Details Show MIT Employees Gleefully Helped With Prosecution And Persecution Of Aaron Swartz

from the sad dept

Last summer, MIT tried (weakly) to defend what it called its “neutral” stance on Aaron Swartz, allowing the case to proceed even though the only party that had a legitimate claim to “harm,” JSTOR, had come out almost immediately after Swartz’s indictment to say that it did not support the prosecution. Around the same time, we noted that MIT was in the midst of a legal fight to block the release of Swartz’s Secret Service file. Some found this effort a bit odd — but the reasons are now becoming clear. An investigative report by the Boston Globe, scouring 7,000 pages of discovery documents in the case, found that some employees at MIT appeared to gleefully support going after Swartz with all of the powers of the DOJ.

In a handful of e-mails, individual MIT employees involved in the case aired sentiments that were far from neutral. One, for example, gushed to prosecutor Stephen P. Heymann about the quality of the indictment of Swartz.

“Nicely done Steve and kudos! All points . . . are as accurate as I’ve ever seen,” wrote the information technology employee. “(I only say that because every time I’ve ever given an interview, details are always slightly to horribly munged; not that I ever expected any less, it’s just a true relief and very refreshing to see your accuracy and precision).”

Elsewhere, it becomes clear that MIT helped escalate the case when calling in law enforcement. The Globe highlights a note taken by an MIT library staffer who noted that it was “now a federal case” and “All we provide is by choice — not subpoenaed.” Even more damning, a senior MIT network engineer basically seemed to think he was now working for the DOJ:

That cooperation with law enforcement also extended to a senior MIT network engineer who monitored traffic to and from Swartz’s laptop and appeared to be looking to Pickett for instructions. On Jan. 5, having collected 70 gigabytes of network traffic, he e-mailed the agent, “I was just wondering what the next step is.”

The documents also demonstrate that MIT employees “prodded JSTOR to get answers for prosecutors more quickly — before a subpoena had been issued.” That hardly seems “neutral.”

The report also notes that MIT — as admitted by an internal investigation — “paid little attention to the details of the charge” including the key fact that the CFAA charge depended on this being “unauthorized access.” However, since MIT’s network was wide open to guests, it was hard to say that it was unauthorized. Yet MIT did little to explain that to prosecutors.

The report also delves into JSTOR’s side of things, suggesting that, contrary to its public stance, before Swartz was revealed, it too was pretty angry (often at MIT) and considered calling in law enforcement repeatedly. However, in the end it appears that cooler heads prevailed there, as the organization decided not to pursue those actions. If only the same had happened at MIT.

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Comments on “Details Show MIT Employees Gleefully Helped With Prosecution And Persecution Of Aaron Swartz”

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108 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: So...

The wording may not be the most suitable but the whole prosecution did contribute. Or do you believe the only one responsible for the suicide of a raped woman that couldn’t cope with the trauma is herself? While this case is quite distinct it does not remove the blame from the ones involved in ramping up the charges. And now the MIT employees that pushed for prosecution.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So...

Or do you believe the only one responsible for the suicide of a raped woman that couldn’t cope with the trauma is herself?

Yes, and attempting to appeal to highly emotionally-charged scenarios is really not conducive to rational discourse. To take your example and run with it, there are many, many people who get raped and then manage to pull through and find a way to cope with the trauma. Therefore, the suicide is not a consequence of the rape, but a consequence of something else, and the rapist is guilty of rape, but not of “driving someone to suicide.”

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So...

Just because the rapist isn’t legally guilty of murder when their victim commits suicide, they are morally guilty of contributing to the circumstances that led to the death of their victim. While this might not lead to a criminal conviction for something like a depraved-heart murder charge, it should make the rapist’s sentencing harsher when they’re convicted of the rape and possibly open them up to a civil lawsuit by the family for wrongful death.

In those respects, our society does have the possibility of recognizing the role that the rapist had in the victim’s suicide, and even with due process.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So...

In the US you have some sort of ‘contributory felony’ statutes – for instance, if someone dies as part of a felony, all those involved can be charged with murder. So once you accept that as a principle, you can accept that PEOPLE SHOULD ACCEPT RESPONSIBILTY for their psychotic hounding/raping/whatever and pay some kind of price.

Or is it only the poor and other victims who should ‘pay’ and ‘take responsibility’?

Within Reason says:

Re: Re: Re:3 So...

What we’re saying, Mason Wheeler, is that people aren’t robots, and if you torment anyone (including you) beyond their ability to take it, something will go ping! inside and they’ll see suicide as the only way to end it.

Never been so miserable you just couldn’t take it any more?

Good for you, pal, but we human beings are emotional creatures and liable to suffer, sometimes till we can’t stand it any more.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So...

Rational discourse often don’t apply to the human side. I’m sure in your world everybody must be Rambo-like and just be though and deal with it. Real world is less than ideal. In both cases (the rape suicide and Aaron) they couldn’t cope with the pressure and chose an unfortunate path. Much like some people can withstand more pain or more stress before breaking down.

The prosecution could be charged with overdoing it maybe but does the twisted American law provide that path? If not then the only line of action would be to pressure for better laws and accountability. And if they can be prosecuted then yes the suicide should be taken into consideration. There’s a very thin line here and I agree with you that suicide alone should not be a reason for prosecution. But surely it should make things worse for the criminals if they are found guilty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So...

You are quick to blame the prosecution, but what of his so-called “friends”. To the best of my knowledge, the tech/anarchist community didn’t raise funds for his legal defense. I don’t know how you make a martyr out of a guy you left to the wolves. There were no demonstrations in from of the prosecutors office, no “We The People” petition. Not much of anything at all from the bunch of cowards who now invoke his name in the furtherance of their own agendas.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So...

You are quick to blame the prosecution, but what of his so-called “friends”. To the best of my knowledge, the tech/anarchist community didn’t raise funds for his legal defense.

The best of your knowledge is wrong, which is not an uncommon occurrence with you.

https://web.archive.org/web/20130123033732/https://free.aaronsw.com/

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 So...

Fair criticism. I was unaware. I read TD, ArsTehnica, The Wire and CNET (sometimes) I’d never heard of this. I don’t recall seeing it published in any of those sources nor remember any of those websites actively promoting the Swartz defense fund.

For the tech folk hero he was, it seems surprising that the publicity of a defense fund was so weak. I still find it hypocritical that Swartz is lionized as a martyr here on TD and received very little (if any) tangible support in his time of need by the same poseurs who now claim his legacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 So...

It’s amusing how Techdirtbag Nation defended that decision not to prosecute (or acquittal, I forget) of the mother who masqueraded as a kid online and hounded a child until she committed suicide.

You assholes were nearly unanimous that the woman could not be held accountable for this unfortunate suicide of a CHILD.

Now you sanctimonious hypocrites want to blame the prosecutors for the suicide of an ADULT with the financial and legal resources to defend himself.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 So...

You assholes were nearly unanimous that the woman could not be held accountable for this unfortunate suicide of a CHILD.

Now you sanctimonious hypocrites want to blame the prosecutors for the suicide of an ADULT with the financial and legal resources to defend himself.

Personally, I don’t blame the “bully” in either of those situations, nor do I hold them accountable per se. Bottom line is that suicide is a personal decision and the blame always resides with the individual committing the act.

Now that said, both of the “bullies” in these situations were assholes and do have some amount of moral (if not legal) culpability for the suicides, in my opinion.

There is one major distinction between the two that you are minimizing though. Some anonymous idiot on the internet does not hold the power to incarcerate you and destroy your future like an Assistant U.S. Attorney does.

With great power comes great responsibility and in my humble opinion, Mr. Stephen Heymann showed an extreme lack of responsibility in his quest for headlines and notoriety.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 So...

Point taken. However, Swartz was a grown man with the intellectual and financial resources to defend himself. At the end of the day, the sentencing guidelines called for a very short period of incarceration (if any) and he was offered a few months in Club Fed in a plea bargain. Instead, he hung himself.

A conviction doesn’t “ruin” a life like that. He’d have been a fucking hero and could work anywhere with the possible exception of somewhere requiring a security clearance. However, given his past history, he’s not likely to have gotten a clearance anyway.

Within Reason says:

Re: Re: Re:7 So...

Bottom line is that suicide is a personal decision and the blame always resides with the individual committing the act.

I’ve already had this argument with Mason Wheeler. Victim-blaming is obscene. Stop it.

The bully in question was perhaps unaware of the child’s precarious mental state, but that’s no excuse for what she did.

I really do question people who think the way you do. Have you REALLY never suffered so much you couldn’t take it any more? Have you never seen anyone else suffer to the point of a mental breakdown? If you’ve never experienced real suffering, good for you. I’ve seen people’s lives torn apart by trauma and I’ve seen the results.

It’s the price we pay for having intellect and emotions. To deny the impact of trauma on the individual is to trivialize it, and I won’t stand for that. Ever.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 So...

I’ve already had this argument with Mason Wheeler. Victim-blaming is obscene. Stop it.

How is this “victim-blaming”? The final decision to commit suicide resides with the person committing suicide. Period. Full stop. Nothing anyone else does changes this fact one iota.

You are blaming those who have no say whatsoever in what is ultimately a personal decision. It’s like blaming me because you went ahead and drank that expired milk this morning and got sick.

I really do question people who think the way you do. Have you REALLY never suffered so much you couldn’t take it any more? Have you never seen anyone else suffer to the point of a mental breakdown? If you’ve never experienced real suffering, good for you. I’ve seen people’s lives torn apart by trauma and I’ve seen the results.

I’ve had some very, very low points in my life, but suicide was never a viable options. I value life too much.

Within Reason says:

Re: Re: Re:9 So...

So you really, truly don’t accept that anyone else’s actions can have a detrimental effect on a person, no matter what they do to them?

If you’ve had low points in your life and won through, good for you. The fact is, you still seem unable to accept that anyone can be affected by anyone else’s actions. The evidence says otherwise.

As for the expired milk argument, people eat people if they’re hungry enough. I suppose you’d say the blame for the cannibalism lies on the survivors alone.

Human error by the pilots caused the crash because they didn’t take into account strong headwinds that slowed the plane and increased the time required to complete the crossing of the pass.

Pilot error creating the conditions that drove people to cannibalism. It was an influencing factor. While it’s true that the final decision rests with the individual, the factors that lead to those decisions need to be taken into account. That’s why Criminal Solicitaion is a crime. http://definitions.uslegal.com/c/criminal-solicitation/

Were you correct in your assumption, only the person who commits a crime would go to jail. As it is, anyone who encourages the commission of a crime goes to jail, too.

My argument is, creating the conditions for a crime (or self-harming event) to take place is equivalent to criminal solicitation and should be treated as such. Let that slide and you have all sorts of crazy stuff going on and the people responsible getting away with it.

Your argument appears to be, “People live in an emotional and social vacuum. They make decisions free of outside influence, nor can any influence be brought to bear upon them.” That is not true.

If I’m wrong, correct me. I like to learn.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 So...

So you really, truly don’t accept that anyone else’s actions can have a detrimental effect on a person, no matter what they do to them?

That’s not what I said at all. All sorts of things have detrimental effects on people all the time. I’m just not going to jump up on the Blame Game Bandwagon for an individual’s personal decision.

Solicitation of suicide has a pretty high legal bar. It needs (I believe, IAMAL) to involve specific instructions to a specific individual. Just saying “you should kill yourself” wouldn’t pass the sniff test. I’m not sure about the case of the anonymous woman, but I can guarantee the ADA in Swartz’s case didn’t do anything like that.

My argument is, creating the conditions for a crime (or self-harming event) to take place is equivalent to criminal solicitation and should be treated as such. Let that slide and you have all sorts of crazy stuff going on and the people responsible getting away with it.

I disagree. That slope is way, way too slippery. What’s next? Blaming the victims in a school shooting because they were once said something mean to the shooter? Blaming a rapist’s mother because she spanked him when he was young? I mean, seriously, isn’t there enough of that shit going on already these days? Everything is someone else’s fault and nobody wants to take responsibility for their own actions.

Your argument appears to be, “People live in an emotional and social vacuum. They make decisions free of outside influence, nor can any influence be brought to bear upon them.” That is not true.

That’s not my argument nor what I believe. I just think blame should be placed where it belongs.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 So...

Did you notice the pseudonym of whom you were replying to?

Interesting that “within reason” doesn’t actually understand what reasonableness actually is all about.

Also replying to this type of individual who thinks that someone always needs to be blamed vicariously for the actions of others and then goes into victim vilification and ‘cannibalism’ (wtf!!!) if you don’t agree with them makes me re-read again Bennett’s rules for dealing with this sort of personality.. Always good reading by any profession not just law ๐Ÿ˜‰

Within Reason says:

Re: Re: Re:12 So...

Hoo boy!

Okay, from the top… I still think you’re trivializing the role that repeated abuse can play in anyone’s decision to end the torment they are suffering. Think “cause” and “effect.”

Comments like “What’s next? Blaming the victims in a school shooting because they [were] once said something mean to the shooter? Blaming a rapist’s mother because she spanked him when he was young?” don’t make your case.

See how you’ve trivialized it? “They ONCE said something mean to the shooter” and “she spanked him when he was young” suggest that you don’t have any interest in actually arguing the point properly. You’ve just made it sound like anyone who self-destructs is too thin-skinned and shouldn’t be allowed out in public till they’ve toughened up a bit.

“I mean, seriously, isn’t there enough of that shit going on already these days? Everything is someone else’s fault and nobody wants to take responsibility for their own actions.”

I take responsibility for my decision to reply to you. Nobody made me, it was my choice. I wasn’t driven to it by a strong belief that I had no options, I just wanted to post this for the benefit of other readers because I doubt that continuing to reason with you will influence you change your attitude. But then, in terms of how this stuff affects me personally, it’s trivial, and if I was upset by this discussion, telling me to get the hell out of it and get a life would be an appropriate response. Can you say the same thing to someone who feels like he’s being flushed down the crapper and there’s more crap to come? I couldn’t.

Where to place the blame for anyone’s decisions isn’t always cut and dried. When you’re in a situation where you can exert some control, it’s easy to make positive decisions. When nothing you do seems to make things any better, the number of options decreases.

I don’t appreciate the extremism in your viewpoint, or in G Thompson’s. I don’t ALWAYS blame other people for the decisions I or other people make. I often make bad decisions and they are my own. But then, I’ve got enough control over those situations to make good or bad decisions. When I don’t have enough control, the decisions I make are based on the options available for dealing with the situation. Sometimes there is only “take it” or “leave it.”

I believe that Aaron Swartz ran out of options – or at least believed there were only two: go to jail for the rest of his life or take a plea bargain that might still mean years of jail time and defense costs that might cripple him and his family financially, despite the fundraiser. It’s hard to think straight when you’re hurting, and this wasn’t trivial. Prison would have ruined his life, ended his voting rights for many years and affected his employment prospects.

I choose to leave this thread because I’m done now. Toodles!

Within Reason says:

Re: Re: So...

So you’ve never been hounded and threatened to the point where you were convinced there was only one way out? Good for you, Mason, good for you.

Try compassion on for size, you may find it’s a tight fit.

Ready? Okay, try reading through reports of suicide where the circumstances were fully explained. I use to work in a bank and one of the main reasons we received for suicide of our debtors was our constant persecution of them, often at their place of work. Well, their employers would get fed up with it and fire them so they found it even harder to pay us back. As their debts spiraled out of control with interest piling ever upwards and the threatening letters kept flowing through the mailbox in a torrent of paper, they began to think there was only one way out…

So who killed our deceased debtors really? Nobody wants to kill themselves for shits and giggles, they want their torment to end. And when there’s no one to defend them or get the pressure off, there’s only one way out.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re:2 That's not the way they roll.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there with a clue that have no problem telling people that they are wrong. That’s the nice thing about being a socially maladjusted technology professional.

So that just leaves you with the obvious next question: why does anyone have any excuse for being ignorant at this point? They don’t really. That’s especially true for people that bother to read or write responses to articles published on the subject.

You’re either not paying attention, or you choose to ignore the facts that are repeated often and enthusiastically.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Attend law school and you will find it is one of the first topics discussed in Criminal Law. The civil law counterpart is, in general, the tort of trespass.

While lay understanding may suggest something more is needed to constitute “breaking”, that understanding understates all manner of conduct that comprises “breaking” under the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

One day, in the future

When academic publishing is open — that is, not being ruthlessly exploited by middlemen — and every research paper from every institution is available online for free, MIT is going to look back at this in shame and horror.

They (and JSTOR) (and a clueless, overzealous, egotistical prosecutor) killed Aaron Swartz as surely as if they’d tightened the noose around his neck. They broke his spirit and destroyed his will.

And had Aaron been a violent drug dealer or a serial rapist or a vicious pedophile, someone truly dangerous to society, maybe we could understand their massive response. But he was none of those things. His “crime”, if there was one at all, was trying to spread knowledge.

And they killed him for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: One day, in the future

Oh, please. You can’t get fucked unless you assume the position. Swartz knew what he was doing was wrong. He took pains to shroud his identity online, hide from cameras, run from the cops, etc. It’s a pity he didn’t think about the consequences and consider whether he was strong enough to deal with it. He was weak; and his way out was to kill himself. Too bad. But he did this to himself.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: One day, in the future

Yes, his suicide was a personal decision that was ultimately his alone. That said, I think it’s pretty disingenuous to say that the prosecution’s hand on this are clean.

If the prosecutors hadn’t gone insane in overcharging him and threatening him with lengthy jail time for what is actually a minor offense, you might have a point in saying they bear no blame whatsoever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One day, in the future

The entire series of events was set in motion by Aaron Swartz alone. He was previously investigated by the FBI for a similar stunt and knew, or should have known that he was putting himself in legal peril. But he did it anyway.

And you think this is the prosecutors fault? C’mon man.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One day, in the future

He was previously investigated by the FBI for a similar stunt and knew, or should have known that he was putting himself in legal peril. But he did it anyway.

He was previously investigated and was found to have nothing done illegal because the documents were all in the public domain.

If Aaron had finished downloading the JSTOR database and released ONLY the ones that were in the public domain, it would have been the exact same situation here too. (with the small exception of trespassing in the wiring closet).

You take his previous actions as evidence of wrong doing in the MIT affair. I see it as a learning experience and he knew exactly what was illegal and what wasn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 One day, in the future

He knew he was walking the razor’s edge. And what he was downloading was NOT all in the public domain. He knew what he was doing, tried to conceal his role and was caught nonetheless. Then when it came time to face the music, he fell apart and killed himself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 One day, in the future

EVEN IF EVERYTHING HE DID WAS ILLEGAL HOW WAS THAT WORTH WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO TO HIM? WAS SOME STUPID FICTITIOUS LEGAL COPYRIGHT OR SOME FAKE IP WORTH A HUMANS LIFE OR EVEN YEARS OF SAID LIFE… GET off the bandwagon IF IT DOESN’T KILL ANOTHER HUMAN OR PUT THEM IN POSITION FOR INJURY OR LIBERTY IN JEOPARDY WHY IS IT WORTH ALL OF THIS BULLSHIT??? I DONT care what he did or why when i see things like this i have to ask do we need the Cops/Feds to protect this BS with YEARS/LIVES or do we need them to protect against the REAL THREATS??? MURDER IS REAL, SOME TERRORIST ARE REAL (not to the same level they blow things up today) INDUSTRIAL POISONING REAL – BUT COPY SOME ZERO’s and ONE’s and YOU WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE ROTTING IN A PRISON OR DEAD
YOU ARE THE PROBLEM… YOU ALLOW IT SUPPORT IT AND YOU SHOULD CLAIM YOUR LOVE OF IT (UNTIL THEY COME FOR YOU THEN I AM SURE YOU WILL WANT US ALL TO HELP WITH YOUR LEGAL FUND)

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One day, in the future

“The entire series of events was set in motion by Aaron Swartz alone.”

I never said otherwise. However, no reasonable human being would have thought that he would be charged with the offenses he was charged with, or that he would be facing potentially a substantial prison sentence. The only peril that a reasonable person would have expected would have been a trespassing charge.

So you’re saying that if you knowingly put yourself in peril of a minor charge and then get slapped with a litany of major charges,you should have somehow expected that and taken it in stride? C’mon man.

The prosecutors, in my opinion, abused their power by a lot, for political reasons. That abuse was a major factor in his suicide. He might have already been standing near the edge, but the prosecutors pushed him over it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 One day, in the future

I never said otherwise. However, no reasonable human being would have thought that he would be charged with the offenses he was charged with, or that he would be facing potentially a substantial prison sentence.

On his previous adventure, he was questioned regarding a violation of CFAA. If he had half a brain (which he clearly did) he probably became familiar with the consequences when the FBI was up his ass. Sorry, your excuses are bullshit.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One day, in the future

quote from some random status-quo apologist:
the entire series of events was set in motion by martin luther king alone. he was previously investigated by the feebs for similar ‘stunts’ and knew, or should have known that he was putting his WHOLE FUCKING RACE IN LEGAL PERIL.
but he did it anyway…

the entire series of events was set in motion by jesus of nazareth alone. he was previously investigated by legal authorities for similar ‘stunts’ and knew, or should have known that he was putting the whole of humanity in mortal peril.
but he did it anyway…

the authoritarian’s script:
the entire series of events was set in motion by (FILL IN THE BLANK w/DISSIDENT’S NAME) alone. he/she/they were previously slandered and maligned by (NAME OF AUTHORITY) for similar (WHATEVER WE DON’T LIKE) and knew, or should have known that he/she/they were putting themselves in ‘legal’ (sic) peril. but he/she/they did it anyway…

wormtongues have ever been the same throughout his story…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: One day, in the future

” He took pains to shroud his identity online, hide from cameras…”

This portion of your list of crimes is NOT a crime. you don’t have to smile and face every camera you pass or take a certain route to make sure law enforcement knows who you are. Nothing you listed here is a crime. This just proves you (as well as MIT and the prosecution) was out to get a man you didn’t like. Making bogus claims like these (and the tresspassing, hacking, etc) shows that people aren’t being impartial on this. If you’re not impartial, that leads to stupid claims….

“Swartz knew what he was doing was wrong.”

Point made. I truly believe Swartz thought what he was doing was legal and his moral obligation. He was trying to fight an injustice.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One day, in the future

It’s the same action bank robbers and liquor store stick-up boys take to keep from being identified committing their crimes.

And he was trespassing at the time. Covering up his face may implicate him on the trespassing charge, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the CFAA charges brought by the Federal government.

I believe he was willing to face the charges for the trespassing, but didn’t believe that what he did was anything more that a minor misdemeanor.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 One day, in the future

“the sole purpose of carrying out the CFAA crimes for which he is charged”

This is the worst kind of obfuscation. Until the DOJ went all hulk and decided to egregiously misapply the CFAA, nobody would have thought that what he was doing was “carrying out CFAA crimes”.

I still don’t think he committed any CFAA crimes whatsoever. The DOJ’s case was nonsensical. It looks purely political, malicious, and spiteful to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 One day, in the future

This is the worst kind of obfuscation. Until the DOJ went all hulk and decided to egregiously misapply the CFAA, nobody would have thought that what he was doing was “carrying out CFAA crimes”.

Well obviously Swartz and his legal team didn’t think the CFAA was misapplied. He killed himself rather than be sentenced under the CFAA.

And I reject the notion that he didn’t know what he was doing. He was investigated under the CFAA for his PACER caper. He escaped prosecution because those documents were ALL in the public domain. He knew the JSTOR documents were NOT all public domain and what saved him in his previous brush with the Feds didn’t apply.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One day, in the future

“It’s the same action bank robbers and liquor store stick-up boys take to keep from being identified committing their crimes.”

It’s also the kind of action that lots of people who aren’t committing crimes(including myself) often engage in as a protest against surveillance cameras.

Hiding from a camera does not mean you think you’re engaging in some kind of major crime. In Swartz’ case, I don’t think he thought he was engaging in a major crime. I think he thought he was engaging in the minor one that he was: trespassing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: One day, in the future

Oh, how very nice. Aaron did some things that were (possibly) (and possibly not) wrong, dubious, unethical, or illegal, and for that, he deserved to be threatened and bullied to death. Very nice. How reasonable. How sensible.

This is like punishing your jaywalking (and don’t tell me you don’t) by having you pepper-sprayed, billy-clubbed, handcuffed, and shot in the back 14 times. (Welcome to Albequerque.)

A proportionate response to this would have been to have a meeting with MIT and JSTOR personnel and Aaron to sit down and arrive at a mutual understanding. (Not agreement: understanding.) Maybe a compromise could have been worked out. Or maybe not. But there was no reason for MIT and JSTOR and prosecutors to aggressively, viciously, and gleefully attack this kid.

JMT says:

Re: Re: One day, in the future

“Swartz knew what he was doing was wrong.”

No, Swartz knew some people did not want him to do what he was doing, but he did not think what he was doing was wrong. And many, many people agree with his position.

“He took pains to shroud his identity online, hide from cameras, run from the cops, etc.”

Not wanting to be identified is pretty logical under the circumstances, but again doesn’t make his actions wrong. But I’d love for you to expand on the whole “run from the cops” thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One day, in the future

But I’d love for you to expand on the whole “run from the cops” thing.

OK, here you go. From The NYT:

“Perhaps suspecting he was being watched, Mr. Swartz moved the computer. But M.I.T.?s tech team believed it had tracked it to the fourth floor of the same Building 16. The university called for ?police presence.?

A little after 2 p.m., according to the government, Mr. Swartz was spotted heading down Massachusetts Avenue within a mile of M.I.T. After being questioned by an M.I.T. police officer, he dropped his bike and ran (according to the M.I.T. timeline, he was stopped by an M.I.T. police captain and Mr. Pickett). He was carrying a data storage device with a program on it, the government says, that tied him to the netbook.”

We good now?

John William Nelson (profile) says:

Prosecutor should be fired . . . but won't be

The prosecutor is a belt-notcher. “Let me measure my manhood by showing you the notches of convictions I have on my belt.”

A petty, petty man who deserves to be fired for ignoring the professionalism the legal profession teaches.

Sadly, he is also more the norm than the exception in prosecutorial offices. It’s not about justice, or the truth, but how big their endowment is because of who they were able to get in jail.

In fact, it’s often a bigger win for these jackasses if the facts are bad for them. “I just put an innocent in jail. I’m that good.”

I hate prosecutors like Heymann. Sadly, so many of them are exactly this jackass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prosecutor should be fired . . . but won't be

Then you should shoot ‘prosecutorial discretion’ in the head like the demon that it is. For it was ‘prosecutorial descretion’ that allowed Heymann to pile the pressure on. For it is ‘prosecutorial discretion’ that allows for plea-bargains that are so ludicrously weighted in favour of the prosecutor that it feels like the ‘criminal’ has to take the deal.

But MIT staff who praised the prosecutor should be fired and blackballed from ever working in tech again, as they have directlky and irrevocably harmed MIT’s stance on openness.

John William Nelson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Prosecutor should be fired . . . but won't be

Prosecutorial discretion is not the problem. The culture of prosecutor’s offices is the problem.

I’ve seen the effects. I’ve seen gentle souls go in and come out terrible people. I’ve had other friends flat out tell me the atmosphere is toxic.

In most prosecutor’s offices, there is little pursuit of truth or justice. Only pursuit of the conviction, with no care for whether the Defendant is innocent or if the correct person is caught.

AjStechd (profile) says:

If you believe the punishment fits the crime in this situation, I hope you get to experience that first hand one day. There’s the letter of the law, and then there’s the spirit of the law. Prosecutors are some of the worst people in existence, countless examples demonstrate this. If you believe destroying this man’s life was justified, you truly do not understand the details of the case or the world you live in. You’re cheering your own demise.

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