LulzSec Hacker Jeremy Hammond Pleads Guilty To CFAA Charge; Faces 10 Years
from the doj-pile-on dept
In yet another Computer Fraud and Abuse Act case, in which the DOJ piled on charge after charge after charge until the person they were pressuring accepted a plea bargain, Jeremy Hammond has officially accepted a plea deal for helping LulzSec/Anonymous hack Stratfor. He admits that he did it, and given that, it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that some punishment is warranted, but it still seems troubling the amount of pressure that the DOJ used to get him to take a plea bargain. We’ve talked about this for years: very few cases go to trial, because the DOJ pulls out everything possible to pressure you to take a plea:
There were numerous problems with the government’s case, including the credibility of FBI informant Hector Monsegur. However, because prosecutors stacked the charges with inflated damages figures, I was looking at a sentencing guideline range of over 30 years if I lost at trial. I have wonderful lawyers and an amazing community of people on the outside who support me. None of that changes the fact that I was likely to lose at trial. But, even if I was found not guilty at trial, the government claimed that there were eight other outstanding indictments against me from jurisdictions scattered throughout the country. If I had won this trial I would likely have been shipped across the country to face new but similar charges in a different district. The process might have repeated indefinitely. Ultimately I decided that the most practical route was to accept this plea with a maximum of a ten year sentence and immunity from prosecution in every federal court.
It’s worth noting that others involved in the same case have been sentenced to much lower sentences in the UK, so it will be interesting to see what the final sentencing yields.
Hammond insists that he still stands by what he did:
Now that I have pleaded guilty it is a relief to be able to say that I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites. Those others included military and police equipment suppliers, private intelligence and information security firms, and law enforcement agencies. I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right.
As I’ve said before, while I understand why people think this is reasonable strategy, such hacks almost always lead to more backlash than forward momentum. Yes, governments and companies are doing questionable things behind closed doors, but hacking into them to “prove” that takes away much of the value of finding out that information, and only increases the power of the government to create and use laws like the CFAA broadly to stifle perfectly legitimate uses of computers.