Prominent figures voice support for hacktivist Jeremy Hammond

As the computer programmer faces sentencing for the massive Stratfor hack, which revealed 200GB of government agency and private corporation data, thousands of supporters applaud his motives.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read
A Web site, Freejeremy.net, is dedicated to getting Jeremy Hammond out of a long prison sentence. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

While the feds consider Jeremy Hammond a criminal hacker, thousands of others think of him as an altruistic political activist.

Hammond, 28, is accused of leading the massive Stratfor hack, which resulted in the alleged theft of 200GB worth of data from companies and government agencies like the US Army, the Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, Coca Cola, and Bank of America.

Though Hammond pleaded guilty to conspiracy, he also claims that this hack was fueled by his need to protest and expose the secret actions of the government and private corporations.

"People have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors," Hammond wrote in a statement last May.

Now, as Hammond faces sentencing for this hack, thousands of people are rallying in support of the computer programmer and demanding the government to give him a shortened sentence of time served. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Among Hammond's supporters are prominent politicians, journalists, and activists, including Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, Icelandic Member of Parliament Birgitta JonsDottir, and National Lawyers Guild Executive Director Heidi Boghosian. More than 4,000 people have signed an online petition asking that Hammond be sentenced for time served and roughly 250 people have written letters in support of Hammond's cause.

"My decision to go public with the Pentagon Papers was a difficult one. At my own risk, I released them, just as Jeremy Hammond has done," Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg wrote in his letter supporting Hammond. "I believe the actions taken by Jeremy Hammond need to be viewed in a context that considers the profound consequences of private surveillance of political activists in the United States."

The feds arrested Hammond and a handful of other alleged hackers in March 2012 after an insider named Hector Xavier Monsegur, or Sabu, exposed them. While the authorities were going after hackers in the Lulzsec hacking group at the time, they also picked up Hammond, who they said was part of an Anonymous-affiliated hacktivist group called Antisec.

Antisec took responsibility for hacking into security think tank Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, in December 2011. One of the group's claims was the theft of hundreds of gigabytes worth of data, including e-mails and clients' credit card information.

Days after the hack, the group published 860,000 e-mail addresses and 75,000 unencrypted credit card numbers on the Web. The FBI also claimed that at least $700,000 worth of unauthorized charges were made to credit card accounts stolen in the hack. Hammond was accused by the feds of being one of the kingpin hackers allegedly involved in this cyberattack.

But it wasn't only e-mail addresses and credit cards that were published in the Stratfor hack. Hammond also downloaded more than 5 million e-mails between Stratfor and its bevy of big name clients. Within these e-mails, it was revealed that Stratfor was hired by companies and government agencies to compile dossiers on activists and infiltrate activist communities. Hammond then sent all of these e-mails to WikiLeaks, which published them as the "Global Intelligence Files."

Hammond was arrested on charges of computer hacking conspiracy, computer hacking, and conspiracy to commit access device fraud in 2012. In May of this year, he pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- the same legislation that was used to prosecute Aaron Swartz -- which lowered his potential sentence from a maximum of 35 years to 10 years.

Hammond is scheduled to be sentenced on November 15 at the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.