Former hacktivist Jeremy Hammond, a one-time WikiLeaks source, who admitted to leaking stolen files from a private intelligence firm, was held in contempt on Thursday after allegedly refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.
It is not immediately clear what consequences Hammond will face or what questions he was asked today.
“Today, in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, Jeremy Hammond was found in contempt for refusing to answer questions posed to him by a grand jury,” his support committee said. “This grand jury is the same grand jury currently holding Chelsea Manning in contempt for bravely refusing to answer their questions.”
Hammond, 34, pleaded guilty in 2013 to hacking the Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor. WikiLeaks later published the more than 5 million emails stolen from the firm in a release it titled, “The Global Intelligence Files.” He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
After participating for months in an intensive substance abuse program, Hammond was projected to be released this December. His supporters believe the order to appear before the grand jury interrupted that program and ruined his chances of early release.
Leaked FBI files obtained by Gizmodo show that WikiLeaks first contacted Hammond to obtain the stolen Stratfor documents in late December 2012—after the public was made aware of the breach. As Gizmodo previously reported, the documents show that WikiLeaks provided Hammond with a custom tool in an effort to aid the hacker in searching through the millions of emails.
The files indicate that Hammond, an anarchist whose online activities were constantly surveilled by at least one FBI informant, was in contact with a WikiLeaks associate following the Stratfor hack. The conversation was encrypted and not directly observed by the FBI.
Hammond was not the first hacker to infiltrate Stratfor. According to a leaked forensic report, the company had extremely poor security at the time. FBI files show that Hammond was provided access to the company’s servers by another hacker, and that an FBI informant introduced the pair. An internal Stratfor memo estimated the cost of the breach at $3.78 million.
Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy group’s founder, is currently fighting extradition from England. He faces a slew of charges in the United States, including several under the Espionage Act.
Hammond’s supporters say there is nothing the legal system could do to compel his testimony.
“Jeremy made it clear from the beginning of his case that he had no intention of cooperating with the government, and that hasn’t, and will never change,” they said. “Any attempts to try to force him to testify through prolonged incarceration serves to do nothing but further punish Jeremy for his political beliefs.”
Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, is also currently being held in contempt for refusing to testify.