activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: jeremy hammond

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2013 posts

Natan Blanc: After petitions and demonstrations, Natan Blanc was released in June, after spending six months in jail for refusing to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces.

Food Not Bombs: Although state health officials in New Mexico threatened in June to seek a court order to stop Food Not Bombs from serving free meals without a permit, Keith McHenry reports that “the state never returned and the meals continue without incident.”

Uriel Alberto: After beginning a hunger strike in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Charlotte on July 4, to protest his deportation, Uriel Alberto was approved within two weeks for a one-year stay of removal.

California Prisoner Hunger Strike: Following legislators’ announcement that they would hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that led to another prisoner hunger strike in July, hunger strikers suspended the strike in September, 60 days after it began.

Washington Ballot Initiative: The GE labeling initiative in Washington, which would have required retail food products and seed stocks that had been genetically engineered to be labeled, was defeated by a small margin in November. Corporations spent $22 million, more than in any prior campaign in the state’s history, to defeat the initiative. Monsanto was the largest single contributor. According to a Grist blog post by Nathanael Johnson, the money made a difference, just like it did in a similar attempt to pass a labeling bill in California last year:

In each case the labeling bills started out with big leads. In each case those leads shrank as the food industry and agribusiness paid for massive amounts of advertising. The moral of the story seems to be that money really can change the outcome of elections.

Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff: On November 6, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff had their second pretrial conference. Lang accepted a plea deal and was released. Olliff attempted to accept a plea deal, but the judge rejected it; so he remains in Woodford County Jail. He was in court again today in front of a different judge.

Jeremy Hammond: On November 15, anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In response to the sentence, WikiLeaks released all of the remaining Stratfor files.

Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett: At a court hearing on December 9, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reduced the charges against Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett, dropping the more serious charges and reducing the remaining offenses to misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and unlawful assembly.

Kimberly Rivera: On December 12, Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera was released early for good behavior and performing extra work. She had been scheduled for release in early January 2014.

Jerry Koch: On December 20, attorneys for Jerry Koch filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge John Keenan to release the 24-year-old philosophy student, because Koch has shown he has no intention of cooperating with the grand jury to which he’s been subpoenaed.

Pussy Riot: On December 23, the two women from Pussy Riot nearing the end of their two-year prison terms were released under a new amnesty law. The law was also expected to bring about the release of many people arrested after an anti-government demonstration in May, and close the cases of the 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists arrested in the Arctic Sea in September while occupying an oil rig to call attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change. According to a December 19 New York Times editorial,

In pardoning these prisoners, Mr. Putin gave no indication that they may have been wrongfully tried and imprisoned, nor that more people will not be treated similarly in the future.

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.

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2012 posts

NDAA: On January 13, a group of journalists and activists sued President Obama regarding the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which Obama signed on December 31, 2011. Four months later, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest granted a preliminarily injunction barring enforcement of the NDAA section that allows indefinite detention of anyone who has “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” Another four months passed before Judge Forrest granted a permanent injunction barring enforcement of that section; but the U.S. government appealed, and in October the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted the government’s motion for a stay of Forrest’s injunction pending a decision on the government’s appeal. Meanwhile, the NDAA of 2013 could further expand the government’s power to hold people in military detention indefinitely.

RNC: The 2012 Republican National Convention protests were surprisingly calm. According to an August 31 New York Times article, no one broke windows, no tear gas filled the air, and only two people were arrested:

The lack of disturbances stood in stark contrast to the last three Republican conventions, when street battles between the police and protesters resulted in numerous arrests and prompted a flurry of court fights about police actions.

The number of protesters at this year’s RNC was smaller than expected due in part to Hurricane Isaac, the storm that caused Republican officials to cancel most proceedings scheduled for the first day of the convention.

Domestic Workers Bill of Rights: California Governor Jerry Brown displayed a lack of empathy predictable only among politicians by vetoing a bill of rights for domestic workers on September 30. Michelle Chen, a contributing editor at In These Times, describes what exactly Brown axed:

The highly anticipated Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would have enacted major protections for tens of thousands of housekeepers, nannies and other caregivers and closed loopholes ignored by federal labor law. It would have extended California’s policies for overtime pay and workers’ compensation, and helped ease in-house workers’ arduous, sometimes-abusive work routines by providing for a set amount of sleep and the ability to cook one’s own food.

Tim DeChristopher: After serving 15 months in prison, Utah climate activist Tim DeChristopher was admitted to a halfway house in Salt Lake City at the end of October. The local First Unitarian Church offered him a job with its social justice ministry. Yet a Bureau of Prisons official said he couldn’t work at the church because the job involved social justice, which was related to DeChristopher’s crime; so he accepted a job at a bookstore instead.

Pussy Riot: Two of the three infamous members of the punk collective Pussy Riot are now serving the rest of their two-year sentences at some of the harshest women’s penal colonies in Russia. (An appeals court released the third woman on bail in October.) They were transported there around October 23. According to an October 29 New York Times post by Masha Gessen, discussing several recent incidents of political repression in Russia,

Anyone can be arrested for legal, peaceful protest — and any one of those arrested can be chosen, at random, to spend days, months or years in prison.

One month later, on November 29, a Moscow court ruled that videos of Pussy Riot performances fell under a law meant to control hate speech. The New York Times reported the following:

The court called for limiting public access to Web sites and blogs displaying the videos. But the ruling is unlikely to cut off access to them, since it applies only to servers in Russia. … Thursday’s ruling cited “psycho-linguistic research” proving that the videos “humiliate various social groups based on their religious beliefs” and contain “hidden calls to rebellion and nonsubmission to authority.”

Jeremy Hammond: After anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was put in solitary confinement for five days around the time Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska denied him bail. He has been incarcerated for more than nine months. A release from Anonymous subsequently reported that Judge Preska is married to a client of Stratfor, the very intelligence contractor whose servers Hammond allegedly gained access to, costing the company millions and focusing “worldwide attention on the murky world of private intelligence,” according to a November 2012 Rolling Stone article. Hammond’s attorneys are trying to get Preska removed as the judge in his case, because of her apparent bias.

anarchist hacker jeremy hammond put in solitary confinement for five days

Jeremy Hammond was allegedly part of the small team of hackers that gained access to the servers of Texas-based intelligence contractor Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), which compiles dossiers on activists. According to a November 2012 Rolling Stone article, the breach “not only cost the company millions, but focused worldwide attention on the murky world of private intelligence.” On March 5, after a hacker calling himself Sabu spent nine months working as an informant for the FBI, federal law-enforcement officers arrested Hammond in Chicago. He potentially faces many years, if not decades, in prison.

Hammond has been held at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center for the past eight months. He expects his bail hearing to occur in approximately two weeks. He was recently put in solitary confinement for five days without cause.

On October 2, the ACLU released a year-long study shedding light on life in solitary confinement, finding that extreme isolation causes prisoners to “live in a world of unrelenting monotony, marked by isolation and idleness, where all extrinsic purpose and structure slowly unravels.”

Earlier this year, on June 19, a Senate Subcommittee held the first Congressional hearing on solitary confinement. In professor Lisa Guenther’s statement for the subcommittee, she argued against the practice on philosophical grounds. As she later wrote for a New York Times online forum,

For the sake of justice, not only for [prisoners] but for ourselves, we must put an end to the over-use of solitary confinement in this country, and we must begin the difficult but mutually rewarding work of bringing the tens of thousands of currently isolated prisoners back into the world.