The VICE Channels

    Can a Letter-Writing Campaign Reduce Stratfor Hacker Jeremy Hammond's Sentence?

    Written by

    Fruzsina Eördögh


    Image via Jeremy  Hammond Defense Committee Fund

    Hacker Jeremy Hammond’s sentence will be read on November 15, but his supporters are scrambling today, at this very moment, to send letters to the judge presiding over the case. Hammond faces 10 years in prison for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) when he hacked private intelligence firm Stratfor with Anonymous, but friends and family are arguing enough is enough, his actions were one of protest and he should come home now. At the very least, they argue, Hammond should receive a lighter sentence.

    According to Sue Crabtree, who works with FreeAnons and is the admin of the Free Jeremy Hammond Support Network, they’ve collected about 150 letters so far but are in desperate need of more by Tuesday’s deadline.

    Hammond was arrested in March 2012 for hacking and then leaking Stratfor data and emails to WikiLeaks in December 2011 as part of LulzSec, an Anonymous offshoot. The released emails revealed Stratfor spied on PETA, AFL, Occupy, Canadian and Indian activists as well as the satirist group the Yes Men among others. Stratfor was also helping a former Goldman Sachs director start an investment fund that would rely on insider trading information and “corporate espionage.”

    These leaked emails also revealed that at least 12 officials in Pakistan knew where Osama Bin Laden was, while other emails between Stratfor employees discussed Bin Laden as not buried at sea but transported by a CIA plane to the United States.  

    Following his guilty plea four months ago, Hammond wrote in a statement from prison explaining that he did what he did because he believes “people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors.” Hammond has a long history of being arrested for activism, from drum banging at a Republican National Convention and protesting Nazis to getting into a fist fight with an anti-gay protester at a Gay Pride Parade.

    As for hacking as (peaceful) civil disobedience, Hammond believes in that too, saying as much in his 2004 DEFCON talk titled "Electronic Civil Disobedience and the Republican National Convention." (Motherboard's own DJ Pangburn reflected on Hammond's hacks as civil disobedience.) 

    It is this penchant for activism his supporters are hoping will sway Judge Loretta Preska. In a post calling for letters, lawyer Jay Leiderman wrote on October 1 that Hammond “did nothing for personal gain and everything in hopes of making the world a better place.”

    Northwestern University philosophy professor Peter Ludrow compared Hammond to Neo from The Matrix and Plato the ancient philosopher and “truth-seeker” in his letter, writing “Jeremy’s actions were not done of malice, but constituted a genuine and important attempt to help all of us.”

    This sentiment was echoed by “Cassandra,” an activist known among Occupy and Anonymous circles, in her letter that also called Hammond’s hack a “nonviolent act of civil disobedience,” adding “what he did, while illegal, wasn’t done out of greed or for personal gain, he isn’t a monster, and it would be truly heartbreaking to see him get more time than many pedophiles and violent criminals with malicious intents.”

    Blogtalk radio host Vince in the Bay also took issue with this trend of overcharging hackers in the United States when he wrote:

    After being in jail for almost a year and a half, some of which spent in solitary confinement, Jeremy is now looking at possibly a decade in prison. Even for someone with priors, ten years seems a little steep for a crime of this nature, especially considering Jeremy's co-conspirators overseas have received much lighter sentencing… Jeremy did what he did because he wants to make a difference in the world.

    Hammond’s LulzSec counterparts Vince in the Bay writes of in Britain received the “longest ever jail sentences for hacking” the government has ever passed there, at 32 months. Compare that to Barrett Brown’s 105 year sentence here in the United States for posting a link to exposed Stratfor data in a private chat room, or Hammond’s 10 years.   

    Crabtree expects Hammond “will be sentenced to the full ten years as he has been of no assistance to the prosecution,” but she is “very hopeful” the letter writing campaign will help Hammond. “If the letters don't sway the judge, Jeremy will read the letters and find encouragement in them,” she said.

    Crabtree has known Hammond since 2005 and considers him family. “Our lives were drastically changed the day we met Jeremy,” she said, adding “my children call him brother and they would like their brother returned to them. ”

    FreeAnons and Free Jeremy Hammond Support Network along with Occupy Wall Street are planning a two day rally on November 14th and 15th across the courthouse, and Crabtree said they are “fully prepared to fight”  for Hammond’s freedom, “however long” it takes -- “This young man means everything to me.”