The U.S. government has a particular disdain for activists with computer chops, folks often times referred to as “hacktivists.” This was put on full display for the entire world earlier this year when an overzealous and vindictive federal prosecutor’s witch hunt against prodigy Aaron Swartz drove him to suicide. This same contemptuousness has also resulted in the recent trumped up charges against and, imprisonment of, Barrett Brown and Jeremy Hammond.
Well every action has a reaction and now California criminal defense attorney, Jay Leiderman, has started the Whistleblower Defense League. We find out that:
IN DEFENSE OF JOURNALISTS, ACTIVISTS, WHISTLEBLOWERS
Washington DC— We have entered a dangerous time in America. The FBI and Department of Justice are using harassment and prosecution as a tool to chill and silence journalism, on-line activism and dissent.
“People are being subpoenaed, indicted and incarcerated for simply exploring the truth,” says co-founder Jay Leiderman.
The government has amended the constitution with fear. In response, a nation-wide group of expert criminal defense attorneys have formed the Whistleblower Defense League to defend and encourage those willing to investigate and speak out against the corporate and political forces threatening our democracy.
“We stand with the courage our clients,” says co-founder Dennis Roberts. “We are the legal arm, the firewall, for those who place facts over propaganda.”
To Jay and all of the other attorneys involved in this important project: Thank You. This is the definition of public service, and we need a lot more of it.
Learn more and find contact information here.
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For those unfamiliar with Jeremy Hammond, he is the 28-year-old web developer accused of hacking Stratfor and subsequently leaking the information to Wikileaks. For this, he faces a 30-years-to-life sentence. Jeremy is currently being held without bail at the Manhattan Correctional Center, a federal jail in lower Manhattan in solitary confinement. Incredibly, the federal judge who is hearing his case, Lorraine Preska, has refused to step aside despite the fact that her husband was a victim in the hack Hammond is accused of. Now that’s a justice system!
Well Hammond recently penned a letter from solitary in which he discusses the rampant corruption in the criminal justice system, the very dangerous Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the tragic death and over-prosectution of Aaron Swartz. His character really comes through in the fact that he barely even discusses his own case, despite the awful situation he finds himself in. So without further ado, below is his entire letter, with my favorite passages highlighted.
February 20, 2013
Jeremy Hammond on Aaron Swartz and the Criminalization of Digital Dissent
The tragic death of internet freedom fighter Aaron Swartz reveals the government’s flawed “cyber security strategy” as well as its systematic corruption involving computer crime investigations, intellectual property law, and government/corporate transparency. In a society supposedly based on principles of democracy and due process, Aaron’s efforts to liberate the internet, including free distribution of JSTOR academic essays, access to public court records on PACER, stopping the passage of SOPA/PIPA, and developing the Creative Commons, make him a hero, not a criminal. It is not the “crimes” Aaron may have committed that made him a target of federal prosecution, but his ideas – elaborated in his “Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto” – that the government has found so dangerous. The United States Attorney’s aggressive prosecution, riddled with abuse and misconduct, is what led to the death of this hero. This sad and angering chapter should serve as a wake up call for all of us to acknowledge the danger inherent in our criminal justice system.
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. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, whose office is prosecuting me and my co-defendants in the Lulzsec indictment, has used alarmist rhetoric such as the threat of an imminent “Pearl Harbor like cyber attack” to justify these prosecutions. At the same time the government routinely trains and deploys their own hackers to launch sophisticated cyber attacks against the infrastructure of foreign countries, such as the Stuxnet and Flame viruses, without public knowledge, oversight, declarations of war, or consent from international authorities. DARPA, US Cyber Command, the NSA, and numerous federally-contracted private corporations openly recruit hackers to develop defensive and offensive capabilities and build Orwellian digital surveillance networks, designed not to enhance national security but to advance U.S. imperialism. They even 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.
If at first you don’t succeed in implementing total state surveillance on your citizenry, try and try again. These guys are just unbelievable. From the EFF:
It’s official: The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was reintroduced in the House of Representatives yesterday. CISPA is the contentious bill civil liberties advocates fought last year, which would provide a poorly-defined “cybersecurity” exception to existing privacy law. CISPA offers broad immunities to companies who choose to share data with government agencies (including the private communications of users) in the name of cybersecurity. It also creates avenues for companies to share data with any federal agencies, including military intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).
As others have noted, “CISPA is deeply flawed. Under a broad cybersecurity umbrella, it permits companies to share user communications directly with the super secret NSA and permits the NSA to use that information for non-cybersecurity reasons. This risks turning the cybersecurity program into a back door intelligence surveillance program run by a military entity with little transparency or public accountability.”
The EFF sums up its most pressing concerns in the following bullet points:
1) Companies have new rights to monitor user actions and share data—including potentially sensitive user data—with the government without a warrant.
2) CISPA overrides existing privacy law, and grants broad immunities to participating companies.
3) CISPA also raises major transparency and accountability issues.
4) Users probably won’t know if their private data is compromised under CISPA, and will have little recourse.
In honor of Aaron Swartz, let’s please stop CISPA.
For more detail on the above concerns click here.
This article from the Huffington Post is timely and important, particularly in the wake of the Aaron Swartz tragedy. It demonstrates a criminal justice system that has become completely void of justice. A system in which medical marijuana dispensaries and raw milk farms are raided by SWAT teams, but in which bankers that rob trillions with a pen face a slap on the wrist at worst and promotions to higher office at best. This kind of system, where federal prosecutors will target citizens just for publicity or because they know Washington D.C. doesn’t like the person is more reminiscent or Nazi, Soviet or East German justice than traditional American justice. It is another symptom of a nation in rapid societal decline. From the Huffington Post:
Prosecutors have enormous power. Even investigations that don’t result in any charges can ruin lives, ruin reputations, and drive their targets into bankruptcy. It has become an overtly political position — in general, but particularly at the federal level. If a prosecutor wants to ruin your life, he or she can. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.
But by most estimates, there are at least 4,000 separate criminal laws at the federal level, with another 10,000 to 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally. Just this year 400 new federal laws took effect, as did 29,000 new state laws. The civil libertarian and defense attorney Harvey Silverglate has argued that most Americans now unknowingly now commit about three felonies per day.