[Pnews] The Real Criminal, Our Government, Jails the Real Hero, Jeremy Hammond

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 18 12:23:58 EST 2013

November 18, 2013

*The Real Criminal, Our Government, Jails the Real Hero*

  The Hero and the Villains: The Jeremy Hammond Sentence


This past Friday, Internet activist Jeremy Hammond stood in a federal 
courtroom and told Judge Loretta A. Preska why he released a trove of 
emails and other information uncovering the possibly illegal and 
certainly immoral collaboration of a major surveillance corporation 
called Stratfor with our government.

He also stressed what followers of his case already knew: that his 
activities were encouraged, organized and facilitated by an FBI 
informant turned operative. In short, his partner in these "violations 
of United States law" was the government of the United States.

He acknowledged that the Judge could sentence him to 10 years in jail 
but he never apologized for his actions or questioned their validity as 
political activism. And, in a statement remarkable for his courage and 
political principle (after 20 months in jail on this case), he 
established himself as one of the heroes of the struggle over for 
freedom and justice.

In a world in which people often seek to defend themselves in court by 
questioning whether they did what they are accused of, Hammond defended 
himself by saying that he did what they said he did and more --- and 
that he was right to do it.

"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," he told the court 
"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."

Expecting justice from Judge Preska was probably a stretch. She had 
previously refused to recuse herself from the trial after it was learned 
that her husband was one of the targets of Hammond's Stratfor hacks. But 
when she hit him with the maximum jail sentence, a decade, and then 
churlishly hit him with three extra years of probation upon release 
during which he can't use encryption on the Internet --- which essential 
forbids him from living a modern life --- she put the exclamation point 
on the statement this case makes about our government. While conducting 
surveillance on all its citizens (and using drones and agents and wars 
to trample on the human rights of people world-wide), it also uses 
elaborate stings and agent strategies to lure Internet activists into 
gathering information it wants but can't legally obtain and then puts 
them in jail to shut them up.

It is, without question, a chilling story.

At the age of 29, Hammond is already a seasoned, experienced and 
"struggle-weathered" political activist. He was an anti-war activist in 
High School at 18 when he launched the legendary website HackThisSite 
<http://www.hackthissite.org/> [2], "a free, safe and legal training 
ground for hackers to test and expand their hacking skills" that remains 
one of the most popular and respected hacking education on-line communities.

His history during the last decade is sprinkled with a series of arrests 
during protests against the Iraq war, the trampling of gay rights, the 
erosion of democratic rights and the disruptive activities of extreme 
right-wing groups. He's been beaten and arrested on more than a half 
dozen occasions for these actions.

In fact, in 2007, Hammond was imprisoned for hacking into the website of 
the right-wing group Protest Warrior, known for attacking anti-war 
demonstrations. The hack captured all kinds of information and brought 
the website down. Some of that info included credit card numbers for 
contributors to Protest Warrior and, although no card was ever used or 
charged to as a result, the government charged Hammond with what amounts 
to card theft and jailed him to two years.

When he was released he returned to protest but, he told the court, "The 
Obama administration continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 
escalated the use of drones, and failed to close Guantanamo Bay." 
Believing more direct action was needed, he returned to hacking and 
began targeting police departments and law enforcement agencies "because 
of the racism and inequality with which the criminal law is enforced" 
and hitting military and police equipment manufacturers as well as 
surveillance and security contractors.

Then he met Sabu.

Hector Xavier Monsegur (known on-line as Sabu) was the most visible 
figure in LulzSec, a hacker collective known for several high-profile 
hacks of of government and corporate sites. Monsegur, who lived in the 
Jacob Riis Projects of New York's Lower East Side, had a reputation 
among activists as a prankster who seemed to hack power sites more for 
enjoyment and rebellious "rush" than for principled politics. His 
statements and tweets were, in fact, never that political. It's safe to 
say that many on-line activists were wary of Sabu and that was 
well-founded because Sabu was working for the FBI.

As Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore said at a secret bail hearing 
on Aug. 5, 2011 about a month after Sabu was arrested by the FBI, "Since 
literally the day he was arrested, the defendant has been cooperating 
with the government proactively." Sabu wasn't just a snitch (although he 
appears to have given the FBI every name, email and detail about hackers 
and activists he knew), he was an active provocateur, using his LulzSec 
"cover" to ensnare other Internet activists in criminal acts.

Using FBI servers, he coordinated hacker projects that would land 
Internet activists, including almost the entire LulzSec collective, in 
jail --- the equivalent of committing crimes in the FBI's offices. He 
targeted dozens of other activists and even tried to involve Nadim 
Kobeissi <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadim_Kobeissi> [3], the 
respected Canadian technologist and author of the secure communication 
software Cryptocat, but Kobeissi rebuffed those overtures and that 
ensnarement project was dropped.

In December, 2011, Sabu hit the jackpot. He obtained exploits (programs 
that allowed entrance into a server) to the credit card database of 
Statfor, a security and surveillance contractor that works for a literal 
who's who of corporations. Under FBI supervision, Sabu logged onto a 
private chatroom run by the hacker collective AntiSec (of which Hammond 
was a member) and began distributing links and passwords to Statfor's 
servers. Hammond got involved, spending a week attempting access to 
Stratfor's email systems and then loading the information he and others 
gleaned onto servers owned and run by the FBI.

The resulting information, mostly released by Wikileaks, was stunning.

The emails showed that Stratfor had spied on movements in other 
countries, movements and organizations in the U.S. and individual 
activists. It targeted PETA, the political "prankster" organization the 
YesMen and activists involved in the campaign against Dow Chemical over 
the catastrophic Bhopal, India gas leaks. It conducted, in cooperation 
with the government, a remarkable campaign of intense surveillance and 
infiltration of the Occupy movement. "And," as journalist Chris Hedges 
said in an interview with the Real News Network 
<http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=11021> [4], 
"we also found from those email exchanges that there was a concerted 
attempt on the part of security officials, both inside the government 
and within the private security contracting agency, to link, falsely, 
nonviolent dissident groups with terrorist groups so that they could 
apply terrorism laws against these groups."

According to his statement, after the Statfor hack, Hammond continued 
using Sabu's information to hack corporate sites and several official 
government sites. He also supplied Sabu and other hackers with 
information similarly used. "I don't know how other information I 
provided to (Sabu) may have been used," Hammond says, "but I think the 
government's collection and use of this data needs to be investigated."

Part of his statement, stricken by the Judge after Prosecution 
objections but made available at the Pastebin site 
<http://pastebin.com/xy8aQY9W> [5], reads like a spy novel:

"Sabu also supplied lists of targets...At his request, these websites 
were broken into, their emails and databases were uploaded to Sabu's FBI 
server, and the password information and the location of root backdoors 
were supplied. These intrusions took place in January/February of 2012 
and affected over 2000 domains, including numerous foreign government 
websites in Brazil, Turkey, Syria, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Nigeria, Iran, 
Slovenia, Greece, Pakistan, and others. A few of the compromised 
websites that I recollect include the official website of the Governor 
of Puerto Rico, the Internal Affairs Division of the Military Police of 
Brazil, the Official Website of the Crown Prince of Kuwait, the Tax 
Department of Turkey, the Iranian Academic Center for Education and 
Cultural Research, the Polish Embassy in the UK, and the Ministry of 
Electricity of Iraq."

According to Hammond, Sabu also infiltrated a group of hackers that had 
access to hundreds of Syrian systems including government institutions, 
banks, and ISPs. "The FBI took advantage of hackers who wanted to help 
support the Syrian people against the Assad regime, who instead 
unwittingly provided the U.S. government access to Syrian systems, 
undoubtedly supplying useful intelligence to the military and their 
buildup for war."

"All of this happened under the control and supervision of the FBI." he 
adds. "...However, the full extent of the FBI's abuses remains hidden. 
Because I pled guilty, I do not have access to many documents that might 
have been provided to me in advance of trial, such as Sabu's 
communications with the FBI. In addition, the majority of the documents 
provided to me are under a 'protective order' which insulates this 
material from public scrutiny...I believe the documents will show that 
the government's actions go way beyond catching hackers and stopping 
computer crimes."

Sometimes the stunning nature of a story actually blinds us to its real 
meaning and this may be one such case. What shines here is, of course, 
that the U.S. government engaged in criminal behavior. One of its agents 
facilitated Hammond's "crime" by giving him necessary information, then 
encouraging him to use it and supporting him as he did. The government 
itself helped Hammond load the huge amount of information by giving him 
access to government servers. The FBI then encouraged and facilitated 
Hammond's continued hackactivism against many other sites including 
those of other governments --- there's no way of telling how much 
information on other governments it ended up with but, given recent NSA 
surveillance revelations, nothing would surprise.

If you did what the government did, you would be in jail. After doing 
what it did, the government is throwing someone else in jail. But the 
more important issue is why.

It's clear that the U.S. government was using Hammond and other 
progressive activists to spy and gather data on other governments 
world-wide. Coupled with recent revelations about the NSA' Muscular and 
Prism programs, these facts paint a picture of a government that 
conducts surveillance on the world through the Internet circumventing 
the normal channels of law and courts that are built to restrict this 
kind of activity.

While information providers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have 
demonstrated how the government uses information technology to spy on 
the world (and its own citizens), Hammond's revelations show that it 
uses Internet activists to do the same and then, to shut them up, 
punishes them for doing it.

What's more, Hammond's case exposes the almost non-existent lines 
between intelligence agencies of this government and the network of 
contractors it hires to do some of its work. While the government can be 
slapped for ignoring the laws of privacy that it has consistently 
violated, these companies are immune to such criticism because they 
don't operate under those laws.

Finally, though, it's not what Hammond did but what he is and what he 
represents. Other well-known whistle-blowers are often people working 
for governments or involved in Internet data work who suddenly see the 
sins of the United States' immoral and destruction policies --- and then 
act on those light-bulb moments. But Jeremy Hammond is an activist first 
and foremost, a person whose activities have been as much "on the 
streets" as in front of a computer. In that sense, he is much more 
representative of the Internet activists who serve the progressive 
movement of this country and others throughout the world: people who 
believe in democracy and justice and then use their computer skills as a 
logical extension of those beliefs.

To a repressive government likes ours involved in a frenzied search for 
a way to maintain its control over a decaying and dismantling system, 
they are the greater danger. Whether through hack work like Hammond's or 
through the facilitating of movement communications and organizing 
on-line, these are the people who manage, design and protect the tools 
of movement communication.

Jeremy Hammond's arrest and conviction appear to be a chilling message 
to us but the most powerful message is the warming one he gave us in his 
court statement.

"I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will 
the government be made to answer for its crimes?" he told the court. 
"The U.S. hypes the threat of hackers in order to justify the multi 
billion dollar cyber security industrial complex, but it is also 
responsible for the same conduct it aggressively prosecutes and claims 
to work to prevent. The hypocrisy of 'law and order' and the injustices 
caused by capitalism cannot be cured by institutional reform but through 
civil disobedience and direct action. Yes I broke the law, but I believe 
that sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change."

A person who makes that statement facing ten years in jail is a 
"hero"...without qualification.

(Disclaimer: I am proud to serve on the May First/People Link Leadership 
Committee with attorney Gráinne O'Neill who is one of Jeremy Hammond's 

/*Alfredo Lopez* writes about technology issues for This Can't Be 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20131118/c4311faf/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list