An early champion of "cyber-liberation," he had been described by magazine at the age of 22 as an "electronic Robin Hood" after he was sentenced to two years in federal prison for hacking a conservative website and making off with 5,000 credit-card numbers, intending to charge donations to progressive causes.
"I have always made it clear that I am an anarchist-communist – as in I believe we need to abolish capitalism and the state in its entirety to realize a free, egalitarian society," he wrote.
"I'm not into watering down or selling out the message or making it more marketable for the masses."This unwavering commitment, one of Hammond's greatest strengths, would also be what led to his undoing.
Stratfor served as a sort of private CIA, monitoring developments in political hot spots around the world and supplying analysis to the U. In them, they had found a cornucopia of treasure: passwords, unencrypted credit-card data and private client lists revealing Stratfor's deep ties to both big business and the U. That June, he had joined a new faction within Anonymous known as Operation Antisec, or #Antisec, which described itself as a "popular front" against the "corrupt governments, corporations, militaries and law enforcement of the world." Though hundreds of activists may have frequented its internal communication channels, known as Internet relay chats, Antisec had less than a dozen core members: hackers, anarchists, free-speech activists and privacy crusaders, as well as "social engineers" – skilled manipulators whose talents lay in tricking even the most security-conscious into giving up their passwords or other data.
The founder and most prominent member of Antisec was a bloviating, heavyset 29-year-old hacker, self-proclaimed revolutionary and social engineer known as "Sabu," who had a special loathing, it seemed, for the intelligence industry.
They hacked defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton – an attack, dubbed "Military Meltdown Monday," that yielded 90,000 military and civilian e-mail accounts and passwords. But none of these attacks had the political resonance of Stratfor.
The computer breach not only cost the company millions, but focused worldwide attention on the murky world of private intelligence after Anonymous provided the firm's e-mails to Wiki Leaks, which has been posting them ever since.
"They hadn't even gotten out of the car when they were arrested," says Muchowski, a Chicago union organizer who bailed Hammond out. Before Hammond was locked up, Anonymous had engaged in a year-and-a-half-long hacking spree, waging a full-scale war against the "rich and powerful oppressors." The group shut down the websites of the CIA, major banks and credit-card companies.
His arrest, the most prominent bust to date of a U. They took up the cause of the Arab Spring by attacking the government websites of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt; they broke into computers belonging to NATO and the GEO Group, one of the world's largest private prison corporations.
But he has not disavowed his involvement with Anonymous, nor his desire to "push the struggle in a more direct action, explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-state direction," as he wrote to me from Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he has been held for the past eight months awaiting a bail hearing.
Indeed, his hallmark as an activist has always been his revolutionary, militant rhetoric, for which he is unapologetic.
On a cold day in mid-December 2011, a hacker known as "sup_g" sat alone at his computer – invisible, or so he believed.