NEW YORK — Convicted hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for stealing internal emails from the global intelligence firm Stratfor.
Shuffling into courtroom with long, wavy hair and a wide smile, Hammond shouted “what’s up, my brothers” to a courtroom packed with scores of supporters. When it was his turn to speak to the court, he claimed in a defiant sentencing statement that his acts were meant to expose the truth and that he hacked foreign government websites at the behest of an FBI informant.
“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,” Hammond said in a prepared statement provided to HuffPost Live. “I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will the government be made to answer for its crimes?”
Hammond, 28, has a lengthy criminal record for his protests both online and off against targets like the 2004 Republican National Convention and pro-Iraq War activists. But stealing Stratfor files as part of the online hacking collective Anonymous gave him a new level of notoriety.
In May, he pleaded guilty to one conspiracy charge for hacking the Texas-based private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor. The security breach resulted in the theft of employee emails and account information for approximately 860,000 Stratfor subscribers and clients, including information from 60,000 credit cards.
Although Hammond did not use the credit cards himself, he urged supporters to use them to make donations to charities. The resulting fraudulent charges led to headaches for nonprofits and for the private individuals who had their phone numbers and email addresses exposed.
The government charges originally added up to 30 years in prison, but Hammond took a plea deal for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal anti-hacking law also used to prosecute internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz. He admitted to hacking several other websites, including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Special Forces Gear, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, and the sheriff’s office in Jefferson County, Ala.
The resulting media publicity led some, including 4,000 online petition backers and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, to hail him as a whistleblower. But to the federal government, he was little more than a common thief.
“While he billed himself as fighting for an anarchist cause, in reality, Jeremy Hammond caused personal and financial chaos for individuals whose identities and money he took and for companies whose businesses he decided he didn’t like,” United States Attorney Preet Bharara said in a May statement.
On Friday, Hammond, who has been in detention for 20 months, struck back. While apologizing to the innocent people who had their personal information exposed as a result of his leaks, he lashed out at the FBI, and Hector Xavier Monsegur, an informant widely known by his online name “Sabu.” For months, Hammond claimed, Sabu guided him as he hacked the Stratfor website and thousands more around the world.
Before being cut off by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska, Hammond claimed that foreign government targets included Turkey, Brazil and Iran. Preska had already imposed a protective order preventing the release of the countries’ names, which were in Hammond’s statement as well as in sentencing paperwork. The government had disputed his claims involving the countries, and Preska responded by ordering that their names be redacted. She cut Hammond off in court Friday before he was able to list all of the countries in violation of the order.
“Mr. Hammond seems to think of himself as a modern-day Robin Hood,” Preska said before sentencing him. She dismissed the defense’s claims that his actions were analogous to those of Martin Luther King Jr. or Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, who wrote a letter in his defense.
Preska, citing one of Hammond’s internet chats, said there was “nothing high-minded or public spirited about causing ‘mayhem.'”