Senator John Cornyn Asks Eric Holder To Explain DOJ Prosecution Of Aaron Swartz
from the this-is-getting-bigger... dept
While we’ve seen some politicians in Congress speak out about the prosecution against Aaron Swartz, for the most part, it had been the “usual crew” of folks who had formed the core of the anti-SOPA alliance — Reps. Lofgren, Issa and Polis. That’s great, but it also made it unfortunately easy for some to dismiss their complaints. However, it appears that this may be getting bigger. Senator John Cornyn has jumped in and sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for an explanation of the prosecution against Aaron Swartz. He specifically asks a number of interesting questions:
First, on what basis did the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts conclude that her office’s conduct was “appropriate?” Did that office, or any office within the Department, conduct a review? If so, please identify that review and supply its contents.
Second, was the prosecution of Mr. Swartz in any way retaliation for his exercise of his rights as a citizen under the Freedom of Information Act? If so, I recommend that you refer the matter immediately to the Inspector General.
Third, what role, if any, did the Department’s prior investigations of Mr. Swartz play in the decision of with which crimes to charge him? Please explain the basis for your answer.
Fourth, why did the U.S. Attorney’s office file the superseding indictment?
Fifth, when the U.S. Attorney’s office drafted the indictment and the superseding indictment, what consideration was given to whether the counts charged and the associated penalties were proportional to Mr. Swartz’s alleged conduct and its impact upon victims?
Sixth, was it the intention of the U.S. Attorney and/or her subordinates to “make an example” of Mr. Swartz? Please explain.
Finally, the U.S. Attorney has blamed the “severe punishments authorized by Congress” for the apparent harshness of the charges Mr. Swartz faced. Does the Department of Justice give U.S. Attorneys discretion to charge defendants (or not charge them) with crimes consistent with their view of the gravity of the wrongdoing in a specific case?
Interesting questions all around. As Emptywheel notes, that second question is a bit of a new one. People have talked about the earlier investigations of Aaron, as well as his activism, but little attention has been paid to his widespread use of FOIA. However, Aaron did file a lot of FOIA requests, using the same platform, MuckRock, that we’ve used here at Techdirt. In fact, MuckRock put up a post about Aaron’s use of that service including the fact that Aaron and MuckRock were currently in the middle of appealing the results of a FOIA request concerning domain seizures — a story that potentially could implicate the DOJ.
I am sure that we’ll get the usual bland denials and non-answers from Holder, but it is significant to see Senators like Cornyn suddenly take an interest in this particular issue.