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Jeremy Hammond could face life in prison for allegedly leading the Stratfor hack and a separate attack on the Arizona Department of Safety website.
Former Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown was also indicted for computer fraud in the Stratfor dox, not for hacking into the system, but for linking to the hacked information in a chat room.
Prosecutors allege that Swartz downloaded the articles because he intended to distribute them for free online, though Swartz was arrested before any articles were made public.
He had often spoken publicly about the importance of making academic research freely available.
Both were charged with felonies under the CFAA, on top of other allegations.
The Ninth and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that such an interpretation of the CFAA casts too wide a net. Attorney Steve Heymann of Massachusetts was the lead prosecutor in Swartz’s case.
While working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning passed thousands of classified intelligence reports and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, to be posted on their website. Both Swartz and Manning were charged under a section of the CFAA that covers anyone who “knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer…” The charges hinge on an interpretation of this section that says anyone in violation of a website’s terms of service is an unauthorized user.
Because they’re unauthorized, all of their activity on that website could therefore be considered illegal.
Other online activists have increasingly turned to computer networks and other technology as a means of political protest, deploying a range of tactics — from temporarily shutting down servers to disclosing personal and corporate information.
Most of these acts, including Swartz’s downloads, are criminalized under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), an act was designed to prosecute hackers.
Distributed Denial of Service In 2010, the group Anonymous attempted to overload websites for Pay Pal, Visa and Mastercard after the companies refused to process donations to Wikileaks.