On the first day of the 2003 Iraq war, Hammond led a 100 students to a downtown Chicago anti-war rally. Months later, he enrolled at the University of Illinois/Chicago (UIC). He became an prominent campus activist.
He lasted a year. Hacking got him suspended. School officials said he wasn't welcomed back. A friend said "if you work within the system, they f..k you over." Hammond dedicated himself to working outside it.
He joined the radical Chicago community. He was a fixture at major and minor demonstrations. He made sure his presence was known. He was much more than a street-level agitator.
He was equally active online. It became his primary weapon. He challenged government and major corporations. He wants change. He chose electronic civil disobedience to achieve it.
"If corporations and governments are out of line today," he said, "it's up to cowboys of the electronic age to turn over the system and put the people on the top."
At the 2004 DefCon hacker convention, he championed disruptive electronic civil disobedience, saying:
"We'd like to see every method of disruption possible, whether it be shutting down the power to Madison Square Garden, or defacing 10,000 different Republican web site."
"We'd like to see RNC delegates get harassed on the streets. F..k 'em up! Shut 'em down!"- Advertisement -
FBI agents took note. They saw a tape of his speech. They visited him in response. They asked if he intended to bomb the RNC convention. He said his address featured radical hyperbole.
At the same time, he envisioned digital insurgency - an "Internet Liberation Front." He and fellow hacktivists began breaching web sites. They gained access to confidential information.
FBI agents began building a case against him. They spent months doing so. He was never charged with credit card theft.
He used hacking to target dark forces. His friend Sabu used computer skills as a career-builder. He preferred "white-hat Internet security consulting."
In his early 20s, he freelanced for a Swedish Internet security firm. He later worked for LimeWire. It's a peer-to-peer file-sharing company.
In 2010, he was the sole guardian of two small cousins. He called them his daughters. He was drifting. He sold marijuana and fenced stolen goods. He began hacking for profit. He stole credit card numbers to pay bills.
He connected with Anonymous. He called it a movement he'd been waiting for his entire life. It gave him a mission. He began working through Internet relay chats (IRCs) in Anonops (its network).