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Sabu, hacktivist and former FBI informant, breaks his silence to Charlie Rose
For the first time in years, Sabu speaks
Monsegur, a cofounder of the infamous LulzSec hacking crew, was sentenced to time served and a year of supervision in a Manhattan court last May for his role in a series of high-profile cyberattacks, which included targets such as Visa, MasterCard, Sony, PayPal, and the U.S. Senate. Under the guidelines of his release, Monsegur is subject to special conditions of search and constant monitoring of any computer use.
For the crimes to which he confessed, Monsegur faced more than 26 years in prison. Presiding U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska attributed the virtually unprecedented leniency she gave to Monsegur to his “extraordinary level of cooperation” with the FBI.
According to former Manhattan Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore, Monsegur’s cooperation helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation prevent more than 300 cyberattacks against targets such as the U.S. military and NASA. “I was able to intercept attacks that were happening against the government and share it with the government so they could fix these issues,” Monsegur said in Tuesday’s interview.
After weeks of surveillance, the FBI apprehended Monsegur at a public housing complex in New York’s Lower East Side on June 7, 2011. It was the two children he was raising, he said, that forced his near-immediate cooperation with the agents.
“It’s clear as day, they had an understanding that my weakness was the kids,” he told CBS. In an exclusive interview granted to Fox News in March 2012, an FBI official confirmed: “He’d do anything for his kids. He didn’t want to go away to prison and leave them. That’s how we got him.”
He’d do anything for his kids … That’s how we got him.
Monsegur reestablished contact with fellow hackers, the suspects of a major FBI investigation, within days of agreeing to become a law enforcement informant. He was approached soon after by hacker Jeremy Hammond, who sought Monsegur’s help in disseminating private emails and home addresses pilfered from the servers of several white supremacist organizations, including New England’s North East White Pride.
Hammond contacted Monsegur once again after hacking the Arizona Department of Public Safety and obtaining the personal information of multiple officers, including, in some cases, mobile phone numbers, home addresses, and the names of spouses. It was Hammond’s targeting of U.S. law enforcement that likely led the FBI to declare him the world’s most-wanted hacker.
Over the next eight months Hammond partnered with Monsegur under the banner of AntiSec, launching attacks on major U.S. and foreign targets, including FBI contractors, private security firms and police departments.
“It wasn’t a situation where I identified anybody,” Monsegur told CBS. “I didn’t point my fingers at nobody. My cooperation entailed logging and providing intelligence. It didn’t mean, ‘Can you please tell me the identity of one of your mates?'”
An investigation launched by the Daily Dot earlier this year revealed, among other details of Hammond’s case, that Monsegur played a leading role in the Dec. 2012 cyberattack on Stratfor, which is believed to have cost the company upwards of $3.78 million and resulted in a class action lawsuit—a crime for which Hammond was sentenced. Sealed court documents obtained by the Daily Dot reveal that Monsegur ordered cyberattacks on more 30 foreign countries and orchestrated the breach of Brazilian military police servers.
On March 5, 2012, Hammond’s Chicago home was raided by the FBI. His identity was obtained by investigators slowly through the frequent conversations he held with Monsegur and others, in which he revealed minor details about his life, such as prior arrests and connections to past activist demonstrations. Last fall, Hammond was sentenced to 10 years minus time served, the maximum allotted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). He’s scheduled for release on Christmas Day, 2020.
Asked if he had a second chance to do things differently, Monsegur told Rose that he would have remained a political hacktivist—an activist hacker.
“However, I would stay away from Anonymous,” he added. “It was just too much publicity.”
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III
Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.