White House Responds To Petition About Aaron Swartz By Saying Absolutely Nothing

from the that's-a-response? dept

Soon after the unfortunate suicide of Aaron Swartz, a lot of anger was directed at Carmen Ortiz, the US Attorney who was the key figure behind the ridiculous prosecution of Swartz for daring to download too many documents (that he had legal access to, as did anyone connecting to MIT’s network). Ortiz showed no concern at all that either she or her office had done anything improper in threatening Swartz with over 30 years in jail for downloading (legally) some academic papers. As a result some people set up one of those “We the People” White House petitions, asking the Obama administration to remove Ortiz from her job.

This petition had no chance. Petitions are supposed to be used to get the White House to discuss or commit to policy positions. Specific personnel decisions seem way outside the scope. Besides, as bad a job as we may think Ortiz did in handling the Swartz situation, frankly, it’s not the kind of thing the White House will ever come out and say directly. That’s just not how it works.

Similarly, while at times the “We the People” petitions have been useful in forcing the White House’s hand on things, for the most part, the administration seems to ignore most of them, even if they got the required 100,000 signatures demanding a response.

So I’m at a total loss as to why the White House suddenly decided — two years later — to respond to the petition to remove Ortiz from her job, and to basically say… absolutely nothing in response:

Aaron Swartz’s death was a tragic, unthinkable loss for his family and friends. Our sympathy continues to go out to those who were closest to him, and to the many others whose lives he touched.

We also reaffirm our belief that a spirit of openness is what makes the Internet such a powerful engine for economic growth, technological innovation, and new ideas. That’s why members of the Administration continue to engage with advocates to ensure the Internet remains a free and open platform as technology continues to disrupt industries and connect our communities in ways we can’t yet imagine. We will continue this engagement as we tackle new questions on key issues such as citizen participation in democracy, open access to information, privacy, intellectual property, free speech, and security.

As to the specific personnel-related requests raised in your petitions, our response must be limited. Consistent with the terms we laid out when we began We the People, we will not address agency personnel matters in a petition response, because we do not believe this is the appropriate forum in which to do so.

If that’s the answer, why bother responding at all? Even the opening statement expressing concern for Swartz’s family and friends rings hollow. While I know, for a fact, that some in the White House absolutely do understand what Swartz meant to the internet, this response is incredibly weak. Of course, even though they couldn’t do anything or say anything about Ortiz, an announcement like this (two years later) could have been tied to some sort of program on internet openness, or increasing access to public domain works, or any of a number of projects and campaigns that Swartz was close to. There was no real reason to pick up this thread now, but having decided to answer the petition now, the White House certainly could have done something a lot more productive with it.

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Comments on “White House Responds To Petition About Aaron Swartz By Saying Absolutely Nothing”

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45 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

We The People was nothing but a political toy to push the administration’s objectives. Many have been answered that never received the minimum voting amount because that was what they were interested in while others that received more than the total votes required remain totally ignored.

If you believe this is about what the people want, I gotta bridge for sale….

Anonymous Coward says:

I was surprised when I received this response, primarily because it showed up like an update to a long forgotten Kickstarter I’d donated to but gave up on when it didn’t deliver in a decent amount of time.

This was too little for being so late. They could have said this a long time ago. Coming this late makes this message seem like the rejection of an amnesty request delivered to the widow of an already executed death row inmate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

He has no argument. His position is indefensible and he knows it. That’s why his only resort is to throw temper tantrums and resort to personal attacks, name calling, and making baseless proclamations about what he thinks Aaron Swartz means to others as if he’s in a position to say (or to speak for the majority. HAH. He is in a very very small minority, the failed astroturfing campaigns put forth by the MPAA/RIAA and the mass protests against SOPA should easily show what kinda minority he is in). His position that the likes of him should undemocratically dictate the laws to his own benefit, at the expense of everyone else, shows what kinda selfish person this is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Part of the point of a petition is to allow us to question the law in a democratic matter. If the law is not what the people want, as the petition suggests, then it ought to be changed. The response to this petition suggests that the government doesn’t care what the people want and is unwilling to investigate what they want any further despite creating this petition process to guide it into determining what laws to possibly change. Some democracy. That you would defend the law and their response to the petition, even if undemocratic, should suggest what kinda person you are.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Part of the point of a petition is to allow us to question the law in a democratic matter. If the law is not what the people want, as the petition suggests, then it ought to be changed. The response to this petition suggests that the government doesn’t care what the people want

This petition was not about a law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If you are in such a good position to determine what something means to ‘the Internet’ or to others or the majority or whatever why don’t you start your own blog and attract your own audience instead of coming here and leeching off of Techdirt. Oh, that’s right, because no one cares what you have to say and your blog will be composed of a bunch of crickets. Heck, even the crickets will abandon you. You speak for no one else but yourself. Prove me wrong, start your own successful blog and stop coming here for an audience.

Anonymous Coward says:

You want hire and fire decisions made by petition? How about someone sets up a petition and gets 300 million votes to fire you from your own website and permanently ban you from the internet? Because it’s a petition and most people vote ‘fire him’ it should be done? That way lies mob rule. Even if we disagree with the specifics of a case then the remedy is to modify the legal process, not expect a random vote to get the ‘right’ answer.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

whether anything comes of any or all of them is almost besides the point, NEVER expected it to be some kind of exercise in ‘direct-democracy’…

about the ONLY thing i expected, was for the 99% to have a TEENY, TINY means of redress, which would shine a spotlight on various issues, etc which concerned us 99%, NOT the superior form of citizens known as korporations…

besides, your FUD tactics are weak: whether WE DECIDE to have the jobs of various civil servants subject to a recall action DOES NOT automagically mean that EVERYTHING on the planet is thus run in the same fashion…

what kind of retarded palaver is that ? ? ?

in point of fact, numerous civil servant positions are subject to ‘recall’, it is just such a PITA, and usually dependent upon the corrupt system to police the corrupt system…
(how’s that working out for ya’ ? ? ?)

as a matter of principle, i ALWAYS vote ‘NO’ on ‘should judge so-and-so be retained for another term…’, since they always win by 85-95% (NO ONE knows who judge so-and-so is), i just want to lower that percentage a little to put the fear of dog in them…

we are in the beginning of the Great Unraveling…
it will not be pretty…

Empire must fall.
the sooner the fall,
the gentler for all…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When it comes to his blog the people have the choice to simply not visit it. When it comes to government employees taxpayers should have every right to decide against funding someone that doesn’t serve their interests. There is a difference between comparing a private blog that no one is forced to fund with someone in a government position that everyone is forced to fund and comply with. To conflate the two shows how indefensible your position is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Also if you had any moral conscience whatsoever you would be ashamed of yourself for effectively subverting the democratic process for personal gain. That’s what IP extremists have managed to do. They don’t care about the public, the artists, or democracy, only themselves. But you have no conscience, you continue to shill and selfishly subvert the democratic process through law buying and back door dealings and secretive meetings, knowing that it’s wrong, with no remorse. A very small minority that have effectively subverted the democratic process for personal gain. Despicable. You really ought to be ashamed of yourself and it tears you apart that I can come here and make you face the fact that you are a lowlife scumbag instead of allowing you to keep trying to bury it deep down, ignore it, and rationalize it away. I will make clear to you and everyone here what you already know deep down and what everyone already openly knows, that your attempts to rationalize your actions by claiming there is any justice in these undemocratic laws are wrong and even your attempts to defend our unjust system is unjust and makes you more unjust. Hopefully it will get you to change your ways.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Falsely accusing others of that which IP defenders have a long history of doing is not going to clear you of guilt. Hollywood was built on infringement and it’s no secret that those in Hollywood internally infringe on a regular basis. It would surprise no one if you yourself ignore copy protection laws when possible, you don’t truly believe the nonsense that you preach. You are in all likelihood a hypocrite.

Anonymous Coward says:

maybe they are hoping this pisses people off enough to lash out at the white house. Give them justification for more heavy handed laws in response to whatever happens.

Look what happened when someone hacked the police over their misconduct. baiting the bear works wonders for passing what would be a controversial bill that would normally never succeed

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