Courage our network

Writing from Jeremy

Statement from Jeremy Hammond, read at August 19th fundraiser

Rebel greeting!

I hope this evening finds you all in the best of health and highest of spirit. Thanks for coming out to show support for me and Barrett Brown.

I want to shout out to all my brothers and sisters locked down, here at New York Metropolitan Correctional Center, at Brooklyn MDC, at Rikers Island, in the Tombs, at Cook County Jail in Chicago, and to all those on hunger strikes in California prisons and Guantanamo Bay.

And to Bradley Manning, Barrett Brown, Julian Assange, the Tinley Park Five, the NATO Five, Jerry Koch, and my wonderful twin brother, Jason Hammond.

Also thanks to the folks who put this event together, who have attended my court dates, who have written letters and sent books, and who went to the noise demonstrations outside the jail here. Your acts of solidarity bring us all great encouragement, inspiration, and strength during these harsh times.

Comrades, we are up against a racist capitalist power structure that wages wars, destroys the environment and spies on our every move! They lock up millions of people in cages for “crimes” that corrupt governments and multi-national corporations also commit on an everyday basis and on a greater magnitude, yet we are the criminals.

They lock us up for guns and drugs when defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies are the top traffickers.
They call us thieves when it’s Wall Street 1%ers who rob us blind, exploit our labor, evict us out of our homes, and get billion dollar bailouts.

They condemn hackers and leakers when the NSA, CIA, and FBI illegally spy on everybody, and wage cyber espionage through viruses and hacking for foreign government systems.

They put signs everywhere that say “If you see something, say something” as if their extensive surveillance camera systems aren’t, they want us to become additional eyes and ears for the police against our own neighbors.

But if you point out suspicious activities of our own government, if you leak information that should be free and public anyway, then they will follow you to the ends of the Earth to put you in prison.

Even if you simply report on these leaks, they will discredit you, subpoena you for your sources, or just put you in prison on a bunch of trumped up charges like they did Barrett Brown.

They repress us, infiltrate us, entrap us, harass our families and friends, and call us criminals, terrorists, and traitors, and break their own laws to try to stop us because we work to expose the truth.

They are scared that if people know the truth, the day will come when they will have to answer for their own crimes.
But can we trust whatever “independent review panel” they put together to investigate the NSA? After all the lies and egregious illegality, do you think any of them will be charged or do time? Will we ever be satisfied with any reforms they promise?

The answer is obviously no.

Justice can never be found in their courtrooms.

Yes, we need to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, but Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t give a damn about prison overcrowding.

The Obama administration is not interested in any such debate about “the balance of privacy and security” because they will keep spying on everyone, regardless of public opinion, until we stop them.

The time for talk is over, it’s time for collective refusal, civil disobedience, and direct action. We must support all those who risked their freedom and lives to expose and confront the power structure, and continue the struggle until we stop these wars and the prison walls come crumbling down and we can all be together again free and equal!

Yours for the revolution,
Jeremy Hammond

Statement from Jeremy Regarding His Plea

Today I pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This was a very difficult decision. I hope this statement will explain my reasoning. I believe in the power of the truth. In keeping with that, I do not want to hide what I did or to shy away from my actions. This non-cooperating plea agreement frees me to tell the world what I did and why, without exposing any tactics or information to the government and without jeopardizing the lives and well-being of other activists on and offline.

During the past 15 months I have been relatively quiet about the specifics of my case as I worked with my lawyers to review the discovery and figure out the best legal strategy. There were numerous problems with the government’s case, including the credibility of FBI informant Hector Monsegur. However, because prosecutors stacked the charges with inflated damages figures, I was looking at a sentencing guideline range of over 30 years if I lost at trial. I have wonderful lawyers and an amazing community of people on the outside who support me. None of that changes the fact that I was likely to lose at trial. But, even if I was found not guilty at trial, the government claimed that there were eight other outstanding indictments against me from jurisdictions scattered throughout the country. If I had won this trial I would likely have been shipped across the country to face new but similar charges in a different district. The process might have repeated indefinitely. Ultimately I decided that the most practical route was to accept this plea with a maximum of a ten year sentence and immunity from prosecution in every federal court.

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.

I have already spent 15 months in prison. For several weeks of that time I have been held in solitary confinement. I have been denied visits and phone calls with my family and friends. This plea agreement spares me, my family, and my community a repeat of this grinding process.

I would like to thank all of my friends and supporters for their amazing and ongoing gestures of solidarity. Today I am glad to shoulder the responsibility for my actions and to move one step closer to daylight.

Jeremy Hammond

Aaron Swartz and the Criminalization of Digital Dissent

The tragic death of internet freedom fighter Aaron Swartz reveals the government’s flawed “cyber security strategy” as well as its systematic corruption involving computer crime investigations, intellectual property law, and government/corporate transparency. In a society supposedly based on principles of democracy and due process, Aaron’s efforts to liberate the internet, including free distribution of JSTOR academic essays, access to public court records on PACER, stopping the passage of SOPA/PIPA, and developing the Creative Commons, make him a hero, not a criminal. It is not the “crimes” Aaron may have committed that made him a target of federal prosecution, but his ideas – elaborated in his “Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto” – that the government has found so dangerous. The United States Attorney’s aggressive prosecution, riddled with abuse and misconduct, is what led to the death of this hero. This sad and angering chapter should serve as a wake up call for all of us to acknowledge the danger inherent in our criminal justice system.

Aaron’s case is part of the recent aggressive, politically-motivated expansion of computer crime law where hackers and activists are increasingly criminalized because of alleged “cyber-terrorist” threats. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, whose office is prosecuting me and my co-defendants in the Lulzsec indictment, has used alarmist rhetoric such as the threat of an imminent “Pearl Harbor like cyber attack” to justify these prosecutions. At the same time the government routinely trains and deploys their own hackers to launch sophisticated cyber attacks against the infrastructure of foreign countries, such as the Stuxnet and Flame viruses, without public knowledge, oversight, declarations of war, or consent from international authorities. DARPA, US Cyber Command, the NSA, and numerous federally-contracted private corporations openly recruit hackers to develop defensive and offensive capabilities and build Orwellian digital surveillance networks, designed not to enhance national security but to advance U.S. imperialism. They even attend and speak at hacker conferences, such as DEFCON, offer to bribe hackerspaces for their research, and created the insulting “National Civic Hacker Day” – efforts which should be boycotted or confronted every step of the way.

Aaron is a hero because he refused to play along with the government’s agenda, instead he used his brilliance and passion to create a more transparent society. Through the free software movement, open publishing and file sharing, and development of cryptography and anonymity technology, digital activists have revealed the poverty of neo-liberalism and intellectual property. Aaron opposed reducing everything to a commodity to be bought or sold for a profit.

The rise in effectiveness of, and public support for, movements like Anonymous and Wikileaks has led to an expansion of computer crime investigations – most importantly enhancements to 18 U.S.C § 1030, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Over the years the CFAA has been amended five times and has gone through a number of important court rulings that have greatly expanded what the act covers concerning “accessing a protected computer without authorization.” It is now difficult to determine exactly what conduct would be considered legal. The definition of a “protected computer” has been incrementally expanded to include any government or corporate computer in or outside the U.S. “Authorization,” not explicitly defined by the CFAA, has also been expanded to be so ambiguous that any use of a website, network, or PC that is outside of the interest, agenda, or contractual obligations of a private or government entity could be criminalized. In Aaron’s case and others the government has defined violating a service’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), Terms of Service (TOS), or End-User License Agreement (EULA) as illegal. Every time you sign up for a service like Gmail, Hotmail, or Facebook and click the “I agree” button that follows a long contract that no one ever reads, you could be prosecuted under the CFAA if you violate any of the terms.

The sheer number of everyday computer users who could be considered criminals under these broad and ambiguous definitions enables the politically motivated prosecution of anyone who voices dissent. The CFAA should be found unconstitutional under the void-for-vagueness doctrine of the due process clause. Instead, Congress proposed bills last year which would double the statutory maximum sentences and introduce mandatory minimum sentences, similar to the excessive sentences imposed in drug cases which have been widely opposed by many federal and state judges.

The “Operation Payback” case in San Jose, California is another miscarriage of justice where 16 suspected Anonymous members (including a 16 year old boy) allegedly participated in a denial-of-service action against PayPal in protest of it’s financial blockade of Wikileaks. Denial-of-service does not “exceed authorized access,” as it is virtually indistinguishable from standard web requests. It is more akin to an electronic sit-in protest, overloading the website’s servers making it incapable of serving legitimate traffic, than a criminal act involving stolen private information or destruction of servers. PayPal’s website was only slow or unavailable for a matter of hours, yet these digital activists face prison time of more that 10 years, $250,000 in fines, and felony convictions because the government wants to criminalize this form of internet protest and send a warning to would be Wikileaks supporters.

Another recent case is that of Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, who last November was convicted under the CFAA. Andrew discovered that AT&T was publishing customer names and email addresses on it’s public-facing website, without password protection, encryption, or firewalls. Instead of acknowledging their own mistake in violating customer privacy, AT&T sought prison time for Andrew. Andrew has defended his actions saying, “We have not only a right as Americans to analyze things that corporations publish and make publicly accessible but perhaps a moral obligation to tell people about it.”

I am currently facing multiple computer hacking conspiracy charges due to my alleged involvement with Anonymous, LulzSec, and AntiSec, groups which have targeted and exposed corruption in government institutions and corporations such as Stratfor, The Arizona Department of Public Safety, and HB Gary Federal. My potential sentence is dramatically increased because the Patriot Act expanded the CFAA’s definition of “loss.” This allowed Stratfor to claim over 5 million dollars in damages, including the exorbitant cost of hiring outside credit protection agencies and “infosec” corporations, purchasing new servers, 1.6 million dollars in “lost potential revenue” for the time their website was down, and even the cost of a 1.3 million dollar settlement for a class action lawsuit filed against them. Coupled with use of “sophisticated means” and “affecting critical infrastructure” sentence enhancements, if convicted at trial I am facing a sentence of 30-years-to-life.

Dirty trial tactics and lengthy sentences are not anomalies but are part of a fundamentally flawed and corrupt two-tiered system of “justice” which seeks to reap profits from the mass incarceration of millions, especially people of color and the impoverished. The use of informants who cooperate in exchange for lighter sentences is not just utilized in the repressive prosecutions of protest movements and manufactured “terrorist” Islamophobic witch-hunts, but also in most drug cases, where defendants face some of the harshest sentences in the world.

For Aaron Swartz, himself facing 13 felony CFAA charges, it is likely that it was this intense pressure from relentless and uncompromising prosecutors, who, while being aware of Aaron’s psychological fragility, continued to demand prison time, that led to his untimely death.

Due to widespread public outrage, there is talk of congressional investigations into the CFAA. But since the same Congress had proposed increased penalties not even one year ago, any efforts at reform are unlikely to be more than symbolic. What is needed is not reform but total transformation; not amendments but abolition. Aaron is a hero to me because he did not wait for those in power to realize his vision and change their game, he sought to change the game himself, and he did so without fear of being labeled a criminal and imprisoned by a backwards system of justice.

We the people demand free and equal access to information and technology. We demand transparency and accountability from governments and big corporations, and privacy for the masses from invasive surveillance networks.

The government will never be forgiven. Aaron Swartz will never be forgotten.

A Prisoner’s Experience at MCC During Hurricane Sandy

This describes Jeremy’s experience in prison as the New York area was hit by Superstorm Sandy. Sandy caused an estimated $32 billion in damages in New York state, with $19 billion in New York City alone. 

While NYC urged residents to evacuate the city in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, those of us imprisoned at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were going nowhere. Without announcing any plans or preparations, they locked every floor down and we were left to weather the storm not knowing what was going to go down.

Like most of the lower east side, MCC lost power, heat and water. Naturally, some folks grew panicked and restless and used this opportunity to vent built-up frustrations: people screamed and shouted, banged on doors, and threw junk out into the dayroom, but it did not get too rowdy. Understaffed, the backup guards stayed in their offices and did not make any announcements. Eventually, the emergency generators came on to provide minimal lighting, cold water returned so we would not die of thirst, and the night died down uneventfully.

The next morning the “goon squad” rushed in armed, with a variety of weapons including beanbag guns, pepper spray bullet guns, and teargas. They stormed each tier, angrily cursing us out while taking away the TVs, microwaves and board games. No one complained or raised any objection, even as we were told we would be locked down for a week, but the guards picked out three random prisoners – including me – cuffed us, threatened to use the pepper spray on us “for fun,” and took us to the box.

A sign sits above the entrance to 9 South – “MCC Special Housing Unit – No guns just guts. Est. 1975.”

As any of the untold hundreds of thousands of prisoners who have experienced solitary confinement knows, the box is a dehumanizing, sadistic form of abuse, wisely and correctly recognized as torture by a growing number of countries, except the United States. Imagine living in a bathroom, only for a whole week. Our toilets wouldn’t flush. Eventually a guard gave me two books out of my property – a Spanish-English dictionary and, in an ironic coincidence, Zeitoun, which is about a Syrian man in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina who ends up being wrongfully arrested and abused by police.

The three of us were only in the box for a week and not given any disciplinary tickets. We were kicked back to our unit to find them still locked down and not doing much better than we were. Cold meals, toilets not flushing, no hot water, no showers, no heat, no microwaves, no roof recreation, no law library, no TVs, no boardgames, no mail, no visits, no phone calls or any way to contact friends and family to see how they were affected by the storm and let them know how we were doing. Everyone’s court dates were postponed, including several people who were being sentenced and expecting “time served.” Eventually the phones starting working, but predictably fights broke out over the long lines, so we were locked down again. Days later, they let us back out, but for only limited periods of time, still no TVs or board games. We were told “you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.”

We then learned the next week MCC was being visited by inspectors, including the director of the BOP. Every so often prison officials must scramble to look presentable and pick up to code to assure inspectors we are living humanely. Of course they use unpaid prison labor to clean this place up – and now they use the missing TVs and boardgames as leverage to assure our obedience. Obviously there is an inherent “fuck the police” mentality amongst most convicts, but there is also no shortage of suck-ups and snitches, who would gladly help the guards convince inspectors we are being treated fairly, in exchange for slightly longer leashes and larger cages. They have volunteers work all night until 3AM for days, but no amount of buffing floors and repainting walls can cover up the ugly, dehumanizing reality of mass incarceration.

The day the inspectors arrive, the officials and counselors are all dressed up and, although they remain bossy and inconsiderate as ever reminding us to clean up, you could tell they are are slightly worried, as even they have masters higher up in the food chain they must serve. They whisper amongst themselves, “When they come try to steer them away from tier 11.” And just like the inspections six months ago, they tell us to have people pretend to use each of the six showers so the inspectors will be unable to examine them. And since both the prison officials and the inspectors do not live here, they will not experience the rat and cockroach infestations that only come out at night. Obviously, we are never given an opportunity to address our grievances with the inspectors, and there is an expectation of retaliation if one attempts to do so.

As it turns out, the inspectors never visit our unit – all our work for nothing. Days later, still no TVs or boardgames. The one washing machine, broken weeks before the storm hit, has still not been fixed, but at least hot water has returned so we can do our laundry by hand. Life here has more or less returned to “normal” – as normal as locking up millions of people can be.

In the end MCC was not the hit by Hurricane Sandy any worse that other folks on the east coast. The BOP had just one more opportunity to demonstrate their disrespect and lack of concern for our well-being. As the climate continues to change due to capitalism’s rampant destruction of the environment, we can expect more frequent and devastating natural disasters on the way. Like New Orleans, New Yorkers are experiencing that often the most effective relief does not come from the City, police, or FEMA, but from grassroots community groups (such as Occupy Sandy,) working together in solidarity with those most affected (especially those who cannot afford expensive professional cleanup services). Very frightening to consider what would happen to us prisoners – already disenfranchised, silenced, marginalized, and forgotten – in the event of a more devastating natural disaster.

There’s a universal consensus here – “they’d probably leave us to die.”