January 8, 1985
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Jeremy Hammond (born January 8, 1985) is an American activist and computer hacker from Chicago. He founded the computer security training website HackThisSite in 2003. He was first imprisoned over the Protest Warrior hack in 2005 and was later convicted of computer fraud in 2013 for hacking the private intelligence firm Stratfor and releasing data to WikiLeaks, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He was released from prison in November 2020.
Hammond was raised in the Chicago suburb of Glendale Heights, Illinois, with his twin brother Jason. Hammond became interested in computers at an early age, programming video games in QBasic by age eight, and building databases by age thirteen. As a student at Glenbard East High School in the nearby suburb of Lombard, Hammond won first place in a district-wide science competition for a computer program he designed. Also in high school, he became a peace activist, organizing a student walkout on the day of the Iraq invasion and starting a student newspaper to oppose the Iraq War. His high school principal described Hammond as "old beyond his years".
Hammond attended the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the spring of 2004, during his freshman year, he exploited a security flaw on the computer science department's website and went to department administrators, offering to help fix the security flaws on the site and looking to get a job. For inserting the backdoor, Hammond was called before the department chair and ultimately banned from returning for his sophomore year.
Jeremy, along with his brother Jason, has had a lifelong interest in music, performing in numerous bands through the years. Before Jeremy's arrests, they were both actively performing in the Chicago ska band Dirty Surgeon Insurgency.
Hammond worked as a Mac technician in Villa Park, Illinois. He also worked as a web developer for Chicago-based Rome & Company. His boss at Rome & Company wrote in 2010 that Hammond is "friendly, courteous and polite and while we suspect he has a low tolerance for corporate posturing, he has never demonstrated any contempt for business in the workplace".
Computer hacking and activist activities
Hammond founded the computer security training website HackThisSite at age 18, during the summer after his high school graduation. The website describes itself as "a non-profit organization that strives to protect a good security culture and learning atmosphere". In its first two years the site got 2.5 million hits and acquired 110,000 members and a volunteer staff of 34.
During the 2004 DEF CON event in Las Vegas, Hammond delivered a talk that encouraged "electronic civil disobedience" as a means of protest against the 2004 Republican National Convention and its supporters.
Protest Warrior hack
In February 2005, Hammond, with others, hacked the website of pro-war counterprotesting group Protest Warrior and accessed thousands of credit card numbers, intending to use them to donate to left-wing groups. Although no charges were ever made against the cards, Hammond confessed and was sentenced to two years in federal prison for the crime. Freed after 18 months, Hammond was radicalized by the experience, although the terms of his probation prohibited him from associating with HackThisSite or anarchist groups for another three years.
On March 5, 2012, Hammond was arrested by FBI agents in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago for his involvement in the December 2011 cyberattack on the servers of Stratfor, a private intelligence firm. The intrusion compromised 60,000 credit card numbers, $700,000 in fraudulent charges, and involved the download of 5 million emails, some of which were subsequently published by WikiLeaks. The indictment was unsealed the following day in the Manhattan federal district court. He was one of six individuals from the United States, England and Ireland indicted.
The FBI were led to Hammond through information given by computer hacker Hector Xavier Monsegur ("Sabu"), who became a government informant immediately after his arrest in early 2011, and subsequently pleaded guilty in August 2011 to twelve counts of hacking, fraud, and identity theft. Information from Monsegur helped lead the authorities to at least eight co-conspirators, including Hammond, and helped to stymie at least 300 cyberattacks.
Sabu was detained pending trial; in denying bail, Judge Loretta A. Preska described Hammond as "a very substantial danger to the community." In February 2013, the defense filed a motion asking presiding Judge Preska to recuse herself from the case on the basis that Preska's husband, Thomas Kavaler, had an email address released in the Stratfor disclosure and was a lawyer on unrelated matters for some Stratfor clients affected by the hack. Hammond's legal team argued that this created "an appearance of partiality." Preska denied the motion because her husband did not recall subscribing to Stratfor's mailing list and the only information released was his publicly available work e-mail address, and because Hammond's alleged legal strategy was to have every judge recuse themselves until there were no judges left to try the case.
In May 2013, Hammond pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Upon his guilty plea, Hammond issued a statement saying, "I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites" and "I did what I believe is right." He maintained that he had no profit motive for the cyberattack. Hammond has insisted that he would not have carried out the breach of Stratfor's systems without the involvement of Sabu. Hammond was sentenced on November 15, 2013, to the maximum of ten years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He contends that his prosecution and sentence was a "vengeful, spiteful act." On November 17, 2020, Hammond was released from the Memphis Federal Correctional Institution and was transferred to a recovery house to serve the rest of his sentence.
Refusal to testify before grand jury
In October 2019, Hammond was summoned before a Virginia federal grand jury which was investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. He was held in civil contempt of court by Judge Anthony Trenga after refusing to testify. Prosecutors granted Hammond immunity from prosecution based on any grand jury testimony, so Hammond could not refuse to testify on the ground of his right against self-incrimination. Like Chelsea Manning (who was also held in contempt for refusing to testify), Hammond said that he had an ideological objection to testifying under any circumstances. In making his contempt ruling, Trenga stated that Hammond's arguments against testifying were "self-serving assertions … without support." Trenga ordered Hammond released in March 2020 after the conclusion of the grand jury, saying that prosecutors no longer required his testimony. Hammond was returned to federal prison to serve the balance of his 10 year sentence. Hammond may have received an early release in December 2019 had the grand jury not intervened.
Hammond frequently identifies as an anarchist and has a shoulder tattoo of the anarchy symbol with the words: "Freedom, equality, anarchy." Writing after his arrest, Hammond said, "I have always made it clear that I am an anarchist-communist – as in I believe we need to abolish capitalism and the state in its entirety to realize a free, egalitarian society. I'm not into watering down or selling out the message or making it more marketable for the masses." In a statement following the hearing in 2013 at which Hammond was sentenced to 2013, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "While he billed himself as fighting for an anarchist cause, in reality, Jeremy Hammond caused personal and financial chaos for individuals whose identities and money he took and for companies whose businesses he decided he didn't like."
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- Perlroth, Nicole. New York Times, March 12, 2012. "Inside the Stratfor Attack" Archived 2012-03-14 at the Wayback Machine
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- "Chicago hacking suspect a genius without wisdom, mom says" Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine, March 7, 2012, Chicago Tribune
- "Chicago man accused in international hacking bust", March 6, 2012, Chicago Sun-Times
- "HackThisSite.Org Bill of Rights". Archived from the original on 2013-05-09. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
- Hammond, Jeremy. DEF CON 2004, Las Vegas. "Electronic Civil Disobedience"[dead link]
- The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond, Enemy of the State, Janet Reitman, Rolling Stone, December 7, 2012. Accessed August 26, 2020.
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- Benjamin Weiser, Hacker Who Helped Disrupt Cyberattacks Is Allowed to Walk Free, New York Times (May 28, 2014).
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- Winter, Jana. FoxNews.com, March 15, 2012. "LulzSec-linked hacker who threatened to burn White House appears in court"
- "Chicago man denied bail before NYC hacking trial" Archived 2012-11-24 at the Wayback Machine, November 21, 2012, Associated Press.
- "Jeremy Hammond's legal team seeks judge's recusal"
- "Memorandum and Order, United States v. Jeremy Hammond". United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. February 21, 2013.
- Ed Pilkington, "Jailed Anonymous hacker Jeremy Hammond: 'My days of hacking are done'", The Guardian, November 15, 2013.
- Amar Toor, How the FBI nabbed Jeremy Hammond, Anonymous member and radical anarchist, The Verge (December 8, 2012).
- Aaron Katersky, Anonymous Stratfor Hacker Given 10 Years, ABC News (November 15, 2013).
- Reitman, Janet (December 7, 2012). "The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State". Rolling Stone.