Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stratfor leak: blame falls on the whistleblowers

A few hours ago, Jeremy Hammond, 28 years old, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for hacking into the computers of a company named Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting). Barrett Brown, a journalist whose articles always sided with the hacker movement Anonymous is sitting in jail for over a year now and facing a possible sentence of 100 years for merely sharing a hyperlink on the internet.

But we need to jump back in time by a few years to understand all of this. The war in Afghanistan by the USA was received with some degree of perplexity. On the one hand, talibans were not cooperating with the USA for handing Bin Laden to Uncle Sam, on the other hand, Afghanistan was a sovereign nation with no duty to take orders from George Bush. Then the USA attacked Iraq by telling lies and by basically telling the UN that the USA was not going to be bothered by formalities like international treaties or the Geneva Convention and that it would go and commit crimes against humanity if it wanted. A few years into the conflicts, damning information was revealed by Wikileaks, providing evidence of willful atrocities committed by the USA.

Anonymous, a social movement for justice and fighting abuses of power through computer hacking had already made a name for itself before 2011, when banking organizations suddenly and simultaneously obeyed to Obama's request of financially asphyxiating Wikileaks. A secondary collective of hackers, involving only highly skilled and highly determined members from Anonymous, was formed under the name "Lulzsec". Fired up by the injustice that was happening to Wikileaks which shares their passion for social justice, Lulzsec and Anonymous hacked into the servers of a few private companies who do roughly the same job as the CIA and the NSA, for uncovering evidence of the administration's order to gag Wikileaks. Stratfor is one of these companies.

The emails revealed crimes and conspiracies fomented by Stratfor but as has become common under Obama, justice is only going after the small fish, the weak, the whistleblowers who fight for justice while turning a blind eye on crimes committed by the rich and powerful like Stratfor and its executives.

Jeremy Hammond was one of the hackers, member of both Anonymous and Lulzsec, who performed the attack against Stratfor and copied ~5 million emails from the private company. He was later caught by the police when another member of Lulzsec turned out to be a mole for the FBI who had decided to cooperate in exchange for leniency on charges of hacking. After obtaining the emails, Hammond put these online for people to download and make copies. After a couple of years of trial, Jeremy Hammond was sentenced very recently to 10 years in jail.

Barrett Brown, a journalist extensively covering the actions from Anonymous with whom he seemed to agree by and large, obtained a URL leading to the emails put online by Hammond and copy-pasted that URL on a Anonymous forum basically saying "Have you seen THAT?". For this act of copying 1 hyperlink, Barrett Brown is facing up to 100 years in jail and has already been detained for over a year.


Situations like this are very difficult to evaluate because after all hacking is kind of illegal... though jurisprudence establishes the public's right to know as taking precedence over the right to keep information secret.

Barrett Brown's situation seems unconditionally damning for the political power in place, while Hammond's situation is more complex to grasp. In any case, I encourage you to go and check other sources of information on the Internet about these 2 young men.

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