The FBI placed Anonymous 'hacktivist' Jeremy Hammond on a terrorism watchlist more than a year before he was arrested for alleged cyberattacks, the Daily Dot reported on Monday.
Hammond is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for his part in a series of high-profile hacks carried out under the Anonymous banner. One of the largest of those breaches in which Hammond played a leading role was the release of five million emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, which revealed that the company had been spying on human rights defenders at the behest of corporations and governments.
The Guardian reports:
He was prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). There was never any suggestion during the proceedings that he was involved in any activities related to terrorism or terrorist organizations.
Hammond has always insisted he is an activist and not a criminal, let alone a terrorist. In a recent opinion article for the Guardian, he argued that he and his fellow hackers were misunderstood.
"We are condemned as criminals without consciences, dismissed as anti-social teens without a cause, or hyped as cyber-terrorists to justify the expanding surveillance state. But hacktivism exists within the history of social justice movements," he wrote.
According to confidential records obtained by the Daily Dot, Hammond was considered a "possible terrorist organization member" and placed on the multi-agency Terrorist Screening Database, alongside individuals suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, Somalia-based extremists al-Shabaab, and Colombia's leftist FARC guerilla movement.
"The records further reveal how the FBI treats cybercrimes and shines a rare light on the expanding definitions of terrorism used by U.S. law enforcement agencies," Dell Cameron wrote for the online news publication.
Others on Twitter raised similar concerns:
Jeremy Hammond was put on a secret terrorist watch list. Conflating hacktivism with terrorism. Enemies of State list. http://t.co/8qBEeG0f8G
— Thomas Drake (@Thomas_Drake1) February 3, 2015
Another reminder than when the govt warns of "terrorists," they don't mean what you think it means: http://t.co/C97wCZHIlD
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 3, 2015
So its official and the implications are frightening: Jeremy Hammond had been places on a terrorist watch list http://t.co/iE4Ci4AKmC
— Gabriella Coleman (@BiellaColeman) February 3, 2015
As predicted the expansion of "terrorist" label now coming to include people like hackers. The drones soon come: http://t.co/C2691stYXD
— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) February 3, 2015
It really worries me that the FBI is placing people like Hammond on "terrorist watch list" and that is the trend, read Tallin Manual.
— Renata Avila (@avilarenata) February 3, 2015
Of the leaked document, TechDirt notes:
The document also includes Hammond's rap sheet, which up to that point, only includes fraud and unauthorized computer access related to the theft of credit card information from a conservative website. What it doesn't include is anything that might justify his addition to the terrorist watchlist—unless the FBI considers protests to be a terrorist activity.
Before his sentencing in 2013, Hammond declared:
The U.S. hypes the threat of hackers in order to justify the multi-billion dollar cyber security industrial complex, but it is also responsible for the same conduct it aggressively prosecutes and claims to work to prevent. The hypocrisy of "law and order" and the injustices caused by capitalism cannot be cured by institutional reform but through civil disobedience and direct action. Yes I broke the law, but I believe that sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change.
Then, quoting Frederick Douglass, he said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."