The Stratfor documents published by WikiLeaks contain details about the inner workings of the security firm, including links between private intelligence and government. As a result, the digital equivalent of 100,000 pages of data are being produced as evidence against Hammond, which Leiderman told Computing may take years to properly assess.
His lawyers attempted to get Hammond released on pre-trial bail in order to properly review the case against him, but Federal Judge Loretta Preska denied the request on the basis that he presents “a very substantial danger to the community”.
The Stratfor case isn’t Hammond’s first run-in with the law. He served two years in prison between 2007 and 2009 for breaking into the computer systems of a conservative website and taking credit card information. He’s also been arrested multiple times for offenses including property damage and disorderly conduct while taking part in protests over the past decade.
Leiderman believes Hammond’s indefinite confinement without trial, a situation that puts him on the same perceived danger level as murderers and terrorists, is the US authorities’ attempt to send out a warning to hacktivist collectives.
“I think what’s going on is that the government is trying to be heavy handed here and they’re getting an assist from the judiciary,” Leiderman said.
“They’re trying to discourage anyone from really thinking about using a computer for anything other than email and shopping, that’s what I think. Go ahead, be good consumers, send your friends a picture of your cat and that’s it,” he added.
Leiderman believes working with hackers can actually provide benefits, something the US government and other organisations should take advantage of.
“There are a lot of good things that come from exploits and messing with people’s sites. We’ve learned how to be more secure, we find different uses and different applications for things and there’s some curiosity to be encouraged here and government really seems to be trying to stifle it in its entirety. “
The amount of evidence that needs to be assessed means a trial is unlikely until at least well into next year. If found guilty, the 27-year-old faces the possibility of a life sentence.
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A discussion of the "risk perception gap", its implications and how it can be closed