Hector Monsegur, aka Sabu, walked free Tuesday with little more than a slap on the wrist. Jeremy Hammond, the whistle-blowing hacker who leaked information about security firm Stratfor, was sentenced to 10 years thanks in part to Monsegur’s work as an informant.

Monsegur was the leader of LulzSec, a hacktivist collective that made a big and comical splash a few years ago. After he was arrested, he turned on his friends and allies almost instantly. “The immediacy of Mr. Monsegur’s cooperation and its around-the-clock nature was particularly helpful to the government,” Judge Loretta Preska said. “That personal characteristic of turning on a dime to doing good, not evil, is the most important factor in this sentencing.”

He got seven months, time served, as thanks for spending the last three years helping the United States lure, trap and convict other hackers. Stuck between the government and his former friends, ex-Sabu says he is a changed man, changed perhaps by jail and now facing the usual bullying that stems from informing.

According to Wired, Monsegur also helped identify potential threats, including a vulnerable water supply. In all, he is credited with preventing 300 attacks.

Still, it’s hard to ignore that the object of all this criminal justice energy appears to have been politically motivated hackers, those of the most principled sort, as opposed to, you know, al-Qaida.

Again, let’s compare the much stiffer sentence imposed on Hammond, whose release of the Stratfor files appears to have done little more than inform the public and embarrass the government.

Is that the “evil” with which Preska is so concerned?

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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