- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A hacker who pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally accessing the computers of private sector intelligence company Stratfor could face up to 10 years in prison.

“Today I pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” said Jeremy Hammond in a statement. His admission, in a New York federal court, was part of a non-cooperating plea agreement, he added.

“This non-cooperating plea agreement frees me 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,” he said.

As part of the plea deal, he has agreed to make $2.5 million restitution, the New York Times reported.

“I knew what I was doing was against the law,” Mr. Hammond told the judge according to the paper’s website.

Hackers from LulzSec, a splinter group of the loose anarchistic online protest movement Anonymous, gained access to Austin, Texas-based Stratfor’s computer network in 2011, copying “multiple gigabytes of confidential data,” according to the complaint against Mr. Hammond.

The data included 60,000 credit card numbers, personal information, passwords of thousands of the company’s subscribers, records for 860,000 Stratfor clients, tens of thousands of e-mails and the company’s financial data.

Much of the material was posted on the website of the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks in December 2011, and Mr. Hammond used the credit card data to make $700,000 of expenditures.

Supporters of Mr. Hammond, who has been in custody for 15 months awaiting trial, say the hack exposed malfeasance by Stratfor, which gathered intelligence about protestors for corporate clients among its other activities.

“Corporate-government surveillance is one of the most rapidly expanding threats to civil liberties today,” said campaigner Abi Hassen, of the National Lawyers Guild.

She called the Stratfor leak “a glimpse into a secret world of corporate spying that is incompatible with this country’s democratic values.

“Today’s hearing should be a springboard for further investigation of Stratfor, not an opportunity to condemn a young man to a decade in prison for his political activism,” she said.

Through a spokesman, Stratfor declined to comment.

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