Alleged LulzSec hacker and political activist Jeremy Hammond issued a statement from a New York jail on Thursday, comparing his own case to that of deceased hacker Aaron Swartz, and stressing the need for radical reforms to cybersecurity law. The letter follows the Thursday morning revelation that the judge presiding over his case, Loretta Preska, will not be recusing herself despite the conflict of interest stemming from her husband’s victimization in the same 2011 Stratfor hack for which Hammond is awaiting trial. At a pretrial hearing in November, Preska announced that Hammond would be facing 30 years-to-life in prison for his alleged role in the hack, the longest sentence in the history of computer crime in the US.
In the letter, posted by the sparrow project, Hammond stressed that it was Swartz’s politics, more than whatever crimes he may have committed, that lead to his persecution by law officials. "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," he says. He also had harsh words for the infiltration of hacker communities by the intelligence community, saying that federal agencies, "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."
"The CFAA should be found unconstitutional under the void-for-vagueness doctrine."
His strongest language, though, was reserved for the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) — a 1986 computer crime law that has grown to target a wide variety of otherwise innocuous electronic activity. "The definition of a 'protected computer' has been incrementally expanded to include any government or corporate computer in or outside the U.S.," said Hammond, adding that "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." Following Swartz’s death, congresswoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren proposed changes to the CFAA in order to limit its scope, but Hammond sees little hope in success, arguing that, "any efforts at reform are unlikely to be more than symbolic. What is needed is not reform but total transformation; not amendments but abolition."
Judge Preska denied the defendant's request for bail
Hammond, like Swartz, is facing the prospect of decades behind bars for his alleged involvement in the hack of Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor), an intelligence company with strong ties to government and industry. The hack hauled in some 90,000 military and civilian email addresses and passwords, unencrypted credit card data, and Stratfor’s entire email database, for which the company is claiming over $5 million in damages. While Hammond has been determined not to be a flight risk (he doesn’t own a passport), Judge Preska denied the defendant's request for bail, pointing to the risk of his accessing a computer and a "lack of regard for legal authority." His trial is set to go ahead in April, at which point Hammond will have been in jail for over a year.