Jeremy Hammond, the hacktivist with links to Anonymous, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison. Hammond was found guilty of aiding cyber attacks against government agencies and corporations, including Strategic Forecasting, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. In 2011, Hammond hacked 5 million emails and 60,000 credit-card numbers, and sent them to WikiLeaks. Anonymous then used the cards to rack up $700,000 in "donations" to nonprofits.
Friday's decision is the last development of an ongoing saga that began last year in March 2012, when various Anonymous members and hacker group Lulzsec were outed by one of their own, a disillusioned ex-Anonymous member. After the arrests that followed, the last year and eight months have been marked by a tug-of-war between those who called Hammond's actions a worthy example of civil disobedience, and those who called him a "computer-hacking recidivist," in a battle that's becoming all too familiar.
The FBI informant behind Hammond's arrest was Hector Xavier Monsegur, or Sabu. A hacker himself, Sabu was caught hacking into mega-corporations and governments: Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Tunisia, Yemen, and Zimbabwe, to name a few. After he was caught by the FBI in August 2011, he cooperated by becoming an informant. Since then, he managed to infiltrate Anonymous by using his leadership in Lulzsec to take it down — Hammond and many others included.
Sabu won't be immune from punishment, but his own sentence has been delayed six months because he continued to cooperate with FBI agents.
When the sentence was doled out, many Twitter users came out in support of Hammond and in contempt of his sentence.
When he was sentenced, Hammond delivered a lengthy, prepared statement, in which he praises the aims of Anonymous, Wikileaks, and the Occupy movement. A copy of the statement can now be found online. An excerpt:
I was drawn to Anonymous because I believe in autonomous, decentralized direct action. At the time Anonymous was involved in operations in support of the Arab Spring uprisings, against censorship, and in defense of Wikileaks. I had a lot to contribute, including technical skills, and how to better articulate ideas and goals. It was an exciting time – the birth of a digital dissent movement, where the definitions and capabilities of hacktivism were being shaped.
Beyond the 10 years, Hammond is also prohibited from communicating with "civil disobedience groups" for three years after his release.
Hammond's sentencing is also another episode in the government's beleaguered saga against hacktivism that also includes Edward Snowden, now in Russia, and Aaron Swartz, the Reddit founder who committed suicide.