A federal judge has refused to recuse herself from the closely watched trial of jailed computer hacker Jeremy Hammond, an alleged member of the group “Anonymous” charged with hacking into the computers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor and turning over some five million emails to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Hammond’s lawyers had asked Federal Judge Loretta Preska to recuse herself because her husband worked for a client of Stratfor, and himself had his email hacked. Hammond’s supporters say the Stratfor documents shed light on how the private intelligence firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. He has been held without bail or trial for more than nine months. We speak with Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, about Hammond’s case. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A federal judge has refused to recuse herself from the closely watched trial of jailed computer hacker Jeremy Hammond. Hammond is accused of being a member of the hacker group Anonymous. He’s been charged with hacking into the computers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor and turning over five million emails to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Hammond’s lawyers had asked Federal Judge Loretta Preska to recuse herself because her husband worked for a client of Stratfor.
Hammond’s supporters say the Stratfor documents shed light on how the private intelligence firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. Jeremy Hammond has been held without bail or trial for more than nine months.
Last week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mentioned Jeremy Hammond in a rare address from the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has sought asylum.
JULIAN ASSANGE: I have been sustained by your solidarity, and I’m grateful for the efforts of people all around the world supporting the work of WikiLeaks, supporting freedom of speech, freedom of the press—essential elements in any democracy. While my freedom is limited, at least I am still able to communicate this Christmas, unlike the 232 journalists who are in jail tonight; unlike Gottfrid Svartholm in Sweden tonight; unlike Jeremy Hammond in New York tonight; unlike Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain tonight; and unlike Bradley Manning, who turned 25 this week, a young man who has maintained his dignity after spending more than 10 percent of his life in jail without trial, some of that time in a cage naked and without his glasses; and unlike so many others whose plights are linked to my own. I salute these brave men and women.
AMY GOODMAN: That was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking at the window of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has taken refuge for the past six months. He has sought and gotten political asylum in Ecuador, but he cannot leave the Ecuadorean embassy to get to Ecuador because Britain threatens to arrest him if he steps foot on British soil. Well, I recently spoke with Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and asked about the Jeremy Hammond case here in New York.
MICHAEL RATNER: The Center for Constitutional Rights and myself are the lawyers in the United States for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has two very big sources of documents. One of them are the documents allegedly that Bradley Manning uploaded, which include of course the Iraq war logs, Afghan war logs, the videos, etc., and that’s Bradley Manning, allegedly. The others are the Stratfor documents, which is the private intelligence company, which are some five million documents, that again were uploaded to WikiLeaks. So, if we talk about our client, Julian Assange, two of the alleged sources are Jeremy Hammond, Anonymous and Bradley Manning. So we’re very concerned. WikiLeaks, I know, is very concerned that its sources get protected in all the support they can get.
So, as part of that, I have been monitoring and going to various hearings with Jeremy Hammond, and I went into the prison and I met Jeremy Hammond. And I was at his recent bail hearing in federal court, where even though he’s been in prison some nine months and needs to prepare for his upcoming criminal case on his alleged hack into the Stratfor emails, the judge, Judge Loretta Preska, denied him bail. It was a one-and-a-half-hour hearing. There were a number of supporters in the courtroom who came from all over the country, with Jeremy Hammond — “Free Jeremy Hammond” shirts on. And it was, in my view, a very hostile hearing to Jeremy Hammond.
There are two, really, criteria in bail. One is: Are you going to be a flight risk? And the second is: Are you a danger to the community? And the government has the burden of proving that you’re a flight risk or a danger to the community. Now, I have to say, the judge had probably decided this case before the arguments went on, because she essentially read an opinion after an hour and a half into the record, denying bail to Jeremy Hammond. And it was really disappointing, because you do have a right to bail under our Constitution. With regard to his being a danger to the community, I mean, they must think Jeremy Hammond is God, because he’s not allowed to use a computer that’s connected to the Internet, but he’s not allowed really to—when he gets to use any computer, because they somehow think—or very limited access to any computer, because they somehow think that even though it’s not connected to the Internet, that this guy is so smart, he’ll figure out how to get onto the—into documents. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who Jeremy is and what happened to him, how he ended up being arrested.
MICHAEL RATNER: OK, Jeremy is a political activist who has been active his—he’s only 28 years old now, but he has been a political activist for a number of years. He went after everybody, from Holocaust denier David Irving. He was—the group, apparently—I don’t know whether he was part of that—was involved in hacking into Scientology. He did some time in jail for a prior hack of a very conservative group. I think he did a year and a half or two years on that. And now he has—he has been arrested for really being, as you said, allegedly part of the group Anonymous.
There was an informant in Anonymous, apparently, named Sabu, who is somewhat well known, who actually set up this crime for Stratfor. The FBI gave him the computer that the Stratfor documents were actually uploaded to. There’s a pretty clear case of entrapment, in terms of trying to get Jeremy Hammond. And they may have even been trying to get our client, WikiLeaks, to do something with those documents that [inaudible] make into something else.
AMY GOODMAN: So the government made the Stratfor documents available?
MICHAEL RATNER: Right. That’s a very good way to say it, Amy. Yes. The answer is—
AMY GOODMAN: Was Stratfor aware of this?
MICHAEL RATNER: That’s a good question. The government knew at some point—and we don’t understand this, or I don’t understand this—that there was access to the Stratfor emails and five million documents. They then gave Sabu a computer that all of those could be uploaded to. They’re put on that. And then, the FBI is in on this, and then they somehow allow them to go out to WikiLeaks, allegedly. So the government had to be following this—and was—every step of the way. So, in some way, it’s like—I would hesitate to say typical entrapment cases we’re reading all the time about Muslims, but it is that. It seems to me that this is a government-made crime.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s as if they let the bomb blow up.
MICHAEL RATNER: Right, exactly. This is a government-made crime. That’s correct. And Jeremy Hammond was considered one of the geniuses involved in—generally, in hacking, but in the Anonymous movement, and in particularly in the Stratfor emails.
AMY GOODMAN: So where was he picked up?
MICHAEL RATNER: He was picked up—they raided his house in Chicago, and they brought him here, where the indictment is pending against him, some other people from London and—from England or Ireland, a number of other people, for various Anonymous allegations.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of Julian Assange talking about the leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor. Julian Assange, we spoke to in the—in London. He is in the embassy in Ecuador [Ecuadorean embassy in London], where he has been granted political asylum.
JULIAN ASSANGE: There are some 3,000 emails in the Stratfor collection about me personally and many more thousands about WikiLeaks. The latest on the grand jury front is that the U.S. Department of Justice admits, as of about two weeks ago, that the investigation is ongoing. On September 28th this year, the Pentagon renewed its formal threats against us in relation to ongoing publishing but also, extremely seriously, in relation to ongoing, what they call, solicitation. So, that is asking sources publicly, you know, “Send us important material, and we will publish it.” They say that that itself is a crime. So this is not simply a case about—that we received some information back in 2010 and have been publishing it and they say that that was the crime; the Pentagon is maintaining a line that WikiLeaks inherently, as an institution that tells military and government whistleblowers to step forward with information, is a crime, that we are—they allege we are criminal, moving forward.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk more—talk more, Michael Ratner, about the emails of Stratfor.
MICHAEL RATNER: Well, Stratfor, as you’ve covered on the show before, had a lot of really important information about surveillance of everybody from PETA to the Yes Men, to other activists, to working for, you know, U.S. government agencies. It puts out a regular intelligence newsletter, presumably online. It does work for private clients, like, you know, big major corporations, etc. One of the things that came out in the Stratfor emails are a list of people who apparently are subscribers to the—to the newsletter, the intelligence newsletter, if you want to call it intelligence, and there’s thousands of those emails and subscribers. And there’s an interesting thing that—an interesting occurrence. The judge who tried—who’s trying the case so far, the Jeremy Hammond case in federal district court here in New York—
AMY GOODMAN: Her name is?
MICHAEL RATNER: Her name is Loretta Preska. She is the chief judge of the federal district court. She’s the one who denied bail to Jeremy Hammond, in what I consider to be a very, very hostile interview—I mean, very hostile opinion, and really had errors in it that I think should be remedied in his entitlement to bail.
But what came out since that time, only in a week ago, and it came as an email from somebody on the Internet—what came out is that her husband, who’s a lawyer, I think at Cahill Gordon—his name is Thomas Kavaler, I think, Kavaler—that his email also was part of the Stratfor releases. So you’re going through the Stratfor documents, and there you see a number, you see the email for this lawyer at Cahill Gordon, or Cahill whatever it’s called, a big law firm in New York, and that is the husband of Judge Preska. And even worse, from what I understand, is they actually put up a password that you could get into this lawyer’s email account and see what his emails were.
So, here, look at this situation. You have the judge; her husband has been hacked. Her husband’s email is accessible. And she is sitting on the case of the very person who they allege hacked into that email account. Well, the rules seem to me very clear in federal court, that if there’s any appearance of impropriety, appearance of—you know, of a closeness to the case, that basically you have to recuse yourself from being a judge in the case. You have to do it automatically, even if the—even if the defendant doesn’t make a motion. Think about it. Your spouse’s email is hacked. I mean—
AMY GOODMAN: You’re pretty angry.
MICHAEL RATNER: You’re pretty angry about that. And even—and even if you’re not, the appearance of—the appearance of injustice or the appearance of an impropriety really is enough, it would seem to me. And that’s what’s allowed. It’s not just the actual conflict; it’s the appearance of a conflict. And so, I think that this judge ought to be off this case.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is very interesting, because then it’s not only his emails that can be read, but presumably they have written to each other, and so the judge herself is exposed.
MICHAEL RATNER: Right, I—we don’t know that, but this may be. I think someone told me there may not be his—it’s maybe his business account; maybe she hasn’t written to him. But the point is, other people’s emails—the point is, this is her spouse, who was hacked by the very guy she is denying bail to. I mean, think about that. Think about what that means for the system of justice.
AMY GOODMAN: So you have the Jeremy Hammond case, and you also were in the courtroom when Private Bradley Manning, for the first time after two years’ imprisonment, a lot of that time in solitary confinement, testified for the first time about his conditions. First, we know very little—most people haven’t even heard about the Jeremy Hammond case. Why do you think there is that kind of difference?
MICHAEL RATNER: You know, it’s a good question, Amy. I mean—I mean, the earliest stuff, of course, was Bradley Manning and—you know, and WikiLeaks. That was two years ago yesterday, actually. Two years ago, we had the anniversary of the Cablegate releases, which is the State Department releases. And, of course, they were huge. And they were government documents. Jeremy Hammond was a private security company, and so maybe that’s part of it. Part of it is that it came later. Part of it, he wasn’t in the military. And so, they really—I mean, they want to make—right now, the government is going to—trying to make an example out of all three of these people. I mean, look what they’ve done. They’ve got Jeremy Hammond, no bail, in a federal detention facility.
AMY GOODMAN: In Metropolitan Detention Center.
MICHAEL RATNER: In Metropolitan Detention Center.
AMY GOODMAN: Which is?
MICHAEL RATNER: Which is in Manhattan at Foley Square. You’ve got Bradley Manning finally moved to Leavenworth, where his conditions are better than they were at Quantico, for sure, but in prison. And you’ve got Julian Assange—
AMY GOODMAN: Your client.
MICHAEL RATNER: —living in an embassy. So what the government is trying to do is destroy the idea that the government’s secrets and its corruption and its crimes ought to be known, and get at the whistleblowers and the publishers who are doing it. And so, we’re seeing that across the board. These three, really, are the three that they’re obviously focused on putting away for as long as they can.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a lawyer for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, recently returned from attending part of the pretrial hearing for Bradley Manning. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we get back, what’s happening within FreedomWorks and Dick Armey? What was that $8 million payout? Stay with us.