Jeremy Hammond will now face up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty Tuesday for hacking the shadowy intelligence company Stratfor and eight additional hacks of law enforcement and defense contractor websites.
In one incident, Hammond and other members of the group Anonymous retrieved millions of emails that exposed Stratfor's vast surveillance of protesters, activists, and groups like WikiLeaks for corporate and government clients.
Hammond was charged under the same law used to prosecute internet activist Aaron Swartz and other recent cyber-activists, the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Hammond's lawyers say the government is using the outdated law to stifle the flow of governmental information to the general public.
"There's a war going on about corporate spying and access to information," said defense attorney Sarah Kunstler at a press conference immediately following the hearing. "Jeremy is someone who worked toward making information public."
Hammond has already been in jail for 15 months without bail at the Manhattan Correctional Center in New York City. He has been denied family visits and was held for weeks in solitary confinement.
“Jeremy has taken responsibility for what he’s done, but he should not face such a harsh sentence for an act of protest from which he did not personally benefit,” said Hammond’s twin brother, Jason Hammond. “I’m glad he’s moved one step closer to freedom but today I’m asking for the judge to consider a sentence appropriate to what is nothing other than a non-violent political protest.”
In a statement published on the site Free Jeremy Hammond, Jeremy Hammond stated, "This non-cooperating plea agreement frees me to tell the world what I did and why, without exposing any tactics or information to the government and without jeopardizing the lives and well-being of other activists on and offline."
Now that I have pleaded guilty it is a relief to be able to say that I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites. Those others included military and police equipment suppliers, private intelligence and information security firms, and law enforcement agencies. I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right.
Hammond said that had he not pleaded guilty, he would have been caught in a tireless court battle with the federal government, in which he could have faced over 30 years of prison.
"Hammond, like other whistle-blowers in this country, ought to be protected," said Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights and lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, "because they're the only thing that let us know what our government and our private security companies are doing and they're the only things that can keep this government even close to honest."