CHICAGO — “Robin Hood” hacktivist Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Friday for masterminding an illegal intrusion of a private security firm’s computer networking and unlocking troves of private security information.
Hammond, 28, a former Bridgeport resident, pleaded guilty in May in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to engage in computer hacking for his role in the December 2011 hack of Strategic Forecasting, a “geopolitical intelligence firm" widely known as Stratfor.
Hammond turned over some 5 million private email messages to WikiLeaks, and stole 60,000 credit card numbers numbers associated with the company’s subscribers, prosecutors said.
According to an account in Wired Magazine, Hammond urged members of the online hacking collective Anonymous to “promptly load up some cards with $700,000 in fraudulent donations to non-profit groups.”
That hacking affected some 860,000 people, prosecutors said, and Hammond has admitted his role in hacking various law enforcement agencies across the country.
But the leaks also revealed a "military-industrial complex that conspires to spy on citizens, activists and trouble-causers" and the "extremely low quality of the information available to the highest bidder," according to Guardian investigative reporter Pratap Chatterjee.
Among the revelations: the U.S. government was paying the contractor to monitor the Occupy movement and the company was spying on Indian protesters decrying a 1984 chemical plant disaster that killed thousands, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Hammond, who also goes by the name “Anarchaos,” was arrested at his Bridgeport apartment in the 2900 block of South Quinn Street in March 2012, reportedly while chatting online with a kingpin hacker-turned-federal informant.
In his sentencing statement, which can be read in its entirety here, Hammond said his hacking was a form of civil disobedience “in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life."
Born in suburban Glendale Heights, Hammond was a computer prodigy, reportedly programming video games at the age of eight. Supporters have described him as "an electronic Robin Hood" who dressed in second-hand clothes and found food in dumpsters.
He said his activism was launched along the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — he organized a walkout at his high school in opposition to the Iraq War — then shifted away from "above-ground” community organizing after growing “frustrated with the limitations of peaceful protest.”
That’s when he learned about groups like WikiLeaks and Anonymous and was inspired by Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley), the now-imprisoned source of widespread leaks of diplomatic cables and other sensitive military information.
Activists rallied to pack the Manhattan courtroom of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York Friday and turned over 265 letters of support for Hammond, including one authored by Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who blew the lid off the Pentagon Papers, which proved the federal government’s support for a failing strategy in the Vietnam War.
In his statement, Hammond said “the government celebrates my conviction and imprisonment, hoping that it will close the door on the full story.
“I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will the government be made to answer for its crimes?”
Federal prosecutors weren't buying it.
"Contrary to the picture he paints of himself in his sentencing submission," they wrote, "Hammond is a computer hacking recidivist who, following a federal conviction for computer hacking, went on to engage in a massive hacking spree during which he caused harm to numerous businesses, individuals, and governments…and threatened the safety of the public at large, especially law enforcement officers and their families.”