Supporters react to sentencing of Stratfor leaker Jeremy Hammond to a decade behind bars for exposing corporate espionage
PRIYA REDDY, PRODUCER: Here at the federal courthouse in New York City today, 28-year-old activist and computer hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to ten years for being convicted of hacking into the computer files of Strategic Forecasting, a corporation that has been widely criticized for its role in infiltrating and monitoring of grassroots social movements.
Activists gathered outside the courthouse to show their support for Jeremy Hammond and express their hopes for justice. Journalist Chris Hedges had just come from observing the court proceedings.
CHRIS HEDGES, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: So I just came out of the sentencing for Jeremy Hammond: 120 months, ten years for an act of nonviolent civil disobedience in which he exposed clear criminal activity on the part of private security firms. No regulation, no oversight.
REDDY: [incompr.] But you mentioned the conflict of interest that the judge had.
HEDGES: Right. The judge, first of all, she is an ideologue. She’s a federalist. Second of all, her husband’s law firm does work for Stratfor. And she should have recused herself from the case. But because she’s the chief justice, she did not. There was nobody over her to make her do it. But under a functioning judiciary, she would have never, ever, ever been allowed to be the judge for this case ever.
UNIDENTIFIED: These prosecutions are meant to scare us into inaction. Do not let these prosecutions stop you from acting. If you believe what you are about to do is right, do it. Right and wrong are not synonymous with legal and illegal. Do not let them put those things together. If it is right, do it. Keep acting.
UNIDENTIFIED: Jeremy Hammond was set up by an FBI informant who goes by the name of Sabu. He decided to turn state’s evidence, at which point they gave him an assignment to try to get someone to hack the Stratfor files. Stratfor is a independent intelligence firm but has evolved into an organization that infiltrates and disrupts activist communities that are trying to just, you know, make a change in the world. They set him up not only–.
REDDY: You said today. You made the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED: The FBI. Yeah. The FBI set him up not only to hack Stratfor, but I think it wasn’t just so much they could catch a hacktivist, but it was more about getting the information from Stratfor, and if they can bust a hacktivist in the process, so much the better.
REDDY: Some people feel like Jeremy Hammond was sort of entrapped. Would you like to speak to that?
SUBVERZO, HACKTIVIST: This original hacker, I believe his name was [‘hirijoU] (we don’t know anything about this guy or girl or whoever he is or wherever they’re from) went to Sabu. He was already in the website. So he’s like, I need somebody to finish it off. So if Sabu had never introduced Jeremy to this other hacker, we wouldn’t even be here. We wouldn’t be talking about Stratfor being hacked and 5 million emails being leaked over 30 days. Like, the hack went on so long while the FBI was watching.
UNIDENTIFIED: The FBI could have stopped him before he did the actual hack or in the process, but instead they waited until he got the information. And it’s widely believed that busting a hacktivist was very much secondary on their list of priorities with this particular operation. They seem to be after the information that Stratfor had. So here Jeremy is. He’s being hung out to dry when there’s a much bigger story going on.
UNIDENTIFIED: And if you want to talk about hacking, the government is hacking into all of our lives. We’re being hacked up by the government, by the economic system. They’re hacking into our private lives. They’ve been doing it for forever. But now they have even greater and greater means.
UNIDENTIFIED: It’s also indicative of what’s going on on a larger scale throughout America. You’ve got this fusion of private corporations, as well as government entities–the DHS, FBI, what have you. And they’re all working together. We have private entities working with our government to suppress activism and basically stop anybody from making any change to their power structure.
HEDGES: These firms, the information that Hammond released was used in my court case against Barack Obama and the National Defense Authorization Act, where we saw that they were attempting to link a group called U.S. Day of Rage, which is an electoral reform group, to al-Qaeda so they can impose the terrorism laws against peaceful democratic dissent. We know from the leaks that Hammond provided that we saw how private security corporations on behalf of both corporations and the government had infiltrated into the Occupy movement, spied on the Occupy movement. This is criminal activity by centers of power.
UNIDENTIFIED: Yeah, it’s absolutely criminal. What Stratfor does is a direct violation of our First and Fourth Amendment rights.
HEDGES: We don’t have any civil liberties left. And that court sentencing proved it.
UNIDENTIFIED: I mean, it’s very much indicative of a fascist society.
HEDGES: And the problem is that when you have a dysfunctional judiciary that no longer serves the interests of the citizenry but exclusively the interests of the corporate totalitarian state and imposes draconian sentences of ten years on a person who attempted to give us our information–that’s our information–.
UNIDENTIFIED: Somebody like Jeremy Hammond, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, these are people that they don’t know what else to do. Their conscience has taken hold to such an extent that they’re willing to take great risk, personal risk.
UNIDENTIFIED: Jeremy Hammond spoke at his sentencing today and started to describe, began with how he became an activist, how he became an anarchist, but tried legal means to alleviate his concerns.
REDDY: Jeremy Hammond described in his court statement how he went from being an antiwar protester to a hacker after being inspired by Chelsea Manning’s actions.
UNIDENTIFIED: It wasn’t until Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks that you really realize that the legal means don’t work, but this does, you know, exposing information. And so he deliberately targeted entities that he felt were responsible for oppressing people.
HEDGES: For whatever law that they broke, whatever law that Chelsea Manning broke, whatever law that Edward Snowden broke, whatever law that Julian Assange broke is minor compared to the criminal activity they exposed. And the real criminals are not only–are not prosecuted; they’re protected.
REDDY: Hammond told the London-based Guardian newspaper that the FBI directed him through their informant, Sabu, to hack into the websites of several foreign countries, including Iran, Brazil, and Turkey. Hammond urged the court to investigate the government’s use of the data he provided.
ROSE COLLINS, JEREMY HAMMOND’S MOTHER: Oh, great. Now I’m going to disobey.
REDDY: Jeremy Hammond’s mother spoke about her son’s refusal to cooperate with the FBI and how she felt about him.
COLLINS: Well, I know before the first time he was arrested, they offered him a job working for the Feds. And I believe he showed that which one of his figures is very longest one, because he is true to himself. And I’m very proud of my son, ’cause he stands for what he believes, ’cause there’s nothing he could do to stop me from loving him. I’m his mom. He was always a very willful child. He was always very smart.
REDDY: Although Jeremy Hammond’s ten-year prison sentence is one of the longest sentences given for criminal hacking in U.S. history, Hammond will not be eligible for an appeal or for parole as part of the conditions of his plea bargain and will serve the full ten years of his sentence.
UNIDENTIFIED: People are kind of upset that a lot of the Anonymous community and hacktivists have been put in jail lately, but the movement itself is growing exponentially. And so–you know. And that’s just one thing that fascists never seem to learn. When they push, the people just push back.
HEDGES: If there are no Jeremy Hammonds, if there are no Barrett Browns, if there are no Edward Snowdens, if there are no Chelsea Mannings, if there are no Julian Assanges, there is no free press. And that’s what the final sort of dénouement of this entire sentencing procedure today is, really, the extinguishing of a free press.
COLLINS: My heart is not bleeding for Stratfor. My heart is bleeding for Jeremy. He needs to be free to do what he can do. He can change the world even from behind bars, and I’m sure he will.
HEDGES: As a former reporter for The New York Times, I don’t get it. Where is the press? Do they know any history? Don’t they see this process? I mean, we look at Weimar, and we look at all the societies that collapsed, and we sit around and wonder: why were people passive? Why didn’t people do anything? And that’s precisely the problem that we face today. Don’t they see that this march is going right towards their door? They are snuffing out any possibility of free expression or public information or the ability we have to control ourselves and our own country. That’s what’s happening.
REDDY: Reporting for The Real News, this is Priya Reddy in New York.
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