Details Show MIT Employees Gleefully Helped With Prosecution And Persecution Of Aaron Swartz
from the sad dept
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.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:
“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).”
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.