Criminal Justice

Abuse of Computer Fraud Law Seen in Hacker's Indictment

Pile on the charges to extort compliance

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In the months since Aaron Swartz's death, it's become clear to the American public that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA") has become one of the most dangerous and abused criminal laws available to prosecutors. One of its biggest problems—its draconian sentencing scheme—is on full display in the case of Jeremy Hammond.

Hammond was arrested for allegedly hacking into private intelligence contractor Stratfor and obtaining internal emails and other sensitive information for a political, rather than financial, purpose. Hammond then leaked this data to the media, attempting to highlight Stratfor's work as a "private intelligence firm" and expose surveillance on political protesters at the behest of both private companies and the government. He made this information available to the media, and major publications including Rolling Stone, WikiLeaks, and McClatchy published material from the leaks.