Reporters Without Borders

10 years in prison for circulating information in public interest

10 years in prison for circulating information in public interest

Published on Monday 18 November 2013.
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Jeremy Hammond, a 28-year-old WikiLeaks informant and cyber-activist linked to Anonymous, has become the fourth whistleblower to receive a long jail sentence this year in the United States.

A federal court in Manhattan sentenced Hammond to 10 years in jail plus three years supervised release under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) on 15 November. His sentence could have been at least four times as long if he had not pleaded guilty.

Information that Hammond obtained by hacking into the global intelligence company Stratfor was posted on another platform by Barrett Brown, a journalist who is facing up to 105 years in prison on various charges including piracy.

“Is 10 years in jail the price of information in the public interest?” Reporters Without Borders said. “The 5 million emails that Hammond gave to WikiLeaks shed light on the often very questionable activities of a company whose services are used by the federal government and major industrial corporations.

“All this material clearly deserved to be brought to the attention of the public in the United States and elsewhere. This sentence is a major setback for freedom of information and we are concerned about the impact it could have on Barrett Brown’s prosecution.”

In 2011, Hammond succeeded in hacking into Stratfor’s internal communications system and obtaining around 5 million emails that were then published by WikiLeaks with the help of 25 news organizations and news platforms.

Hammond was arrested on 5 March 2012 on information provided by an FBI mole in his activist group, LulzSec, an Anonymous offshoot. He was also convicted for circulating the bank account details of 60,000 Stratfor clients, as a result of which 700,000 dollars were illegally transferred to NGO accounts.

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