After eight years in federal prison, Anonymous hacktivist Jeremy Hammond has been released from prison. The Jeremy Hammond Support Committee advocacy group tweeted on Tuesday he had been released from Tennessee’s Federal Correctional Institution, Memphis, into a halfway house in Chicago, Illinois.
I am absolutely overjoyed to announce that Jeremy has been released from FCI Memphis.— Jeremy Hammond Support Committee (@FreeJeremyNet) November 18, 2020
He is safely at a halfway house in Chicago & even got to spend a little time with his support crew.
We thank you so much for your support throughout the years. Until all are free! #FreedJeremy pic.twitter.com/Xz3kUafDgd
In 2011, Hammond and a group of hackers with the Anonymous-affiliated group LulzSec hacked their way into the only servers of Texas-based intelligence contracting firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., better known as Stratfor, making away with more than 200 gigabytes of files, including emails, before destroying what remained of Stratfor’s database.
The company provided private intelligence services for the CIA and other US intelligence agencies, and the slew of documents LulzSec turned over to WikiLeaks revealed the extent to which the US intelligence community had become intertwined with big business to get around domestic surveillance laws.
The files revealed Statfor had been contracted to peep on activists with the Occupy movement, then in its heyday in cities across the United States, as well as activist groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Anonymous and, of course, WikiLeaks, too.
Then, in March 2012, more than a dozen federal police broke down Hammond’s door in southwestern Chicago and arrested him.
‘He Wanted to Expose and Confront Injustice’
Prior to the Stratfor hack, Hammond was already a well-known hacktivist and anarchist. In 2007, he described himself to Chicago magazine as an “electronic Robin Hood,” and he had years of experience protesting against white supremacist rallies, the 2004 Republican National Convention and more, according to a 2012 spotlight piece by Rolling Stone.
Indeed, Hammond described the Stratfor hack as a similar kind of purloining of information that should belong to everybody.
“I have always made it clear that I am an anarchist-communist – as in I believe we need to abolish capitalism and the state in its entirety to realize a free, egalitarian society,” Hammond told Rolling Stone’s Janet Reitman in a 2012 letter from jail, adding he hopes his actions would “push the struggle in a more direct action, explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-state direction.”
“He knew it was against the law, he knew that it could get him into trouble, but he was doing it because he wanted to expose and confront injustice,” Shadowproof journalist Kevin Gosztola told Sputnik in September 2019.
He eventually pleaded guilty to violating one count of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in a non-cooperating plea deal and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, plus three more under supervised release.
While in prison, Hammond tolerated abuse by guards and long periods of solitary confinement, which advocates derided as tortuous. Despite this, Hammond stuck with a Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) program for years that would have secured for him an early release. However, in October 2019, just weeks before the program was concluded, Hammond was summoned to Alexandria by a federal grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its co-founder, Julian Assange, who had been arrested in London several months earlier and charged with a slew of crimes, including violation of the 1917 Espionage Act.
Hammond, like fellow whistleblower and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, refused to answer the grand jury’s questions, and the two were held in contempt in Alexandria City Jail. Sputnik reported from one protest outside the jail in February 2020, where demonstrators showed their support for the principled stands by Hammond and Manning against the grand jury’s probe. The following month, Hammond was ordered released from the contempt sentence by US District Judge Anthony Trenga, and he returned to Memphis to serve the remainder of his sentence.