I’m not telling most of you anything you don’t already know. But if you haven’t heard already, Jeremy Hammond of the Stratfor hack (among other things) had a sentencing hearing Friday. I joined a large group of his fans and supporters (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what they were) in the gallery of the Ceremonial court. There was also a class of West Point Cadets observing–a rather odd juxtaposition of spectators. The drama of the day was subdued somewhat, as Hammond had already pleaded guilty to the most egregious of the charges. Had he been convicted of everything he was accused of, he would have faced 20 years prison. So Friday he was facing a maximum of ten years. By the way, if you aren’t familiar with all the issues in the case, Rolling Stone published a reasonably good article about Jeremy last December. It’s essential reading for those of us who can’t tell TOR from Lulzsec.
Jeremy was allowed to address the court before his sentencing. If he was hoping to soften the sentence, he didn’t show it. I defer to his statement to the court, online for everyone to see. Some excerpts:
The government celebrates my conviction and imprisonment, hoping that it will close the door on the full story. I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will the government be made to answer for its crimes?
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.
In the immortal word of Frederick Douglas, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
I’m conflicted about the conviction. In some of the hack-attacks Jeremy carried out, he did release credit card information for a host of groups’ members. As somebody whose life was turned upside-down in an identity theft, I don’t look at such transgressions lightly. There was also the case (mentioned by the judge) of a hack Jeremy perpetrated that resulted in the harassment of a retired police officer. I found it reprehensible many years ago when anti-abortion activists posted the ‘Nuremberg Files‘ listing the addresses and personal information of doctors willing to practice abortion. That said, I don’t think he deserved a ten year sentence, with an additional three years’ probation tacked on that would prevent him from using a computer.
That said, the hearing was much more interesting for what was NOT discussed. The defense is under a gag order to not discuss hacks that Jeremy carried out upon instructions from Sabu when Sabu was working for the FBI. But if Jeremy Hammond was hacking websites at the behest of the FBI, then wasn’t somebody at the FBI breaking the law? And more to the point, why hasn’t there been a more-than-one-news-cycle overview of what Stratfor was up to? There has been a lack of any sort of discussion about the ramifications of government-corporate cooperation in surveillance. And why was there no follow-up afterwards? We have a punditocracy that is well compensated and has armies of researchers who can drop some time on Google. So why weren’t the Stratfor hack revelations a front-page story for a couple of days?
Journalist Chris Hedges has addressed the issues raised in the Hammond case on other occasions. He was in attendance on Friday, and there’s video of his comments (along with those of Alexa O’Brien) after the verdict. He said the verdict was proof that “The court system of this country works on behalf of Dow Chemical, Raytheon and the internal security apparatus and the rest of us can go to Hell”.