A member of the hacker group Anonymous who considers himself an "electronic Robin Hood" pleaded guilty Tuesday to hacking a private intelligence firm and several websites, stealing e-mails and credit card data belonging to nearly 1 million people.
Jeremy Hammond, 28, admitted to helping with a December 2011 attack that breached the computer network of Stratfor Global Intelligence Service, or Stratfor, a Texas-based company that provides geopolitical analysis for clients including government agencies. He also pleaded guilty to hacking several websites, including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, the FBI's Virtual Academy and the sheriff's office in Jefferson County, Ala.
He faced a total more than 30 years in prison before choosing a plea deal, and now faces up to a decade in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 6.
"Now that I have pleaded guilty, it is a relief to be able to say that I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites," Hammond said in a statement Tuesday.
Hammond claims he was an activist fighting for greater transparency.
"I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors," he said in his statement on Tuesday. "I did what I believe is right."
But federal prosecutors have painted a different picture.
“While he billed himself as fighting for an anarchist cause, in reality, Jeremy Hammond caused personal and financial chaos for individuals whose identities and money he took and for companies whose businesses he decided he didn’t like," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "He was nothing more than a repeat offender cybercriminal who thought that because of his computer savvy he was above the law that binds and protects all of us."
During the Stratfor attack, Hammond and other hackers, who were part of an offshoot of Anonymous known as Antisec, found e-mail correspondence, financial and personal data -- including 60,000 credit card numbers -- belonging to 860,000 clients.
Some of the private messages were later published by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks and allegedly revealed how the federal government had been monitoring the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The hackers also made at least $700,000 in fraudulent purchases using Stratfor's clients' credit cards, according to an indictment filed last year by prosecutors.
Hammond -- who went by the online nicknames "Anarchaos" and "sup_g" -- was arrested last year after he confided online with Hector Xavier Monsegur, a hacker know as "Sabu" who was working as an FBI informant at the time.
On Tuesday, Hammond said he pleaded guilty because prosecutors said he would face charges in several jurisdictions and so "the process might have repeated indefinitely." He said his plea agreement "frees me to tell the world what I did and why."
Before his arrest last year, Hammond, of Chicago, served two years in prison for hacking a conservative political group's server and stealing 5,000 credit card numbers.
He has spent 15 months in prison on the Stratfor charges. During that time, he claims he has been held in solitary confinement and denied visits and phone calls with family and friends.
In response to Hammond's guilty plea, a Twitter account belonging to Anonymous wrote on Tuesday that "Hammond couldn't stand to live in a country that served companies who profited off of spying on the citizenry."
"He's a true patriot," the tweet said.