He ended up making enemies of friends.
Not everyone was entrapped. Sabu protected Anons he knew weren’t useful to FBI agents. He encouraged some to leave. Do it, he urged, to avoid charges.
Authorities used AntiSec to entrap hackers. Hammond is their most prominent catch. The government’s case involves nicknames he allegedly used. Hammond denies doing so.
FBI Director Robert Mueller is personally involved.
“You want to identify (hacker crimes), prosecute them, and put (those responsible) in jail for a substantial period of time,” he said.
AntiSec is largely quiet. Members now keep a low profile. The FBI doesn’t know what they’re doing. They hope it stays that way.
They call their betrayed comrade an “ideological(ly) motivated political dissident.” They equate him with Bradley Manning. Even though his anarchist advocacy rubbed some the wrong way, his loss is noticeably felt.
According to one Anon:
“He fought for what he believed his whole life. He was an idealist who even after being jailed, kept fighting at every occasion, and he never betrayed himself. Not many people can say” that.
Free Jeremy Hammond.com provides regular updates. His next scheduled court date is February 21. Judge Preska must decide if she’ll recuse herself. Her conflict of interest demands it.
Hammond’s court appearances are his only chance to see friends, family and supporters. A press conference will follow proceedings.
Expect prosecutors to throw the book at him. He faces long odds for justice.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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