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GI Files and Fallout

WikiLeaks publishes the Global Intelligence Files

On 27 February 2012, WikiLeaks, in coordination with dozens of international media outlets, began publishing more then five million Stratfor emails as the Global Intelligence Files. In the accompanying press release, WikiLeaks explained the journalistic importance of these documents:

The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods

Visit our Revelations page to read more about what the Stratfor emails reveal about the private intelligence-industrial complex.

Hammond becomes the FBI’s ‘number one target’

Documents released after Hector Monsegur’s sentencing state that Jeremy Hammond was the FBI’s “number one cybercriminal target at the time of his arrest in 2012.”

Over the course of 2011, as online activism became more visible, the US government’s reaction became increasingly disproportionate both in its public statements and what was being discussed behind closed doors. The determination to arrest Jeremy Hammond was just one dimension of the heightened perception of Anonymous as a threat worthy of attention at the highest levels.

In June 2011, the United States issued a new defence strategy declaring that it would consider cyberattacks as “acts of war.” While the June 2011 document said nothing specifically about non-state actors, the Pentagon presented its new classification of cyberattacks to the press in highly aggressive terms. An unnamed official told the Wall Street Journal, “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks.”

In an atmosphere where the prospect of cyberattacks was becoming a fixation of defence officials and the interests of online activists were reaching ever closer to home, Anonymous’ political actions were increasingly deemed a threat to national security. In February 2012, the Wall Street Journal claimed that Anonymous was being considered a threat at senior levels of the US government. The newspaper revealed that NSA Director General Keith Alexander had written a letter to the White House expressing his concerns that Anonymous could “disrupt power supplies” and “damage computer networks.” Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the same newspaper, “A near-peer competitor could give cyber malware capability to some fringe group… Some hacker, next thing you know, could be into our electrical grid. We have to get after this.”

In February 2013, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced the release of the Administration’s Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets. This explicitly identified economic espionage threats emerging from non-state actors. WikiLeaks and the by-then-defunct LulzSec were described as using the “tools of economic espionage”:

Cyberspace provides relatively small-scale actors an opportunity to become players in economic espionage. Under-resourced governments or corporations could build relationships with hackers to develop customized malware or remote-access exploits to steal sensitive US economic or technology information… Similarly, political or social activists may use the tools of economic espionage against US companies, agencies, or other entities, with disgruntled insiders leaking information about corporate trade secrets or critical US technology to ‘hacktivist’ groups like WikiLeaks.

We now know that these lurid warnings about Anonymous disrupting energy supplies were not restricted to the executive branch. As the New Yorker reported, on 8 March 2012, members of  Congress attended a cybersecurity briefing that included top security officials including Keith Alexander, Martin Dempsey, Robert Mueller and Janet Napolitano. According to the New Yorker:

Attendees were shown a computer simulation of what a cyberattack on the Eastern Seaboard’s electrical supply might look like. Anonymous was not yet capable of mounting an attack on this scale, but security officials worried that they might join forces with other, more sophisticated  groups. “As we were dealing with this  ever-increasing presence on the Net and ever-increasing risk, the government nuts and bolts were still being worked out,” Napolitano told me. When discussing potential  cybersecurity threats, she added, “We often used Anonymous as Exhibit A.”

Arrest, Trial and Sentencing

Jeremy Hammond was arrested on 5 March 2012 by the FBI, along with five others associated with LulzSec, largely as a result of Hector Monsegur’s cooperation with the government. Hammond was charged with several counts of hacking, conspiracy to hack and conspiracy to commit fraud, totaling a potential 35-year prison sentence.

Chief District Judge Loretta Preska presided over Jeremy’s case in Lower Manhattan. She declined to release Jeremy on bail, claiming he was a “flight risk,” hampering his ability to prepare for trial with his counsel. Jeremy’s lawyers were willing to agree to home confinement in New York City with electronic monitoring and a total computer ban. He would have only been allowed out of the house to visit his lawyers, and he would have only had a certain amount of time to get from the apartment where he was staying to his lawyer’s office.

Nevertheless, Judge Preska denied the motion, asking, “what’s to stop [Jeremy] from stopping at an internet cafe and performing the Stratfor hack all over again?” Jeremy was placed in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City and had to wait for more than a year in jail to start trial. He was also denied access to his discovery by the prison, logging only 11 hours of access to the laptop which contained the relevant files between 13 February 2013 and 10 April 2013.

Judge Preska is married to Thomas Kavaler, a former Stratfor client whose email and encrypted password were revealed in the GI Files. The defence moved to recuse Judge Preska on conflict-of-interest grounds and legal scholars supported that motion. National Lawyer Guild executive director Heidi Boghosian said, “If Judge Preska stays on this case it goes against everything she is sworn to do as chief judge and degrades the integrity of the court.” However, the decision was Preska’s, and she refused.

Jeremy ultimately pleaded guilty to one violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in a non-cooperating agreement that allowed him, as he explained in an accompanying statement, “to tell the world what I did and why, without exposing any tactics or information to the government and without jeopardizing the lives and well-being of other activists on and offline.” That plea carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. Jeremy’s lawyers submitted 265 letters of support for their client demanding leniency, but on 15 November 2013 Judge Preska sentenced Jeremy to the maximum: a decade in prison.

Calling the sentence a “vengeful, spiteful act,” Jeremy said that his prosecutors “have made it clear they are trying to send a message to others who come after me. A lot of it is because they got slapped around, they were embarrassed by Anonymous and they feel that they need to save face.”