updated 03:20 pm EST, Fri November 15, 2013
Sentence derided as 'vengeful, spiteful act'
Hacker Jeremy Hammond has been dealt a 10-year prison sentence for his role in the 2011 theft of emails and credit card data from intelligence company Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor). The sentence was handed down in a federal court in Manhattan, where the 28-year-old pleaded guilty to violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
In an interview with the UK newspaper The Guardian, Hammond criticized the lengthy prison term as a "vengeful, spiteful act" that intends to send a message to other hackers that use their skills for political activism. He further argues that the Federal Bureau of Investigation pushed him to attack dozens of foreign government websites, under the direction of Lulzsec leader and FBI informant "Sabu."
"They have made it clear they are trying to send a message to others who come after me," Hammond added. "A lot of it is because they got slapped around, they were embarrassed by Anonymous and they feel that they need to save face."
Alleged Stratfor emails published by Wikileaks were referenced to criticize the former company's methods, which appeared to mimic the strategies used by government intelligence agencies. One particular email allegedly sent by CEO George Friedman has been interpreted as evidence that the company was building a strategy to protect itself from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which includes a range of anti-bribery regulations.
Hammond compared his situation to that of Aaron Swartz, a developer and activist who committed suicide in January while awaiting trial for alleged CFAA violations. Swartz was arrested for downloading and archiving academic journal articles from MIT's network. Despite the articles' public availability to MIT campus visitors, federal prosecutors stacked up multiple felony charges with a potential 50-year maximum prison term.
"The same beast bit us both," Hammond said. "They went after Aaron because of his involvement in legitimate political causes -- they railroaded charges against him, and look what happened."