The Hero and the Villains: the Jeremy Hammond Sentence
This past Friday, Internet activist Jeremy Hammond stood in a federal courtroom and told Judge Loretta A. Preska why he released a trove of emails and other information uncovering the possibly illegal and certainly immoral collaboration of a major surveillance corporation called Stratfor with our government.
He also stressed what followers of his case already knew: that his activities were encouraged, organized and facilitated by an FBI informant turned operative. In short, his partner in these "violations of United States law" was the government of the United States.
He acknowledged that the Judge could sentence him to 10 years in jail but he never apologized for his actions or questioned their validity as political activism. And, in a statement remarkable for his courage and political principle (after 20 months in jail on this case), he established himself as one of the heroes of the struggle over for freedom and justice.
In a world in which people often seek to defend themselves in court by questioning whether they did what they are accused of, Hammond defended himself by saying that he did what they said he did and more -- and that he was right to do it.
"The acts of civil disobedience and direct action that I am being sentenced for today are in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life," he told the court. "I hacked into dozens of high profile corporations and government institutions, understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison. But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice--and to bring the truth to light."
Expecting justice from Judge Preska was probably a stretch. She had previously refused to recuse herself from the trial after it was learned that her husband was one of the targets of Hammond's Stratfor hacks. But when she hit him with the maximum jail sentence, a decade, and then churlishly hit him with three extra years of probation upon release during which he can't use encryption on the Internet -- which essential forbids him from living a modern life -- she put the exclamation point on the statement this case makes about our government. While conducting surveillance on all its citizens (and using drones and agents and wars to trample on the human rights of people world-wide), it also uses elaborate stings and agent strategies to lure Internet activists into gathering information it wants but can't legally obtain and then puts them in jail to shut them up.
It is, without question, a chilling story.