activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: anonymous

my letter to judge preska requesting that jeremy hammond receive a lenient sentence

Dear Judge Preska:

I am an attorney in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Friends of mine who are social justice activists alerted me to Jeremy Hammond’s case, which I have followed closely for roughly one year now. I understand Mr. Hammond pleaded guilty to violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but I write to respectfully request that he receive the most lenient sentence you can impose.

People who “engage in nonviolent direct action,” as Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “are not the creators of tension.” Instead, they “merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” For them, commitment to humanity is more important than commitment to laws.

Conspiring to engage in computer hacking may not strike you as displaying a commitment to humanity. Yet Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor) compiles dossiers on activists, conduct comparable to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s obscene wiretap campaign to discredit Martin Luther King. Mr. Hammond conspired to engage in computer hacking because he believed people had a right to know what governments and corporations were doing behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, the law is often used as a tool to pacify and control activists. According to Peter Ludlow, a professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, “those most harshly prosecuted tend to be the ones that are challenging the established order, poking fun at the authorities, speaking truth to power – in other words, the gadflies of our society.” Although Mr. Hammond violated the law, he should not be sentenced more harshly than someone whose actions were motivated by profit rather than politics.

Indeed, the reason Mr. Hammond should receive the most lenient sentence you can impose is that he attempted to do what he believed was right, not what he believed might be lucrative. So many of us are guilty of committing the latter crime. The world would be a much better place for our children and grandchildren had we opted for the former.

anarchist hacker jeremy hammond’s sentencing postponed until mid-november

On May 28, Jeremy Hammond pled guilty to a single count of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking. Hammond was arrested in March 2012 in connection with a breach of the Texas-based intelligence contractor Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), which compiles dossiers on activists. He faces up to 10 years in prison. According to Hammond’s statement regarding his plea,

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 was supposed to be sentenced in September, but this morning The Sparrow Project reported that his sentencing has been postponed until November 15. He will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, who Anonymous reported was married to a client of Stratfor. Yet Judge Preska refused to recuse herself, stating in an Order that “to the extent that there is a record of a two-week subscription in [her husband’s] name,” he does not recall requesting the subscription.

Earlier this month, Hammond’s twin brother Jason was arrested for allegedly attacking white supremacists in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park in May 2012. The white supremacists were apparently attending the fifth annual White Nationalist Economic Summit and Illinois White Nationalist Meet-and-Greet. In January, the Tinley Park 5 accepted non-cooperating plea deals related to the incident. They are currently serving sentences ranging from three to six years.

scientists develop “privacy visor” to thwart facial recognition technology

Law enforcement officials are increasingly using facial recognition software. It’s unclear how such technology will affect protest movements, but a study on the decreasing cost of computer data storage, published in December 2011, concluded as follows:

Within the next few years an important threshold will be crossed: For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders—every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.

Thankfully, in response to advances in facial recognition software, scientists at Tokyo’s National Institute of Informatics developed a “privacy visor.” According to today’s BBC article,

The glasses are equipped with a near-infrared light source, which confuses the software without affecting vision. … Heavy make-up or a mask will also work, as will tilting your head at a 15-degree angle, which fools the software into thinking you do not have a face, according to an online guide produced by hacktivist group Anonymous.

Related clothing options include the anti-drone hoodie and scarf, counter-surveillance fashion designed to block thermal imaging technology. As surveillance proliferates, there’s a proliferation of resistance.