Rep. Issa Promises Investigation Into Aaron Swartz Case

from the prosecutorial-overreach dept

The backlash following Aaron Swartz’s suicide has continued as Rep. Darrell Issa is now promising an investigation into the DOJ’s handling of the case, according to statements he gave to the Huffington Post:

Praising Swartz’s work toward “open government and free access to the people,” Issa told HuffPost that the government’s case against Swartz is problematic enough to warrant further investigation.

“I’m not condoning his hacking, but he’s certainly someone who worked very hard,” Issa said. “Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it. It would have been like the Pentagon Papers.”

Issa then specifically called out how prosecutors could go too far in pressuring innocent people to plead guilty:

“I’ll make a risky statement here: Overprosecution is a tool often used to get people to plead guilty rather than risk sentencing,” Issa said. “It is a tool of question. If someone is genuinely guilty of something and you bring them up on charges, that’s fine. But throw the book at them and find all kinds of charges and cobble them together so that they’ll plea to a ‘lesser included’ is a technique that I think can sometimes be inappropriately used.”

Issa, of course, has been a long time critic of the DOJ under President Obama, so it’s likely that some will just brush this off as an opportunity to go on a partisan attack. However, it appears this attack may be growing bipartisan support. We’ve already mentioned Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s plans to propose legislation to limit what the DOJ can do in these kinds of cases, and others on both sides of the aisle have started expressing concerns about prosecutorial overreach by Carmen Ortiz.

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Comments on “Rep. Issa Promises Investigation Into Aaron Swartz Case”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just look at all of the articles Mike’s pumped out this week, using Swartz’s tragedy to get as many eyeballs to his zealous cause as he can. It’s truly disgusting. I blame the zealots for his suicide more than this prosecutor. I mean that. This poor boy was indoctrinated into the cult at a young age. It’s terribly sad what it got him. You should be ashamed.

CK20XX says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I see one of your words got cut off when you posted. Lemme fix that for you.

cult -> cultural movement

What you are actually witnessing is a paradigm shift as the new generation replaces the old generation. Us youthful up-and-comers are sick and disgusted at how you old fogies accuse others of relishing in your favorite sins simply to draw attention away from your astounding levels of corruption.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Hey Hey. I love this. New generation. I would like to thank you for including all of us over 60 supporters of this “New Paradigm” that would revert us back to before the Treaty of Anne and the Guild system. Kind of a double entendre type of compliment.

Lets try repeated paradigm and socially conscious individuals, eh?

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Not Quite, Issa

I?m not condoning his hacking

Well that is okay since he didn’t hack anything. At least not with the case the DoJ picked up here anyways.

a technique that I think can sometimes be inappropriately used

That strikes me as a technique that should never be used, and would only be used by those who do not really value justice. They more so value the idea of ‘winning’.

If a prosecutor really valued justice, they would only charge people with crimes they actually commit, and not just try to throw the book at somebody because they didn’t like them or disagreed with something they did.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Not Quite, Issa

I?m not condoning his hacking.

KT, I was just searching the interwebs in response to that exact statement, trying to learn more about Aaron and I cant find anything related to hacking? Was he a hacker? (Seeing his skill-set it would not be hard to believe.)

Why are they calling this a hack? He was allowed access. Ill read the older articles again when I get home, but it seems really shady he is labeled a hacker for this.

Did I miss something?

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Not Quite, Issa

Well, some people are calling it a hack because he did something with a computer that he allegedly wasn’t supposed to. That rises to some people’s definition of “hack”.

However, he did attempt to circumvent some very weak access controls. JSTOR/MIT began implementing IP/MAC blocking to stop the quasi-DoS that Mr. Swartz was engaging in. In turn, he spoofed his IP/MAC to circumvent their blocks. I can almost – and I stress almost – see how MAC spoofing can be considered a hack to get around a MAC block.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not Quite, Issa

Thank you. I thought I had the details right.

“see how MAC spoofing can be considered a hack to get around a MAC block.” – It was circumvention to gain access.

But that would be like tying a shoe string around a fence on public property and then arresting someone for breaking and entering when they untied it. Thanks DCX2.

Reality Check says:

Re: Re: Not Quite, Issa

It’s like when a kid leaves his facebook logged in, and another kid comes in and changes his gender to gay…

Then they brag that they ‘Hacked’.

Or more like when a kid finds an xml file for a PC game, and changes the damage their favorite weapon does…

Then they brag they ‘Hacked’.

Or more like when you walk in the front door of the public library and read a book that’s in a section behind a velvet rope.

Then the Justice Department arrests you and claims you ‘Hacked’ like a ‘Terrorist’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Not Quite, Issa

The Attorney General issued a statement claiming he “stole” untold millions of gold coins of over this period of time despite the fact that the my the defense pointed out that these items were freely available to collect by anyone in the system and would automatically regenerate themselves after a period of time.

Anonymous Cow (moo moo) says:

USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1

” ?I?ll make a risky statement here: “
Proof that America is corrupt as fuck: When you hear a politician saying FACTS are “risky statements”.
Risky for him to stand up and speak the truth against politician’s donors wishes.
Private prisons and lawyers with 100% conviction records will be pissed !

The plea bargin is illegal in lots of countries for a very good reason.
USA 2000 statistics:

Public Counsel

87.1% plea bargained their case
5.2% went to trial

Private Counsel

84.6% plea bargained
6.4% took their case to trial

Wonder why America has the highest population of Prisoners per Capita in the WORLD

It’s a mystery

Anonymous AnonymousCoward says:

Re: USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1

I am not unsympathetic, but just what do these old statistics prove?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1 USA #1

87% of people did not get a FAIR TRIAL
They got bullied into admitting guilt to lesser charges.
Lot’s of them got out of prison for admitting to being guilty. “Released for timed served”

What would you do ?

You’ve already been in prison for two years waiting to prove your innocence.

A.) Admit guilt and get released

B.) Go to trial with ridiculous charges against you and at a legal disadvantage (lawyer wise)
Don’t forget you have already spent two years in prison for being innocent.
You really think the system is now, gonna start being fair to you.

You would admit guilt… get out of the hellhole.

America has the highest population of Prisoners per Capita in the WORLD
How is it NOT the laws and criminal system that is to blame ?

Coogan (profile) says:

the good and the bad

Good: an investigation is coming (hopefully). Maybe somebody will actually be held accountable (which would be truly surprising).

Bad: it took the death of a promising young man for those in power to finally admit to the public the DoJ is doing this. It’s not like over-prosecution by the DoJ is some new thing, and you can’t tell me that nobody on Capitol Hill knew.

DannyB (profile) says:

Define hacking

> I?m not condoning his hacking,

Please Rep. Darrell Issa, please define what you mean by “hacking”.

Excessive downloading of academic papers that are freely available for you to download? Automating the process to save manual effort? Doing this on a campus network that is freely available for your use?

Or capital offense interference with a business model?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: acceptable in some cases

bob, prosecutors are PUBLIC SERVANTS. They are supposed to represent the public’s well being. We hold them to a higher level of ethics than the rest of the individuals in the nation because of the power with which they are entrusted. It is an UNETHICAL tactic regardless of how “good” (and by “good” I assume you mean “effective”) it may be. It is a tactic that should NEVER be used by such entrusted people against their own citizenry. Our system was not designed after such Machiavellian principles. Ends do not justify means.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: acceptable in some cases

To a much lesser extent this is done at all levels of law enforcement. Have you, even once, been pulled over without a policeman telling you how nice he is to knock 5 mph off your speeding ticket, or how he’ll overlook some other minor infraction (e.g. failure to signal). The implied message is the same – just accept this or you could be charged with a lot more.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: acceptable in some cases

boB, nice. Its about time.

“I would like to know in what cases this tactic of “cobbling together all kinds of charges to induce people into a plea” should be used.” – It is commonly used against organized crime chains. low level dealer(drugs as an example) gets caught with an ounce of coke, is told he can either cooperate, or get the book thrown at him. Possession, possession with intent to distribute, etc. Or just possession if he helps. Dealer gives up supplier above him and on and on it goes. (This is not just for cop drama shows)

“I mean.. at its core it’s a threat. either plea, or else.”
Depends on how you look at the threat and if it can come to fruition. If i threaten to smack you round a little… you know the chances are slim to none that will happen. Its an empty threat. I think in this case it was believable if he didn’t cop a plea they would have gone nuclear and charged him with everything they thought was even remotely close. Not an empty threat.

“so.. when is that a good tactic for the “justice system”?” – Never? Always? It needs to be a case by case decision by level headed PPL. Not an attorney that is clearly trying to make a name for herself at the expense of true justice.

Justice. Blind justice needs to be applied. Just and fair even for criminals. That is what is supposed put America above all others. At least in theory, and this little fantasy in my head of what I was taught as a kid this country should be.

Good one boB.

boB, there is hope for you yet. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: acceptable in some cases

I just noticed in another comment in an earlier article he actually appears to say that the government is wrong and Aaron was right. I was shocked. Maybe your right. There IS hope for him. 😉

DaT says:

JSTOR articles = Pentagon Papers?

Many seem to be caught on Issa’s loose use of the term “hacking”, obviously because it may not fairly portray what Mr. Swartz did. Fine.

However, what really gave me pause was his comparison of the case in question to the Pentagon Papers as this really highlights Issa’s potential lack of understanding of the case.

Comparing the downloading of a bunch of academic papers containing no trade or state secrets which are, on top of this, freely accessible in most university libraries and other academic/research institutions across multiple countries (and are available to anyone else willing to pay for subscriptions to the publishing journals) to the leaking or liberation of classified government reports is really, well, quite the comparison…

These academic papers are fundamentally no different than any other subscription-based periodical (ie, People Magazine, Popular Mechanics) except that they target a much narrower readership, and as such, are generally much more expensive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: JSTOR articles = Pentagon Papers?

I don’t really think he was attempting to make a comparison of the content thought. I think he was trying to imply that had this been a case of acquiring information for a telling journalistic story, he would have been seen as a hero exercising his first amendment right to freedom of the press and people would have overlooked how he got the information regardless of whether the means were legal or not. But since he wasn’t a journalist trying to tell some sensational story some are painting him as a criminal hacker who just “stole” a bunch of IP.

DaT says:

Re: Re: JSTOR articles = Pentagon Papers?

The problem with the whole Pentagon Papers comparison is that, at worst, it can serve to exaggerate the seriousness of the “crimes” that Swartz allegedly committed. At best, it is an absolutely meaningless comparison. Either way, it didn’t strike me as the most enlightened or even appropriate reference…

The point is that there was no story. Nothing secret or sensational (or even of any real monetary value – at least insofar as anything beyond what anyone else walking into one of many university libraries couldn’t also have access to free of charge) was taken. Usage of these services were not blocked from others – at least not for long enough so as to likely make a real difference. Swartz couldn’t have been a “hero” based on his alleged actions in this case alone because, well, he did really do much of anything to speak of. Journalist or not.

Taking technology out of the equation, what Swartz did is akin to someone going into a library with a large team of people and photocopying many books simultaneously – perhaps changing a few setting on the photocopiers to expedite the process that aren’t meant for the public to be changing. At worst, you inconvenience a few people waiting to use the photocopier. While arguably slightly mischievous, pretty boring overall.

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