A document leaked from New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services reveals that Federal Bureau of Investigation considers Anonymous hacker Jeremy Hammond a possible terrorist organization member, and put him on the multi-agency Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), alongside individuals suspected of ties to Al-Qaeda, Somalia-based extremists Al-Shabaab, and Colombia’s leftist FARC guerrilla movement. The document is marked “destroy after use” and includes the instruction: “Do not advise this individual that they are on a terrorist watch list”.
Jeremy was arrested in March 2012 and sentenced in November 2013 to 10 years in prison for his role in a series of high-profile hacks carried out by Anonymous; one of them being the leak of five million emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor. He was prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. During the court proceedings, there was no mention of him being part of any terrorist activity or terrorist organisation. Interestingly, there is no justification given by the FBI in the leaked document for including him on the list. Well, nearly 40% of those currently on the government’s terrorist watchlist have no known affiliation to recognized terrorist groups.
Jeremy insists he is an activist and not a criminal or a terrorist. “We are condemned as criminals without consciences, dismissed as anti-social teens without a cause, or hyped as cyber-terrorists to justify the expanding surveillance state. But hacktivism exists within the history of social justice movements,” he argues.
Should a hacker with no history of terrorist behaviour or affiliations be put on a terrorist watch list? “This raises questions about the US government’s definition of terrorism and whether they have expanded it to including hackers. If it was Al-Qaida or Islamic State that would pose no problem for me, but if they were referring to Anonymous that would be a different proposition,” said Hanni Fakhoury, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The guidelines governing terrorism watch lists are overseen by an inter-agency committee within the US National Counterterrorism Center. They include “acts dangerous to human life, property or infrastructure” that are “intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population” or “affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction”.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 4, 2015
Hugh Handeyside of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project said the US government’s approach to the watch lists was problematic on several levels. “It involves a very broad definition of terrorism, has a poorly defined standard of ‘reasonable suspicion’ that has numerous exemptions, and has no meaningful way to seek redress”.