Anonymous member Jeremy Hammond has pleaded guilty to the headline-making December 2011 hack on private intelligence company Stratfor, at a court appearance in New York.
Hammond, 27, of Chicago, Illinois, has been held on remand since his arrest in March 2012. He pleaded guilty to one count of violating the computer fraud and abuse act as part of a plea-bargain agreement that means he will not become a co-operating witness and will be free from further federal prosecution for computer hacking offences. He can be expected to face a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars for his part in the Stratfor hack and other Anonymous-inspired operations.
The FBI said that alleged LulzSec ringleader Hector Xavier Monsegur - who agreed to act as an informant following his arrest in June 2011 - had tried to persuade the hackers who carried out the raid to store emails looted from Stratfor on a server controlled by the Feds. Information coaxed out of Hammond by Monsegur led directly to Hammond's arrest, the FBI has since revealed.
Hammond explained, in a message released through his official support website, that he decided to cop a plea rather than contest his case so as to avoid a potential nightmare of continuous subsequent trials even if he was acquitted of this particular offence.
Now that I have pleaded guilty it is a relief to be able to say that I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites. Those others included military and police equipment suppliers, private intelligence and information security firms, and law enforcement agencies. I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right.
I have already spent 15 months in prison. For several weeks of that time I have been held in solitary confinement. I have been denied visits and phone calls with my family and friends. This plea agreement spares me, my family, and my community a repeat of this grinding process.
WikiLeaks began publishing emails from Stratfor in February 2012 to expose "how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients".
The whistleblowing site declined to explain how it came by the "Global Intelligence Files" from Stratfor. The dates covered by the emails run from from July 2004 to late December 2011. Hammond and his fellow hacktivists ransacked Stratfor in December 2011. ®