Author Topic: FBI’s role ‘swept under the rug’ in case of hacker Jeremy Hammond  (Read 2171 times)

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Offline mayya

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FBI’s role ‘swept under the rug’ in case of hacker Jeremy Hammond

Jay Leiderman is outside a New York courthouse following the sentencing of Jeremy Hammond on Nov. 15, 2013. (Photo: Ethan Rosch)

February 27, 2016, Saturday/ 17:00:00/ GÜNAY HİLAL AYGÜN | CHICAGO

In the highly controversial case of Jeremy Hammond, the Anonymous hacker who made headlines back in 2013 after receiving one of the lengthiest prison sentences in US history for cyber crimes, the manipulative role of the FBI involving foreign government breaches was “swept under the rug” as officials are still not being held accountable for their acts, according to Jay Leiderman, a California criminal defense attorney who has broad knowledge of the case.

Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison in November 2013 for hacking the servers of private intelligence company Stratfor, dubbed the “private CIA,” and releasing its 5 million email messages to WikiLeaks, among other computer-related charges. The leaks, also known as The Global Intelligence Files, appeared on the WikiLeaks website in early 2012 and hit the world's top agenda via more than 25 media outlets, which partnered with the anti-secrecy organization. The disclosures included Stratfor's monitoring of political activists at the behest of corporations as well as the firm's questionable network of informants across the globe, who were paid through Swiss bank accounts and prepaid credit cards.

Hammond's case took an unexpected turn when it was revealed that the Stratfor hack was in fact orchestrated by the FBI's now-infamous informant Hector Xavier Monsegur, known as “Sabu,” with the FBI's knowledge, a fact long forgotten three years after Hammond's trial. “I had never even heard of Stratfor until Sabu brought it to my attention,” Hammond said at the time, making clear what was already verified by the chat logs obtained by the court.

Yet, this was only part of the scandal. The chat logs also revealed that Monsegur manipulated Hammond into attacking hundreds of foreign government websites in 30 countries, including Turkey, while the hacker-turned-informant was actively cooperating with the FBI between June 2011 and March 2012.

‘Even though they were minor websites, it's still the FBI telling someone to hack into them'

Monsegur, as the head of Anonymous offshoot LulzSec and as an FBI informant, presented Hammond with long lists of foreign government websites that were vulnerable to attack. The list of targeted countries included Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK, Yemen and many others.

Neither in the Stratfor hack nor in the breaches into foreign governments' systems was the FBI's significant involvement -- either by directing Hammond through Monsegur or allowing him to engage in criminal acts during its surveillance -- found worthy of investigation by US authorities, which handed down to Hammond the maximum sentence of 10 years.

Speaking to Sunday's Zaman in a recent phone interview, Leiderman, who had closely followed Hammond's case, said: “They [the chat logs] are real and it did happen. Why it wasn't bigger news is puzzling,” adding that he was shown the chat logs by Hammond at the time. Referring to one of the documents he had seen in 2013, Leiderman said: “In Iraq, they were going after a Ministry of Energy website. I think some damage could be done. That is pretty serious.” He added: “There were also countries we are supposed to be friends with. That was stunning. Daily Dot and Vice ran some stories on it, but they didn't make the impact they should have.”

In the face of the scandalous revelation by the Daily Dot in October 2014, “the FBI refused to comment on any aspect of Jeremy Hammond's case,” according to the online news portal. As a result of having collaborated with the authorities, Monsegur was released in May 2014 after serving only seven months.
However, the FBI officials who oversaw the LulzSec takedown and guided Monsegur as he urged Hammond to break into the systems of foreign governments, as well as Stratfor, have so far not even been identified or charged for their essential role in these hacking activities.

Leiderman further emphasized the gravity of FBI-led hacks against other countries dating back to 2011 and how they have been overlooked. “A lot of these countries should have been concerned,” Leiderman said. “Even though they were minor websites, it's still the FBI telling someone to hack into them.”

‘Turkey and Brazil were the most targeted countries'

Leiderman also reflected on how Judge Loretta Preska, who handled the trial, silenced Hammond at the sentencing on Nov. 15, 2013, while he attempted to name the countries FBI informant Monsegur instructed him to attack. “She [the judge] didn't want ‘victim's names' mentioned. I don't understand how a whole country could be a victim. If I were in the government of one of these countries that got messed with by the FBI, I would be very angry. And I don't understand why it didn't make its way to one of these governments. Turkey and Brazil were the most targeted countries.”

In fact, a striking detail revealed by a chat log in Hammond's trial was Monsegur introducing Hammond to a member of Turkish hacker crew Redhack in a chat room and exchanging information with the group on thousands of Turkish government websites.

With regard to the Stratfor breach, which had echoed all around the world via WikiLeaks, Leiderman, like many others and Hammond himself, regards what Hammond did as “an act of electronic civil disobedience,” saying there was solely political motivation involved, instead of personal or financial gain.

“It's an obscene amount of prison time considering the crime, considering the history, considering Jeremy's mitigating characteristics. He is a politically motivated dissident. Based on his principles, political stance, [his engagement in] non-violent protests, he really should have been accorded some degree of leniency for that. The Stratfor disclosure was one of the first real looks we had into this ‘private CIA' and the industry of people who can make their living off of intelligence in a kind of shadow,” Leiderman says.
Correspondingly, in the statement Hammond read out loud during his sentencing he explained his motivation as: “Some of the dangers of the unregulated private intelligence industry are now known.”

‘Why was the United States using us to infiltrate the private networks of foreign governments?'

Another bizarre thing in the case, also long forgotten, was the fact that Judge Preska had refused to recuse herself from the trial despite her husband's involvement in the case. Preska's husband, Thomas Kavaler, used to represent a Stratfor client as a lawyer, and Hammond's leaks contained Kavaler's email address, along with the password to his Stratfor account. The obvious conflict of interest drew massive criticism from the supporters of Hammond back in 2013.

Asked about the major controversy, Leiderman says: “I think that was outrageous. Her husband was a victim. It's a really clear conflict. It's not even questionable or like a gray area or anything like that. This judge should have removed herself from the case. When she didn't, she was telegraphing that she had a mission and that mission was to make Jeremy pay. You can't be a judge on a case where your husband is a victim.”
On Jan. 8, Hammond spent his fourth consecutive birthday behind bars. As he turned 31 in a Kentucky federal prison, a group of activists, like they do every year, celebrated his birthday outside the Texas building of Stratfor. With all the irregularities in his case becoming history, Hammond's visitation rights are currently widely restricted, and he is constantly barred from media contact by the prison administration. A recent visiting application by Sunday's Zaman was also denied among those of other media outlets.

Since Hammond was first incarcerated, 10 people, including author and academic Gabriella Coleman, have been refused a visit with him, according to Grace North, a close friend of Hammond who runs his prison support network. Even his grandparents, aged 89 and 93, were not granted permission to visit him over this summer while he was in the segregated housing unit, despite being on his approved visitor list, North says.
In August 2013, in a statement he released regarding Monsegur's sentencing, Hammond raised some curious questions: “Why was the United States using us to infiltrate the private networks of foreign governments? What are they doing with the information we stole? And will anyone in our government ever be held accountable for these crimes?”

Hammond's questions will linger until the US government identifies the instigators of these crimes within the FBI and prosecutes them.

Jay Leiderman is an American criminal defense lawyer based in Ventura, California. He was born in New York City in 1971. He attained his Bachelor of Arts in both History and Film/Video Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1993. He obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of San Francisco in 1999. Jay was also President of the USF Law School Student Body in 1998-1999, and was a tutor in Criminal Law and Procedure, and won an award for best oral argument in his mock trial class.