Activist Jeremy Hammond has been held without bail since his arrest in March. He is accused of hacking into the computers of private intelligence firm Stratfor and giving million of emails to WikiLeaks. He has been called the other Bradley Manning. While Manning revealed government wrongdoing, Hammond is alleged to have leaked information from a private company, helping expose the inner workings of the insidious and pervasive surveillance state.
When he was 22, Hammond was called an “electronic Robin Hood” using hacking as a means of civil disobedience. He attacked a conservative group’s web site and stole user’s credit cards with the idea of making donations to the American Civil Liberties Union. His intention was in the spirit of taking from the rich and giving to poor. He later changed his mind and didn’t use the credit cards.
If he did what he is alleged with Stratfor, it was for the public good. Documents that he is alleged to have obtained and uploaded to WikiLeaks revealed spying on activists and others for corporations and governments. Furthermore, attorney and president Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner argued that the Stratfor hacking was a clear case of entrapment targeting online activist group Anonymous and Hammond. He explained there was an informant named Sabu and the FBI gave him the computer onto which the documents were uploaded.
Hammond now has been moved to solitary confinement and has been virtually cut off from all interaction with the outside world. On Feb 14, the Jeremy Hammond Support Network posted a message on social media that heavy restrictions were put on him. The Network reported Hammond now is not allowed any commissary visits to buy stamps for letters and food, as he does not get enough to eat. Now visits are limited to his lawyer and telephone contact is restricted to his brother.
His case is another example of the expanding unchecked authoritarian power in the justice system in general. Here Hammond appears to be following similar footsteps as Bradley Manning who also was placed into solitary confinement. Nahal Zamani, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights argued how solitary confinement is a form of torture and is “clearly cruel and unusual punishment. Indeed, the use of solitary has been condemned as torture by the international community.”
Unlike Manning, who is subject to the military ‘justice’ system, Hammond is in a civilian court, which is supposed to follow the Constitution. What happens though when one is placed into jail outside of the public eye is that prisoners are more and more being stripped of their rights and treated inhumanely. Once they are behind bars, they become incognito, losing connection to the outside world. Inside the cage is a twilight zone where laws and conventions can be bent by those who are powerful, with little oversight or accountability.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of a deeply flawed justice system combined with an increasingly corporatized prison industrial complex. Prisoners are marginalized and many are forgotten. Hammond shared his personal experience as prisoner at the Metropolitan Correctional Center during Hurricane Sandy. He wrote how because of the storm, the Correctional Center lost power. They had no hot water or heat and prisoners were left behind with no phone calls, no visits and no mail. What was revealed was a callous system that abandons the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged. Hammond noted how as was seen in the Katrina disaster of New Orleans, New Yorkers experienced that relief came not from FEMA and government agency but from grassroots community groups such as Occupy Sandy. He ended his letter saying:
“Very frightening to consider what would happen to us prisoners – already disenfranchised, silenced, marginalized and forgotten – in the event of a more devastating natural disaster. There’s a universal consensus here – ‘they’d probably leave us to die.’”
In addition to this, the US legal system is more and more used to target political dissidents, especially information activists. In November 2012, Hammond was denied bail despite his attorney convincingly arguing that he posed no flight risk and assuring that he would not have access to computers. The prosecutor insisted he is a flight risk and Judge Loretta Preska held a very hostile attitude toward Hammond and stated that the reason for bail denial was that Hammond poses “a very substantial danger to the community.” Hammond now faces indictments against him for various computer fraud crimes which could amount to 37 years to life in prison.
Ratner addressed obvious conflict of interests with judge Preska sitting on the case against Hammond. It came to light that Preska’s husband worked for a client of Stratfor, whose emails Hammond allegedly leaked. Ratner spoke of how the mere appearance of a conflict of interest is enough for her to recuse herself, according to judicial rules.
Jeremy Hammond’s case is showing how broken the rule of law has become in our time. Like Bradley Manning, Barret Brown and the late Aaron Swartz, this is another case of a high profile activist being severely targeted by having the book thrown at them with generally specious charges. The courts have become part of a rigged system that favors corporations and those politically connected to them. One thing that these activists seem to have in common is that they actually never really hurt anyone and are driven by one of the higher ideals that this country has been founded on -that of a truly informed populace, while those that are politically targeting them regularly harm and exploit innocent people.
Holding those who abuse power accountable is becoming nearly impossible with the current system. More than ever, checks and balance will only come from the people. It was in response to a public uproar that Manning was moved from Quantico where he had been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.
This Thursday, February 21, Preska will make a decision on the defense motion to recuse herself from the case against Hammond and supporters plan to pack the courtroom to demand a fair trial. We all have to stay awake and support those who have passed the twilight gate, who are rendered invisible, marginalized from the rest of the population. A broken rule of law can be corrected through the vigilance and conscience of ordinary people; witnessing injustice and challenging it from all sides. We will be watching.
For information on the Jeremy Hammond Courthouse Support Rally, go to Revolution News!
Nozomi Hayase is a contributing writer to Culture Unplugged, and a global citizen blogger, at Journaling Between Worlds. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org