The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State

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Some Antisec members complained about the radical message. In her book on the rise and fall of Lulzsec, We Are Anonymous, author Parmy Olson recounts how some members squirmed under this new ideological rhetoric. Topiary, Lulzsec's longtime scribe, who had written every press release but these, was particularly shocked. "We don't want to get police officers killed," he told another Lulzsec member. "That's not my kind of style."

But Sabu was fine with the new rhetoric. "This is anarchy," he told a colleague who worried the statements might turn people off from getting involved just at the time Anonymous was hoping to draw more people in. "The fact that we attack governments and corporations means that we don't give a fuck about what others think."

Sabu proudly declared Antisec to be a revolutionary movement and urged his tens of thousands of Twitter followers to join the cause. "Rise Up. Resist," he posted, one of many virtual calls to war. No one doubted his authority or sincerity. "He was Sabu," says one close associate. Even after some of his Lulzsec colleagues were arrested – including Topiary, who turned out to be an 18-year-old British citizen named Jake Davis – his supporters stayed true, as he did to them. "Thank those fallen Anons for taking the hits that will give the rest of you another day to fight," he tweeted in July.

Sabu began working closely with a new, far quieter player in Antisec: a behind-the-scenes operator known to the larger crew as "anarchaos," though the elite hackers with whom he worked called him "sup_g." Highly dedicated, he was "basically the perfect storm of know-how, drive and ideology," says one former activist. "He was by far the most knowledgeable hacker in Antisec, and he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty." Together, he and Sabu were a formidable duo, though Sabu wasn't taken very seriously by many black hats. "People in the scene treated him like he was just a talking head," says one Anon. "I never felt that he was good for much other than networking."

Most experienced hackers knew that Sabu wasn't as talented as he purported to be. He had not, for example, hacked HBGary, as he claimed, but had only "social engineered" a password out of the company's IT security manager. More troubling were persistent rumors of his having been compromised, even possibly arrested, after he was "doxed" by Jennifer Emick. But the newest member of Sabu's inner circle didn't seem to care. "Sup_g wasn't very interested in all the drama. He just wanted action," says one Antisec hacker. "But the thing is, you need to keep track of the drama in Anonymous. Many times, following the drama can save your life."

The hackers of Antisec followed a strict code, often working in pairs and asking few questions of one another. Sup_g in particular seemed obsessed with his security, says one Anon who worked with him. "He gave very little personal information, was very adamant, even in private chats, about keeping stuff locked down until it was meant to be public – if it was ever meant to be public."

Like everyone else, he changed his nicknames frequently – "To make it more confusing to outside eyes," says one hacker – and could be brutal to those who got careless and called him by a previous name. But sup_g was far more cavalier in public channels. Though no one had claimed personal authorship of the Chinga la Migra statements, one longtime activist who read the postings connected them to a number of nicknames – notably "burn," a "straight-up anarchist-communist militant" – who had expressed many of the same sentiments, often in nearly identical language, on public IRC channels. Before long, "burn," along with "anarchaos" and two other nicknames, "o" and "credible threat," were the loudest and most passionate voices in the virtual world of IRC. Whomever was using these handles knew the finer points of finding food in dumpsters, had been in and out of jail, and was versed in anarchist theory as well as militant black-bloc tactics, having spent "upwards of a decade propagandizing for the people." And he wasn't afraid of being caught. "Prison's not bad," he said. "You do your time like a warrior, and emerge more trained and disciplined than before."

Other hackers grew concerned. "There was a point there where he started to just feel really proud about what he was doing," says one of sup_g's closest colleagues in Antisec, a hacker who would like to be known as "CC3." "Many times I said to him, 'Stay hidden. Don't show up too much on public channels.' " Sup_g assured him his security protocols were tight. "I said to him once, 'Please tell me you left the U.S.' and he said yes, he'd moved out. He said he was changing houses every week."

Hammond, of course, hadn't left Chicago. "I was in jail again," a persona named "tylerknowsthis" wrote in an August 2011 chat. "A dozen pigs raided my house and arrested me for a bag of sage – yes, sage." And, he added, he'd also "beaten a weed case" just seven months earlier.

Though Hammond refuses to admit that he ever used any of the nicknames attributed to him, events in his own life track these chat room posts. He had been arrested seven months earlier for pot possession and held for three weeks in the Cook County jail while awaiting the result of the drug test. Then in July 2011, Hammond's house was raided again: This time it wasn't just the police but also the FBI. "They questioned me and my roommates, none of us talked, so I don't know what they were investigating," he says. He spent another three weeks in jail for a bag of sage, which the feds had mistaken for marijuana.

When he got out, Hammond began to spend time with Occupy Chicago, and "burn" became active in OpBART, an Anonymous attack on the Bay Area Rapid Transit System. "Burn" also involved himself in Anonymous' dedicated Occupy Wall Street channel, which tried to strategize protests around the country. One day, Hammond's real and online lives collided when he met a digital-rights activist named Peter Fein, who met up with some protesters at Occupy Chicago. "I went down to Occupy one day, and I got to talking to people and mentioned that I did stuff with Anonymous. And this guy blurted out, 'Oh, yeah, I'm in Lulzsec,' " he says. "I thought, OK, either you're lying or an idiot. And that turned out to be Jeremy."

Hammond, who never told Fein his name, handed him some anarchist literature and two old issues of Hack This Zine, and began to talk about hacktivism. "I thought he was just another crazy from Anon. My sense was that he wanted recognition and credit, and you can't do that and be 'Anonymous,'" Fein says.

After Hammond was arrested and Fein saw his picture, he wasn't surprised. "From the moment I met Jeremy, I got the sense that he expected to go back to jail."

As the Occupy movement became a national phenomenon last fall, Antisec hackers stepped up their activity: exposing sensitive documents belonging to more than 70 law-enforcement agencies, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in retaliation for the police crackdown against Occupy protesters. They even hacked the gmail accounts of a California cybercrime investigator, some of whose e-mails detailed the methods that cybercrime units use to catch hackers.

By this time, sup_g had become the dominant voice of the 10 or so core members of Antisec, and the most indefatigable member of the team. Most of the work of the group now went through him, including the writing of nearly all the press releases, as Sabu became increasingly unreliable. That summer, Sabu had disappeared from the Internet entirely after a rival hacker released his own dossier on Monsegur. In September, he returned, blazing with an even greater urgency. "Every room I was in that he was in, he was very pressure-oriented to get shit done," says one former Antisec member. "And it needed to be done within the day or he would start yelling at people."

Yet Sabu rarely got involved in actual hacks. By November, even Hammond had grown suspicious, says CC3, and he and several other Antisec members began to distance themselves. "We got tired of seeing Sabu never get his hands dirty," says CC3. "And at some point a few of us sat together in an IRC chat room and asked, 'Who has ever seen Sabu hack anything?'" No one had.

But Sabu's core talent had always been as a fixer: bringing information provided to him by other hackers to people like sup_g, who could exploit it to the fullest. According to CC3, last November a hacker nobody knew told Sabu about a security hole in the website of a company called Strategic Forecasting Inc. Sabu handed that information to his team. Over the next few weeks, as his crew worked away, sup_g checked in with Sabu, giving him status updates. Needing a place to store the pilfered data, sup_g also accepted Sabu's offer to provide an external server, in New York. When the transfer was complete and Stratfor's website defaced, Sabu took to Twitter to announce the hack, and by Christmas the attack was all over the news.

The following day, Sabu logged on to IRC, entered a special chat room dubbed "#lulzmas" and sent a message to sup_g.

"Yo yo," he said.

"Hey, homboii," sup_g replied. "I been going hard all night."

"I heard we're all over the newspapers," said Sabu. "You motherfuckers are going to get me raided. HAHAHAAHA."

"Dude, it's big," sup_g said.

"If I get raided anarchaos," Sabu said, "your job is to cause havok [sic] in my honor." He added a heart – perhaps to deflect from the fact that he'd just casually linked one nickname with another. It was something he'd done a number of times: call sup_g by another name, which always prompted his partner to leave the chat. But this time, for unknown reasons – lapse of judgment, even the possibility that for just a moment he forgot who he was – sup_g didn't even flinch.

"It shall be so," he said.

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