The then 22 year-old Jeremy Hammond. Image courtesy of Chicago Magazine.
Chicago Magazine meets Jeremy Hammond
While awaiting his sentencing in the Protest Warrior cyber attack, Hammond was already violating his bail agreement with authorities. Agreeing not to go near computers or marijuana, the 22 year-old hacker was doing both. He was also about to launch his career as America’s most feared underground cyber rebel. It was at that moment that Chicago Magazine caught up with him.
Hammond wasn’t alone in his desire to lash out against the government and corporate entities that are eroding America’s civil liberties. A fellow hacker from the west side of Chicago organized an open, publicized meeting of all the known hackers in the Chicago area. Taking place in the back of an old flower shop in Chicago’s industrial west side neighborhood called Pilsen, 30 techies showed up for that first 2007 meeting of what would become the world’s most capable, effective and sought-after Anonymous cell.
The meeting organizer, Ben Buckley, was a dreadlock-wearing member of Chicago’s Free Geek organization, an environmentally responsible tech group that recycles and refurbishes computers. He insisted that all 30 attendees stand up one by one and introduce themselves, including their political affiliations and their position on the idea of using computers and technology in “smashing the system with direct action”.
At first just another face in the crowd, when 22 year-old Jeremy Hammond introduced himself, he was immediately recognized for his part in the attack on the right wing group Protest Warrior. At the time, he was still in the process of being sentenced and facing prison time for it. One witness present recalled that “his blue eyes lit up” when he began to speak. “All conflict comes from social inequality and those who use this to their advantage,” Hammond is reported to have said.
As written by Stuart Luman of Chicago Magazine, ‘That evening, I caught up with Hammond in front of the flower shop. He bragged about a current scheme involving Kinko's cards, which he had hacked so they would grant free copies. He fanned the cards in front of me as if he were performing a magic trick. Then he pulled from his pocket a San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit pass. "I can clone these so easily," he boasted.’
Hammond then made the statement that earned him the nickname Robin Hood. “I’ve wanted to play an electronic Robin Hood,” he told the reporter, which was published in the 2007 Chicago Magazine article, “If you’re going to play this game, you’ve got to be willing to pay.” Even at this early stage, Hammond seemed to be overly prosecuted, assumedly because of his political beliefs. As an example, one of his arrests was for using chalk to write on the sidewalk outside of a Chicago-area Walgreens drug store, ‘While you are shoppin’/Bombs are droppin’.’ Those were the types of crimes that were making Jeremy Hammond a repeat convict.
Serious criminal activity begins
Jeremy Hammond’s first known crime involving theft of credit card information was his break-in of the conservative website sometimes featured on Fox News, Protest Warrior. According to court testimony and the account by a fellow hacker who targets progressive political organizations on behalf of conservative groups, Hammond stole the information from 5,000 credit cards of Protest Warrior’s donors.
The right-wing hacker testified that Jeremy Hammond had been making the rounds of chat rooms trying to find out how to make donations to groups like the ACLU using the stolen cards. During the trial, Hammond claimed he changed his mind and never did steal any money. Prosecutors argued that he merely couldn’t figure out how to do it.
After the meeting in the flower shop, Hammond was sentenced for his role in the Protest Warrior cyber break-in to 2 years in a medium security federal prison, 3 years probation and a $5,358 fine payable to Protest Warrior for damages. "They are going to rob me of some of the best years of my life," he told the Chicago Magazine reporter that night while his knees bounced anxiously sitting at a table at Filter coffee shop in Chicago’s Wicker Park.
At his going away party on the eve of reporting for prison, Hammond was still fighting the fight – publicizing his group’s efforts to monitor a right-wing racist group for criminal activity and then report it to authorities. With a fridge full of beer and a live band playing in the west side Chicago apartment covered with anarchy and anti-New World Order murals, Jeremy Hammond said a temporary goodbye to his friends and his freedom.
Midway through his 2-year sentence and at the time of the 2007 Chicago Magazine expose, the reporter spoke to Jeremy Hammond’s father and asked him if he was proud of his son. His reply, “Yes,” mentioning all the ways his son had helped the poor, whether by refurbishing old computers and bikes and giving them away or dumpster-diving to help feed the homeless.
"Not that I agree with everything Jeremy does, but his social conscience, his empathy for people, his values are right where they should be,” Jeremy’s father told the magazine, “He's an engaged young man. How many 19 and 20 year-olds are really doing that?" Showing what kind of person the young Hammond is, he spent his 2 years in federal prison teaching other inmates math and helping some study for and pass their GED tests. He didn’t do it for a reduced sentence either. He did it because that’s the kind of selfless, caring, stand-up guy he is.
The underground revolution
Once released from federal prison, Jeremy Hammond either laid low for two years or simply didn’t get caught doing whatever he was doing. But in 2010, he was arrested again for a violent assault against members of a right wing holocaust denial organization as they dined in a suburban Chicago restaurant. Wearing black masks, Hammond and 4 others stormed the banquet room and knocked over tables and threw glasses in an attempt to break-up the gathering. Jeremy eventually pled guilty to one count of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to 4 days in Cook County jail. In the same year, Hammond was convicted of mob action and sentenced to 18 months probation for a 2009 incident in which he and 4 others tore down a Chicago 2016 Summer Olympics banner in downtown Chicago and burned it.
Moving from street-level protests back to computers and the internet, Jeremy Hammond allegedly embarked next on the crime that could potentially send him to prison for the rest of his life. For the previous few years, a little-known Virginia defense contractor named Stratfor was publicly bragging about its ability to digitally monitor and police all the citizens of the entire world. Made up many former CIA agents, Stratfor specialized in a type of corporate and consumer espionage, but was now using its ties with government officials to win domestic and international spying contracts.
At the same time, members of Anonymous and their fellow cyber-hackers LulzSec had begun working off of a list of corporations doing military and espionage work for government spy agencies like the CIA and the Israeli Mossad. One company on that list was Stratfor. And one individual accused of being at the center of the Stratfor break-in is Jeremy Hammond.
Stratfor and WikiLeaks
As detailed in the Whiteout Press article, ‘Trapwire and Time Travel, Denzel movie Déjà vu is real’, the cyber hackers involved in the raid on Stratfor’s networks hit the jackpot. WikiLeaks eventually released 5 million pages of Stratfor corporate emails and other documents, bringing to light the reasons the corporation is called, ‘the private CIA’. Among those emails were some from Thomas Kavaler, husband of Judge Preska, the same judge now presiding over Jeremy Hammond’s criminal case.
Stratfor’s main program is a secret global espionage project it has already undertaken in which it claims that by monitoring everyone everywhere, it can predict a terrorist attack before it happens. Hacking into public and private surveillance feeds the world over, Stratfor can literally go back in time and recreate the scene of any crime from any angle on a television screen – just like the Denzel Washington movie Déjà vu.
On March 5, 2012, Jeremy Hammond was arrested in Chicago for an unrelated incident and his federal indictment was unsealed and announced by authorities the following day. As detailed in the Whiteout Press article, ‘LulzSec Hacker Leader a Federal Informant', the hackers responsible for the Stratfor break-in were carelessly bragging about it in online chat rooms. One well-known LulzSec leader present in those discussions was secretly working as an informant for US authorities.
Beginning with WikiLeaks’ repeated acts of exposing criminal activity at the highest levels of governments and corporations, Wall Street retaliated by freezing the organization’s assets and refusing to process any future payments or donations. In reply, Anonymous and LulzSec launched a salvo of attacks against those same Wall Street financial firms. In response, US and UK officials enlisted private mercenary armies like Stratfor in their war against the cyber hackers. Trading blow for blow, Anonymous and LulzSec went after the mercenary corporations and exposed Stratfor as one of the largest and allegedly criminal espionage rings in the world. The slugfest came to a climax on March 6 when Jeremy Hammond was charged with the Stratfor attacks and threatened with life in prison.
Accused of being the most dangerous cyber terrorist in the US, Jeremy Hammond’s friends, family and supporters across the globe still see him the way his father does, “His social conscience, his empathy for people, his values are right where they should be.”
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