Virginia Grand Jury Believed to be the Same Probe that Previously Called on Chelsea Manning, David House
Imprisoned information activist Jeremy Hammond has been called against his will to testify before a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA). Last week Hammond was removed from the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee where he was serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges he hacked the private intelligence contractor Stratfor Global Intelligence. At the time of his transfer Hammond was enrolled in the Federal Bureau of Prison’s intensive Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) which upon completion qualifies participating inmates for early release. Hammond’s prison release date was projected to come around mid December of 2019 but because of his removal from the RDAP program and the summons to this grand jury his time incarcerated could be extended by over two years. Although Hammond is still in transit it is believed he will be detained in or near Alexandria, VA for the duration of his proceedings.
The following is a statement from the Jeremy Hammond Support Committee regarding these developments:
“It’s with great sadness and anger we announce that Jeremy Hammond is being brought to the Eastern District of Virginia in an effort to compel him to testify before a grand jury. Given the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, we don’t know the nature or scope of the grand jury’s investigation. However, our assumption is that this is the same grand jury that Chelsea Manning is currently being incarcerated for refusing to testify before.
“Jeremy pled guilty in 2013 in the Southern District of New York to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He agreed to plead guilty pursuant to a non-cooperating plea agreement that granted him immunity from further prosecution in all 94 federal judicial districts. At the time of his guilty plea, Jeremy made a statement that made it clear that he was pleading guilty so that he could speak freely about his actions and move on with his life without putting anyone else in jeopardy:
‘Today I pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This was a very difficult decision. I hope this statement will explain my reasoning. I believe in the power of the truth. In keeping with that, I do not want to hide what I did or to shy away from my actions. This non-cooperating plea agreement frees me to tell the world what I did and why, without exposing any tactics or information to the government and without jeopardizing the lives and well-being of other activists on and offline.’
The full statement is available here
“Jeremy pled guilty to put an end to the case against him. He pled guilty because he had no interest in cooperating with the government. He was sentenced to 10 years —the maximum allowed under his plea agreement— and has been serving his time, counting down to the day that he will finally be free. That day was supposed to come in mid-December of 2019.
“The government’s effort to try to compel Jeremy to testify is punitive and mean-spirited. Jeremy has spent nearly 10 years in prison because of his commitment to his firmly held beliefs. There is no way that he would ever testify before a grand jury. The government knew this when they gave him immunity in every federal jurisdiction in exchange for his guilty plea. In bringing him against his will to the Eastern District of Virginia, the government has put an end to his participation in the RDAP drug program, effectively adding a year to his sentence. (If Jeremy had been permitted to complete the 9-month program, he would have earned a 12-month sentence reduction.) When he refuses to testify, his sentence will be prolonged indefinitely when he is punished with further incarceration for contempt of a court order to testify.
“Like brave grand jury resisters before him, including Chelsea Manning, Jeremy firmly believes that grand juries are repressive tools of the government, used to investigate and intimidate activist communities and are abused by prosecutors to gain access to intelligence to which they are not entitled.
“The U.S. government’s blatant abuse of the grand jury process in this case continues a clear pattern of targeting, isolating, and punishing outspoken truth-tellers and activists. We must stand up and say that enough is enough. We cannot allow the government to use fascist intimidation tactics to target, imprison, silence, and torture, those who threaten their power. We must not let the government fracture us or our support for those who need us most, no matter how they may try to pit us against one another, and we must not allow them to sow fear and distrust in our communities. We must come together as one, united in our support for truth and transparency, and for those who have paid the ultimate price to bring it to us.”
Jeremy Hammond called against his will to appear before US Assange Grand Jury to attack media freedom
Technologist Jeremy Hammond, who exposed evidence of corrupt and unethical behaviour later published by WikiLeaks as the Global Intelligence Files (#GIFiles), has been called against his will to appear before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia [EDVA].
The Australian Assange Campaign is deeply concerned about the targeting of Mr Jeremy Hammond, a discloser of documents showing serious wrongdoing. Barrister and Australian Assange Campaign Adviser, Greg Barns said,
“This is yet another example of the targeting of whistle-blowers and exemplifies the need to protect journalists and their sources. We see this in Australia with the prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, the AFP raids on the ABC and News Limited journalist, Annika Smethurst. The free press is under threat in many liberal democracies like the US and Australia, and we must ensure that these rights are protected.”
Mr Barns stated,
“Mr Hammond and Chelsea Manning are effectively being punished twice for daring to expose corruption and human rights abuses. Given the dire situation of Julian Assange, and the fact he faces an effective death penalty for publishing material in the public interest, there is a clearly concerted attack on journalists, publishers and their sources with the aim of chilling free speech. There is a clear pattern of repression. Given the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in the US, and the vast human rights implications, the Australian government must oppose any such prosecutions, as this impacts us all.”
Hammond is already serving a ten-year sentence for his role in the disclosures. More than 25 media organisations, including WikiLeaks – newspapers, TV networks, online media and magazines with a combined audience of 500 million – published articles based on the evidence disclosed by Hammond.
In a letter written for Hammond’s sentencing hearing in 2014, members of the international press asserted his importance as a journalistic source:
“The information allegedly disclosed has helped to keep the public informed about serious wrongdoings of corporations and corrupt governmental officers in more than 15 countries. In literally hundreds of articles based on these documents, we demonstrated corrupt and unethical behavior by a wide range of entities including Stratfor and its clients. These publications have led to important public interest outcomes.”
The Global Intelligence Files detail numerous examples of corrupt and unethical behaviour by US intelligence firm Stratfor and its clients. One such example is Stratfor’s surveillance of activists campaigning for redress for the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, under contract from the factory’s current owner Dow Chemical. The leak of toxic gas from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant left thousands of Indian citizens dead and is still regarded as the world’s worst ever industrial disaster.
Hammond is not the first individual to be targeted by a grand jury investigation in the Eastern District of Virginia in connection with acts of public interest disclosure for which they have already been convicted. Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning served 7 years in prison before her 35 year sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in one of his last acts in office.
Manning is currently back in prison for refusing to cooperate with an EDVA grand jury and is being fined 1000 USD for every day she fails to testify. Reports suggest that the grand jury Manning is being held in contempt for not cooperating with is targeting imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
Assange faces unprecedented charges under the 1917 Espionage Act for the publication of true information in the public interest. If convicted, he will serve 175 years – an effective death sentence.
Hammond pleaded guilty to one count under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 2013. His non-cooperating plea deal grants him immunity from prosecution in every federal court district in the United States. He was due to be released from prison at the end of the year.