Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond currently awaits trial in a federal prison cell and could receive life in prison; Bradley Manning saw his 1,000 day pretrial military detention last month; Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer has been handed a 41-month prison stint after his found and exploited a security flaw in an AT&T server; Aaron Swartz’s federal trial over the downloading of millions of online academic articles would have begun this week, had the young technologist not hanged himself earlier this year. The legal challenges facing whistleblowers and free-data activists, crystallized in these high profile examples to name just a few, have risen to the fore in recent months.
The founders of a brand new organization of activist attorneys — the Whistleblowers Defense League — in recognition of what they call “a dangerous time in America,” announced Tuesday that a project aiming to form “the legal arm, the firewall” for activist whistleblowers and hackers. The Defense League is founded by attorneys include constitutional lawyer Dennis Roberts, 48-year veteran of the civilrights movement; Jay Leiderman, noted Internet rights attorney; and JasonFlores-Williams, writer and attorney. The group aims to lower the cost of legal defense for journalists and activists facing political persecution in the U.S. via “grassroots funding and support,” noted a press release.
“People are being subpoenaed, indicted and incarcerated for simply exploring the truth,” said Leiderman in a statement. JasonFlores-Williams added, “The WBDL is a new kind of legal activist group that from the pre-indictment phase through trial will litigate for their clients aggressively, speak out on their behalf, and go to war for them in the court of law and public opinion.”