A US-based journalist facing a two-year prison sentence for conspiring with the Anonymous hacking collective has appealed to President Barack Obama to intervene in his case.
California-based Matthew Keys, 29, who was previously employed as a social media editor at Reuters, was convicted last October after a 12-person jury found him guilty on three counts of criminal hacking in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
Prosecutors in the case argued that Keys gave cybercriminals aligned with the Anonymous collective login credentials that were then used to deface an article on the website of the LA Times – a charge he denies. Now, after a lengthy trial, he has been ordered to surrender to prison on Thursday 4 August.
In a five-page letter sent to White House Counsel Neil Eggleston, Keys argues his innocence and notes the widespread criticism his sentencing received from both the media and the technology community while slamming the CFAA as “draconian.”
“Although I do not understand the nuances of law, I am aware that at this point only presidential intervention in the form of a commutation of sentence or a presidential pardon can prevent the execution of this draconian sentence,” Keys wrote.
“I respectfully request your assistance in advocating on my behalf for President Obama to review my case and consider using any and all executive powers afforded to him in preventing my scheduled incarceration and any other provision of the sentence for his he feels is unjustified and unwarranted.
“Doing so would not only reverse what many consider to be an unwarranted sentence triggered by an overzealous prosecutor based on a draconian and outdated law, it will allow me to continue serving the public as a journalist.”
LA Times incident was ‘harmless, benign’ claims Keys
The defacement at the LA Times, orchestrated by a hacker using the name ‘Sharpie’, lasted 40 minutes and was reportedly fixed less than five minutes after discovery. Nevertheless, the Tribute Company – which owns the Times – claimed the breach cost at least $5,000 to fix and investigate.
In his letter, Keys responded to his sentencing by calling on the president to advocate for reform of the CCFA, which he branded outdated and broken.
“I share President Obama’s desire for tough punishments against individuals and groups who steal and sell millions of credit card numbers online, invade personal privacy and disrupt the free speech and expression of enterprises who create films and other media of which they may disagree,” he said.
“But the CFAA —written by lawmakers in the1980s who could not have envisioned what the Internet would bring to society today —paints these very real cyber terrorists with the same brush as those who engage in lesser or harmless, benign behaviour.”
On Twitter, where Keys has continued to write about daily news and politics, a number of his supporters also claimed to have written to the authorities in an attempt to get him a reprieve.