Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond Gets 10 Years In Prison; Explains How FBI Gave Him The Targets To Hack

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.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 12:57pm

    What grounds did the judge have for redacting his list of targets? To me, this _strongly_ suggests that Hammond's claims about the FBI are well-founded.

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 16th, 2013 @ 12:16am

      Re:

      "Judge Preska denied the request for recusal because her husband did not recall subscribing to Stratfor's mailing list."

      Thank the FSM she didn't talk to a paper about that, an appeals court might have removed her from the case for the appearance of impartiality.

       

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        Ben (profile), Nov 16th, 2013 @ 6:53am

        Re: Re:

        might have removed her from the case for the appearance of impartiality
        I think the removal would be for the lack (or the appearance of the lack) of impartiality.

         

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

    Don't get into hacking, kids: most likely a gov't sting operation.

    I'm going to be cruel because of this confession is rather unnecessarily CLEAR:
    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.
    ..
    Could I have achieved the same goals through legal means?

    GOTTEN INTO FEDERAL PRISON THROUGH LEGAL MEANS? Well, even the former US of A is not quite to that stage yet! -- ALL that you "achieved" was to get tossed into jail! Not your supposed goals.

    Reliable reports say about 25% of "hackers" are actually federal agents there to entrap you.

    As Ayn Rand through Alex Jones and many others the last decades have advised: Don't do anything that you KNOW is criminal because the Gestapo wishes very much to toss you into jail forever. It's their main purpose now: feeding the prison state. It's how the State achieves power. -- You can't rule free men. You must make them into criminals. But no matter how many bad "laws" are around to unjustly control people, keep your activism as public as you can because anything hidden plays into State hands. -- And I can't resist a mostly biblical: THEY hide in darkness, WE walk in the light.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:16pm

      Re: Don't get into hacking, kids: most likely a gov't sting operation.

      As Ayn Rand through Alex Jones


      You really shouldn't name-check crazy people.

      Don't do anything that you KNOW is criminal because the Gestapo wishes very much to toss you into jail forever. It's their main purpose now: feeding the prison state. It's how the State achieves power. -- You can't rule free men.


      This genuinely confuses me. It says "Submit to the power of the state or you won't be free."

      Or, as Orwell wrote "Freedom is slavery".

      That can't possibly be what you were meaning to say. What do you mean?

       

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        PaulT (profile), Nov 16th, 2013 @ 1:25am

        Re: Re: Don't get into hacking, kids: most likely a gov't sting operation.

        "You really shouldn't name-check crazy people."

        I say go ahead. It at least confirms that we're reading the regurgitation of other peoples' crazy drivel rather than witnessing the actual mental breakdown of someone in front of us. Kind of comforting to know that, actually.

        "What do you mean?"

        Given that he then follows that with a completely contradictory plea to keep participating in public activism, I don't think he knows.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:19pm

      Re: Don't get into hacking, kids: most likely a gov't sting operation.

      Considering 40% of youth have been in jail by the time they are 20 years old, and a felony conviction eliminates you from every being able to run for public office, I have to agree with otb on this one. Anytime anyone in this country stands up for what is right, they are drawn across the line, busted, charged, and convicted, which is then used to destroy their credibility. Our system of justice no longer works. The NSA is doing far worse, and admit to it, and yet it's legal in their eyes. There are two sets of rules in this country. One for those in power, and one for everyone else.

       

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      Dr. Claw (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:21pm

      Re: Don't get into hacking, kids: most likely a gov't sting operation.

      LOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.... "As Ayn Rand through Alex Jones and many others the last decades have advised"

      the day I listen to any of the above named is the day I take someone's advice to add a little Drano to my water intake.

      I think you totally misread his confession, buddy...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    There are 700,000 reasons he deserves the max... Donating massive amounts of stolen money does not help anyone's cause.

    I don't agree with their abuse at all, but 700 grand is a lot of money to normal people, hell $500 is a lot to some.

     

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    Andrew Norton (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:20pm

    Hammond lying again

    Let's remember a few things though Mike.

    Hammond hardly has the best reputation in the world for telling the truth. I've had extensive dealings with him back to 06 (before he went to prison for Protest Warrior) and every time he did something, he'd start off by boasting about it. And then a few weeks later, when called on his boasts, he'd change the story.

    When he did the mob action in Daley square, he told people at the time he wanted to mess things up for the politicians and cause as much trouble as possible. When it came time in court, it was 'youthful exuberance'.

    I had things I was working on targetted by him, and a variety of lies given as to why, and then threatened that I'd better not talk to his parole officer, because 'snitches get stitches'. (The irony of what he claims to do never seemed to hit him)

    It's also funny that he claims others stole the CC numbers and made charges, especially as he said it was his aim with the protest warrior hack. And if they were stolen before he was even involved (as one of his lawyers told me point blank tuesday), that should have been easy for him to prove. So for him to plead guilty to it shows knew they had evidence.

    He's not an activist, he's an anarchist that wants to cause trouble, trying to cover things as activism, as a 'get out of jail' card. Because as a thug and vandal and thief, he has no support; as a poor maligned political activist being targeted by the Gov, he has a story people can get behind, despite it being a lie.

     

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      Designerfx (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:24pm

      Re: Hammond lying again

      Yeah, okay.

      Anarchist is codeword for "I have no idea what I'm talking about".

       

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        Andrew Norton (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:26pm

        Re: Re: Hammond lying again

        That was what he called himself. Time and again.
        I agree with you that he usually had no idea what he was talking about.

         

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          art guerrilla (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hammond lying again

          ...and yet he -anarchist/theif/liar/whatever else you claim- HAS done more for his fellow citizens with those actions than i'm guessing you have, richtig ? ? ?

          if only our human heroes wouldn't have human failings...
          'cause those are the only ones who are 'doing it right', right ? ? ?

          if we wait for perfect people to commit perfect acts of civil disobedience, we will NEVER throw this yoke of Empire off...

           

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            Andrew Norton (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 4:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hammond lying again

            No, he hasn't. He REALLY hasn't. He's done a lot for people lookng to curtail our freedoms, by giving people and easily exploitable boogie-man, but anything productive, no.

            Want to see a perfect act of 'online activism' - see last years SOPA/PIPA blackouts.

             

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      anonymouse, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 2:49pm

      Re: Hammond lying again

      Damn who to believe????? i guess we will never know unless there is proof of allegations made against him it is all hearsay.

       

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        Andrew Norton (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 5:55pm

        Re: Re: Hammond lying again

        Nate Anderson (deputy editor, Ars Technica) is writing a book covering this and other things. I've been speaking to him about my dealings with Hammond, including logs from the time. I've no problems providing evidence (I also provided some of the logs to Al Jezeera before the panel discussion with his lawyer I was on Tuesday)
        Hammond's the one claiming he had nothing to do with the credit card stuff, and the FBI was giving him a hit-list, and yet pled guilty without contesting any claims. I don't know about you, but it sure sounds like he has nothing to back his claims.

         

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 3:01pm

      Re: Hammond lying again

      he's an anarchist


      Why bring anarchy into it? "Anarchist" does not mean criminal or unethical.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    So remember folks, if you see someone spending an hour repeatedly kicking Mike Masnick in the balls, take into account that they might have been "doing so for the purposes of activism, not for personal wealth or benefits".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:43pm

    and that's exactly why they threw the book at him, so as to take peoples eyes off of the government. this is typical of how the USA works today. it cant always do some things so it 'employs, uses others then shits on them. this judge was obviously encouraged to do the most damage possible, so that in itself kept people looking at him and not at the government. this is despicable behaviour but typical again of the USA. look how the FBI have baited people into doing something then used the 'breaking of another terrorist cell' as a feather for itself.
    sooner or later those pulling these stunts get caught with fingers in the till. it's just a matter of time

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 1:49pm

    Nobody made that guy do shit. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

     

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    Kevin, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    Personality flaw

    To do good doesn't require an audience. Doing things on your own and keeping your mouth shut is a good way to not get caught.

     

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    Devonavar, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 2:36pm

    "Advanced tools"

    "Part of Sabus interest in him, he now believes, was that Hammond had access to advanced tools including one known as PLESK"

    Isn't PLESK a web hosting platform, not a hacking tool? Methinks whoever did this journalism didn't get their facts right.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 2:59pm

      Re: "Advanced tools"

      Plesk is a control panel, one that historically has been absolutely riddled with security holes. It's a crutch for the incompetent people who can't work at the command line like professionals. Best course of action on finding it installed is (1) rip it out and (2) identify the person(s) responsible and fire them on the spot.

       

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    anonymouse, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 2:46pm

    well this is a hard one for the FBI

    If anything this is going to make the FBI's job very very hard where people will have no option but to refuse to help them in any way just in case they are charged with a crime, when the FBI come calling just tell them to get a court order to talk to you and a court order if they want you to do anything.Sucks to be the FBI when the courts have sent a very clear message that you will be held liable for anything you do for them.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2013 @ 5:00am

      Re: well this is a hard one for the FBI

      to #16

      you'll still end up in prison for failing to help a government agency. you may also get some charges thrown at you that are completely false, but they will be made so convincing, you want stand a chance!

       

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    John Snape (profile), Nov 15th, 2013 @ 3:46pm

    FOIA requests coming soon?

    I wonder what a FOIA request asking what information the FBI received from him would return.

    Think they would even respond?

     

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    anyone, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 6:42pm

    How are people backing this guy? The "but he told me to" excuse is disgusting. How about this guy tries using his brain and thinks for himself rather than blindly following sabu's orders. Sounds a lot like many government employees "just doing their jobs." Also, its not like he could have actually believed this hack would do positive things for his ideals. Absolute joke and puss. Deserves every minute of his sentence....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 10:45pm

    so this guy just told the court he did not hack into those sites for his own motives or a sense of justice, he hacked into them because his handler told him too, and you expect the court not to take that into account in sentencing him ??

    "But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice--and to bring the truth to light. "

    No, he was instructed by his 'handler' to hack into those sites, he says so himself.

    It either one of the other, cant be both, that's why he got 10 years, he's lucky it is so short !!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 10:50pm

    "I felt betrayed, obviously. Though I knew these things happen. What surprised me was that Sabu was involved in so much strategic targeting,"

    This guy is clearly quite an idiot !!!

    all this 'justice, truth and the American way' and all he was really doing was working for someone else, blindly hacking into what he was told to hack into. Yes, idiot.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 10:54pm

    "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. "

    But he also says.

    "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.

    so which is it, he was guided by a handler, or did it from a sense of justice?

    10 years is too short a time for him.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2013 @ 10:56pm

    "But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to..." DO WHAT SABU TOLD ME TOO DO.....

    "understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison."

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Nov 16th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    Shoot the messenger!

    It is obvious (to me at least) that Hammond was "shot" by the feds mostly for revealing that they were behind his obnoxious behaviors. Not an excuse for him, to be sure, but not an excuse to sentence him to 10 years!

     

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      Andrew Norton (profile), Nov 16th, 2013 @ 12:23pm

      Re: Shoot the messenger!

      And yet earlier this week his own lawyers said he wasn't involved in any of this and joined at the end of it all.
      Those who know Hammond know he's a liar. This is one of them. If he had anything to back these claims up, he'd not have plead guilty, especially when he 'wasn't even there'.

       

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        Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 18th, 2013 @ 1:09am

        Re: Re: Shoot the messenger!

        If he had anything to back these claims up, he'd not have plead guilty

        Lots of people take plea deals even if they feel they're innocent. If you haven't yet seen the film "Better This World" I highly recommend it. It's eye-opening in how the feds can railroad someone into a guilty plea (actually in a situation not unlike this case).

        Look, I know you have your issues with Hammond, but honestly, Andrew, your comments here and elsewhere really look like whatever your dealings with him in the past mean that you absolutely refuse to consider that there are other issues here.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Nov 18th, 2013 @ 10:08am

          Re: Re: Re: Shoot the messenger!

          Lots of people take plea deals even if they feel they're innocent


          Yes, this is quite common. If a case if resolved through a guilty plea that's part of a plea bargain, then it's impossible to know if the accused is actually guilty. Which is one of the big reasons why plea bargains are inherently unjust and shouldn't be allowed.

           

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