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Magda Hassan
01-13-2013, 12:15 PM
The so called victim in the so called crime, JSTOR, had said that they suffered no loss and asked the government not to prosecute. Aaron was facing 50 years in prison and was being vindictively persecuted by the government. The academic journals he downloaded were from publicly funded research.

Farewell to Aaron Swartz, an extraordinary hacker and activist


Yesterday Aaron Swartz, a close friend and collaborator of ours, committed suicide. This is a tragic end to a brief and extraordinary life.
Aaron did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way. His contributions were numerous, and some of them were indispensable. When we asked him in late 2010 for help in stopping COICA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combating_Online_Infringement_and_Counterfeits_Act ), the predecessor to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills (https://www.eff.org/issues/coica-internet-censorship-and-copyright-bill), he founded an organization called Demand Progress (http://demandprogress.org/), which mobilized over a million online activists and proved to be an invaluable ally in winning that campaign.
https://www.eff.org/sites/default/files/images_insert/aaron.jpg
Other projects Aaron worked on included the RSS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rss)specifications (http://web.resource.org/rss/1.0/), web.py (http://webpy.org/), tor2web (http://tor2web.org/), the Open Library (http://openlibrary.org/), and the Chrome port of HTTPS Everywhere (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/https-everywhere/gcbommkclmclpchllfjekcdonpmejbdp). Aaron helped launch the Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/). He was a former co-founder at Reddit (http://www.reddit.com/), and a member of the team that made the site successful. His blog (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/archive) was often a delight.
Aaron's eloquent brilliance was mixed with a complicated introversion. He communicated on his own schedule and needed a lot of space to himself, which frustrated some of his collaborators. He was fascinated by the social world around him, but often found it torturous to deal with.
For a long time, Aaron was more comfortable reading books than talking to humans (he once told me something like, "even talking to very smart people is hard, but if I just sit down and read their books, I get their most considered and insightful thoughts condensed in a beautiful and efficient form. I can learn from books faster than I can from talking to the authors."). His passion for the written word, for open knowledge, and his flair for self-promotion, sometimes producedspectacular (https://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/us/13records.html) results (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/fbifile), even before the events that proved to be his undoing.
In 2011, Aaron used the MIT campus network to download millions of journal articles from theJSTOR database (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jstor), allegedly changing his laptop's IP and MAC addresses when necessary to get around blocks put in place by JSTOR and MIT and sneaking into a closet to get a faster connection to the MIT network. For this purported crime, Aaron was facing criminal charges with penalties up to thirty-five years in prison, most seriously for "unauthorized access" to computers under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
If we believe the prosecutor's allegations against him, Aaron had hoped to liberate the millions of scientific and scholarly articles he had downloaded from JSTOR, releasing them so that anyone could read them, or analyze them as a single giant dataset, something Aaron had done before. While his methods were provocative, the goal that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — is one that we should all support.
Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, and particularly their punishment regimes. Aaron's act was undoubtedly political activism, and taking such an act in the physical world would, at most, have a meant he faced light penalties akin to trespassing as part of a political protest. Because he used a computer, he instead faced long-term incarceration. This is a disparity that EFF has fought against for years. Yesterday, it had tragic consequences. Lawrence Lessig has called for (http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bully) this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them. We agree.
Aaron, we will sorely miss your friendship, and your help in building a better world. May you read in peace.










https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/01/farewell-aaron-swartz

Magda Hassan
01-13-2013, 12:19 PM
Official statement from the Family of Aaron Swartz

Official Statement from the Family and Partner of Aaron Swartz:Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.
Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
_____
Aaron’s funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 15 at Central Avenue Synagogue, 874 Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035. Further details, including the specific time, will be posted at http://rememberaaronsw.com, along with announcements about memorial services to be held in other cities in coming weeks.
Remembrances of Aaron, as well as donations in his memory, can be submitted at http://rememberaaronsw.com

Magda Hassan
01-13-2013, 12:28 PM
Aaron was also a critic of the Kill List and the cyber attacks on Iran by Israel and the US.

Prominent American blogger and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, who spoke against US President Barack Obama’s “kill list” and cyber attacks against Iran, has been found dead in New York.


Police found the body of the 26-year-old in his apartment in New York City borough of Brooklyn on Friday, said a spokeswoman for the city’s chief medical examiner.

Brooklyn’s chief medical examiner ruled the death a suicide by hanging, but no further detail is available about the mysterious death.

Last year, Swartz openly criticized the US and the Israeli regime for launching joint cyber attacks against Iran.

The blogger was also vocal in criticizing Obama’s so-called kill list and other policies.

Obama has been reportedly approving the names put on the “kill lists” used in the targeted killing operations carried out by US assassination drones.

Every week or so, more than 100 members of the US national security team gather via secure video teleconference run by the Pentagon and go over the biographies of suspects in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, and “nominate” those who should be targeted in the attacks.
Obama is then provided with the identities of those put on the “kill list” and signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia as well as the risky strikes in Pakistan.

Swartz was also widely credited for co-authoring the specifications for the Web feed format RSS 1.0 (Rich Site Summary) which he worked on at age 14.

RSS is designed to deliver content from sites that change constantly, such as news pages, to users.

Swartz was critical of monopoly of information by corporate cartels and believed that information should be shared and available for the benefit of society.

“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves,” he wrote in an online “manifesto” in 2008.

Based on that belief, the computer prodigy founded the nonprofit group DemandProgress.

The group launched a successful campaign to block a 2011 bill that the US House of Representatives called the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Had it been approved, the bill would have allowed court orders to restrain access to some websites considered to be involved in illegal sharing of intellectual property.

DemandProgress argued that the thwarted Stop Online Piracy Act would have broadly authorized the US government to censor and restrict legitimate Web communication.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01/13/283254/us-kill-list-critic-found-dead-in-ny/

Lauren Johnson
01-13-2013, 04:45 PM
Instead, they threw the book at him. Even though MIT and JSTOR (the journal publisher) backed down, the prosecution kept on. I heard lots of theories: the feds who'd tried unsuccessfully to nail him for the PACER/RECAP stunt had a serious hate-on for him; the feds were chasing down all the Cambridge hackers who had any connection to Bradley Manning in the hopes of turning one of them, and other, less credible theories. A couple of lawyers close to the case told me that they thought Aaron would go to jail.

http://blogs.providencejournal.com/arts-entertainment/subterranean/2013/01/young-genius-aaron-swartz-kills-himself-at-26.html

Lauren Johnson
01-14-2013, 05:32 AM
By NOAM COHEN (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/noam_cohen/index.html)

At an afternoon vigil at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Sunday, Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old technology wunderkind who killed himself on Friday, was remembered as a great programmer and a provocative thinker by a handful of students who attended.

And he was recalled as something else, a hero of the free culture movement — a coalition as varied as Wikipedia contributors, Flickr photographers and online educators, and prominent figures like Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, and online vigilantes like Anonymous. They share a belief in using the Internet to provide easy, open access to the world’s knowledge.

“He’s something to aspire toward,” said Benjamin Hitov, a 23-year-old Web programmer from Cambridge, Mass., who said he had cried when he learned the news about Mr. Swartz. “I think all of us would like to be a bit more like him. Most of us aren’t quite as idealistic as he was. But we still definitely respect that.”

The United States government has a very different view of Mr. Swartz. In 2011, he was arrested and accused of using M.I.T.’s computers to gain illegal access to millions of scholarly papers kept by Jstor, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals.

At his trial, which was to begin in April, he faced the possibility of millions of dollars in fines and up to 35 years in prison, punishments that friends and family say haunted him for two years and led to his suicide.

Mr. Swartz was a flash point in the debate over whether information should be made widely available. On one side were activists like Mr. Swartz and advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Students for Free Culture. On the other were governments and corporations that argued that some information must be kept private for security or commercial reasons.

After his death, Mr. Swartz has come to symbolize a different debate over how aggressively governments should pursue criminal cases against people like Mr. Swartz who believe in “freeing” information.

In a statement, his family said in part (http://rememberaaronsw.tumblr.com/post/40372208044/official-statement-from-the-family-and-partner-of-aaron): “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office and at M.I.T. contributed to his death.”

On Sunday evening, M.I.T.’s president, L. Rafael Reif, said he had appointed a prominent professor, Hal Abelson, to “lead a thorough analysis of M.I.T.’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present.” He promised to disclose the report, adding, “It pains me to think that M.I.T. played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”

M.I.T.’s Web site was inaccessible at times on Sunday. Officials there did not provide a cause.
While Mr. Swartz viewed his making copies of academic papers as an unadulterated good, spreading knowledge, the prosecutor compared Mr. Swartz’s actions to using a crowbar to break in and steal someone’s money under the mattress. On Sunday, she declined to comment on Mr. Swartz’s death out of respect for his family’s privacy.

The question of how to treat online crimes is still a vexing one, many years into the existence of the Internet.

Prosecutors have great discretion on what to charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law cited in Mr. Swartz’s case, and how to value the loss. “The question in any given case is whether the prosecutor asked for too much, and properly balanced the harm caused in a particular case with the defendant’s true culpability,” said Marc Zwillinger, a former federal cybercrimes prosecutor.

The belief that information is power and should be shared freely — which Mr. Swartz described in a treatise (http://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt) in 2008 — is under considerable legal assault. The immediate reaction among those sympathetic to Mr. Swartz has been anger and a vow to soldier on. Young people interviewed on Sunday spoke of the government’s power to intimidate.

“Using certain people as poster children for deterring others from doing that same action, ultimately it won’t work,” Jennifer Baek, a third-year student at New York Law School, said by telephone, referring to Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been charged with multiple counts in the leaking of confidential documents, and Mr. Swartz. Ms. Baek, a member of the board of Students for Free Culture, said the comments on blogs and discussion boards she had visited since Mr. Swartz’s death showed that “people aren’t afraid to say this is what the injustice was.”

The ingredients for trouble perhaps lay in Mr. Swartz’s personal and direct approach to solving problems. As one mentor, Cory Doctorow of the popular Web site Boing Boing, wrote in tribute (http://boingboing.net/2013/01/12/rip-aaron-swartz.html), he was highly impressionable and sought after and was forgiven by those he worked with and worked for.

A permanent “kid genius,” Mr. Swartz had often put his skills to the task of making information more accessible. At 14 he was a co-creator of RSS, a tool that allows online content to be distribute, and then made a tidy sum as one of the creators of the social-news site Reddit, now part of Condé Nast.

But even before, and certainly after, he crusaded for open access to information. His projects include a range of influential efforts like the Internet Archive, Creative Commons, Wikipedia and the Recap collection of legal documents.

He also began more traditional projects for subjects he took an interest in. At 19, he volunteered to upload the archive of a defunct magazine he loved, Lingua Franca. In 2005, he called up the writer Rick Perlstein to offer to create a Web page for him after reading a book of his he liked.

“I smelled a hustle, asking him how much it would cost, and he said, no, he wanted to do it for free,” Mr. Perlstein wrote in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/blog/172187/remembering-aaron-swartz) over the weekend. “I thought: ‘What a loser this guy must be. Someone with nothing better to do.’ ” Mr. Perlstein writes that he ended up becoming friends, and he sent chapters of his next book, “Nixonland,” to Mr. Swartz before he showed them to anyone else.

Mr. Swartz outlined his views in the manifesto: “It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.”

And he said the stakes were clear: “We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.”

Still, even many of his allies concede that Mr. Swartz’s passion for free information may have taken him too far in the Jstor downloads. According to the government’s indictment, in September 2010 Mr. Swartz broke into a computer-wiring closet on the M.I.T. campus; when retrieving a computer he connected, he hid his face behind a bicycle helmet, peeking out through the ventilation holes. At the time, he was a student at nearby Harvard.

Some would say that perhaps a punishment for trespassing would have been warranted, but the idea that he could have seen serious prison time was infuriating. Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard Law professor who founded Creative Commons to advocate greater sharing of creative material online, called the prosecution’s case (http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bully) absurd and said that boxing in Mr. Swartz with an aggressive case and little ability to mount a defense “made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.”

E.J. Hilbert, a former cybercrimes investigator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said that the broader issues around such activist transgressions raise many complex questions that are subject to “a lot of discretion from prosecutors.” He added that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has long been renowned for a particularly aggressive pursuit of cybercrimes.

Jstor, for its part, declined to pursue the case and posted a note (http://about.jstor.org/statement-swartz) over the weekend describing Mr. Swartz as “a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the Internet and the Web from which we all benefit.”

Michael McCarthy, a 30-year-old animator from Providence who was also at the M.I.T. vigil, said Mr. Swartz was let down by the university. “If places like M.I.T. aren’t safe for people to be a little miscreant in their quest for truth and understanding, then we’re in a lot of trouble,” he said.

It’s unclear how much the impending case contributed to Mr. Swartz’s decision to take his own life. Years back, he wrote about his struggle with depression in his blog, Raw Thoughts.

The last post he wrote on that blog, in November, was a detailed analysis of the final installment of the “Batman” series.

Having warned his readers that he was about to reveal the conclusion of the movies, he ended the post (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/tdk) by writing: “Thus Master Wayne is left without solutions. Out of options, it’s no wonder the series ends with his staged suicide.”

Jess Bidgood and Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/14/technology/aaron-swartz-a-data-crusader-and-now-a-cause.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&&pagewanted=print

Lauren Johnson
01-14-2013, 06:11 AM
Aaron suffered from depression, but that is not why he died. Aaron is dead because the institutions that govern our society have decided that it is more important to target geniuses like Aaron than nurture them, because the values he sought – openness, justice, curiosity – are values these institutions now oppose. In previous generations, people like Aaron would have been treasured and recognized as the remarkable gifts they are. We do not live in a world like that today. And Aaron would be the first to point out, if he could observe the discussion happening now, that the pressure he felt from the an oppressive government is felt by millions of people, every year. I’m glad his family have not let the justice system off the hook, and have not allowed this suicide to be medicalized, or the fault of one prosecutor. What happened to Aaron is not isolated to Aaron, but is the flip side of the corruption he hated.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/aaron-swartzs-politics.html#dp8StH7HAHhXlr4F.99 (http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/aaron-swartzs-politics.html#dp8StH7HAHhXlr4F.99)

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 07:44 AM
The good, they die young........

Magda Hassan
01-14-2013, 07:59 AM
http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/18bdukgfitxcyjpg/original.jpg
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Academics Are Tweeting Out PDFs of Journal Articles in Memory of Aaron Swartz

http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/17tpm9yl2st4tjpg/avt-small.jpg Eric Limer

There's been a pretty big outpouring of grief following Aaron Swartz's suicide, even from those who didn't actually know him (http://gizmodo.com/5975463/the-void-of-losing-someone-you-dont-know-a-remembrance-of-aaron-swartz?tag=aaron-swartz). And the trend is continuing. Many researchers and academics are now tweeting links to PDF files of their papers (http://neuroconscience.com/2013/01/13/researchers-begin-posting-article-pdfs-to-twitter-in-pdftribute-to-aaron-swartz/) as a tribute.
At the time of his death, Swartz had been facing charges for attempting to publicly release academic papers from JSTOR (http://gizmodo.com/5822681/former-reddit-employee-charged-with-data-theft), and in a statement, his family accuses the intensity of the charges (http://gizmodo.com/5975426/former-reddit-co+owner-and-internet-activist-aaron-swartz-commits-suicide) for contributing in part to his suicide. The show of support, consolidated under the hashtag #pdftribute (https://twitter.com/search?q=%23pdftribute&src=typd), now involves hundreds of participants working to make hundreds (if not more) papers freely available to the public, much as Swartz had been trying to do.
There's yet to be any consolidated archive of the links or PDFs, but chatter on Twitter suggests that there are multiple parties trying to organize one. The hashtag is now getting over 500 tweets per hour, so rounding up all those links could prove to be difficult, but even with no hub of articles (yet), the tribute is making a splash. [Neuroconscience (http://neuroconscience.com/2013/01/13/researchers-begin-posting-article-pdfs-to-twitter-in-pdftribute-to-aaron-swartz/) via Techmeme (http://www.techmeme.com/130113/p6#a130113p6)]
http://gizmodo.com/5975543/academics-are-tweeting-out-pdfs-of-journal-articles-in-memory-of-aaron-swartz?utm_campaign=socialflow_gizmodo_facebook&utm_source=gizmodo_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 08:29 AM
Great effort in response to a very sad event! It seems to me that the suppression of information, generally, and especially the TRUTH of important historical/political events [and the analytical skills and background information necessary for same] have been the PLAN of TPTB for a VERY long time, and getting more ruthless since 911. Aaron was a victim of this Jihad against the dissemination of information, IMHO. Other's heads are figuratively on the 'block' as well.....the list is too long to name them all...... They want to control information and replace it with disinformation. Those who insist on spreading real information effectively will be targeted with long imprisonment or worse. Aaron sadly chose to bow out before he had to face the 'firing squad' being assembled for him and so many others. It is an information war at the heart of all we discuss here on this Forum.

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 07:43 PM
AMY GOODMAN: We spend today’s broadcast remembering the life and work of cyber activist, computer programmer, social justice activist and writer, Aaron Swartz. At the age of 14, he co-developed the Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, web protocol, the key component of much of the web’s entire publishing infrastructure. By the time he was 19, he had co-founded a company that would merge with Reddit, now one of the world’s most popular sites. He also helped develop the architecture for the Creative Commons licensing system and built the online architecture for the Open Library. Aaron Swartz committed suicide on Friday. He hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment. He was 26 years old.

His death occurred just weeks before he was to go on trial for using computers at MIT—that’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—to download millions of copyrighted academic articles from JSTOR, a subscription database of scholarly papers. JSTOR declined to press charges, but prosecutors moved the case forward. Aaron Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison and a million dollars in fines for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. When the case first came to light, the United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, said, quote, "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars."

In a statement, Swartz’s family criticized federal prosecutors pursuing the case against him. They said, quote, "Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death," they said. On Sunday, MIT President Rafael Reif said the university will conduct an internal investigation into the school’s role in Swartz’s death.

Aaron Swartz was a longtime champion of an open Internet. Last year, he helped organize a grassroots movement to defeat a House bill called SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and a Senate bill called PIPA, the Protect IP Act. During a speech he delivered last May in Washington D.C., he explained the challenges he saw the Internet facing.

AARON SWARTZ: There’s a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the Internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands. Is sharing a video on BitTorrent like shoplifting from a movie store? Or is it like loaning a videotape to a friend? Is reloading a webpage over and over again like a peaceful virtual sit-in or a violent smashing of shop windows? Is the freedom to connect like freedom of speech or like the freedom to murder?

AMY GOODMAN: Later in the broadcast, we’ll play that full speech. That was Aaron Swartz speaking in May of last year. Well, he took his own life on Friday. A funeral will be held in Chicago on Tuesday.

For more, we now go to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Harvard Kennedy School of Government to speak with Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. He knew Aaron for 12 years. He was a friend and mentor. Lawrence Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Lessig. Tell us about Aaron.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, thank you. Thank you, Amy, for having me here to talk about this incredible, incredible soul.

You know, I think the thing to remember about Aaron is that from the youngest age, from the age of 12, his work has been—his work was dedicated solely to making the world a better place for the ideas that he had. He started with the idea that maybe we needed to make the Internet easier to share information, so that’s what led to RSS. And then, with Creative Commons, it was: How do we license people to make the freedom to share legally protected? And then, after that, it was with the public library: How do we make books available? And when that wasn’t enough, he started pushing in the social activist and progressive space, first with working with Stephanie Taylor and Adam Green at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and then with his own Demand Progress with David Segal. In all of these areas, what he was doing was advancing ideals. He was an idealist who believed we had to live up to something better, and he was an incredible soul, an incredible soul who inspired millions who now weep, as we’ve seen across the Internet, in outrage and devastation that he would have been driven to the cliff that he stepped over.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what the case against Aaron was? Explain what happened.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, I have to be very careful, because when Aaron was arrested, he came to me, and I—there was a period of time where I acted as his lawyer. So, I know more about the case than I’m able to talk about.

But here’s what was alleged. Aaron was stopped as he left MIT. He had a computer in his possession, which there was tape that indicated that he had connected the computer to a server—to a closet in MIT, and the allegation was he had downloaded a significant portion of JSTOR. Now, JSTOR is a nonprofit website that has been for—since about 1996, has been trying to build an archive of online—giving online access to academic journal articles, you know, like the Harvard Law Review or journal articles from geography from the 1900s. It’s an extraordinary library of information. And the claim was Aaron had downloaded a significant portion of that. And the question, the obvious question that was in everybody’s mind, was: Why? What was he doing this for? And so, the Cambridge police arrested Aaron.

JSTOR said, "We don’t want to prosecute. We don’t want to civilly prosecute. We don’t want you to criminally prosecute." But MIT was not as clear. And the federal government—remember, at the time, there was the Bradley Manning and the WikiLeaks issue going on. The federal government thought it was really important to make—make an example. And so, they brought this incredibly ridiculous prosecution that had multiple—you know, I think it was something like more than—more than a dozen counts claiming felony violations against Aaron, threatening, you know, scores of years in prison. But, you know, it’s not the theoretical claims about what he might have gotten; it was the practical burden that for the last two years, you know, his wealth was bled dry as he had to negotiate to try to finally settle this matter, because the government was not going to stop before he admitted that he was a felon, which I think, you know, in a world where the architects of the financial crisis dine regularly at the White House, it’s ridiculous to think Aaron Swartz was a felon.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the scene where he was arrested? He was riding his bicycle?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah. You know, this is part of the incredibly ridiculous propaganda that the government put out. They released these, you know, badly taken—because it was basically just a security camera—images of Aaron and suggested that what Aaron was doing was hiding his face and he was trying to evade—to evade detection. All he was doing was walking out of MIT with his bike helmet attached to his backpack. And the image was, you know, just of the guy who had just previously been in MIT, using their network, leaving.

Now, you know, we have to keep this in context. MIT, for most of its history, has been a celebrator of open access to information. Indeed, the policy of MIT, at least most people thought, allowed anybody who was on the campus to have access to information on the campus. MIT houses Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement, who has celebrated and defended MIT many, many times for their beliefs. And so, you know, a lot of people just wondered, what was MIT doing here?

Now, you know, I think we have to—we have to say—I criticized MIT very strongly in a blog post that I posted called "Prosecutor as Bully," because of what they did before Aaron died, because of their refusal to recognize the craziness of what the federal government was doing and to stop it by saying, "We don’t prosecution here, and you should stop prosecution." MIT should have done that, and they didn’t. But what MIT has done on Sunday, I think, is extraordinarily important. By appointing Hal Abelson, who I think is the best possible person in the world to look at what MIT did and to report back about whether it was right or wrong, I think MIT has taken an important step to acknowledge—to acknowledge the wrong in what happened here. And we’ll see what Hal Abelson says when he looks at it and reports back.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, and when we come back, we’re going to read that statement of MIT and also the statement of JSTOR, that didn’t want Aaron Swartz prosecuted, the company, the nonprofit, that ran this document archive that he was downloading, that ultimately is releasing it all to the public anyway. And we’ll read the comments of his parents. Ultimately today, we’ll play the speech that Aaron Swartz gave last year about freedom to connect. This is Democracy Now! Back in a moment.



AMY GOODMAN: We are doing today’s broadcast about the suicide of Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old cyber activist, social justice activist, co-founder of Reddit. He developed RSS when he was 14 years old. Our guest today is Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, his mentor, his friend for many years, speaking to us from Harvard. I’m Amy Godman.

Over the weekend, Aaron’s family released this statement. They said, quote, "Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death."

MIT also released a statement, and I’d like to read that here. On Sunday, we reached out to MIT for comment. This is part of the statement the MIT president, Rafael Reif, sent to the MIT community regarding Aaron’s death. He wrote, quote, "I will not attempt to summarize here the complex events of the past two years. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT. I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it."

I also want to read the statement of JSTOR. That’s the nonprofit that is the archive of all of the documents that Aaron was downloading. Over the weekend, JSTOR expressed deep condolences to the Swartz family and maintained the case had been instigated by the U.S. attorney’s office. They wrote, quote, "The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge. At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011."

And now I want to play a comment of Aaron Swartz himself about JSTOR, about these documents. This was a comment made by Aaron Swartz at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in October of 2010. He spoke about JSTOR.

AARON SWARTZ: I am going to give you one example of something not as big as saving Congress, but something important that you can do right here at your own school. It just requires willing to get your shoes a little bit muddy. By virtue of being students at a major U.S. university, I assume that you have access to a wide variety of scholarly journals. Pretty much every major university in the United States pays these sort of licensing fees to organizations like JSTOR and Thomson and ISI to get access to scholarly journals that the rest of the world can’t read. And these licensing fees are substantial. And they’re so substantial that people who are studying in India, instead of studying in the United States, don’t have this kind of access. They’re locked out from all of these journals. They’re locked out from our entire scientific legacy. I mean, a lot of these journal articles, they go back to the Enlightenment. Every time someone has written down a scientific paper, it’s been scanned and digitized and put in these collections.

That is a legacy that has been brought to us by the history of people doing interesting work, the history of scientists. It’s a legacy that should belong to us as a commons, as a people, but instead it’s been locked up and put online by a handful of for-profit corporations who then try and get the maximum profit they can out of it. Now, there are people, good people, trying to change this with the open access movement. So, all journals, going forward, they’re encouraging them to publish their work as open access, so open on the Internet, available for download by everybody, available for free copying, and perhaps even modification with attribution and notice.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Aaron Swartz speaking, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, October 2010, about JSTOR. That was before he was arrested. Professor Lawrence Lessig, the significance of what Aaron was dedicating his life to, before we move on to the speech that he gave last year to play in full?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, he was dedicating his life to building a world, a nation at least, but a world that was as idealistic as he was. And he was impatient with us, and he was disappointed with us, with all of us, as we moved through this fight. And he—as he grew impatient, he called on people to do more. And it is incredibly hard for all of us who were close to him to accept the recognition that maybe if we had done more, maybe if we had done more, this wouldn’t have seemed so bleak to him, maybe if we had stopped this prosecution.

I received an email from JSTOR four days before Aaron died, from the president of JSTOR, announcing, celebrating that JSTOR was going to release all of these journal articles to anybody around the world who wanted access—exactly what Aaron was fighting for. And I didn’t have time to send it to Aaron; I was on—I was traveling. But I looked forward to seeing him again—I had just seen him the week before—and celebrating that this is what had happened. So, all of us think there are a thousand things we could have done, a thousand things we could have done, and we have to do, because Aaron Swartz is now an icon, an ideal. He is what we will be fighting for, all of us, for the rest of our lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Lessig, on November 27, 2007, Aaron blogged about his depressed mood. He said, "Surely there have been times when you’ve been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless. You wonder whether it’s worth going on. Everything you think about seems bleak—the things you’ve done, the things you hope to do, the people around you. You want to lie in bed and keep the lights off. Depressed mood is like that, only it doesn’t come for any reason and it doesn’t go for any either." What about Aaron’s state of mind, how he kept up his spirits, especially during this very, very difficult time, also struggling with depression?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, Aaron was depressed. He was rationally depressed. You know, he was losing everything, because his government was overreaching in the most ridiculous way to persecute him, not just because of this, but because of what he had done before, liberating government documents that were supposed to be in the public domain. Of course he was depressed. He wasn’t depressed because he had no loving parents—he did have loving parents who did everything they could for him—or because he didn’t have loving friends. Every time you saw Aaron, he was surrounded by five or 10 different people who loved and respected and worked with him. He was depressed because he was increasingly recognizing that the idealism he brought to this fight maybe wasn’t enough. When he saw all of his wealth gone, and he recognized his parents were going to have to mortgage their house so he could afford a lawyer to fight a government that treated him as if he were a 9/11 terrorist, as if what he was doing was threatening the infrastructure of the United States, when he saw that and he recognized how—how incredibly difficult that fight was going to be, of course he was depressed.

Now, you know, I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t know whether there was something wrong with him because of—you know, beyond the rational reason he had to be depressed, but I don’t—I don’t—I don’t have patience for people who want to say, "Oh, this was just a crazy person; this was just a person with a psychological problem who killed himself." No. This was somebody—this was somebody who was pushed to the edge by what I think of as a kind of bullying by our government. A bullying by our government. And just as we hold people responsible when their bullying leads to tragedy, I hope Carmen Ortiz does what MIT did and hold—

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. attorney.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: The U.S. attorney—and lead an investigation, ask somebody independent to look at what happened here and explain to America: Is this what the United States government is?

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Lessig, we want to end with the words of Aaron himself. And we’re not going to go to our second break—I want to warn all our stations—because—in order to fit in this whole speech. This is a speech that Aaron Swartz gave, the cyber activist, computer programmer, who took his life on Friday, speaking last May about the battle to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

AARON SWARTZ: [B]So, for me, it all started with a phone call. It was September—not last year, but the year before that, September 2010. And I got a phone call from my friend Peter. "Aaron," he said, "there’s an amazing bill that you have to take a look at." "What is it?" I said. "It’s called COICA, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeiting Act." "But, Peter," I said, "I don’t care about copyright law. Maybe you’re right. Maybe Hollywood is right. But either way, what’s the big deal? I’m not going to waste my life fighting over a little issue like copyright. Healthcare, financial reform—those are the issues that I work on, not something obscure like copyright law." I could hear Peter grumbling in the background. "Look, I don’t have time to argue with you," he said, "but it doesn’t matter for right now, because this isn’t a bill about copyright." "It’s not?" "No," he said. "It’s a bill about the freedom to connect." Now I was listening.

Peter explained what you’ve all probably long since learned, that this bill would let the government devise a list of websites that Americans weren’t allowed to visit. On the next day, I came up with lots of ways to try to explain this to people. I said it was a great firewall of America. I said it was an Internet black list. I said it was online censorship. But I think it’s worth taking a step back, putting aside all the rhetoric and just thinking for a moment about how radical this bill really was. Sure, there are lots of times when the government makes rules about speech. If you slander a private figure, if you buy a television ad that lies to people, if you have a wild party that plays booming music all night, in all these cases, the government can come stop you. But this was something radically different. It wasn’t the government went to people and asked them to take down particular material that was illegal; it shut down whole websites. Essentially, it stopped Americans from communicating entirely with certain groups. There’s nothing really like it in U.S. law. If you play loud music all night, the government doesn’t slap you with an order requiring you be mute for the next couple weeks. They don’t say nobody can make any more noise inside your house. There’s a specific complaint, which they ask you to specifically remedy, and then your life goes on.

The closest example I could find was a case where the government was at war with an adult bookstore. The place kept selling pornography; the government kept getting the porn declared illegal. And then, frustrated, they decided to shut the whole bookstore down. But even that was eventually declared unconstitutional, a violation of the First Amendment.

So, you might say, surely COICA would get declared unconstitutional, as well. But I knew that the Supreme Court had a blind spot around the First Amendment, more than anything else, more than slander or libel, more than pornography, more even than child pornography. Their blind spot was copyright. When it came to copyright, it was like the part of the justices’ brains shut off, and they just totally forgot about the First Amendment. You got the sense that, deep down, they didn’t even think the First Amendment applied when copyright was at issue, which means that if you did want to censor the Internet, if you wanted to come up with some way that the government could shut down access to particular websites, this bill might be the only way to do it. If it was about pornography, it probably would get overturned by courts, just like the adult bookstore case. But if you claimed it was about copyright, it might just sneak through.

And that was especially terrifying, because, as you know, because copyright is everywhere. If you want to shut down WikiLeaks, it’s a bit of a stretch to claim that you’re doing it because they have too much pornography, but it’s not hard at all to claim that WikiLeaks is violating copyright, because everything is copyrighted. This speech, you know, the thing I’m giving right now, these words are copyrighted. And it’s so easy to accidentally copy something, so easy, in fact, that the leading Republican supporter of COICA, Orrin Hatch, had illegally copied a bunch of code into his own Senate website. So if even Orrin Hatch’s Senate website was found to be violating copyright law, what’s the chance that they wouldn’t find something they could pin on any of us?

There’s a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the Internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands. Is sharing a video on BitTorrent like shoplifting from a movie store? Or is it like loaning a videotape to a friend? Is reloading a webpage over and over again like a peaceful virtual sit-in or a violent smashing of shop windows? Is the freedom to connect like freedom of speech or like the freedom to murder?

This bill would be a huge, potentially permanent, loss. If we lost the ability to communicate with each other over the Internet, it would be a change to the Bill of Rights. The freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution, the freedoms our country had been built on, would be suddenly deleted. New technology, instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out fundamental rights we had always taken for granted. And I realized that day, talking to Peter, that I couldn’t let that happen.

But it was going to happen. The bill, COICA, was introduced on September 20th, 2010, a Monday, and in the press release heralding the introduction of this bill, way at the bottom, it was scheduled for a vote on September 23rd, just three days later. And while, of course, there had to be a vote—you can’t pass a bill without a vote—the results of that vote were already a foregone conclusion, because if you looked at the introduction of the law, it wasn’t just introduced by one rogue eccentric member of Congress; it was introduced by the chair of the Judiciary Committee and co-sponsored by nearly all the other members, Republicans and Democrats. So, yes, there’d be a vote, but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, because nearly everyone who was voting had signed their name to the bill before it was even introduced.

Now, I can’t stress how unusual this is. This is emphatically not how Congress works. I’m not talking about how Congress should work, the way you see on Schoolhouse Rock. I mean, this is not the way Congress actually works. I mean, I think we all know Congress is a dead zone of deadlock and dysfunction. There are months of debates and horse trading and hearings and stall tactics. I mean, you know, first you’re supposed to announce that you’re going to hold hearings on a problem, and then days of experts talking about the issue, and then you propose a possible solution, you bring the experts back for their thoughts on that, and then other members have different solutions, and they propose those, and you spend of bunch of time debating, and there’s a bunch of trading, they get members over to your cause. And finally, you spend hours talking one on one with the different people in the debate, try and come back with some sort of compromise, which you hash out in endless backroom meetings. And then, when that’s all done, you take that, and you go through it line by line in public to see if anyone has any objections or wants to make any changes. And then you have the vote. It’s a painful, arduous process. You don’t just introduce a bill on Monday and then pass it unanimously a couple days later. That just doesn’t happen in Congress.

But this time, it was going to happen. And it wasn’t because there were no disagreements on the issue. There are always disagreements. Some senators thought the bill was much too weak and needed to be stronger: As it was introduced, the bill only allowed the government to shut down websites, and these senators, they wanted any company in the world to have the power to get a website shut down. Other senators thought it was a drop too strong. But somehow, in the kind of thing you never see in Washington, they had all managed to put their personal differences aside to come together and support one bill they were persuaded they could all live with: a bill that would censor the Internet. And when I saw this, I realized: Whoever was behind this was good.

Now, the typical way you make good things happen in Washington is you find a bunch of wealthy companies who agree with you. Social Security didn’t get passed because some brave politicians decided their good conscience couldn’t possibly let old people die starving in the streets. I mean, are you kidding me? Social Security got passed because John D. Rockefeller was sick of having to take money out of his profits to pay for his workers’ pension funds. Why do that, when you can just let the government take money from the workers? Now, my point is not that Social Security is a bad thing—I think it’s fantastic. It’s just that the way you get the government to do fantastic things is you find a big company willing to back them. The problem is, of course, that big companies aren’t really huge fans of civil liberties. You know, it’s not that they’re against them; it’s just there’s not much money in it.

Now, if you’ve been reading the press, you probably didn’t hear this part of the story. As Hollywood has been telling it, the great, good copyright bill they were pushing was stopped by the evil Internet companies who make millions of dollars off of copyright infringement. But it just—it really wasn’t true. I mean, I was in there, in the meetings with the Internet companies—actually probably all here today. And, you know, if all their profits depended on copyright infringement, they would have put a lot more money into changing copyright law. The fact is, the big Internet companies, they would do just fine if this bill passed. I mean, they wouldn’t be thrilled about it, but I doubt they would even have a noticeable dip in their stock price. So they were against it, but they were against it, like the rest of us, on grounds primarily of principle. And principle doesn’t have a lot of money in the budget to spend on lobbyists. So they were practical about it. "Look," they said, "this bill is going to pass. In fact, it’s probably going to pass unanimously. As much as we try, this is not a train we’re going to be able to stop. So, we’re not going to support it—we couldn’t support it. But in opposition, let’s just try and make it better." So that was the strategy: lobby to make the bill better. They had lists of changes that would make the bill less obnoxious or less expensive for them, or whatever. But the fact remained at the end of the day, it was going to be a bill that was going to censor the Internet, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.

So I did what you always do when you’re a little guy facing a terrible future with long odds and little hope of success: I started an online petition. I called all my friends, and we stayed up all night setting up a website for this new group, Demand Progress, with an online petition opposing this noxious bill, and I sent it to a few friends. Now, I’ve done a few online petitions before. I’ve worked at some of the biggest groups in the world that do online petitions. I’ve written a ton of them and read even more. But I’ve never seen anything like this. Starting from literally nothing, we went to 10,000 signers, then 100,000 signers, and then 200,000 signers and 300,000 signers, in just a couple of weeks. And it wasn’t just signing a name. We asked those people to call Congress, to call urgently. There was a vote coming up this week, in just a couple days, and we had to stop it. And at the same time, we told the press about it, about this incredible online petition that was taking off. And we met with the staff of members of Congress and pleaded with them to withdraw their support for the bill. I mean, it was amazing. It was huge. The power of the Internet rose up in force against this bill. And then it passed unanimously.

Now, to be fair, several of the members gave nice speeches before casting their vote, and in their speeches they said their office had been overwhelmed with comments about the First Amendment concerns behind this bill, comments that had them very worried, so worried, in fact, they weren’t sure that they still supported the bill. But even though they didn’t support it, they were going to vote for it anyway, they said, because they needed to keep the process moving, and they were sure any problems that were had with it could be fixed later. So, I’m going to ask you, does this sound like Washington, D.C., to you? Since when do members of Congress vote for things that they oppose just to keep the process moving? I mean, whoever was behind this was good.

And then, suddenly, the process stopped. Senator Ron Wyden, the Democrat from Oregon, put a hold on the bill. Giving a speech in which he called it a nuclear bunker-buster bomb aimed at the Internet, he announced he would not allow it to pass without changes. And as you may know, a single senator can’t actually stop a bill by themselves, but they can delay it. By objecting to a bill, they can demand Congress spend a bunch of time debating it before getting it passed. And Senator Wyden did. He bought us time—a lot of time, as it turned out. His delay held all the way through the end of that session of Congress, so that when the bill came back, it had to start all over again. And since they were starting all over again, they figured, why not give it a new name? And that’s when it began being called PIPA, and eventually SOPA.

So there was probably a year or two of delay there. And in retrospect, we used that time to lay the groundwork for what came later. But that’s not what it felt like at the time. At the time, it felt like we were going around telling people that these bills were awful, and in return, they told us that they thought we were crazy. I mean, we were kids wandering around waving our arms about how the government was going to censor the Internet. It does sound a little crazy. You can ask Larry tomorrow. I was constantly telling him what was going on, trying to get him involved, and I’m pretty sure he just thought I was exaggerating. Even I began to doubt myself. It was a rough period. But when the bill came back and started moving again, suddenly all the work we had done started coming together. All the folks we talked to about it suddenly began getting really involved and getting others involved. Everything started snowballing. It happened so fast.

I remember there was one week where I was having dinner with a friend in the technology industry, and he asked what I worked on, and I told him about this bill. And he said, "Wow! You need to tell people about that." And I just groaned. And then, just a few weeks later, I remember I was chatting with this cute girl on the subway, and she wasn’t in technology at all, but when she heard that I was, she turned to me very seriously and said, "You know, we have to stop 'SOAP.'" So, progress, right?

But, you know, I think that story illustrates what happened during those couple weeks, because the reason we won wasn’t because I was working on it or Reddit was working on it or Google was working on it or Tumblr or any other particular person. It was because there was this enormous mental shift in our industry. Everyone was thinking of ways they could help, often really clever, ingenious ways. People made videos. They made infographics. They started PACs. They designed ads. They bought billboards. They wrote news stories. They held meetings. Everybody saw it as their responsibility to help. I remember at one point during this period I held a meeting with a bunch of startups in New York, trying to encourage everyone to get involved, and I felt a bit like I was hosting one of these Clinton Global Initiative meetings, where I got to turn to every startup in the—every startup founder in the room and be like, "What are you going to do? And what are you going to do?" And everyone was trying to one-up each other.

If there was one day the shift crystallized, I think it was the day of the hearings on SOPA in the House, the day we got that phrase, "It’s no longer OK not to understand how the Internet works." There was just something about watching those clueless members of Congress debate the bill, watching them insist they could regulate the Internet and a bunch of nerds couldn’t possibly stop them. They really brought it home for people that this was happening, that Congress was going to break the Internet, and it just didn’t care.

I remember when this moment first hit me. I was at an event, and I was talking, and I got introduced to a U.S. senator, one of the strongest proponents of the original COICA bill, in fact. And I asked him why, despite being such a progressive, despite giving a speech in favor of civil liberties, why he was supporting a bill that would censor the Internet. And, you know, that typical politician smile he had suddenly faded from his face, and his eyes started burning this fiery red. And he started shouting at me, said, "Those people on the Internet, they think they can get away with anything! They think they can just put anything up there, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them! They put up everything! They put up our nuclear missiles, and they just laugh at us! Well, we’re going to show them! There’s got to be laws on the Internet! It’s got to be under control!"

Now, as far as I know, nobody has ever put up the U.S.'s nuclear missiles on the Internet. I mean, it's not something I’ve heard about. But that’s sort of the point. He wasn’t having a rational concern, right? It was this irrational fear that things were out of control. Here was this man, a United States senator, and those people on the Internet, they were just mocking him. They had to be brought under control. Things had to be under control. And I think that was the attitude of Congress. And just as seeing that fire in that senator’s eyes scared me, I think those hearings scared a lot of people. They saw this wasn’t the attitude of a thoughtful government trying to resolve trade-offs in order to best represent its citizens. This was more like the attitude of a tyrant. And so the citizens fought back.

The wheels came off the bus pretty quickly after that hearing. First the Republican senators pulled out, and then the White House issued a statement opposing the bill, and then the Democrats, left all alone out there, announced they were putting the bill on hold so they could have a few further discussions before the official vote. And that was when, as hard as it was for me to believe, after all this, we had won. The thing that everyone said was impossible, that some of the biggest companies in the world had written off as kind of a pipe dream, had happened. We did it. We won.

And then we started rubbing it in. You all know what happened next. Wikipedia went black. Reddit went black. Craigslist went black. The phone lines on Capitol Hill flat-out melted. Members of Congress started rushing to issue statements retracting their support for the bill that they were promoting just a couple days ago. And it was just ridiculous. I mean, there’s a chart from the time that captures it pretty well. It says something like "January 14th" on one side and has this big, long list of names supporting the bill, and then just a few lonely people opposing it; and on the other side, it says "January 15th," and now it’s totally reversed—everyone is opposing it, just a few lonely names still hanging on in support.

I mean, this really was unprecedented. Don’t take my word for it, but ask former Senator Chris Dodd, now the chief lobbyist for Hollywood. He admitted, after he lost, that he had masterminded the whole evil plan. And he told The New York Times he had never seen anything like it during his many years in Congress. And everyone I’ve spoken to agrees. The people rose up, and they caused a sea change in Washington—not the press, which refused to cover the story—just coincidentally, their parent companies all happened to be lobbying for the bill; not the politicians, who were pretty much unanimously in favor of it; and not the companies, who had all but given up trying to stop it and decided it was inevitable. It was really stopped by the people, the people themselves. They killed the bill dead, so dead that when members of Congress propose something now that even touches the Internet, they have to give a long speech beforehand about how it is definitely not like SOPA; so dead that when you ask congressional staffers about it, they groan and shake their heads like it’s all a bad dream they’re trying really hard to forget; so dead that it’s kind of hard to believe this story, hard to remember how close it all came to actually passing, hard to remember how this could have gone any other way. But it wasn’t a dream or a nightmare; it was all very real.

And it will happen again. Sure, it will have yet another name, and maybe a different excuse, and probably do its damage in a different way. But make no mistake: The enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared. The fire in those politicians’ eyes hasn’t been put out. There are a lot of people, a lot of powerful people, who want to clamp down on the Internet. And to be honest, there aren’t a whole lot who have a vested interest in protecting it from all of that. Even some of the biggest companies, some of the biggest Internet companies, to put it frankly, would benefit from a world in which their little competitors could get censored. We can’t let that happen.

Now, I’ve told this as a personal story, partly because I think big stories like this one are just more interesting at human scale. The director J.D. Walsh says good stories should be like the poster for Transformers. There’s a huge evil robot on the left side of the poster and a huge, big army on the right side of the poster. And in the middle, at the bottom, there’s just a small family trapped in the middle. Big stories need human stakes. But mostly, it’s a personal story, because I didn’t have time to research any of the other part of it. But that’s kind of the point. We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom. They threw themselves into it. They did whatever they could think of to do. They didn’t stop to ask anyone for permission. You remember how Hacker News readers spontaneously organized this boycott of GoDaddy over their support of SOPA? Nobody told them they could do that. A few people even thought it was a bad idea. It didn’t matter. The senators were right: The Internet really is out of control. But if we forget that, if we let Hollywood rewrite the story so it was just big company Google who stopped the bill, if we let them persuade us we didn’t actually make a difference, if we start seeing it as someone else’s responsibility to do this work and it’s our job just to go home and pop some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch Transformers, well, then next time they might just win. Let’s not let that happen.

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 07:49 PM
http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/14/freedom_to_connect_aaron_swartz_1986

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 08:04 PM
Official statement from family and partner of Aaron Swartz

Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.

Aarons insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable” these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We're grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.

Aaron's commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.

Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorneys office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorneys office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.

http://www.rememberaaronsw.com/
12 Jan 2013

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 08:14 PM
Family of Hacktivist Aaron Swartz Accuses MIT, U.S. Attorney of Contributing to His Suicide

January 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm PT

Aaron Swartz in 2008, with former Red Hat CEO Bob Young in the background (CreativeCommons)

Update 7:49 PT: Added comment from JSTOR.

The family and friends of Aaron Swartz — the famed Internet hacktivist who took his own life on Friday at the age of 26 — released a public statement on Saturday, placing some of the blame for Swartz’s suicide on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” the statement read. “Decisions made by officials in the U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

Swartz, long regarded as one of the major proponents of a free and open Internet to further the spread of information, was indicted in July of 2011 on federal charges of illegally accessing documents on JSTOR, the online digital library that hosts academic journal articles, books and primary sources. His alleged crime involved downloading nearly 5 million articles off the service from MIT’s on-campus network.

He faced upwards of 30 years in prison, along with $1 million in fines.

After Swartz turned over his hard drives, JSTOR decided not to pursue any legal action against him.

“The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge,” JSTOR wrote on Saturday in a statement to the public hosted on its Web site. “At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011.”

But U.S. Attorneys Carmen Ortiz and Steve Heymann, backed by Federal government, continued to pursue the prosecution of Swartz, with the tacit support of MIT behind them.

Said Ortiz in 2011: “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”

Earlier on Saturday, acclaimed academic and friend to Swartz, Lawrence Lessig, suggested that Ortiz’s steadfast pursuit of Swartz was outlandish and unnecessary, and part — though not the direct cause — of what brought Swartz to the grim solution he chose.

“From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way,” Lessig wrote on his personal blog. “… [A]nyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.”

Neither the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts nor MIT immediately responded to emailed requests for comment.

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 08:21 PM
Technology's Greatest Minds Say Goodbye to Aaron Swartz

The technology community's brightest minds are memorializing Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old programmer and digital rights activist who committed suicide Friday months before his trial over computer fraud was set to begin.
A Prodigal Mind

Swartz was nothing short of a prodigy: at the age of 14, he helped develop the Real Simple Syndication (RSS) standard, paving the way to services such as Google Reader. He worked on the Open Library, which has a goal of putting one page online for every book ever published. He founded Infogami, which was eventually incorporated into Reddit before the sale to Conde Nast, a move that gave him the means to detach and take up various causes at his pleasure.

"He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think," wrote Harvard academic, activist and personal friend of Swartz Lawrence Lessig.

"He was a kind of 21st century, nerd renaissance man," wrote MSNBC's Chris Hayes in a blog post Sunday.

"Wanderers in this crazy world, we have lost a mentor, a wise elder", wrote World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee.
Political Activism

Developing code, however, was far from Swartz's only fixation. He was a dedicated believer in the open-source/open-code/open-web ideology, working on causes such as net neutrality and data liberation while also helping to bring about the Creative Commons content licensing structure. He founded Demand Progress, a digital rights group that played an instrumental role in defeating the Stop Online Piracy Act early last year.

"He had an astonishingly broad range of interests, from health care to political corruption," wrote technology policy reporter Timothy Lee in the Washington Post. "But Internet freedom and public access to information were two recurring themes in his life and work."
Swartz as Suspect

It was Swartz's dedication to that ideology, which Timothy Lee called "aggressive, perhaps even reckless," that contributed to his becoming the target of a federal hacking investigation.

It was Swartz's dedication to that ideology, which Timothy Lee called "aggressive, perhaps even reckless," that contributed to his becoming the target of a federal hacking investigation.

Swartz, having previously wrote an automated program to free court documents from a government paywall using libraries' credentials, used a similar tactic to "liberate" academic articles hosted and charged for by JSTOR. First, Swartz began downloading JSTOR articles en masse over the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's wireless network. After MIT cut him off from wireless access, he sneaked into a network closet and plugged into the school's wired network, a move that was discovered by the school.

In July of 2011, Swartz was charged by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts with computer fraud and other charges that in total carried a potential sentence of 35 years in jail and $1 million in fines. JSTOR later dropped its charges against Swartz (and has since said it "regretted being drawn into" the case), but MIT was less clear about its wishes (MIT's president, Leo Rafael Reif, said in a statement released Sunday that "it pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy. He also announced an internal investigation of MIT's involvement).

U.S. attorney Carmen M. Ortiz decided to go full steam ahead with the trial, which was expected to begin later this year.

The intensity of the charges against Swartz in combination with Ortiz's decision to proceed despite JSTOR's decision to drop the case became the subject of much controversy, which has only magnified since Swartz's death. Swartz's family in a statement blamed his suicide in part on "a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach" and on the U.S. Attorney's office's decision to pursue "an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims."

Lessig also placed a share of the blame on "the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior" in a blog post entitled "Prosecutor as bully." An excerpt from Lessig's impassioned post:

For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The "property" Aaron had "stolen," we were told, was worth "millions of dollars" — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

As a memorial to Swartz, some academics have been sharing their articles for free with the Twitter hashtag #pdftribute.

Lessig did not, however, completely exonerate Swartz, instead arguing that "Aaron brought Aaron here" through his alleged actions.

"The causes that Aaron fought for are my causes too," wrote Lessing. "But as much as I respect those who disagree with me about this, these means are not mine."
Struggle With Depression

Many commentators have pointed out that Swartz had been suffering from depression since at least 2007, when he wrote about his struggle with "depressed mood" in detail. Some believe Swartz's mental health played some role in his death.

"Depression strikes so many of us. I've struggled with it, been so low I couldn't see the sky, and found my way back again, though I never thought I would," wrote Cory Doctorow, describing his own battle with depression in a moving tribute to Swartz.

The ultimate reason, or combination of reasons, for Swartz's death may never be fully understood. But Wired's's Kevin Poulsen put five simple words to the feeling shared by many this weekend: "His death is a tragedy."

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 08:26 PM
Aaron Swartz, Coder and Activist, Dead at 26
By Kevin Poulsen01.12.134:01 PM



We often say, upon the passing of a friend or loved one, that the world is a poorer place for the loss. But with the untimely death of programmer and activist Aaron Swartz, this isn’t just a sentiment; it’s literally true. Worthy, important causes will surface without a champion equal to their measure. Technological problems will go unsolved, or be solved a little less brilliantly than they might have been. And that’s just what we know. The world is robbed of a half-century of all the things we can’t even imagine Aaron would have accomplished with the remainder of his life.

Aaron Swartz committed suicide Friday in New York. He was 26 years old.

When he was 14 years old, Aaron helped develop the RSS standard; he went on to found Infogami, which became part of Reddit. But more than anything Aaron was a coder with a conscience: a tireless and talented hacker who poured his energy into issues like network neutrality, copyright reform and information freedom. Among countless causes, he worked with Larry Lessig at the launch of the Creative Commons, architected the Internet Archive’s free public catalog of books, OpenLibrary.org, and in 2010 founded Demand Progress, a non-profit group that helped drive successful grassroots opposition to SOPA last year.

“Aaron was steadfast in his dedication to building a better and open world,” writes Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. “He is among the best spirits of the Internet generation. I am crushed by his loss, but will continue to be enlightened by his work and dedication.”

In 2006 Aaron was part of a small team that sold Reddit to Condé Nast , Wired’s parent company. For a few months he worked in our office here in San Francisco. I knew Aaron then and since, and I liked him a lot — honestly, I loved him. He was funny, smart, sweet and selfless. In the vanishingly small community of socially and politically active coders, Aaron stood out not just for his talent and passion, but for floating above infighting and reputational cannibalism. His death is a tragedy.

I don’t know why he killed himself, but Aaron has written openly about suffering from depression. It couldn’t have helped that he faced a looming federal criminal trial in Boston on hacking and fraud charges, over a headstrong stunt in which he arranged to download millions of academic articles from the JSTOR subscription database for free from September 2010 to January 2011, with plans to release them to the public.

JSTOR provides searchable, digitized copies of academic journals online. MIT had a subscription to the database, so Aaron brought a laptop onto MIT’s campus, plugged it into the student network and ran a script called keepgrabbing.py that aggressively — and at times disruptively — downloaded one article after another. When MIT tried to block the downloads, a cat-and-mouse game ensued, culminating in Swartz entering a networking closet on the campus, secretly wiring up an Acer laptop to the network, and leaving it there hidden under a box. A member of MIT’s tech staff discovered it, and Aaron was arrested by campus police when he returned to pick up the machine.

The JSTOR hack was not Aaron’s first experiment in liberating costly public documents. In 2008, the federal court system briefly allowed free access to its court records system, Pacer, which normally charged the public eight cents per page. The free access was only available from computers at 17 libraries across the country, so Aaron went to one of them and installed a small PERL script he had written that cycled sequentially through case numbers, requesting a new document from Pacer every three seconds, and uploading it to the cloud. Aaron pulled nearly 20 million pages of public court documents, which are now available for free on the Internet Archive.

The FBI investigated that hack, but in the end no charges were filed. Aaron wasn’t so lucky with the JSTOR matter. The case was picked up by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann in Boston, the cybercrime prosecutor who won a record 20-year prison stretch for TJX hacker Albert Gonzalez. Heymann indicted Aaron on 13 counts of wire fraud, computer intrusion and reckless damage. The case has been wending through pre-trial motions for 18 months, and was set for jury trial on April 1.

Larry Lessig, who worked closely with Aaron for years, disapproves of Aaron’s JSTOR hack. But in the painful aftermath of Aaron’s suicide, Lessig faults the government for pursuing Aaron with such vigor. “[Aaron] is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying,” Lessig writes. “I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.”

Update: Aaron’s parents, Robert and Susan Swartz, his two brothers and his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, have established a memorial website for him, and released this statement.

Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.

Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.

Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.

Update Sunday 1/13/13 16:45: MIT President L. Rafael Reif has issued a statement on Aaron’s death.

To the members of the MIT community:

Yesterday we received the shocking and terrible news that on Friday in New York, Aaron Swartz, a gifted young man well known and admired by many in the MIT community, took his own life. With this tragedy, his family and his friends suffered an inexpressible loss, and we offer our most profound condolences. Even for those of us who did not know Aaron, the trail of his brief life shines with his brilliant creativity and idealism.

Although Aaron had no formal affiliation with MIT, I am writing to you now because he was beloved by many members of our community and because MIT played a role in the legal struggles that began for him in 2011.

I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.

I will not attempt to summarize here the complex events of the past two years. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT. I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.

I hope we will all reach out to those members of our community we know who may have been affected by Aaron’s death. As always, MIT Medical is available to provide expert counseling, but there is no substitute for personal understanding and support.

With sorrow and deep sympathy,

L. Rafael Reif

Keith Millea
01-14-2013, 09:57 PM
Published on Monday, January 14, 2013 by Common Dreams (http://www.commondreams.org/)

Anonymous Hacks MIT Calling for Systemic Reforms

'You were the best of us; may you yet bring out the best in us.'

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

In response to what has been described as prosecutorial bullying, inflated sentences, "grotesque miscarriage of justice" and subsequent tragedy of Aaron Swartz's suicide (https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/12), the hacker collective Anonymous broke into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website over the weekend and replaced the homepage with a tribute (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://rledev.mit.edu/aaron.html), “In Memoriam, Aaron Swartz.”

Swartz, an outspoken advocate of open information, had been recently embroiled in a legal battle over digital copyright for allegedly harvesting four million academic papers from MIT's JSTOR online database.

Salon's Natasha Lennard adds (http://www.salon.com/2013/01/14/anonymous_hacks_mit_for_aaron_swartz/) that, "although JSTOR told federal prosecutors it had no interest in pursuing charges against Swartz, the DoJ, led by a harsh and zealous Boston prosecutor, threw everything they could at the young activist."

'The government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for.' Calling for computer crime law reform, Anonymous's statement (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://rledev.mit.edu/aaron.html)decried the lawsuit, writing:
The government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for—freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it—enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing—an ideal that we should all support.


Additionally, a statement (http://www.rememberaaronsw.com/) released by the web pioneer's family and partner on Sunday directed their grief over Swartz's tragic suicide (https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/12) towards the institutions —the U.S. government and MIT—that threatened the brilliant technologist and social justice activist with jail for, by some counts (http://www.salon.com/2013/01/14/anonymous_hacks_mit_for_aaron_swartz/), up to 50 years:
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.


In a blog post (http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bully) this weekend, Swartz's longtime friend and mentor Lawrence Lessig called the prosecution a "bully," writing:
From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”

In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge.


Swartz's trial was set to start this spring and his attempts to reach a plea-bargain with the government recently fell apart after Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann told (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324581504578238692048200404.html) Swartz's lawyer, Elliot Peters, "Mr. Swartz would need to plead guilty to every count, and the government would insist on prison time."

The Washington Post reports (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/anonymous-hacks-mit-sites-to-post-aaron-swartz-tribute-call-to-arms/2013/01/14/ff6f706c-5e44-11e2-9940-6fc488f3fecd_story.html), in an update to the statement (which has since been taken down), Anonymous said it "does not blame MIT for Swartz’s death," citing a letter from MIT President Rafael Reif (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/letter-on-death-of-aaron-swartz.html) that said the school would investigate the role MIT played in Swartz’s case.

In response to the tragic news, supporters have started a White House petition (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck) to remove U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who supervised the prosecution of in Swartz’s case, saying that "a prosecutor who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges... is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path."

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/14-2

Peter Lemkin
01-14-2013, 10:05 PM
https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1CkRemove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz.

It is too late to do anything for Aaron Swartz, but the who used the powers granted to them by their office to hound him into a position where he was facing a ruinous trial, life in prison and the ignominy and shame of being a convicted felon; for an alleged crime that the supposed victims did not wish to prosecute.

A prosecutor who does not understand proportionality and who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges to extort plea bargains from defendants regardless of their guilt is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path.

http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bully

Magda Hassan
01-15-2013, 08:14 AM
I thought Kafka was dead?

US court drops charges on Aaron Swartz days after his suicide



Published:15 January, 2013, 02:14
Edited:15 January, 2013, 09:44

A federal court in Massachusetts has dismissed the hacking case against Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide on January 11 while facing decades behind bars and a $1 million fine.

The dismissal follows an investigation into Swartz's involvement in the theft of content hosted on JSTOR, a digital archive used by universities and other research institutions. Swartz, who was living in New York City at the time of his death, had accessed JSTOR through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's library, which is why the case was being heard in that state.
Though JSTOR decided not to press charges – and even urged the US government to drop the case – MIT went ahead with a civil suit. As a result, Swartz faced serious legal consequences, which observers believe led to his suicide last week.

According to a Huffington Post report, Swartz's defense team suspected federal attorneys were using Swartz as an example to show how serious they could be with online crime cases.

US attorney Stephen Heymann pursued Swartz because the case "was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper," Swartz's lawyer Elliot Peters said.
http://rt.com/files/usa/news/swartz-suicide-court-drops-charges-997/document-scribd-published-arstechnicadocs.jpg
Document from Scribd published by ArsTechnicaDocs
Even though Swartz is now dead and the charges have been dropped, the repercussions of the case are ongoing.

On Monday, global hacktivist collective Anonymous broke into MIT's website and replaced its front page with the simple line, "In Memoriam, Aaron Swartz.” The group also left a statement calling the Department of Justice's pursuit of charges against Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for.”
"We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all," the statement continued.

Swartz's funeral will be held in Chicago on Tuesday, and members of Anonymous will be in attendance.

The Westboro Baptist Church, whose members are known for bringing offensive signs to their funeral pickets – most famously, 'God Hates Fags' – has expressed intent to protest at Swartz's service.
Anonymous responded, saying in a statement, “Twenty-four hours after the death of Aaron Swartz was announced to the world, a heartless cult announced their intention to picket his funeral. In response, Anonymous has launched Operation Angel.”
The Anonymous statement calls on “organizations who would like to form protective human shields near Aaron’s funeral to listen closely for any announcement by the family on this action and respect their wishes… We are encouraging the public and any members of Highland Park law enforcement with intel on the cults to e-mail that information to OpAngel@hushmail.com.”

In closing, the collective said, it "intends to pursue reform within the DoJ and other government agencies to prevent the kind of unnecessary harassment that Aaron Swartz was victim to. Some of the brightest men and women in the fields of information technology and security are being targeted by agencies that lack a basic understanding of the so-called crimes they are accusing people of."
http://rt.com/usa/news/swartz-suicide-court-drops-charges-997/

Magda Hassan
01-15-2013, 10:44 AM
Internet Activist's Prosecutor Linked To Another Hacker's DeathProsecutor Stephen Heymann has been blamed for contributing to Swartz's suicide. Back in 2008, young hacker Jonathan James killed himself in the midst of a federal investigation led by the same prosecutor.

Justine Sharrock (http://www.buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock)BuzzFeed Staff




Posted about 8 hours ago
One of the prosecutors in the case of the online pioneer who killed himself this weekend, Aaron Swartz, was accused in 2008 of driving another hacker to suicide.
Some of Swartz's friends have accused (http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bully) Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Heymann of contributing to Swartz's suicide, with his unwillingness to compromise (http://boston.com/metrodesk/2013/01/14/mit-hacking-case-lawyer-says-aaron-swartz-was-offered-plea-deal-six-months-behind-bars/hQt8sQI64tnV6FAd7CLcTJ/story.html)on the prosecution of Swartz in a case involving scholarly journal articles.
Back in 2008, another young hacker, Jonathan James, killed himself after being named a suspect in another Heymann case.
James, the first juvenile put into confinement for a federal cybercrime case, was found dead was two weeks after the Secret Service raided his house (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/07/hacker/) as part of its investigation of the TJX hacker case led by Heymann — the largest personal identity hack in history. He was thought to be "JJ," the unindicted co-conspiratornamed in the criminal complaints (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/magazine/14Hacker-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) filed with the US District Court in Massachusetts. In his suicide note, James wrote that he was killing himself in response to the federal investigation and their attempts to tie him to a crime which he did not commit:

"I have no faith in the 'justice' system. Perhaps my actions today, and this letter, will send a stronger message to the public. Either way, I have lost control over this situation, and this is my only way to regain control."
...
"Remember," he wrote, "it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether I win or lose, and sitting in jail for 20, 10, or even 5 years for a crime I didn't commit is not me winning. I die free."
Heymann received the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service (http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/October/10-ag-1207.html) for "directing the largest and most successful identity theft and hacking investigation and prosecution ever conducted in the United States."
Swartz's family has accused (http://rememberaaronsw.tumblr.com/post/40372208044/official-statement-from-the-family-and-partner-of-aaron) Heymann, U.S. Attorneys Scott Garland who was the lead prosecutor, and Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz of contributing to their son's death, who was known to have suffered from depression (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324581504578238692048200404.html") . "Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney's office and at M.I.T. contributed to his death."
While Ortiz ultimately holds the responsibility for the department, Heymann was the lawyer handling the negotiations with Swartz and his attorneys.
A petition (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/%20ire-assistant-us-attorney-steve-heymann/RJKSY2nb) has been put up online demanding that Heymann be fired because of his "overzealous prosecution of an allegedly minor and non-violent electronic crime led to the suicide of Aaron Swartz."
Christina DiIorio-Sterling, spokesperson for the United States Attorney Office said neither Heymann nor Ortiz would comment. "It is not appropriate to make a public comment," she said. "We want to respect the family's privacy at this time."
In 1998, Heymann also helped bring the first federal prosecution of a juvenile hacker, who brought down air traffic control communications at a Worcester Massachusetts airport. The unidentified teen plead guilty in return for two years probation, a fine, community service and was banned from using a computer with a modem for two years.
Heymann created one of the first computer-crime units in the country. Back in 1996, he prosecuted and supervised the electronic surveillance of the first case using a court-ordered wiretap on a computer network. "Harvard balked at the request," according to an article (http://books.google.com/books?id=2xcEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA65#v=onepage&q=heymann&f=false) in Network World magazine (May 6, 1996). "We don't monitor the network, and we respect the privacy of our users," Franklin Steen, the Harvard network director told the magazine. To tap into the system, the DOJ had to get a court order, which came with a gag rule to keep anyone from tipping off the suspect.
The case found Argentinian Julio Cesar Ardita guilty of breaking into the Harvard University computer system, which he then used to break into numerous government sites, including the Department of Defense and NASA.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock/internet-activists-prosecutor-linked-to-another-h

Peter Lemkin
01-15-2013, 02:37 PM
I thought Kafka was dead?

US court drops charges on Aaron Swartz days after his suicide



Published:15 January, 2013, 02:14
Edited:15 January, 2013, 09:44

A federal court in Massachusetts has dismissed the hacking case against Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide on January 11 while facing decades behind bars and a $1 million fine.

The dismissal follows an investigation into Swartz's involvement in the theft of content hosted on JSTOR, a digital archive used by universities and other research institutions. Swartz, who was living in New York City at the time of his death, had accessed JSTOR through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's library, which is why the case was being heard in that state.
Though JSTOR decided not to press charges – and even urged the US government to drop the case – MIT went ahead with a civil suit. As a result, Swartz faced serious legal consequences, which observers believe led to his suicide last week.

According to a Huffington Post report, Swartz's defense team suspected federal attorneys were using Swartz as an example to show how serious they could be with online crime cases.

US attorney Stephen Heymann pursued Swartz because the case "was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper," Swartz's lawyer Elliot Peters said.
http://rt.com/files/usa/news/swartz-suicide-court-drops-charges-997/document-scribd-published-arstechnicadocs.jpg
Document from Scribd published by ArsTechnicaDocs
Even though Swartz is now dead and the charges have been dropped, the repercussions of the case are ongoing.

On Monday, global hacktivist collective Anonymous broke into MIT's website and replaced its front page with the simple line, "In Memoriam, Aaron Swartz.” The group also left a statement calling the Department of Justice's pursuit of charges against Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for.”
"We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all," the statement continued.

Swartz's funeral will be held in Chicago on Tuesday, and members of Anonymous will be in attendance.

The Westboro Baptist Church, whose members are known for bringing offensive signs to their funeral pickets – most famously, 'God Hates Fags' – has expressed intent to protest at Swartz's service.
Anonymous responded, saying in a statement, “Twenty-four hours after the death of Aaron Swartz was announced to the world, a heartless cult announced their intention to picket his funeral. In response, Anonymous has launched Operation Angel.”
The Anonymous statement calls on “organizations who would like to form protective human shields near Aaron’s funeral to listen closely for any announcement by the family on this action and respect their wishes… We are encouraging the public and any members of Highland Park law enforcement with intel on the cults to e-mail that information to OpAngel@hushmail.com.”

In closing, the collective said, it "intends to pursue reform within the DoJ and other government agencies to prevent the kind of unnecessary harassment that Aaron Swartz was victim to. Some of the brightest men and women in the fields of information technology and security are being targeted by agencies that lack a basic understanding of the so-called crimes they are accusing people of."
http://rt.com/usa/news/swartz-suicide-court-drops-charges-997/

In America Kafka and Kafkaesque things are very much alive...but causing death and destruction!
I hope now his friends, family and supporters worldwide will file an unlawful death and unlawful prosecution suit against MIT and the USG!!!! They literally hounded him to death and he and his family to the brink of financial ruin [estimates are one million minimum needed to defend himself!]. There are many ways to kill someone....this is but one used - often.

Peter Lemkin
01-15-2013, 02:51 PM
In Memoriam, Aaron Swartz, November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013, Requiescat in pace

A brief message from Anonymous.

Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing — an ideal that we should all support.

Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, particularly their punishment regimes, and the highly-questionable justice of pre-trial bargaining. Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activism; it had tragic consequences.

Our wishes

We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.
For in the end, we will not be judged according to what we give, but according to what we keep to ourselves.

Aaron, we will sorely miss your friendship, and your help in building a better world. May you read in peace.

—-

Who was Aaron Swartz? A hero in the SOPA/PIPA campaign, Reddit co-founder, RSS, Demand Progress, Avaaz, etc…:

Aaron Swartz’s funeral is on Tuesday.

Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of #Aaron Swartz.

—-

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz

July 2008, Eremo, Italy

—–

You were the best of us; may you yet bring out the best in us.

-Anonymous, Jan 13, 2013.

—-

(Postscript: We tender apologies to the administrators at MIT for this temporary use of their websites. We understand that it is a time of soul-searching for all those within this great institution as much — perhaps for some involved even more so — than it is for the greater internet community. We do not consign blame or responsibility upon MIT for what has happened, but call for all those feel heavy-hearted in their proximity to this awful loss to acknowledge instead the responsibility they have — that we all have — to build and safeguard a future that would make Aaron proud, and honour the ideals and dedication that burnt so brightly within him by embodying them in thought and word and action. Original frontpage)

Peter Lemkin
01-15-2013, 03:14 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgh2dFngFsg&feature=player_embedded

Peter Lemkin
01-15-2013, 03:24 PM
The same day they found his body, Verizon’s “6 strikes plan” was leaked. Coincidence?


This past Friday morning Aaron was found hanging in his New York (NYPD Intelligence division/ Hmmm.) apartment. He was facing charges stemming from his hacking into JSTOR and downloading a bunch of literary and scientific journals and then posting them for free online.

JSTOR put out a statement telling the world (and more specifically the hactivist community) that they did not turn Swartz in to the Feds.

JSTOR is wise enough to know who not to piss off.

But what JSTOR was doing and what Swartz exposed, was they were literally hoarding mass amounts of the knowledge of the human race, scientific and literary journals that all could benefit from, and ONLY sharing them with those who could afford to pay the subscription price.

If you can afford it, then you are worthy of knowledge. If you can’t, you aren’t. That is the message of JSTOR.

In response to the negative feedback they’ve been getting, JSTOR released a piddly few 1,200 journals for “limit” access by the masses. How very humanitarian of them.

I recall him saying that the internet could be the greatest tool to open and free humanity or the most dangerous tool of propaganda and that we are sitting here at a time in history in which this direction will be determined for the next 100 years.

Anyway, those out there suggesting that Swartz killed himself because of this court case are grossly uneducated in the matter. Aaron just recently plead not-guilty in the case and I’m sure he was looking forward to beating it in court. Beating the feds on this would have been a nice way to follow up his efforts to defeat SOPA and PIPA.

But he won’t get the chance.

As I wrote a while ago, the feds decided to push for internet censorship via their last best hope: the free markets.

Big telecom companies are coming up with their own means by which to wipe certain people with certain ideas off the “internets”. I guess it’s payback for all that retroactive immunity they got from the Bush and Obama administrations when they could have been sued out the ying yang for allowing the feds to spy on us.

On the same day Aaron supposedly took his own life, Torrentfreak released a Verizon document detailing their new 6 strikes and your out plan.

The idea is basically this: Verizon will tell it’s customers when someone files a claim against them for copyright infringement. Verizon will give their users “x” amount of warnings then reduce their internet speed to something like a dial-up connection which will basically take them off the web for all intents and purposes.

As Aaron pointed out in a lecture he gave a year or so ago, the use of the ubiquitous “copyright infringement” charge is a dangerous and sweeping tool to use to shut down certain people. Everything is copyrighted by someone out there and the laws governing how much of what one can use are mirky at best.

Verizon claims they will set up a review panel with the American Arbitration Association and if you pay them $35 bucks they will review your case and find in favor of Verizon.

I find it very odd that Aaron just happened to take his own life when Verizon was about to launch this new SOPA/PIPA program of theirs own their own customers. I also find it odd that he was going to try his hacking case in court which would have brought tons of negative publicity down on JSTOR, portraying them as the guardians of knowledge for the elites. - Willyloman

Lauren Johnson
01-15-2013, 04:57 PM
As I stated in my initial post about Aaron Swartz's death (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130113/00034721650/some-thoughts-aaron-swartz.shtml), I don't think it's fair to "blame" the DOJ or others on Aaron's suicide -- just as I don't think (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120319/04115818155/lori-drew-to-dharun-ravi-punishing-people-based-others-suicides-is-mistake.shtml) it's fair to blame anyone's suicide on a third party, no matter how horrible their actions. That said, the DOJ's actions in this case were quite clearly horrible, and since the case will now never go forward, it seems imperative to highlight just how badly the DOJ acted in this case.

Larry Lessig's post made some clear points suggesting that the feds and MIT were out of line (http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bully) in pursuing this case, which seems like an understatement:


Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.


Lessig made it clear that the feds sought to get Aaron to agree to a plea deal, in which he'd plead guilty to some aspect of the charges against him, in exchange for letting him off on the more serious charges. Aaron did an amazing thing and refused, believing that he had not done anything wrong:


In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.


And, for those who don't think that pushing back against the feds is an amazing thing, you have no clue how much pressure the federal government can put on you when it wants you to plead guilty. Two years ago I wrote about (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110313/16355313474/documentary-about-rnc-bomb-plot-raises-serious-questions-about-how-feds-prosecute.shtml) a documentary called Better This World (http://betterthisworld.com/), which is about an entirely different subject, but really opened my eyes to the way the feds handle some of these cases. It's not about what's right. It is entirely about them winning, getting the press coverage and "making examples" of people. And they'll go to amazing lengths, and create pressure that you and I can only have nightmares about, to get people to accept bogus "plea" deals, just so they can notch up another "win." It's scary, scary stuff. Fighting back may have been the right thing to do, but must have created a level of stress unimaginable to most people.

The WSJ has provided more details about the hard line (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324581504578238692048200404.html) that federal prosecutors had taken with Aaron, including last week's demand that he plead guilty to all counts and spend time in jail:


Mr. Swartz's lawyer, Elliot Peters, first discussed a possible plea bargain with Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann last fall. In an interview Sunday, he said he was told at the time that Mr. Swartz would need to plead guilty to every count, and the government would insist on prison time.

Mr. Peters said he spoke to Mr. Heymann again last Wednesday in another attempt to find a compromise. The prosecutor, he said, didn't budge


In exchange for pleading guilty across the board, Heymann apparently promised that they would ask for a shorter sentence, though that's never a guarantee:


The government indicated it might only seek seven years at trial, and was willing to bargain that down to six to eight months in exchange for a guilty plea, a person familiar with the matter said. But Mr. Swartz didn't want to do jail time.

"I think Aaron was frightened and bewildered that they'd taken this incredibly hard line against him," said Mr. Peters, his lawyer. "He didn't want to go to jail. He didn't want to be a felon."


The report also notes that his girlfriend was unaware of any depressive episodes until right after Wednesday's decision by Heymann to refuse to budge on jailtime and a guilty plea on all counts.

As for the details of the case itself, they were absurd -- and it is no wonder that Swartz refused to plead guilty. Back in September, we delved into the ridiculous details (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120917/17393320412/us-government-ups-felony-count-jstoraaron-swartz-case-four-to-thirteen.shtml) of the final indictment -- which upped the felony count, all of which was based on the idea that he had done some sort of massive computer hacking for the sake of some criminal conspiracy. And yet... that was clearly never the case. As Tim Lee detailed (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/09/feds-go-overboard-in-prosecuting-information-activist/), at worst, it appeared that Swartz might possibly be guilty of trespassing. Yes, he went into a computer closet at MIT, but he got access to a network which was open for all, and he downloaded documents that were made available freely to all on that network.

Many people have reasonably pointed to a blog post from Alex Stamos, the CTO of Artemis Internet, who had been brought on as an expert witness on Aaron's behalf. After demonstrating that his reports have been used on behalf of prosecutors in attacks, and pointing out that he's no friend of hackers, Stamos highlights in detail just how completely bogus the charges against Swartz were (http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/):


I know a criminal hack when I see it, and Aaron’s downloading of journal articles from an unlocked closet is not an offense worth 35 years in jail (http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/news/2011/July/SwartzAaronPR.html).
The facts:


MIT operates an extraordinarily open network. Very few campus networks offer you a routable public IP address via unauthenticated DHCP and then lack even basic controls to prevent abuse. Very few captured portals on wired networks allow registration by any vistor, nor can they be easily bypassed by just assigning yourself an IP address. In fact, in my 12 years of professional security work I have never seen a network this open.
In the spirit of the MIT ethos, the Institute runs this open, unmonitored and unrestricted network on purpose. Their head of network security admitted as much in an interview Aaron’s attorneys and I conducted in December. MIT is aware of the controls they could put in place to prevent what they consider abuse, such as downloading too many PDFs from one website or utilizing too much bandwidth, but they choose not to.
MIT also chooses not to prompt users of their wireless network with terms of use or a definition of abusive practices.
At the time of Aaron’s actions, the JSTOR website allowed an unlimited number of downloads by anybody on MIT’s 18.x Class-A network. The JSTOR application lacked even the most basic controls to prevent what they might consider abusive behavior, such as CAPTCHAs triggered on multiple downloads, requiring accounts for bulk downloads, or even the ability to pop a box and warn a repeat downloader.
Aaron did not “hack” the JSTOR website for all reasonable definitions of “hack”. Aaron wrote a handful of basic python scripts that first discovered the URLs of journal articles and then used curl to request them. Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing “Save As” from your favorite browser.
Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity, as evidenced by his very verbose .bash_history, his uncleared browser history and lack of any encryption of the laptop he used to download these files. Changing one’s MAC address (which the government inaccurately identified as equivalent to a car’s VIN number) or putting a mailinator email address into a captured portal are not crimes. If they were, you could arrest half of the people who have ever used airport wifi.
The government provided no evidence that these downloads caused a negative effect on JSTOR or MIT, except due to silly overreactions such as turning off all of MIT’s JSTOR access due to downloads from a pretty easily identified user agent.
I cannot speak as to the criminal implications of accessing an unlocked closet on an open campus, one which was also used to store personal effects by a homeless man. I would note that trespassing charges were dropped against Aaron and were not part of the Federal case.

In short, Aaron Swartz was not the super hacker breathlessly described in the Government’s indictment and forensic reports, and his actions did not pose a real danger to JSTOR, MIT or the public. He was an intelligent young man who found a loophole that would allow him to download a lot of documents quickly. This loophole was created intentionally by MIT and JSTOR, and was codified contractually in the piles of paperwork turned over during discovery.


That's from someone who clearly had detailed knowledge about the situation. Other legal experts had come to similar conclusions after the original indictment came out. Way back when, we had pointed to an article by Max Kennerly in which he looked closely at the indictment (http://www.litigationandtrial.com/2011/07/articles/series/special-comment/aaron-swartz-computer-fraud-indictment/) and was left confused as to how it got as far as it did. Kennerly has since updated his post (both after the new indictment and again over the weekend, in which he notes that Stamos' post suggest that his own original analysis didn't even go far enough after discovering the details). Kennerly looked at how the case really revolved around whether or not Swartz's activities violated the terms of service, but given the details of the case, combined with Stamos' comments and the fact that (since Swartz was charged) multiple courts have ruled that a mere terms of service violation is not a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), this case seemed to have absolutely nothing legitimate.


Given the disclosures by Swartz's expert, Alex Stamos, which are linked at the beginning of this post, it seems that Swartz had a strong argument that he did indeed have "authorization." As Stamos says, at the time of Swartz's downloads, "the JSTOR website allowed an unlimited number of downloads by anybody on MIT’s 18.x Class-A network" and "Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing 'Save As' from your favorite browser."

Thus, all Swartz did was write a script to find and download the files. As a factual matter, that may have been "authorization," rendering it lawful everywhere. Even if the script was "exceeding authorization," if the First Circuit had adopted the same rule as the Fourth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit, then Swartz would likely have been not guilty as a matter of law. All of which further shows why this prosecution should not have been brought in the first place; the prosecutor is supposed to exercise their judgment to do justice.


Separately, it has been pointed out numerous times that the only real party who had any reasonable claim to "harm" was JSTOR, and it had said from early on that it had settled its issue with Swartz when he agreed to turn over his hard drive with everything he'd downloaded. Now, a bit more has come out, as apparently JSTOR itself asked federal prosecutors to drop the case (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20130113_ap_redditcofounderdiesinnyweeksbeforetria l.html?c=r):


Elliot Peters, Swartz's California-based defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the case "was horribly overblown" because Swartz had "the right" to download from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from more than 1,000 academic journals.

Peters said even the company took the stand that the computer crimes section of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston had overreached in seeking prison time for Swartz and insisting , two days before his suicide , that he plead guilty to all 13 felony counts. Peters said JSTOR's attorney, Mary Jo White , the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan , had called Stephen Heymann, the lead Boston prosecutor in the case.

"She asked that they not pursue the case," Peters said.
So even the supposedly "harmed" party didn't want the case to go forward. And yet, Stephen Heymann kept pushing.

The case is now gone, so we'll never see how a judge rules on it. We can hope that, given everything above, a judge would have clearly seen what a joke the case was, and dismissed it. But, you never know how judges will rule, and especially when they're not very technically savvy, they'll give a ridiculous amount of deference to federal prosecutors, merely because of their position. But the ridiculousness of the case should be pointed out over and over again to remind everyone of the problems we get when the federal government gets too powerful, and knows that it can use that power against someone it doesn't like.

Whether or not the impending trial contributed to Swartz's death, one thing is undeniable: the case itself was a complete farce, and that should not be forgotten. One hopes that, among other things, one of the legacies of Swartz's death may be to fix broken laws that allowed this prosecution to move forward, and to figure out a way to dial back the aggressiveness with which federal prosecutors take on cases these days.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130113/23000321653/case-against-aaron-swartz-was-complete-garbage.shtml

Peter Lemkin
01-15-2013, 05:52 PM
Interesting legal information on just how flimsy and fake a case the USG had!!!! As to the pipedream at the end "to figure out a way to dial back the aggressiveness with which federal prosecutors take on cases these days.", I can only say that is quite naive....the government - or should I say those BEHIND IT - are hellbent on ratcheting up prosecutions, harshness and length of sentences for anyone not with the 'PLAN', while totally refusing to bring any legal action against the real criminals - be they banksters, corporate thieves, genocidal warriors, unConstitutional actions, violations of International Laws, reduction of freedoms and rights, et al. The legal and moral state of the state is totally upside-down and it is no joke.....evil, theft, murder, mass-murder, abridgment of law and rights are REWARDED; attempts to maintain law and order, peace, prosperity spread universally, the sharing of truthful information, Constitutionality and sustainability - not to mention humanity and sanity are all but illegal now and those who practice it or try to point out those who prevent it will soon find themselves on the wrong side of the Police, illegal system and in prison or devoid of all they own and ever will earn.....some, even their lives.

Peter Lemkin
01-16-2013, 11:27 AM
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. -- Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz was "killed by the government," his father told mourners Tuesday during his son's funeral in suburban Chicago.

Swartz, who help create Reddit and RSS, the technology behind blogs, podcasts and other web-based subscription services, was found dead Friday in his New York apartment. He was facing federal charges that alleged he illegally gained access to millions of articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer archive.

"He was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles," he said.

Swartz, 26, was facing charges that carried a maximum penalty of decades in prison. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz had no comment about Robert Swartz's remarks, Ortiz spokeswoman Christina DiIorio-Sterling said.

Swartz's family also lashed out against prosecutors Saturday, saying the death was "the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach."

Swartz's case highlighted society's uncertain, evolving view of how to treat people who break into computer systems and share data not to enrich themselves, but to make it available to others.

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, director of the Safra Center for Ethics where Swartz was once a fellow, both spoke at the funeral.

"We felt the indictment was nonsense and that he would be acquitted," Berners-Lee told the newspaper after the service.

Lauren Johnson
01-16-2013, 07:47 PM
January 16, 2013

Aaron Swartz did not take his own life. He was murdered in order to save the state the embarrassment of losing their trumped up trial against him. He faced a maximum of 6 months in jail, reduced to 3 for good behavior as is the law, not 35 years as the complicit press will tell you. He was killed so that a movement he helped lead would be crippled right before another SOPA / PIPA internet crushing bill is about to take shape. He was killed because he refused a deal and would have stoked the imagination of the opposition by winning in court. Unfortunately, far too few “alternative” activists out there are willing to make this statement. Activists who owe this young man a great deal as they enjoy a free and open internet which is about to close down forever.

Aaron Swartz was murdered and I am sure he won’t be the last. Perhaps the most obvious lesson here is too the “hacktivist” community at large: when we bust you and drum up charges against you, you turn and serve “the greater good” or… you get “Swartzed”.

Swartz was a leading and effective activist standing opposed to the neo-liberalization of America and the people investigating his death are Billioniare Bloomberg’s “mini-CIA” (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/24/1005419/-CIA-and-NYPD-create-mini-domestic-CIA-to-investigate-Muslim-communities#). Get the picture? I guess he’s lucky he wasn’t renditioned to Djibouti (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-01/world/36323571_1_obama-administration-interrogation-drone-strikes) like other dissidents as is the custom under Obama.

When I first read the story of Aaron Swartz I have to say I was not all that impressed with the guy. He seemed like just another “tech-geek miracle” made by the Intelligence Department Industrial Complex like so many before him. I based that on what I saw happen to Reddit first-hand when they sold themselves to Conde Nast and began a program of running down important articles on Reddit and totally erasing some as soon as they were posted.

And I am also aware that the shareware and open-software world which Aaron was involved in, is full of Trojans and trackers and cognitive infiltrators doing all they can to put all kinds of interesting software on your computer that does all kinds of malicious stuff.
Top all of that off with his involvement in the “hacktivist’ community which is replete with hackers who have been busted and now serve “the greater good” through the FBI and the NSA and you have basically a resume of deception for Mr. Swartz. Wired magazine raves about him, which is reason enough to be suspicious of anyone. If a globalist rag like that raved about my mother I would have to start watching her closely as well. Very closely.

But after seeing a couple of his videos and reading a bit more about him I’m starting to think he may have at least had some good intentions about him. He seems to have the right idea. When he talks about stopping SOPA and PIPA he doesn’t talk about what HE did, he talks about what WE did. He rightly says that institutions like GOOGLE jumped on the publicity bandwagon once they knew the game was up as did many lawmakers. And that is true. He says what is important too remember is that we as a community stopped one of the most sought after freedom crushing bills by simply coming together and saying no and in that he is absolutely correct.
The narrative is now that he killed himself due to this pending federal case but is simply bullshit.

From what I can tell of the guy, he was looking forward to beating it on behalf of himself and the cause and it looks like there are many who are much more educated on the case than I am who say it was a weak case at best and he was bound to win it.

In fact, the husband of the over-reaching prosecutor who brought the case against him on behalf of Eric Holder’s Justice Department claims that they had offered him a 6 month deal (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/tom-dolan-aaron-swartz_n_2479980.html) meaning he would have been sentenced to 6 months in jail and probably served half of that.

Swartz was so confident in his ability to beat the charges, that he refused that deal about 2 months ago, preferring to go to trial.
Fact is, he made a mistake. He chose to live in New York City where Billionaire Mayor For Life is in charge of the police department and has his own “mini-CIA” in the NYPD Intelligence Division. And we all know what the CIA does too prominent activists and leaders in other countries when they stand opposed to our “national interests”, don’t we?

You can expect the investigation into the scene in his home to be, shall we say, less than meticulous. In fact, best bet as too his murders may have actually been the Intelligence Division guys assigned to the investigation. But that’s just a guess. Damn sure makes more sense than “suicide”.

By all accounts this was a good guy. He was about to poke another stick in the eye of the ruling class and their Vichy politicians once again. The “Justice” Department couldn’t back down or that would have ceded more ground to the “extremists” and provided us with more fuel yet again. They couldn’t take him to trial, like Gadhafi before him, because that would have exposed them as weak and over-reaching to make a political point.

By offering him a 6 month (3 month really) deal on a case which is being hailed as a 35 year sentence in the complicit media outlets, they were BEGGING to be let off the hook. But Aaron Swartz didn’t bite. He had them where he wanted them and he knew it.
He also probably knew that suicide would not only be a coward’s way out for him, but would damage the cause he seemed to care deeply about.

Judging from what little I know about him and what little I have seen and heard him say, Aaron Swartz was not a coward. And no matter how many times the Vichy prestitutes wave that “suicide note” in front of you, remember, he wrote that in 2007… basically as a joke.

Swartz died without leaving a note. He died leaving a hole in the cause that he cared deeply for. And he knew in his heart that up until the judge rang down the gavel to start the trial, he could always have taken the 3 month plea deal (which by then would have been even better!) and not faced 35 years in prison.

He also died on the very same day that monolitic and massive Verizon announced it’s own “6 strikes rule” which would effectively sensor Verizon’s customers by almost completely removing them from the internet if some “copyright holder’ filed a “complaint” against them.

Swartz would surely have had a field day with that.

Effectively what has happened is a voice for the people was silenced. He was taken out of the game and the alternative “activist” community is sitting back scared saying very little or next to nothing which is not only a crying shame, it’s an insult to the man who seems to have given his life for one of our most basic freedoms.

He won’t be the last.

One thing that I really liked about this guy in the little I know about him is his opinion on knowledge and that it belongs to all of us. He said, and I paraphrase “Access to knowledge must not be measured by access to money” and that is why he hacked into the JSTOR files and released those academic journals for all the people for free. That was his major crime against humanity that the Obama Justice Department wanted to prosecute him for and that is ultimately why he died.

I wish to put this bluntly: Aaron Swartz was murdered. All the circumstantial evidence points to it. In the land of the Bloomberg Gestapo, there will be no real investigation, there will be no hard evidence to support that claim. But I feel that is the case and I am sorry and almost ashamed that the alternative community that owes at least partly their current measure of freedom of speech to Aaron, have not come out in droves to protest what has happened.

Aaron’s father said the government killed his son. He has a different take on how, but in reality, he is absolutely correct.
He just doesn’t know how correct.

http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/aaron-swartz-was-murdered-he-faced-3-months-in-jail-not-35-years/

Peter Lemkin
01-16-2013, 10:08 PM
Who Killed Aaron Swartz

Moti Nissani – Jan 13, 2013

“How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?”—Bob Marley

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation . . . shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”—Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, 1863

On January 11, 2013, according to indoctrination organs of the criminal Syndicate calling itself the US government (a Syndicate comprised, for the most part, of big bankers, generals, spooks and, below them, their puppets in the White House and gubernatorial mansions, Congress and state legislatures, and almost the entire judiciary), Aaron Swartz, aged 26, killed himself.

Many on the internet have already traced Aaron’s tragic and untimely death directly to the Syndicate. I wish to add my voice to this growing chorus, placing this recent event in a somewhat larger context of historical scholarship.

In relating this story, the Syndicate’s propaganda organs conveniently forgot four crucial points:
The Syndicate had excellent reasons to wish Aaron dead.
As in most cases of covert Syndicate assassinations (e.g., Fred Hampton, Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway), Aaron’s death was preceded by a vicious, totally unjustified, campaign of surveillance, harassment, vilification, and intimidation.
The Central Institute of Assassinations (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Intimidations (FBI) can and do kill people while making the murder look like suicide.
In America, England, and most other countries, painstaking research by people like Kevin Barett, Jim Douglass, Jim Fetzer, Jim Garrison, David Helvarg, and William F. Pepper discloses an unmistakable pattern: influential friends of the people (and hence, enemies of the Syndicate) tend to die before they reach old age, often under bizarre circumstances. This pattern has an obvious corollary: when friends of the Syndicate die prematurely, we can reasonably assume, with a high degree of probability, that the Syndicate killed them.

Let me expound on these four points, one at a time.
1. The Syndicate had excellent reasons to kill Aaron Swartz

In an online “manifesto” dated 2008, Aaron wrote: “Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” He dedicated his life precisely to the goal of depriving the Syndicate of this power.

According to Wikipedia,

Swartz co-authored the “RSS 1.0″ specification of RSS, and built the website framework web.py and the architecture for the Open Library. Swartz also focused on sociology, civic awareness, and activism.

“Swartz’s Web savvy took him from Internet entrepreneur to online activist, co-founding Demand Progress, a group that campaigns for progressive public policy — in particular fighting against Internet censorship. His crusades boosted his status as something of a folk hero.” Demand Progress had over one million members.

This figure of 1,000,000 is extremely important, for it shows, beyond all doubt, that, like John Lennon and President Kennedy, Aaron posed a real threat to the status quo. This threat is acknowledged by the Syndicate’s own indoctrination organs. For instance, National Propaganda Radio put it thus:

“Swartz had an enormous following in the technology world” and was one of the “most influential figures in talking about technology’s social, cultural and political effect.” The independent Electronic Frontier Foundation concurs: Swartz “did more than almost anyone to make the internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way.”

As well, Aaron spoke against US President Barack Obama’s “kill list” and cyber attacks against Iran.

Aaron was “a frequent television commentator and the author of numerous articles on a variety of topics, especially the corrupting influence of big money on institutions including nonprofits, the media, politics, and public opinion. From 2010-11, he researched these topics as a Fellow at the Harvard Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption. He also served on the board of Change Congress, a good government nonprofit.”
2. Syndicate harassment

As mentioned, government assassinations of dissidents are often preceded by a campaign of terror, intimidation, slander-mongering, litigation, physical intimidation, and incarceration. Aaron’s “suicide” fits this pattern perfectly.

The Syndicate made it clear that Aaron was in its crosshairs. Thus, Syndicate members, especially “the Motion Picture Association of America and United States Chamber of Commerce, have stated their opposition to Demand Progress on numerous occasions, mainly in respect to [its] stance on internet censorship.”

In 2009, the FBI put Aaron under “investigation” (a euphemism for harassment of activists) for publicly releasing 20% of United States Federal Court documents. The “case” was closed two months later, without filing any charges but, in the process, making Aaron pay dearly for his idealism.

The entire exercise had nothing to do with breaking laws, or justice, but a warning: “Stop harassing us,” the Federal Bureau of Intimidation was telling him, “or else!” And yet, just like a tree standing by the waters, Aaron was not moved. Despite the extreme pressure he was under, Aaron Swartz (like Bradley Manning and many other unsung heroes) remained defiant and, in late October 2009, posted his FBI file on the internet. With this single act of defiance, Aaron probably signed his own lynch warrant.

In connection with his public-spirited Open Library project, whose goal is “to create a free webpage for every book ever published” and to have as many books as possible freely available, Swartz allegedly downloaded four million restricted-access academic articles from the website of a non-profit organization called JSTOR, with the intention, according to the American government, of making these articles freely available to the world’s people (as, by the way, they would have been in any half-civilized society—can anyone imagine Archimedes or Aristarchus or Euclid or Sappho copyrighting their works?), for which “crime” he faced a potential 50(!) years behind bars. Swartz, however, denied the Syndicate’s allegations.

JSTOR, the organizational “victim” of Aaron’s theft, not only declined to press charges against him but, two days before his death, “announced that the archives of more than 1,200 of its journals would be available to the public for free.” Yet, that act of generosity and public spiritedness meant nothing to the Syndicate’s “justice” system, which continued to turn Aaron’s life into a living hell. And there is yet another curious aspect of this act. Most of us spend entire lifetimes without ever accomplishing anything like it: cajoling a huge organization to place the public interest above its own. Are we to believe that, just two days after this momentous victory, instead of being jubilant, Aaron was depressed enough to hang himself?
3. Can the CIA or FBI kill you and make it look like a suicide?





Michael Morrell: On the day Aaron Swartz died, Michael Morell, a junior member of the invisible government, was the acting director of the Central Institute of Assassinations

The obvious answer is: sure they can. One quote, straight from the horse’s mouth, should suffice. Jim Marrs and Ralph Schuster

cite a blood-curdling CIA document, a letter from an Institute’s consultant to a CIA officer. The letter states:


”You will recall that I mentioned that the local circumstances under which a given means might be used might suggest the technique to be used in that case. I think the gross divisions in presenting this subject might be:

- bodies left with no hope of the cause of death being determined by the most complete autopsy and chemical examinations

- bodies left in such circumstances as to simulate accidental death

- bodies left in such circumstances as to simulate suicidal death.”
4. A Historical pattern: Influential enemies of the Syndicate (=friends of the people) tend to die prematurely. The only logical and unspeakable explanation for this pattern is this: These friends of the people have been killed by their own government

I have in front of me a rough draft of a book: License to Kill: The Decisive Role of Political Murders, Scandal-Mongering, and False-Flag Operations in American Politics, a compilation of hundreds of untimely deaths of potentially troublesome dissidents. This compilation conclusively uncovers a recurring pattern of assassinations. In fact, only a handful of influential friends of the people (e.g., Upton Sinclair, Pete Seeger) have so far survived to old age. I can’t reproduce the entire book here, for obvious reasons. Moreover, at the moment it only exists as a rough draft. In a few months, hopefully, readers can freely download the book and check this claim for themselves.

In the meantime, readers can, without too much trouble, examine on their own some of the most famous assassinations of the last 100 years or so and ask themselves: What do people like Judi Bari, Fred Hampton, assorted members of the Kennedy clan, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Louis McFadden, Phil Ochs, Karen Silkwood ,Walter Reuther, and Malcolm X have in common?

Another shortcut to grasping this diabolical aspect of our body politic is asking the converse question: How many friends of bankers, generals, and spooks have, in the same time period, been assassinated? (The answer, to my knowledge, is: ZERO).

All I’m saying has been discovered and re-discovered by hundreds of researchers, activists, and politicians. Here, let me give you the views of just two high-ranking officials.

First, a familiar quote from Woodrow Wilson (28th president of the United states)

“Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the U.S., in the field of commerce and manufacturing, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”

Second, Catherine Austin-Fitts (Assistant Secretary of Housing in the George H. W. Bush’s Administration:

“I think at the heart of the matter, Max, is not that the banks are out of control; I think the heart of the matter is physical violence, because a lot of what has happened, particularly as I understand in the United States is you have people who are afraid to say no because the results of saying no is physical violence directed at them or their family. I mean we have had a lot of people murdered or assassinated, etc., etc.. So . . . yes, we have to say no, but the question is, how do we say no? And that’s why it comes down to shifting our money, but the reality is we have a force operating in the world, that is completely operating outside of the law and no one yet has come up with a way to stop it. We are talking about violent mobster operations.

“I hate to use a personal example, but I was a former Assistant Secretary of Housing. I had my own business in Washington, and I was helping the Department of Housing and Urban Development, essentially run things clean, and you had to get rid of the clean team to run the housing bubble and I was targeted, I was poisoned, I had dead animals left on my doorstep, and my home had been broken into and people trying to run me off the road. You know it was very, very violent and it went on for years. So people who try to run the government clean or run Wall Street clean are targeted, and literally have to fear for their lives. I mean, people have been dying, so you know, it’s a very, very dangerous situation and the challenge is, if you have people who can kill and physically harass with impunity, how do you run a governance process?
Conclusion

The bankers, generals, and spooks who comprise our invisible government had plenty of reasons to kill Aaron Swartz, especially because the internet—along with a well-armed citizenry—are the last remaining obstacles on the road to their totalitarian horizon. He was creative, idealistic, and unbendable. He was young and admired by many. If not checked, he might have slowed down the Syndicate’s attacks on the biosphere, freedom, peace, justice, free flow of information, and common decencies. So the invisible government probably did kill him. They did so either indirectly through constant harassment, as his loved ones publicly state, or, most likely, directly by hanging him and alleging that he hung himself.

All this raises a dilemma for those of us possessing both conscience and a functional brain: “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?”

Postscript: Michael Ivey has kindly drawn my attention to the views of an ex-CIA official: “Anybody can commit a murder; it takes a real pro to commit a suicide“ (see Peter Janney, 2012, Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace).

Moti Nissani is a Jack of all (academic) trades and Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, Wayne State University. He is currently assembling a Revolutionary’s Toolkit.

Keith Millea
01-16-2013, 11:03 PM
"Veterans Today" is a shameless rag that will not only use this tragic event,but also will use the deaths of all those little school children to promote their agenda....spit!

Peter Lemkin
01-17-2013, 06:14 PM
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with more on the death and prosecution of Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz, who killed himself last Friday. At the time of his death, he was facing up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine, if convicted at trial, for using computers at MIT to download millions of academic articles provided by the nonprofit research service JSTOR.

Aaron Swartz was 26 years old. At the age of 14, he co-developed Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, the key component of much of the web’s entire publishing infrastructure. By the time he was 19, he had co-founded a company that would merge with Reddit, now one of the country’s most popular websites. He also helped develop the architecture for the Creative Commons licensing system and built the Open Library.

Aaron Swartz’s death has prompted an outpouring of frustration and anger at U.S. prosecutors. On Capitol Hill, Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California has introduced a bill dubbed "Aaron’s Law" to modify the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by decriminalizing violations of "terms of service" agreements. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, is launching a probe into the possible prosecutorial overreach in his case. At Aaron’s funeral, his father blamed prosecutors for his son’s death, saying he was, quote, "killed by the government." Earlier, his family released a statement saying, quote, "Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death."

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday night, the United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, broke her silence about the case. In a written statement, she wrote, quote, "[T]his office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case. The career prosecutors handling this matter took on the difficult task of enforcing a law they had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably," unquote. Ortiz said her office offered Aaron a plea bargain of six months in prison. When the case first came to light, Ortiz was quoted saying, "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars."

Ortiz issued the statement a day after her husband used Twitter to fire back at his wife’s critics. Tom Dolan, an executive with IBM, wrote, quote, "Truly incredible that in their own son’s obit they blame others for his death and make no mention of the 6-month offer," he tweeted.

In a moment, we’ll be joined by Aaron Swartz’s girlfriend, but first let’s turn to Aaron Swartz in his own words. This is part of a speech he delivered last May in Washington D.C., when he explained the challenges he sees the Internet facing.

AARON SWARTZ: There’s a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the Internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands. Is sharing a video on BitTorrent like shoplifting from a movie store? Or is it like loaning a videotape to a friend? Is reloading a webpage over and over again like a peaceful virtual sit-in or a violent smashing of shop windows? Is the freedom to connect like freedom of speech or like the freedom to murder?

AMY GOODMAN: Aaron Swartz, speaking last May. To watch the full speech, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.

For more we’re joined by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. She’s Aaron Swartz’s partner, as well as the founder and executive director of SumOfUs.org. That’s S-U-M-of-Us.org, a global movement for corporate accountability. This is her first television interview since Aaron’s death.

We’ll also be speaking with Alex Stamos in California at Stanford University, chief technology officer of Artemis Internet, a computer security and forensics expert. He planned to testify at Aaron Swartz’s trial. During the upcoming trial, he would have been the chief defense witness.

And we did invite representatives from the U.S. attorney’s office and MIT to join us, but they declined.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Taren, let us begin with you. First of all, our condolences on the loss of Aaron. Aaron committed suicide last Friday. The funeral was just two days ago. And, Taren, it was you who found him. He hung himself in the—your Brooklyn apartment that you shared. Taren, talk about Aaron. Talk about what Aaron—who he was and what he wanted and the effect of this upcoming trial.

TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Well, Aaron was the most—person most dedicated to fighting social injustice of anyone I’ve ever met in my life, and I loved him for it. He used to say—I used to say, "Why don’t you—why we do this thing? It will make you happy." And he would say, "I don’t want to be happy. I just want to change the world."

Open access to information was one of the causes that he believed in, but it was far from the only one. He fought for—during the course of this two-year ordeal, he led the fight against SOPA, the Internet censorship bill, which no one thought could be defeated when it was first introduced and which Aaron and millions of others, together, managed to fight back. And he did that all while under the burden of this—this bullying and false charges.

He was just the funniest, most lovely person. He—sorry. He—he loved children. He loved reading out loud. That was one of his favorite things. He loved David Foster Wallace. He started trying to read me Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson out loud from the first volume. We didn’t get that far because it’s very, very long. One of his favorite—favorite books was Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfic. We would read it to each other as chapters came out online.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk a little about what he went through, his initial reaction to the arrest and this zeal of the prosecutors in Massachusetts to go after him on the downloading of these JSTOR research articles?

TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t with him; we didn’t start dating until a few weeks before the indictment was announced publicly, which was several months after his initial arrest. He tried really hard to wall it off. It was obviously very stressful for him, but he tried to keep his friends and family, as much as possible, sort of isolated from—from this. He was very good at protecting other people. He was very distressed by the fact that the prosecution had called two of his closest friends as witnesses at the grand jury, and so he tried to protect everyone else by not giving us any information that would warrant being called as witnesses.

He—he felt, you know, the whole thing was just this big mistake, and he hoped that the prosecutor’s office would realize it, that—you know, that they didn’t—he had done nothing illegal. I mean, as he put it in his press—you know, in the very few press releases and work that he did around this, he likened it to arresting—charging somebody for borrowing too many books from the library, which—you know, all of the articles, he had the right to access individually. The only—the only confusion here was that he had just accessed a lot of them. And he hoped the prosecutors would see the injustice and the unfairness of what they were doing. But they weren’t interested in that. They weren’t—Steve Heymann and Carmen Ortiz’s office were interested in winning; they were interested in a notch on their belt; they were interested in taking a scalp. But they weren’t interested in justice; they weren’t interested in does it actually makes sense for this young man to be labeled a felon for the rest of his life and to go to prison for years and years.

AMY GOODMAN: Taren, we’re going to break, and when we come back, we’ll also be joined by the person who would have been the chief defense witness in this case. Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman is our guest, Aaron’s partner, head of SumOfUs.org. And we’ll be joined by Alex Stamos, who would have testified at the trial, to explain what it is that Aaron did and was fighting for. Usually, our next guest is a consultant for corporations, protecting them from break-ins on the Internet. Today, he will talk about what that means in Aaron’s case. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about the life and the suicide of Aaron Swartz, 26-year-old cyber activist, social justice activist, who committed suicide last Friday. I want to turn to Aaron’s comments made at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in October 2010. He was talking about the nonprofit subscription service that so many college students and others use around the country called JSTOR.

AARON SWARTZ: I am going to give you one example of something not as big as saving Congress, but something important that you can do right here at your own school. It just requires you willing to get your shoes a little bit muddy. By virtue of being students at a major U.S. university, I assume that you have access to a wide variety of scholarly journals. Pretty much every major university in the United States pays these sort of licensing fees to organizations like JSTOR and Thomson and ISI to get access to scholarly journals that the rest of the world can’t read. And these licensing fees are substantial. And they’re so substantial that people who are studying in India, instead of studying in the United States, don’t have this kind of access. They’re locked out from all of these journals. They’re locked out from our entire scientific legacy. I mean, a lot of these journal articles, they go back to the Enlightenment. Every time someone has written down a scientific paper, it’s been scanned and digitized and put in these collections.

That is a legacy that has been brought to us by the history of people doing interesting work, the history of scientists. It’s a legacy that should belong to us as a commons, as a people, but instead it’s been locked up and put online by a handful of for-profit corporations who then try and get the maximum profit they can out of it. Now, there are people, good people, trying to change this with the open access movement. So, all journals, going forward, they’re encouraging them to publish their work as open access, so open on the Internet, available for download by everybody, available for free copying, and perhaps even modification with attribution and notice.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Aaron Swartz in 2010, speaking at the University of Illinois. Our guests are Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Aaron’s partner, head of SumOfUs.org; and Alex Stamos, Artemis Internet, planned to testify on Aaron’s behalf during his trial, would have been the chief defense witness. Alex, talk about the significance of what Aaron was saying two years ago.

ALEX STAMOS: Well, Aaron believed very strongly, as he said, that the scientific and cultural background that has been built over the centuries belong to everyone. And obviously, he was willing to risk a lot to test that and to test the walls that had been put up around this continent, he called them.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how you came to be involved in this case. I mean, usually, you’re working for companies like Goldman Sachs, protecting them. Talk about why you were going to be the chief defense witness.

ALEX STAMOS: I actually knew very little about Aaron’s case other than what I had read online casually, until I was contacted last fall by his new attorneys that were here in San Francisco. As you said, we mostly do corporate work. Aaron was actually our first criminal defendant. And generally, this is not the kind of work that interests us or has an interesting computer security aspect. But when we were contacted by the lawyers, it did intrigue us that he was facing such serious charges for—even if you believe all the facts in the government indictment—actions that are very difficult to really qualify as computer hacking. And so, we decided to join the case as expert witnesses. And as the case went on, that belief that what he did is very hard to fit into that box that they tried to fit it in of criminal hacking activity, you know, that feeling grew as we saw the evidence and went to MIT, talked to witnesses, and saw the case the government was laying out against him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And again, what exactly was it that he did that you would say does not qualify as computer hacking? And why would you say the—what would be the line that you would draw on this? And also, your speculation as to why the government even pursued this case, if you have a theory, why they felt so strongly that they had to pursue him?

ALEX STAMOS: So, Aaron was accused of, as been discussed a couple times, downloading too many files, or checking too many books out of the library. He found a loophole that he—that was a convenient way for him to get access to a lot of the JSTOR documents. And that loophole is the fact that MIT made two interesting decisions. First, MIT decided to license the JSTOR database in a way where access was provided to the entire MIT network without asking for any kind of individual authentication. That’s often not true with JSTOR databases. At a lot of universities, and actually today at MIT, if you want to access JSTOR and you have that affiliation, you have to say, "I’m Bob Smith. I’m a student. I’m" — and the university authenticates that you are, and so now you have an identity with JSTOR where they can monitor what you’re doing and see how many downloads you have. MIT didn’t have that setup. They wanted a setup that was completely open for people just to go to the JSTOR website, be able to click on a document and read it. And that’s the deal they made with JSTOR.

The other decision that MIT made was that they decided to run an extremely open, unmonitored network, and in a method that allowed people to jump on from wireless or wired access points all over the campus and take on the identity of somebody affiliated with MIT. This is an intentional decision. They allow visitors, they allow people who just happen to be on campus this access. And they do so with very little need to authenticate or say who you are. And so, those things combined, Aaron realized, would allow him to go onto campus and to download articles from a variety of locations.

You know, I can’t actually condone everything Aaron did. I think—as I have written online, I think what he did was perhaps, you know, discourteous or inconsiderate of taking advantage of the, you know, library privileges that he was basically granted. But at no time did he actually do any actions that I would consider hacking. What Aaron did is he went to MIT, and he started downloading documents. And JSTOR, at some point, noticed a lot of documents were being downloaded from one address at MIT, and so they would cut off that address. Aaron would notice and then just ask the MIT network to give him a new one. That’s a pretty common thing. That’s something that people do, you know, all day at university and corporate or even like on a Starbucks Wi-Fi network. And it’s that action, though, of going and requesting a new identity that the government seems to consider wire fraud or computer fraud.

And probably one of the things that he did that brought it to a head was, in the end, Aaron—I believe this was his motivation—wanted to find a place that he could leave his laptop for several days to continue downloading without him having to be there, and so he opened up and went into an unlocked wiring closet and plugged his computer into a switch. That, MIT was calling trespassing. And that’s kind of the activity that allowed them to catch him, and seems to be where they believe he massively overstepped the line. But at no time even during that would he do anything that I would consider hacking.

AMY GOODMAN: We should say that JSTOR refused to endorse any prosecution of Aaron Swartz—the not-for-profit service, member of the Internet community—and said, "Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011." And earlier this week, before Aaron died, they announced—JSTOR announced that 1,200 journals from its archive had been opened for limited reading by the public. Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Aaron’s partner, still with us from Washington, D.C., just flew back from Chicago, where she attended Aaron’s funeral. Can you talk about the broader issues here?

TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: I think that there are a couple of broader issues that Aaron’s, you know, senseless prosecution and death highlight. And one is, of course, this freedom of information issue and open access issue, that the—as the clip you played of Aaron says, you know, the scientific legacy of academics and researchers from over the centuries, often most of it funded in one way or another by taxpayers and by the government, ought to be available to everybody in the world. It ought to be available. And that’s one of the things that—you know, that I think—that I hope will someday—not just research going forward, but all research ever in history ought to be put up for open access online.

The second is this issue of how the law addresses computer crimes or alleged computer crimes, and that, you know, the law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, is so broadly written and so ambiguous that prosecutors, like Steve Heymann, who just want—as I said earlier, just want notches on their belt, can throw the book—can charge somebody like Aaron with 35 years in prison for mildly inconsiderate behavior.

And the third issue is the broader problems in our criminal justice system. Why does someone like Steve Heymann have the power to do this, unbridled power? Why would you charge somebody with up to 35 years in prison if you actually think that all they deserve is six months, as the plea deal suggested that? And this happens to people every day in our system, and most of them have many fewer resources than Aaron and much less support, and don’t have the option necessarily even of considering hiring a lawyer and going to trial over the course of two years, and are forced to take the plea deals when they’re not guilty or when the plea deals are completely unjust. And I think that we need—we need broad criminal justice reform in this country. We incarcerate more people per capita than any other country in the world, and we don’t see lower crime rates because of it. There’s—there’s justice, and then there’s justice. And right now, we’re not—our system does not promote justice. Our system is punitive. Our system is Kafkaesque. Our system is unfair. And Aaron and millions of other people suffer because of it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to—following up on that, wanted to refer to comments of the House Oversight Committee chairman, Darrell Issa, who’s a Republican of California, who says he wants to launch into an investigation into how the U.S. attorney’s office pressed charges against Aaron for downloading these articles. He told The Huffington Post, quote, "Had [Aaron] 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." And this whole issue of prosecutorial overreach on computer crimes, I’m wondering if, Alex—Alex Stamos, you might want to comment on that.

ALEX STAMOS: Yeah, Taren’s got a good point. One of the key problems here are the definitions in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. And there’s this one word that is very difficult for even those of us who work professionally in this area to understand, and that word is "authorized." Multiple of counts in the indictment against Aaron existed because they said that he had exceeded what he was authorized to do either on the MIT network or the JSTOR network. And the term "authorized" in an Internet context, it makes a lot less sense than it does in the real world. You know, for example, I’m sure there are thousands of people right now going to democracynow.org watching the live stream. Did you authorize any of those people to do that, to interact with your computer, to take on the cost that you are taking of streaming that video to them? No, you didn’t. And of course they’re allowed to, and you want them to, but how you express that authorization to them is a very difficult thing.

And at what point does somebody doing something that is allowed become in excess of authorization? What Aaron was doing was exactly the same activity that thousands of people do at MIT every year: He was going and looking at documents. Now, he was doing it at a much wider scale. He did it more than they seemed to want. But at what point does he exceed authorization? And by having these incredibly broad definitions and a word that doesn’t really mean anything, like "authorized," we end up in a situation where if a prosecutor doesn’t like you or doesn’t like what you did, if it happened to use a computer, they can find a way to call it "hacking" and an abuse of that system.

AMY GOODMAN: Just as we went to broadcast today, the grassroots organization Demand Progress, which Aaron Swartz helped found, launched a new campaign calling on Congress to end prosecutorial abuses and to pass Congressmember Zoe Lofgren’s bill amending computer fraud law. The group sent a letter to members, reading, quote, "We are sad. We’re tired. We’re frustrated and we’re angry at a system that let this happen to Aaron. We and Aaron’s friends and family have been in touch with lawmakers to ask for help. We’re asking them to help rein in a criminal justice system run amok. Authorities are encouraged to bring frivolous charges and hold decades of jail time over the heads of people accused of victimless crimes," unquote. More information on the campaign is at DemandProgress.org. And as we wrap up, Taren, what your plans are, what this campaign will mean? I know there will be a memorial service for Aaron Swartz at Cooper Union at 4:00 on Saturday here in New York City. Where this campaign is headed?

TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Well, look, I think that the best legacy that—the best tribute we can pay to Aaron’s legacy is to continue to fight as hard as we can to make this world a more just, fairer place. That’s the thing that he cared most about. And I’m going to keep doing that. I think that, you know, that Aaron’s Law, we’ve yet to sort of look at all of the details of the law, and I want to make sure that it covers—that it’s as sweeping an amendment as possible, but clearly, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act must be amended.

And I also hope that this can serve as a wake-up call for the broader issues in the criminal justice system. It’s not just this one act. Our system is deeply, deeply unfair. And as I said earlier, millions of people suffer because of it needlessly. And I hope that—you know, in this country, it’s very hard for people to—for politicians to look weak on crime, but that’s not what this is. This is—this is about justice, and nobody should have to face what Aaron faced. And I hope we can help save people in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Again, our condolences on the death of your partner, Aaron Swartz. Taren is head of SumOfUs.org.

Magda Hassan
01-19-2013, 11:19 AM
Was Aaron Swartz’ Effort to FOIA Bradley Manning’s Treatment Why DOJ Treated Him So Harshly?Posted on January 18, 2013 (http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/01/18/was-aaron-swartz-effort-to-foia-bradley-mannings-treatment-why-doj-treated-him-so-harshly/) by emptywheel (http://www.emptywheel.net/author/emptywheel/)
As I mentioned earlier (http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/01/18/john-cornyn-asks-eric-holder-if-aaron-swartz-persecuted-because-of-foia-requests/), John Cornyn asked (http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=InNews&ContentRecord_id=b026c108-ff4c-4ff9-a771-7307c72e14c5&ContentType_id=b94acc28-404a-4fc6-b143-a9e15bf92da4&f6c645c7-9e4a-4947-8464-a94cacb4ca65&Group_id=bf378025-1557-49c1-8f08-c5df1c4313a4) Eric Holder whether Aaron Swartz was prosecuted because of his FOIAs.

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.
I have shown (http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/01/14/what-kind-of-fishing-trip-did-the-government-conduct-into-aaron-swartz-amazon-data/) earlier how, during the period when the Grand Jury was investigating Swartz, Swartz was FOIAing stuff that the prosecutor seems to have subpoeaned as part of a fishing expedition into Swartz. I have also shown (http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/01/17/the-pacer-investigation-doj-revealed-in-2009-but-did-not-reveal-in-2011/) that a FOIA response he got in January 2011 suggests he may have been discussed in a (presumably different) grand jury investigation between October 8 and December 10, 2010. And Jason Leopold has also pointed to (http://truth-out.org/news/item/13945-cyberactivist-aaron-swartz-legacy-of-open-government-efforts-continues) some interesting coincidences in Swartz’ FOIAs.
But there’s a series of FOIAs Swartz submitted that almost certainly pissed off the government: he FOIAed tapes that would have had Bradley Manning, describing in his own words, how he was being treated at Quantico.
On December 23, 2010, David House blogged about (http://my.firedoglake.com/blog/2010/12/23/bradley-manning-speaks-about-his-conditions/) the treatment Bradley Manning was being subjected to at Quantico (which has since been deemed illegal).
On December 27, Swartz asked for (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/brig-records-related-to-bradley-manning-364/#25793-initial-response) the following in FOIA from the Marine Corps:

Any records related to Bradley Manning or his confinement in Quantico Brig.
In particular, please process as quickly as possible a request for the government-curated audio tapes created in Quantico brig visitation room #2 on December 18 and December 19 2010 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm. These tapes may also contain a recording of David M. House; I have permission from David House under the Privacy Act to request these records.
The timeline that ensued is below, with other significant dates included.
Of particular interest? The Secret Service didn’t get warrants to investigate Swartz immediately after his initial arrest, in spite of the fact Secret Service Agent Michael Pickett offered to get a warrant on January 7. In fact, Secret Service didn’t get warrants until February 9, over a month after his initial arrest. (Update: See this post for more on the delay (http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/01/19/the-six-week-delay-in-the-swartz-investigation/).)
That’s the day Swartz FOIAed the Army Criminal Investigative Service for the tapes on Manning’s treatment.
More odd still, the Secret Service didn’t immediately use the warrants to obtain the hardware seized in his arrest; the warrant to search his hardware expired and Secret Service eventually got a second one. But Secret Service did search Swartz’ home two days after they got that warrant, on February 11–two days after he asked ACIS for the tape that would have Manning describing how he was being treated.
Suffice it to say that Swartz was pursuing the same information that got State Department Spokesperson PJ Crowley fired just as USSS intensified its investigation of him.
While I don’t think Swartz’ pursuit of details on Manning’s treatment would be the only reason they would deal with him so harshly, the Obama Administration clearly was dealing harshly with those who were critical of the treatment of Manning.
Update: This post has been updated for accuracy.
December 23, 2010: David House blogs (http://my.firedoglake.com/blog/2010/12/23/bradley-manning-speaks-about-his-conditions/) about Manning’s treatment, effectively fact-checking DOD’s claims.
December 27, 2010: Swartz FOIAs (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/brig-records-related-to-bradley-manning-364/#25793-initial-response) the recording of House’s visit to Manning, which would have captured Manning describing in his own words how he was being treated.
December 29, 2010: Initial response (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/brig-records-related-to-bradley-manning-364/#25793-initial-response) on Manning brig FOIA.
January 4, 2011: MIT finds Swartz’ computer. Secret Service takes over the investigation.
January 6, 2011: Swartz arrested.
January 7, 2011: Twitter administrative subpoena to several WikiLeaks team members revealed.
January 17, 2011: Protest outside of Quantico for Manning.
January 18, 2011: Manning placed (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_zC44SBaZPoMzMyNWExZmUtZjEzMS00ZjM2LWE3OWMtM2I4N zY5NDNkMmFh/edit?hl=en&authkey=CMKgiogG) on suicide risk.
January 20, 2011: Swartz’ Manning brig FOIA transfered (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/brig-records-related-to-bradley-manning-364/#31186-processing-notes) to Quantico CO.
February 1, 2011: Quantico tells (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/brig-records-related-to-bradley-manning-364/#32043-no-responsive-documents) Swartz Manning brig FOIA needs to go to Army Criminal Investigative Service.
February 9, 2011: Swartz FOIAs (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/records-related-to-bradley-manning-426/) ACIS for Manning brig information.
February 9, 2011: Secret Service obtains warrant to search Swartz’ hardware and apartment, followed by a warrant to search his office.
February 9, 2011: WSJ reports (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703313304576132543747598766.html) WikiLeaks investigation cannot prove Assange induced Manning to leak documents.
February 11, 2011: Secret Service searches Swartz’ house and office, but not the hardware primarily implicated in the crime purportedly being investigated.
February 22, 2011: Warrants on Swartz’ hardware expire.
February 24, 2011: Secret Service obtains new warrant for hardware. Initial response (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/records-related-to-bradley-manning-426/#70733-initial-response) from ACIS to Manning brig FOIA.
February 28, 2011: ACIS responds to Swartz’ Manning FOIA, stating,

… the requested documents are part of an ongoing Army court-martial litigation and are not releasable to the public at this time. This request will be closed. Please submit your request at a later time.
March 2, 2011: Swartz responds (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/records-related-to-bradley-manning-426/) to this rejection:

On the 28th of February, the US Army’s Freedom of Information Act Officer declined to release documents I requested under FOIA/PA because they “are part of an ongoing Army court-martial litigation.”
Being part of ongoing litigation is not a valid exemption to the FOIA or the Privacy Act.
There are narrow exemptions for certain types of release that interfere with law enforcement activities, but the Army has not claimed these exemptions nor explained why they apply. Furthermore, the normal procedure is to collect the documents and then evaluate them to see whether any portions of them qualify for the exemption. It appears the Army did not collect documents in response to my request at all, so I do not see how it could have evaluated them.
I therefore appeal my request in its entirety.
March 3, 2011: ACIS admits (https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/records-related-to-bradley-manning-426/) Swartz is correct:

You are absolutely correct and I want to apologize for sending you the wrong information. This request is being sent to the Initial Denial Office (IDA) today. Please give them a couple of days to receive it.
March 4, 2011; ACIS sends another letter:

Because this request has been denied this request is being sent to the Initial Denial Office (IDA).
March 11, 2011: PJ Crowley criticizes (http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2011/03/11/pj-crowley-at-center-for-civic-media-almost-25-as-popular-as-castro/) Manning’s “ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid” treatment at event at MIT. Jake Tapper asks (http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2011/03/11/president-obama-takes-ownership-of-torture-of-bradley-manning-video/) Obama about Crowley’s comment at press conference.
March 13, 2011: White House forces (http://www.salon.com/2011/03/13/crowley_3/) PJ Crowley to resign for criticizing treatment of Manning.
March 18, 2011: ACIS rejects (https://muckrock.s3.amazonaws.com/foia_documents/mar_18_mr426.pdf) his request, citing an ongoing investigation.
April 19, 2011: DOD announces (http://www.politico.com/blogs/joshgerstein/0411/Army_moving_Wikileaks_suspect_Bradley_Manning_to_L eavenworth.html) Manning will be moved to Leavenworth.
http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/01/18/was-aaron-swartz-effort-to-foia-bradley-mannings-treatment-why-doj-treated-him-so-harshly/

Magda Hassan
01-19-2013, 11:21 AM
4264

Peter Lemkin
01-19-2013, 11:52 AM
The plot thickens...and sickens.

Peter Lemkin
01-22-2013, 06:34 PM
A really AMAZING Memorial Service held for AS at Cooper Union by many who knew him well.....take the time! http://www.democracynow.org/live/democracy_now_livestream_of_aaron_swartz

Peter Lemkin
01-23-2013, 11:18 AM
Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet
By Christian Stork on Jan 17, 2013

The suicide last Friday of information activist, computer hacker and technical wunderkind Aaron Swartz has focused attention on Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, whose overzealous prosecution may have led to his death. Swartz, co-founder of a website later acquired by Reddit as well as a prime developer of the online publishing infrastructure known as Rich Site Summary (RSS), was under federal indictment for logging into JSTOR—a database of scholarly articles accessible from universities across the country—and downloading its content with the intent to distribute the articles online free of charge.

Despite JSTOR’s subsequent securing of the “stolen” content and refusal to press charges, Swartz was arrested by the feds and charged originally with four felony counts under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. On those charges alone, Swartz was facing a possible 35-year sentence and over $1,000,000 in fines. Just three months ago, a “Superseding Indictment” filed in the case by the U.S. attorney’s office upped the felony count from four to 13. If convicted, Swartz was looking at possibly over 50 years in prison: a conceivable life sentence.

Ortiz, the politically ambitious U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, spearheaded the prosecution against Swartz. “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar,” Ortiz proclaimed in a 2011 press release. Her point man in the case was Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, a specialist in computer crime and son of Philip Heymann, the United States Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. Stephen Heymann led the 2010 investigation into Albert Gonzalez, the TJX hacker, in the largest identity fraud case in history. Heymann’s office suspected that one of the unindicted co-conspirators named in that criminal complaint—“JJ”—was Jonathan James, a juvenile hacker who also killed himself two weeks after his house was raided.

The details of the Swartz case are so suggestive of prosecutorial abuse that they have already led to widespread condemnation of Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann. However, what’s missing from much of the expressed outrage is recognition that the “bullying” tactics employed by Ms. Ortiz are standard operating procedure for federal prosecutors when pursuing criminal cases.

The Great Heist of Tewksbury

With a population just under 30,000, the town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, is hardly considered ground zero for federal drug trafficking crimes. Just off Route 38, the town’s only major thoroughfare, sits the modest Motel Caswell. With just six reviews on tripadvisor.com—one “Poor” and five “Terrible”—even defenders of the $57 per night operation admit its shabby digs: “The Motel Caswell isn’t the Ritz,” its lawyer told a federal courtroom in November 2012. But that didn’t stop the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Ms. Ortiz’s office from trying to seize its assets .

In 2009, the 69-year-old owner, Russ Caswell, received a letter from the DOJ indicating the government was pursuing a civil forfeiture case against him with the intention of seizing his family’s motel—it was built in 1955 by Russ’s father—and the surrounding property. Ms. Ortiz’s office asserted that the motel had been the site of multiple crimes by its occupants over the years: 15 low-level drug offenses between 1994 and 2008 (out of an estimated 125,000 room rentals). Of those who stayed in the motel from 2001 to 2008, .05% were arrested for drug crimes on the property. Local and state officials in charge of those investigations never accused the Caswells of any wrongdoing.

Nor is the U.S. attorney charging Russ Caswell with a crime. The feds are using a vague but increasingly common procedure known as civil asset forfeiture. In criminal forfeiture, after a person is convicted of a crime the state must prove that the perpetrator’s property had a sufficiently strong relationship to the crime to warrant seizure by the government. In civil forfeiture proceedings, the state asserts the property committed the crime, and—under civil law—the burden of proof is on the defense to demonstrate their property is innocent.

“I’ve found…I’m responsible for the action of people I don’t even know, I’ve never even met, and for the most part I have no control over them,” Mr. Caswell told WBUR Boston. “And when they do something wrong, the government wants to steal my property for the actions of those people, which to me makes absolutely no sense. It’s more like we’re in Russia or Venezuela or something.”

According to the sworn testimony of a DEA agent operating out of Boston, it was his job to comb through news stories for properties that might be subject to forfeiture. When he finds a likely candidate, he goes to the Registry of Deeds, determines the value of the property in question, and refers it to the U.S. attorney for seizure. It is DEA policy to reject anything with less than $50,000 equity.

In other cases, that DEA agent testified, the property is brought to his attention by local police departments. He could not recall whether Mr. Caswell’s case was brought by local authorities or picked by his own research. Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokesperson for Ms. Ortiz’s office, maintained in an interview that local police brought the case to DEA. But if Tewksbury’s Finest suspected crime was occurring on specific property, why not initiate an investigation themselves? Why simply hand a case like that over to the feds?

Through a policy known as equitable sharing, “the federal government has the discretion to dispense 80%” of the proceeds of liquidated seized assets “with the local authorities [that] cooperate,” Larry Salzman—attorney for Mr. Caswell—told WhoWhatWhy in an interview. He maintains this provision creates a perverse incentive to initiate such proceedings, even when the investigating authorities have no reason to suspect criminal wrongdoing. “It’s obvious it turns the American idea of innocent until proven guilty on its head.”

When asked about the possibility of an 80% haul that Tewksbury PD stood to gain from the liquidation of Mr. Caswell’s property, Ms. Sterling responded that such processes are referred all the way up through the Department of Justice (DOJ), before any arrangement with local authorities is negotiated: “The equitable sharing process is a lengthy one.”

Mr. Caswell’s family-owned and -operated property was worth approximately $1.5 million with no mortgage—making it a perfect target. Without a bank involved, the likelihood of the Caswells’ mounting a drawn-out legal defense was miniscule. Through a spokeswoman, Ms. Ortiz’s office released a statement at the time of trial on why they were choosing to pursue Mr. Caswell:

“The government believed that this was an important case…because of the deterrent message it sends to others who may turn a blind eye to crime occurring at their place of business.”

Mr. Salzman doesn’t buy the message of deterrence. He asserts that just up the street, a Motel 6, Walmart and Home Depot all operate with similar—in many cases higher—rates of drug crimes on their properties, referencing numbers obtained from the Tewksbury Police Department. An investigation by the Lowell Sun confirms this:

A review of Police Department arrest logs from 2007 through 2012 shows that despite a relatively high number of drug arrests at the Motel Caswell property in recent years, more suspects have been busted on drug-related charges at nearby addresses.

During the examined six-year time period, police made 19 drug arrests at the Motel Caswell at 450 Main St., five fewer than at the property where Walmart is located at 333 Main St. Twenty-six drug arrests were made at each of the properties located at 85 Main St. [Home Depot & Applebees] and 95 Main St. [Motel 6 & IHOP]

But those corporations have extensive financial and legal resources, and would put up much more of a fight than a small business owned and operated by a single family. Before a public interest law firm took on his case, Mr. Caswell had already spent over $100,000 and was near bankruptcy.

Ms. Sterling maintains that Ms. Ortiz’s office has no discretion in which properties are targeted. They simply act as the lawyers for other agencies of the federal government, in this case the DEA.

The Kingpins of Patronage

In March 2012, former Massachusetts Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien was indicted by a federal grand jury under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). With two of his former deputies and alleged co-conspirators, he was charged with “one count of racketeering conspiracy and 10 counts of mail fraud,” according to The Patriot Ledger. Each of the 11 counts carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

The lengthy indictment alleges that the three ran a hiring system for the Massachusetts Probation Department that gave preference to friends and family members of certain legislators and politically connected prospects. Those aforementioned counts of mail fraud consisted of “sending rejection letters to applicants they knew from the start they weren’t going to actually consider.” By this standard, any boss who ever hired a friend’s child—yet sent letters to other applicants in which he claimed they were considered before being rejected, as per standard hiring procedure—has committed mail fraud.

Enacted in 1970 to enable prosecutors to convict leaders of criminal organizations who order subordinates to commit crimes but who are never themselves at the crime scene, RICO statutes have most widely been applied to drug cartels, the Mafia, and terrorist organizations. The logic is simple: if a mob kingpin orders a hit on someone, he has a strong First Amendment case that he isn’t at fault for the murder. Under RICO, the government only needs to prove a relationship between murderer and kingpin within an ongoing criminal organization.

Mr. O’Brien and his codefendants are also under indictment for violating state campaign finance laws. But those are charges being brought by the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, and are unrelated to the federal indictments issued by Ms. Ortiz’s office.

It is the job of prosecutors to bring malefactors to justice with tools appropriate to the alleged offenses — for example, RICO vs. the Mafia or al-Qaeda. But excessive prosecutorial zeal that regularly aims the biggest guns in the government’s arsenal at the smallest fry can only undermine public support for the justice system itself. In cases like that of John J. O’Brien and Aaron Swartz, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s penchant for bringing disproportionate charges intended for serious criminals against defendants who pose little or no threat to the public’s well-being suggests either puritanical vengeance or brazen self-promotion.

Speaking While Brown (and Bearded)

Now consider the case of Tarek Mehanna, a Massachusetts pharmacist sentenced to 17 years in prison after being convicted in 2012 of supporting al-Qaeda and conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Ms. Ortiz’s office claimed in the indictment that Mehanna travelled to Yemen with the intent of joining a terrorist training camp — although he never found one.

Upon returning to the U.S., prosecutors allege, Mehanna translated documents written by members of al-Qaeda and posted YouTube videos in support of suicide bombings. The 2010 Supreme Court case Holder v. Humanitarian Law held that “protected speech can be a criminal act if it occurs at the direction of a terrorist organization.” Mehanna was eventually found guilty, although no causal relationship was established between his controversial advocacy against American foreign policy and direction by a designated member of al-Qaeda.

Although her office failed to win the 25-year minimum sentence she had requested, Ms. Ortiz said that Mehanna “faced the consequences of his actions, for conspiring to support terrorists, for conspiring to kill Americans overseas, and for lying to the FBI.”

At his sentencing hearing, Mr. Mehanna claimed he was being persecuted for not cooperating with the FBI, which had pressured him to join its sprawling, thousands-strong network of paid informants and provocateurs (the prime source of most federal terrorism indictments since 9/11):

As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard — and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

As I pointed out in an article discussing the assassination by drone strike of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, legal precedent holds that independent political speech—no matter how heinous and suggestive—is protected unless it passes the Brandenburg test of inciting imminent lawless behavior. According to this reading of the law, whether Mehanna simply agreed with al-Qaeda’s message and promoted his own views in that vein or was deliberately ordered to do so by al-Qaeda members, he was still engaging in constitutionally protected speech.

But the Holder interpretation establishes that coordination between a designated terrorist organization and an individual, even to the point of providing that organization with advice to lay down arms and pursue non-violence, constitutes material support for terrorism. This was the precedent cited in finding that Mr. Mehanna was conspiring with terrorist organizations by virtue of his advocacy.

One can debate whether or not that’s an appropriate legal restriction on free speech, and how the Holder ruling can be reconciled with Brandenburg. What shouldn’t be up for debate is the practice of threatening defendants with draconian outcomes—bankruptcy, 25 years in prison—to leverage guilty pleas to lesser crimes or on-going cooperation with the government.

For Carmen Ortiz, Russ Caswell was like the weakest kid on the block who was wearing something she, or the agencies her office represents, coveted. In the cases of Aaron Swartz, Tarek Mehanna and John O’Brien, Ms. Ortiz’s fervency seems to have stemmed from the publicity such cases were sure to generate. All the defendants insisted on their innocence and fought the charges. The jury’s still out on O’Brien and Caswell, but Swartz and Mehanna have paid the price for their defiance.

Although the conduct of Ms. Ortiz’s office may seem disproportionately harsh, this is unfortunately par for the course. Rather than a procedure dictated from Washington, U.S. attorneys and local D.A.’s enjoy broad discretion in the charges they press. Thanks to tough-on-crime laws and mandatory-minimum sentencing, prosecutors are able to extort—if they so choose—a quick end to the proceedings and a headline-worthy admission of guilt. To single out the conduct of Carmen Ortiz as an anomaly of America’s system of mass incarceration would be to misunderstand its character. She is a symptom of the entire disease.

Peter Lemkin
01-28-2013, 09:01 AM
There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture."
- Aaron Swartz

In the memorial service, Aaron's partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman was demanding the audience gathered there for a self-introspection: she was asking "if you're in the tech sector, why are you there? What do you really believe in? If you believe that technology is making the world a better place, why do you believe that? Do you really understand what makes the world a bad place to begin with?" She was rephrasing what Swartz had told while addressing a gathering at Washington DC in last May explaining how the resistance against SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) was carried on: he said, "new technology, instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out our fundamental rights we'd always taken for granted" (How We Stopped SOPA May 2012). He confesses initially in his keynote address about how he had failed to sense the seriousness of the issue when his friend Peter was telling him about such an act and demanding that it needs to be opposed: his first reaction was: why should I waste my life fighting for such a little issue like copyright when several grave matters concerning life and health are already there. But then he gives a second thought, rethinks further and reformulates the issue: rather being a mere copyright related issue from which one can move forward, it was a bill that was fundamentally regulating the right to connect. He was realizing how in the arena of technology the fundamental rights and the civilian freedoms are being snuffed out without even hinting that such a modification is taking place which would alter the life across the world.

Swartz was invoking the grand tradition of civil disobedience in order to counter the challenge of technocapitalism which is claiming its ownership over knowledge and creativity produced and cumulated from innumerable nodes of being. He was not just proposing and advocating a resistance but was actually performing it: in his own terms, he was "liberating the information (that had been) locked up" (Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, July 2008).

Locking up the knowledge into secured archives with special privileged access is an enterprise generating huge profit: confreres of technocapitalism are gearing up with immense interest to tap it as much as they can by bringing up technological as well as legal barricades. As Swartz had identified, "The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage ... is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations" (Manifesto). It is a worldwide phenomenon, one being recently reported from India as well. Three publishers- Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Routledge had sued a petty photocopy shop and the Ratan Tata Library under Delhi University for issuing course packs for its students. Course packs are the sets of photocopied materials consisting of book chapters, journal articles, orders and such academic materials prescribed in the syllabus of a specific course in a particular semester. Section 52 of the Indian Copy Right Act clearly provides that "certain acts [should] not be [considered as] infringement of copyright" and lists out the cases- those for "private use, including research" (52 (i)) and "the reproduction of any work- i. by a teacher or pupil in the course of instruction" (52 (h) (i)). Despite this provision the publishers could get an order from the Delhi High Court to stop the system of course packs. The clever terminological moves made by publishers by equating photocopies of reading materials of a course in a university with pirate copies in order to invoke copyright laws is symptomatic: the court mentions the publishers arguing that the photocopy center "in a most unauthorized and illegal manner is reproducing and issuing the publications of the plaintiffs publications, by bringing out a compilation called as "Course Pack'" (CS(OS) 2439/2012 High Court of Delhi, p. 2). Further it refers the "Course Packs" as the "infringing/pirated copies" so that the act of photocopying the course readings gets placed as the act of piracy. University from its founding moments is an institution for production and dispersal of knowledge, and here two of the reputed university presses have become agents of market seeking inflated compensation for damages of six million rupees. When the rules of the game are altered in technocapitalism, what was perfectly legal becomes illegal, what was being carried out outside the discourse of legality becomes a prohibited and sinful act. Altered legal discourses attempt to dictate the notions of ethics and morality in terms of profit. In the new vocabulary such an act is "called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral -- it's a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy" (Manifesto).

Doc Searls who had met Swartz for the first time when he was twelve tries to elaborate the things using the computing metaphor: he identifies two spaces: kernel space and user space. Techies tend to avoid the user space and will limit their work to the kernel space: kernel space defines the limits and pays them their salary: It is a mammoth machine out there regulating the technology for its own needs is converting the kernel space into user space on which techies think they don't have any say: what Aaron challenging was the fundamental ethics that operated at this conversion: he was actively participating in the kernel space, yet he thought that it is his responsibility to see how kernel space becomes a user space and how the rules of the games were altered. Profit is in the kernel space as well as (and much more) in the conversion while politics, the question of justice is in user space. There are codes that regulate, archive and preserve the systemic structure of the kernel space which are variously being called copy right laws, intellectual property rights or patent laws. There is a frame of market which converts the kernel space into user space generating profit. This product of this particular conversion dictates the codes regulating how kernel space is formed and how user space is put into use. When the former or the later proposes any alterations in the rules of the game of this conversion, it is strictly being resisted and any effort in that direction is rendered as cyber crime, theft, even terrorism. The last option is not an imaginative possibility, for one can see its rhetoric was being invoked by the US Attorney who was massively overcharging in Aaron's case where he was being haunted by a possibility of 35 years of sentence.
Run Your Ad Here

It was the state machinery which was overenthusiastic in fixing Aaron and making a cyber-terrorist of him. Neither Jstor, from which Aaron had downloaded files, nor MIT, which is known for its legacy of support for open sources, where they were downloaded, were pushing the case further. Given the legacy of MIT, its administrators' decision to involve the Federal law enforcement in the case should make the concerned to remember the ideals for which the institute had stood for: the decision was the crime against the institutional ethics and integrity. Fundamentally Aaron's death was not a suicide; it was a state killing: killing needn't mean merely stabbing; making one's life unlivable is also an act of killing.

There is a story that Bernard Stiegler retells in the first volume of Technics and Time: it is a pre-Platonic tragic Greek myth recounted in Plato's Protagoras. It tells how, when it was decided to create living creatures, Gods charged Prometheus and Epimetheus with the task of equipping them and allotting suitable powers (dunameis) to each species. Epimetheus, which means "forgetfulness", "thinking backward", "hindsight", "reflection" (and Heidegger reminds that "memory thinks back to what is thought", where by this backward movement- reflection, being central to thinking), requests Prometheus to allow him to carry on the task himself and says, "when I have done it, you can review it". To each species he gave qualities to balance out the interplay of the species; but when at last he came to the human, Epimetheus found that he had forgotten to reserve any dunameis: the day had come when man too had to emerge from within the earth. Therefore Prometheus, being at a loss to provide any means of survival for man due the fault that had been committed, stole from Hephaestus and Athena the gift of skill in the arts together with fire and bestowed them on man. This skill, tekhne", technic, consequently elaborated into technology, constitutes the human. It is here the zootechnological relation of man to matter emerges. So to be human is to inherit the fault of Epimetheus (and of Prometheus as well- an originary double fault- of forgetting and of stealing, which Stiegler calls as a default of origin: "there will have been nothing at the origin but the fault, a fault that is nothing but the de-fault of origin or the origin as de-fault") and to be inextricably bound to technics.

With technology fundamentally constituting the human through a convergence of promethean and epimethean moments- of foresights and hindsights, its prohibition is a de-humanising act by itself. One should be aware of the attempts to snuff out one's fundamental right to live as a human being. Swartz was one of those activists who were creating such awareness and resisting such attempts.

References:

Steigler, Bernard. Technics and Time-1: The Fault of Epimetheus. Trans. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins. California: Stanford UP, 1998.

Swartz, Aaron. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. Italy: July 2008, accessed on 24 Jan 2013.

Swartz, Aaron. How We Stopped SOPA. Washington DC: May 2012, accessed on 24 Jan 2013

The Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University of Oxford and others Vs. Rameshwari Photocopy Services and ANR. No CS(OS) 2439/2012. High Court of Delhi, 14 August 2012.


Shreesha Udupa is a writer, researcher who lives in Mangalore, India. He is currently a research student at The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India.

Keith Millea
01-28-2013, 08:17 PM
01.28.13 - 12:17 PM

A Line Has Been Crossed: Anonymous Hacks DOJ


by Abby Zimet


Launching "Operation Last Resort," Anonymous twice hacked (http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/01/fed_computers_hijacked_swartz_tribute) the Justice Department's Sentencing Commission this weekend to protest the death of Aaron Swartz and a legal system "wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control (and) power." The group threatened (http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/01/26/anonymous-hacks-doj-website-to-avenge-aaron-swartz-16926) to release Justice Department data if the government fails to reform (http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/285696.html) flawed cyber crime laws that allow almost unfettered prosecutorial power, and then turned the website into a videogame and Guy Fawkes mask proclaiming, “We do not forgive. We do not forget.”

"Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the discretion of prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain."


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaPni5O2YyI&feature=player_embedded

http://www.commondreams.org/further/2013/01/28-3

Peter Lemkin
02-05-2013, 09:47 PM
http://tarensk.tumblr.com/Why Aaron died

Last week, I awoke to find Aaron with me. He was sitting next to my bed, grinning his cheekiest grin, holding my hand.

For a few minutes, I savored a sweet uncertainty: Were the last few weeks all a nightmare, and Aaron was still with me? Or was I awaking inside a dream state, and in the real world Aaron was actually dead?

Then Aaron started trying to read a book to me, but he was having trouble deciphering the sentences. He said he was forgetting how to read for lack of practice. It became clear then that he was dream Aaron — real Aaron would never forget how to read. And that meant that everything I remembered about him killing himself must have been true in real life.

So I asked him why. Why did you do it? What was going through your mind when you killed yourself? I would have done anything for you. Anything at all, if you’d just told me what you needed.

“I’m dream Aaron,” he replied, after a long pause. “It’s not my job to tell you why. You see, as dream Aaron, I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know.”

As sadness enveloped me, I forced myself awake from the dream nightmare, only to confront the real-life nightmare. I will never have all the answers I crave. But I do have answers that no one else has. And that is why I’m writing this blog post.

*********

I believe that Aaron’s death was not caused by depression.

I say this with the understanding that many other people would not have made the same choice that Aaron made, even under the same pressures he faced.

I say this not in any way to understate the pain he was in — nor, for that matter, the pain that clinically depressed people are in.

I say this despite the fact that early on in our relationship, I had read and discussed with him his infamous blog post about suicide written years before — so I was not unaware that he had struggled with mental health in the past.

I say this because over the last 20 months of his life, Aaron spent more time with me than with anyone else in the world. For much of the last 8 months of his life, we lived together, commuted together, and worked in the same office — and I was never worried he was depressed until the last 24 hours of his life.

I say this because, since his suicide, as I’ve tried to grapple with what happened, I’ve been learning. I’ve researched clinical depression and associated disorders. I’ve read their symptoms, and at least until the last 24 hours of his life, Aaron didn’t fit them.

And that makes it hard to read, in so many articles, that “Aaron struggled with depression” — as though the prosecution was just one factor among many, as though, perhaps, he might have committed suicide on January 11 without it.

Depression is characterized by low energy and inactivity, withdrawal and isolation, feelings of low self-worth, trouble concentrating and remembering detail, and an inability to take pleasure in everyday life. Not all depressed people feel all of these things all the time, but those are the recipe. And, indeed, Aaron’s blog post about his own depression years before had alluded to many of these things.

But let me tell you about the Aaron I knew—the Aaron Swartz of 2011, 2012, and the first few days of 2013.

*********

The Aaron I knew was active. He worked out most days until he got the flu two weeks before he died. Just a few weeks before that, when I was out of town for the weekend, he had surprised me by taking himself on a day-long hike outside of New York. He came back glowing that evening, describing how he had scrambled up a steep rocky “shortcut” with some other hikers watching (and in the process lost his Kindle down a crevice).

The Aaron I knew was sociable and excited to spend time with his favorite people, right up to the very end. He had plans and ambitions — huge ones. On January 9, two days before he died, he spent hours deep in conversation with our Australian friend Sam about the new organization Aaron was in the early stages of building. Sam asked him whether he had support, and Aaron replied that everyone who was competent enough to support him was, in fact, supporting him — classic Aaron pessimistic arrogance, but also a reminder that he knew his friends were standing with him. Sam gave Aaron a quick overview of Australian politics; Aaron expressed astonishment at how easy it would be to “take over Australia”, but concluded that a country of only 20 million probably wouldn’t be worth it.

Self-esteem, needless to say, was definitely not Aaron’s problem.

The Aaron I knew had no trouble concentrating or remembering detail. Up through the week before he died, he was devouring all the scientific literature he could find on drug addiction and effective interventions. Not, to be clear, because he had any drug issues himself (he almost never even drank alcohol), but for a consulting project he was working on for Givewell, his favorite charity. He related to me with deep intellectual excitement his conversations with the top experts in the field, the interventions that had shown the most promise at combating alcoholism, his developing theories about what types of policy changes might be most politically feasible. We debated the cultural constructs that allow our society to treat almost indistinguishable chemicals as differently as we treat heroin and morphine.

The Aaron I knew had profound capacity for pleasure in everyday life. He did, of course, have problems with eating — within the range of normal symptoms associated with his ulcerative colitis. But when he found truly great food — or for that matter, truly great anything — he reveled in it. He had a finely honed aesthetic sense. He could get deeper, truer joy out of a perfect corn muffin, a brilliantly constructed narrative arc from Robert Caro’s LBJ biography, a beautiful font, than anyone I’ve ever met.

And maybe most impressively, he sustained all of these qualities for almost two years, in the face of an ongoing ordeal that threatened to ruin his life.

*********

Aaron was human: He wasn’t happy every moment, and I’d be the first to say he could be a real pain to live with sometimes. Aaron could be moody and introverted. Aaron was often in substantial physical pain from his stomach. Aaron was hard on himself (and equally hard on others). And Aaron obviously, at the end, was suicidal.

But I say it again: Aaron’s death was not caused by depression. This is an important point, because many people are arguing that it was, and that the appropriate response to his death is better treatment for depression, better detection of suicidal tendencies. This country absolutely needs these things — Aaron would have been the first to agree — but we need them because they’re the right thing to do, not because of what happened to Aaron.

I don’t know exactly why Aaron killed himself. I don’t know exactly what was going through his mind. If I had known those things on January 11, if I had even known the right questions to ask, maybe I could have stopped him. Since January 11, I think about it every hour of every day.

But as dream Aaron reminded me, I can only know what I already know. And with the knowledge I have — from watching, listening, asking, next to him on the bed, over meals, talking on the subway, from our adjacent desks at the office where we worked on separate projects — from our lives together, I believe that Aaron’s death was not caused by depression.

I believe Aaron’s death was caused by exhaustion, by fear, and by uncertainty. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a persecution and a prosecution that had already wound on for 2 years (what happened to our right to a speedy trial?) and had already drained all of his financial resources. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a criminal justice system that prioritizes power over mercy, vengeance over justice; a system that punishes innocent people for trying to prove their innocence instead of accepting plea deals that mark them as criminals in perpetuity; a system where incentives and power structures align for prosecutors to destroy the life of an innovator like Aaron in the pursuit of their own ambitions.

Ask yourself this: If on January 10, Steve Heymann and Carmen Ortiz at the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office had called Aaron’s lawyer and said they’d realized their mistake and that they were dropping all charges — or even for that matter that they were ready to offer a reasonable plea deal that wouldn’t have marked Aaron as a felon for the rest of his life — would Aaron have killed himself on January 11?

The answer is unquestionably no.

Keith Millea
02-07-2013, 05:34 PM
02.06.13 - 10:05 PM

Oops We Did It Again: Anonymous Hacks the Federal Reserve

by Abby Zimet

Proclaiming, "Now we have your attention America," Anonymous on Monday breached (http://www.zdnet.com/anger-rises-as-fed-confirms-anonymous-hack-downplays-us-bank-emergency-system-breach-7000010902/) the Federal Reserve's Emergency Communications System, used to communicate with bankers during natural disasters or other emergencies, and posted a trove of data that included 4,600 banking executives' credentials - a dump one admirer called "a spearphishing bonanza." A Federal Reserve spokesman confirmed (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/02/anonymous-hits-federal-reserve-in-hack-attack/) "information was obtained by exploiting a temporary vulnerability in a website vendor product.” The action (http://www.veracode.com/blog/2013/02/stolen-data-headers-from-the-federal-reserve-hack/)was viewed as part of Anonymous' Operation Last Resort, aimed at pressuring federal officials to reform cyber laws in the wake of the prosecution and suicide of Aaron Swartz. No word yet on reforms widely viewed as overdue.

http://www.commondreams.org/further/2013/02/06-9

Magda Hassan
03-03-2013, 01:28 AM
US science to be open to all Government mandates that taxpayer-funded research be freely available within 12 months. Richard Van Noorden 26 February 2013 The rumours have been buzzing around Capitol Hill since before last year?s election, and last week, supporters of open-access publication in the United States got most of what they wanted. The White House declared that government-funded research would be made free for all to read, rather than kept behind paywalls. However, those hoping that the government would require papers to be free from the time of publication were disappointed. In a 22 February memo, John Holdren, director of the White House?s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), gave federal agencies until 22 August to produce plans for making the data and papers from the research they fund more accessible to the public. The move, he says, would ?accelerate scientific breakthroughs and innovation? and boost economic growth. Agencies should aim to make research papers free by 12 months after publication ? a concession to publishers, who say that a year?s delay is needed to maintain their revenue from subscriptions. full: http://www.nature.com/news/us-science-to-be-open-to-all-1.12512 <http://www.nature.com/news/us-science-to-be-open-to-all-1.12512> (http://www.nature.com/news/us-science-to-be-open-to-all-1.12512)

Magda Hassan
03-03-2013, 02:05 AM
February 25, 2013 Aaron Swartz Was Right By Peter Ludlow The suicide of the Internet wunderkind Aaron Swartz has given rise to a great deal of discussion, much of it centered on whether the penalty sought against him by the prosecutor was proportional to his "crime." The consensus so far has been that Swartz did something wrong by accessing and releasing millions of academic papers from the JSTOR archive. But perhaps it is time to ask whether Swartz did in fact act wrongly. We might entertain the possibility that Swartz's act of civil disobedience was an attempt to help rectify a harm that began long ago. Perhaps he was not only justified in his actions but morally impelled to act as he did. Moreover, we too might be morally impelled to take action. To put it bluntly, the current state of academic publishing is the result of a series of strong-arm tactics enabling publishers to pry copyrights from authors, and then charge exorbitant fees to university libraries for access to that work. The publishers have inverted their role as disseminators of knowledge and become bottlers of knowledge, releasing it exclusively to the highest bidders. Swartz simply decided it was time to take action. He laid the philosophical groundwork back in 2008, in an essay entitled "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto." "Information is power," he wrote. "But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier." Swartz said that this state of affairs was being driven by systemic problems, beginning with the need of corporations to extract maximum profit. "Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed," he wrote. "The laws under which they operate require it?their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies." Finally, he argued that the situation called for action: "There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture." You might think that Swartz's prose is over the top ("bought off" politicians? "theft of culture"?), but it is very much on target. The academic publisher Elsevier has contributed to many U.S. Congressional representatives, pushing the Elsevier-supported Research Works Act, which among other things would have forbidden any effort by any federal agency to ensure taxpayer access to work financed by the federal government without permission of the publisher. An outcry effectively killed the proposed law, but it wasn't the first such publisher power play, and it probably won't be the last. What is more important to human culture than access to the knowledge in our scholarly journals? If anything, Swartz's manifesto understates the egregiousness with which this theft of public culture has been allowed to happen. Why did Swartz think that information in JSTOR belonged in the public domain? First, for the most part the articles in JSTOR were written with government support?either through agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, through state-financed educational institutions, or through the tuition of students and the donations of alumni. Once a student graduates from her college she no longer has access to JSTOR?even though her tuition supported the research that went into the data represented there. She may go on to be a generous donor to her college and still not have access to JSTOR. You have to be a faculty member or student to have access, even though, to some degree, everyone helped pay for that research. Many people I talk to assume payments to JSTOR flow through to the authors of the archived publications. But authors of academic publications, for the most part, don't see a dime from their journal publications. Ever. Worse still, some academic publishers now demand payments from authors to publish their papers. The academic publisher Springer, for example, has attempted to steer journal submissions to its online publication Springer Plus, offering to publish them for 850 euros each, albeit allowing some waivers. How is that even possible? Here it is important to think about one of the consequences of the publish-or-perish model in academe. If you don't publish, you won't get tenure. Even if you have tenure, your reputation (and salary) is staked to your publication record. In my field, philosophy, the top journals accept only about 5 percent of submissions. That means that publishers of academic journals have tremendous bargaining power with their authors. When an academic signs away copyright to an academic publisher, it amounts to a "contract of adhesion"?meaning a contract in which one party has all the power and it was not freely bargained. One could even make the case that the courts ought to void these contracts. There was a time when securing a contract with an academic publisher meant that the work would receive the widest audience possible. The publishers could deliver journals to academic libraries, and other scholars would find those works when they went to browse the library (I used to do that on a monthly basis). Today, however, it would be much more efficient to simply make the articles available online to anyone who wishes to read them. Academic publishers have inverted their whole purpose for being; they used to be vehicles for the dissemination of knowledge in the most efficient way possible. Today they are useless choke points in the distribution of knowledge, even taking advantage of their positions to demand fees. Noam Scheiber, in a February 13 New Republic article, traces how Swartz focused on JSTOR in part because of a retreat he'd attended in Italy organized by the international nonprofit EIFL. According to its Web site, EIFL "works with libraries worldwide to enable access to digital information in developing and transition countries." Scheiber writes that EIFL is careful about obeying the law in the ways it disseminates information, but its key message apparently got to Swartz. "Rich people pay huge amounts of money to access articles," Scheiber quotes the EIFL official Monika Elbert as saying about the conference. "But what about the researcher in Accra? Dar es Salaam? Cambodia? It genuinely opened his eyes," she said of Swartz. JSTOR, which did not pursue criminal charges against Swartz and "regretted being drawn into" the U.S. attorney's case against him, came into existence in 1995 with good intentions. It sought a solution to the rapidly expanding problem of paying for and storing an ever-growing list of academic journals. The situation for libraries was becoming untenable. But like the original authors, JSTOR had to negotiate its licensing agreements from a position of weakness. There is a wonderful history of JSTOR written by Roger C. Schonfeld. In it he notes that the charter publishers signed up by JSTOR (in particular the University of Chicago Press) demanded that they be compensated if there was a loss to their (minimal) sales of rights to older materials, and they demanded compensation even before JSTOR covered its own expenses. And JSTOR really was in an impossible bargaining position. Important scientific papers do not have cheaper alternatives. If someone wants to read Watson and Crick's paper on DNA or Einstein's paper on the photoelectric effect, it is not as if there is a paper by John Doe that is just as good and available for less. Academic publishers are, in effect, natural monopolies that can demand as much money as we can afford, and possibly more. The result today is that a university like mine must subscribe to more than 10 databases, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per year and without the ability to share the content with alumni, donors, or the community. JSTOR is experimenting with a "Register and Read" program that allows independent scholars free access to a subset of its database, but we need more solutions. It's not as if there are no other options. For example, the philosophy department at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor started an online journal called Philosophers' Imprint, noting in its mission statement the possibility of a sunnier alternative: "There is a possible future in which academic libraries no longer spend millions of dollars purchasing, binding, housing, and repairing printed journals, because they have assumed the role of publishers, cooperatively disseminating the results of academic research for free, via the Internet. Each library could bear the cost of publishing some of the world's scholarly output, since it would be spared the cost of buying its own copy of any scholarship published in this way. The results of academic research would then be available without cost to all users of the Internet, including students and teachers in developing countries, as well as members of the general public." But a few paragraphs later the editors of Imprint acknowledge that "we don't know how to get to that future from here." While "academic institutions have access to the Internet [and] they have no reason to pay subscription or subvention fees to anyone for disseminating the results of academic research," they continue to do so. And I would argue that the fault lies with us academics. Why do scholars still submit their articles to journals that are behind pay walls, and more important why do they serve as editors and referees for these journals (usually gratis)? They submit articles because there is still prestige attached to these journals and because online alternatives do not carry the same weight in tenure and promotion decisions. This is of course due to the general inertia of academic life. Academics need to do some soul searching: Is placing so much weight on tradition worth the cost to members of the profession and the public at large? Until academics get their acts together and start using new modes of publication, we need to recognize that actions like Aaron Swartz's civil disobedience are legitimate. They are attempts to liberate knowledge that rightly belongs to all of us but that has been acquired by academic publishers through tens of thousands of contracts of adhesion and then bottled up and released for exorbitant fees in what functionally amounts to an extortion racket. When Swartz wrote his manifesto he pulled no punches, claiming that all of us with access to these databases have not just the right but the responsibility to liberate this information and supply it to those who are not as information-wealthy. "Those with access to these resources?students, librarians, scientists?you have been given a privilege," he wrote. "You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not?indeed, morally, you cannot?keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends." Aaron Swartz's act of hacktivism was an act of resistance to a corrupt system that has subverted distribution of the most important product of the academy?knowledge. Until the academy finally rectifies this situation, our best hope is that there will be many more Aaron Swartz-type activists to remind us how unconscionable the current situation is, and how important it is that we change it. Peter Ludlow is a professor of philosophy at Northwestern University. His books include "Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias" (MIT Press, 2001) and "The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid That Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse" (MIT, 2007).

Peter Lemkin
03-31-2013, 04:53 PM
One can download some or all of what Aaron downloaded on several places on the internet. Please consider your legal jurisdiction and cybersecurity before downloading all or most. One is here http://cryptome.org/aaron-swartz-series.htm

Magda Hassan
07-09-2013, 01:05 AM
Judge Orders U.S. to Release Aaron Swartz’s Secret Service File

BY KEVIN POULSEN (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/author/kevin_poulsen/)
07.08.13
5:25 PM




A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Friday ordered the government to promptly start releasing thousands of pages of Secret Service documents about the late activist and coder Aaron Swartz, following months of roadblocks and delays.
“Defendant shall promptly release to Plaintiff all responsive documents that it has gathered thus far and shall continue to produce additional responsive documents that it locates on a rolling basis,” wrote U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
The order was issued in my ongoing FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security – the Secret Service’s parent agency.
It was Secret Service agents who, in 2011, investigated Swartz’ bulk downloads from the JSTOR academic database, leading to the computer hacking and wire fraud case that loomed over Swartz at the time he committed suicide in January.
That criminal case was formally dismissed after Swartz’s death. Yet in February, the Secret Servicedenied in full my request (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/724940-swartz-dhs-foia-denial-appeal.html) for any files it held on Swartz, citing a FOIA exemption that covers sensitive law enforcement records that are part of an ongoing proceeding. Other requestors reported (http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/14861-secret-service-refuses-truthouts-request-for-documents-on-aaron-swartz) receiving the same response.
When the agency ignored my administrative appeal, I enlisted David Sobel, a top DC-based FOIA litigator, and we filed suit. In May, the government belatedly answered my appeal, conceding that the law enforcement exemption no longer applies. But it still hasn’t produced any documents. The government then missed a May 23 deadline to file a reply to the lawsuit.
And then last Wednesday, the Justice Department lawyer on the case asked the court for still more time. He says the government has just discovered (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/724942-poulsen-v-dhs-10.html) a vast new tranche of documents on Swartz.

Defendant has exercised diligence in processing these records. As part of that effort, it undertook an additional search for responsive records in certain agency files, including files located outside agency headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area. Based on this additional search, it learned yesterday, July 2, of files located outside the agency’s headquarters that contain several thousand additional pages that may be responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request. […]
The agency’s review of those files will require a substantial amount of additional time.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly is giving the government until August 5 to answer the lawsuit and produce a timetable for releasing all the responsive documents. In the meantime, the government has to start releasing the files it’s already processed. You’ll see them here when I get them.
Disclosure: I knew Swartz, and worked on a project (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/05/strongbox-and-aaron-swartz.html) with him.
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/07/swartz-foia/

Peter Lemkin
07-09-2013, 02:57 AM
They admit to several thousand pages.....a suspiciously huge number if foul play was not anticipated, IMHO. How could he be adjudged an 'enemy of the state' for his work to uphold our Constitutional Rights...oh silly me??!! And why the SS, not the FBI?

Magda Hassan
07-09-2013, 03:14 AM
They admit to several thousand pages.....a suspiciously huge number if foul play was not anticipated, IMHO. How could he be adjudged an 'enemy of the state' for his work to uphold our Constitutional Rights...oh silly me??!! And why the SS, not the FBI?
Yes, I wondered about the SS too?

Peter Lemkin
07-09-2013, 03:41 AM
They admit to several thousand pages.....a suspiciously huge number if foul play was not anticipated, IMHO. How could he be adjudged an 'enemy of the state' for his work to uphold our Constitutional Rights...oh silly me??!! And why the SS, not the FBI?
Yes, I wondered about the SS too?

Unless they have some secret portfolio, they are to protect the President, handle counterfeit money and interstate arms dealing - nothing more. The whole government apparatus is now one big spy agency against the People and against the laws and Constitution. State Fascism is here. :hitler: I still doubt he committed suicide...just because he was found hanging by his neck...that means nothing.

Magda Hassan
08-14-2013, 01:58 AM
First 100 pages of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files Cory Doctorow (http://boingboing.net/author/cory_doctorow_1) at 2:43 pm Tue, Aug 13, 2013



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After a long wrangle, and no thanks to MIT (http://boingboing.net/2013/07/18/mit-blocking-release-of-aaron.html), the Secret Service has begun to honor the court order that requires it to release Aaron Swartz's files. The first 100 pages -- albeit heavily redacted -- were just released (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/750523-aaron-swartz-usss-first-release-08-12-13.html). Kevin Poulsen, the Wired reporter who filed the Freedom of Information Act request that liberated the files, has posted some preliminary analysis (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/08/swartz-foia-release/) of them. The Feds were particularly interested in the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto (http://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt)," a document Aaron helped to write in 2008. The manifesto -- and subsequent statements by Aaron -- make the case that access to scientific and scholarly knowledge is a human right. The full Aaron Swartz files run 14,500 pages, according to the Secret Service's own estimate.
I was interested to note that much of the analysis of Swartz's materials was undertaken by SAIC, the mystery-shrouded, massive private military/government contractor that is often described as the largest privately held company in the world.

The heavily redacted documents released today confirm earlier reports that the Secret Service was interested in a “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” that Swartz and others had penned in 2008. In May 2011, a Secret Service agent and a detective from the Cambridge police department interviewed a friend of Swartz and inquired specifically about the political statement. The friend noted that Swartz and his coauthors “believe that the open access movement is a human rights issue.”
The Secret Service documents also describe the February 11, 2011 search on Swartz’s home in Cambridge that came over a month after Swartz was first arrested and released by local police. “Swartz was home at the time the search was executed,” reads one report. “While the search was conducted, Swartz made statements to the effect of, what took you so long, and why didn’t you do this earlier?”
First 100 Pages of Aaron Swartz’s Secret Service File Released

http://boingboing.net/2013/08/13/first-100-pages-of-aaron-swart.html (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/08/swartz-foia-release/)

Magda Hassan
10-19-2013, 01:09 AM
Whistleblowing Activist Aaron Swartz’s Final Gift To The World
The completion of Aaron Swartz’s private whistleblower app offers anonymity and security to potential leakers.
By Frederick Reese (http://www.mintpressnews.com/author/frederick-reese/) | October 18, 2013 (http://www.mintpressnews.com/whistleblowing-activist-aaron-swartzs-final-gift-to-the-world/170792/)
In the months since his death, Aaron Swartz has became an icon of the right-to-know movement. Along with founding a precursor to reddit, Swartz made his name advocating for the right to public access of information, before ultimately taking his life in the light of a pending multi-decade prison sentence for illegally downloading academic articles via the MIT network. Swartz felt that the selling of public knowledge undermined the people’s scholarship and understanding by making research a commodity available only to those that can afford to purchase it.
Nine months after Swartz’s suicide, one of his projects — a secure platform for whistleblowers to deliver messages and documents to the media — have come to fruition. SecureDrop, a Freedom of the Press Foundation-backed application first coded by Swartz himself — is a server application in which contributors can “drop” material in a manner that does not leave a digital trail, as would be the case with email or a conventional dropbox.
“We’ve reached a time in America when the only way the press can assure the anonymity and safety of their sources is not to know who they are,” said JP Barlow (https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/blog/2013/10/freedom-press-foundation-launches-securedrop), co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “SecureDrop is where real news can be slipped quietly under the door.”
“A truly free press hinges on the ability of investigative journalists to build trust with their sources,” said Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm (https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/blog/2013/10/freedom-press-foundation-launches-securedrop). “The recent NSA revelations and record number of whistleblower prosecutions under the current administration have shown the grave challenges to this relationship and the lengths governments will go to undermine it. Freedom of Press Foundation is committed ushering in a new era of security for journalists and newsrooms of all sizes.”
Protection from a government out of controlWhen Swartz created the code, he did it in response to the threat of the government coercing media organizations to reveal confidential sources. In light of an increasing number of governmental leaks, pressure has been substantial on the media to cooperate with the government to disclose what is known of the whistleblowers. SecureDrop attempts to resolve this problem by making the document drop anonymous.
Revelations — such as the May disclosure that the Justice Department secretly secured two months of telephone records from Associated Press reporters and editors (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=184261893), or reports that the department subpoenaed and searched Google’s servers to access FOX News reporter James Rosen’s emails based on allegations of his involvement in a North Korea leak and subsequent leaks revealing that the NSA has obtained and searched the electronic communication records of Americans repeatedly — show that the federal government is willing and able to use covert surveillance tactics to monitor those it sees as targets, placing the media underneath an uncomfortable and unyielding searchlight.
“SecureDrop is a Python application that accepts messages and documents from the web and encrypts them for secure storage,” wrote the Freedom of the Press Foundation in a blog entry (https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/blog/2013/10/freedom-press-foundation-launches-securedrop). “Each source who uses the platform is assigned a unique codename that lets the source establish a relationship with the news organization without having to reveal her real identity or resort to email.”
“I think the [former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden] case showed that there are sources out there that really care about security and will only go to journalists who take it seriously,” Timm told Ars Technica (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/10/aaron-swartzs-unfinished-whistleblowing-platform-finally-launches/).
“On the flip side of things, I don’t think your average source is as brilliant as Snowden. He may have been able to [leak information securely] through various methods because he was a trained expert in this type of way of communicating. For others it may not be so easy. What we hope to accomplish with this is to allow a source who does not have as much technical prowess as Snowden to feel much safer than using an open source communication like email.”
Journalistic shieldSecureDrop is an Open Source application available for free to media organizations. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has offered to provide technical assistance for installation and servicing for exchange for reimbursement for “travel and hardware costs” incurred by the group for the repair call. Since May, The New Yorker has used the SecureDrop code to power its StrongBox project. “Not only is it a good tool for people we didn’t know about to send us information we don’t know, it’s also a good tool for just communicating with sources who don’t want to meet in a park,” said Nicholas Thompson (http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/watchdogarticle/100021/How-to-Keep-Sources-Secure-from-Surveillance.aspx), the magazine’s online editor.
The way SecureDrop works will be similar to the mechanics of StrongBox (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/closeread/2013/05/introducing-strongbox-anonymous-document-sharing-tool.html): connected via the Tor Network — a redundantly-encoded private Darknet internet — the submitter uploads his/her messages and files to the media outlet’s SecureDrop application. In response, the contributor receives an unique, randomly-generated code name for future communication. As the uploader receives a new code name per each submission, it is impossible to ascertain which files came from the same source from the transmission log alone. The files are encrypted with P.G.P. (Pretty Good Privacy, the industry’s standard for encryption) and transmitted to a server separate from the host’s home server. The files are transmitted to the editors’ computer via virtual private network and the editors are able to comment on the piece. The comments, however, will only be visible from the SecureDrop interface and only if the proper code name is presented.
Despite the fact that SecureDrop’s security has been tested independently by the University of Washington (http://homes.cs.washington.edu/~aczeskis/research/pubs/UW-CSE-13-08-02.PDF), the fact that this is far from the first whistleblowing app to be released after the death of Swartz is tempering enthusiasm. WikiLeaks remain virtually shut down, in light of Julian Assange’s effective house arrest after receiving asylum from the Ecuadorian Embassy at London and the nearly complete blocking of external funding to the organization. Due to the legal challenges to WikiLeaks, other online submission systems — such as those of Radio Sweden, Folha de Sao Paolo, Al Jazeera and the Wall Street Journal — have also struggled to maintain success in their leak collection.
“It’s not as easy as it looks to set up an anonymous site that’s safe for its users,” Timm said (http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/03/whither-whistleblowing-where-have-all-the-leaking-sites-gone/). “We may have seen more WikiLeaks sites become successful if the crackdown against WikiLeaks wasn’t so hard after the State Department cables. When WikiLeaks did what they did, despite not breaking any law, they were cut off from all sorts of finances and had a grand jury investigation opened against them. I think this created a chilling effect for other developers who would want to do the same thing.”
“We still need brave human beings”In the drive to empower more media organizations to safely receive and publish whistleblower leaks and secure messages, one must consider that there are those that will go to extreme lengths to control the free flow of this information. In creating new drop-sites, media organizations are inviting increased scrutiny and heightened attempts to hack or disrupt operations. For example, in February, Balkanleaks released the “Buddha dossier,” a massive trove of secret documents from the national police which led to the resignation of Bulgaria’s prime minister Boyko Borisov 18 days later.
As a result, Bivol, the media outlet behind Balkanleaks became the target of a “massive smearing campaign in the [Bulgarian] media and a recurring DDoS attack on the site.”
As with all things, technology cannot perfectly shield those that choose to whistleblow. But in that uncertainty lies the moral implication of those that choose to ensure the public’s understanding.
“By far the majority of leaks have nothing to do with encrypted emails—they have to do with brave people within various bureaucracies having relationships with enterprising journalists,” said Ben Wizner (http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/03/whither-whistleblowing-where-have-all-the-leaking-sites-gone/2/), the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. “Technology can aid whistleblowing, but technology is not a solution. It doesn’t create the courageous patriotic whistleblower who is willing to face risk to expose illegality. It doesn’t create that person because it cannot create a foolproof way to leak without detection and punishment — and I don’t think [such sites purport] to. What the leaking sites are trying to do is to minimize the risk of leaking, but they can’t eliminate that risk. We still need brave human beings. It doesn’t replace the person who has to make a moral decision—and a moral decision with some risk.”
http://www.mintpressnews.com/whistleblowing-activist-aaron-swartzs-final-gift-to-the-world/170792/

Peter Lemkin
01-21-2014, 05:17 PM
An Hour on Aaron and the new movie about him...released yesterday..... http://www.democracynow.org/2014/1/21/the_internets_own_boy_film_on

The Internet’s Own Boy: Film on Aaron Swartz Captures Late Activist’s Struggle for Online Freedom




One year ago this month, the young Internet freedom activist and groundbreaking programmer Aaron Swartz took his own life. Swartz died shortly before he was set to go to trial for downloading millions of academic articles from servers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on the belief that the articles should be freely available online. At the time he committed suicide, Swartz was facing 35 years in prison, a penalty supporters called excessively harsh. Today we spend the hour looking at the new documentary, "The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz." We play excerpts of the film and speak with Swartz’s father Robert, his brother Noah, his lawyer Elliot Peters, and filmmaker Brian Knappenberger.


Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Park City TV in Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival, the largest festival for independent cinema in the United States. This is our fifth year covering some of the films here, and the people and topics they explore.
Today, we spend the hour with the people involved in an incredible documentary that just had its world premiere here yesterday. It’s called The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. It comes as Aaron’s loved ones and friends mark the first anniversary of his death. It was just over a year ago, on January 11th, 2013, that the young Internet freedom activist took his own life. He was 26 years old. This is a clip of Aaron Swartz from the film.
AARON SWARTZ: I mean, I, you know, feel very strongly that it’s not enough to just live in the world as it is, to just kind of take what you’re given and, you know, follow the things that adults told you to do and that your parents told you to do and that society tells you to do. I think you should always be questioning. You know, I take this very scientific attitude that everything you’ve learned is just provisional, that, you know, it’s always open to recantation or refutation or questioning. And I think the same applies to society. Once I realized that there were real, serious problems, fundamental problems that I could do something to address, I didn’t see a way to forget that. I didn’t see a way not to.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Aaron Swartz in his early twenties. By that time, Aaron was already an Internet legend. At the age of 14, Aaron helped develop RSS, Really Simple Syndication, which changed how people get online content, allowing them to subscribe to different sources of information like blogs and podcasts. He also helped develop the Creative Commons alternative to copyright, which encourages authors and publishers to share content. He founded a company, Infogami, that merged with Reddit, which allows users to collectively rank and promote contributed content, is now one of the most popular websites globally.
In 2010, Aaron Swartz became a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. It was around this time that he used the Internet at nearby MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to download millions of digitized academic articles run by a nonprofit company called JSTOR. Aaron believed the articles should be freely available online. Although Aaron did not give or sell the files to anyone, the federal government filed multiple felony charges against him. At the time he committed suicide, Aaron was facing 35 years in prison, a penalty supporters called excessively harsh.
Now, despite promises of reform, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act used to charge Swartz remains unchanged. A bill proposed by Congressmember Zoe Lofgren, called "Aaron’s Law," remains stalled in committee. It’s meant to ensure victimless computer activities are not charged as felonies.
On the Sunday after the first anniversary of Swartz’s death, the hacker group Anonymous attacked a number of MIT’s websites and posted messages criticizing Swartz’s prosecution and calling for a reform of Internet regulation. The message said, quote, "We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all."
The same weekend, a group of activists inspired by Aaron also launched what they called the "New Hampshire Rebellion," a two-week walk across New Hampshire to protest government corruption. Campaign finance reform was another one of the many issues Aaron cared deeply about.
In a minute, we’ll be joined by Aaron’s brother, Noah Swartz; his lawyer, Elliot Peters; and by Brian Knappenberger, the director of The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz; as well as Aaron’s father, Robert Swartz. But first, I want to play an extended clip from what, well, recalls a happier time in Aaron’s life as an activist. It begins with Trevor Timm with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and then Senator Ron Wyden. We also hear from Aaron himself and then his girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman.
TREVOR TIMM: SOPA was the bill that was intended to curtail online piracy of music and movies, but what it did was basically take a sledgehammer to a problem that needed a scalpel.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN: There’s collateral damage in the digital...


SEN. RON WYDEN: There were only a handful of us who said, "Look, we’re not for piracy, either, but it makes no sense to destroy the architecture of the Internet, the domain name system and so much that makes it free and open, in the name of fighting piracy. And Aaron got that right away.


AARON SWARTZ: The freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution, the freedoms our country had been built on, would be suddenly deleted. New technology, instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out fundamental rights we had always taken for granted. And I realized that day that I couldn’t let that happen.


TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: I don’t think anybody really thought that SOPA could be beaten. I remember him just turning to me and being like, "I think we might win this."


DAVID SEGAL: Aaron was one of the most prominent people in a community of people who helped lead organizing around social justice issues at the federal level in this country.


BEN WIKLER: It was like Aaron had been like striking a match, and it was being blown out, striking another one, was being blown out, and finally he’d like manage to catch enough kindling that the flame actually caught, and then it turned into this roaring blaze.


AARON SWARTZ: Wikipedia went black. Reddit went black. Craigslist went black. The phone lines on Capitol Hill flat-out melted. Members of Congress started rushing to issue statements retracting their support for the bill that they were promoting just a couple days ago. And that was when, as hard as it was for me to believe, after all this, we had won. The thing that everyone said was impossible, that some of the biggest companies in the world had written off as kind of a pipe dream, had happened. We did it. We won.


DECLAN McCULLAGH: This is a historic week in Internet politics, maybe American politics.


PETER ECKERSLEY: The thing that we heard from people in Washington, D.C., from staffers on Capitol Hill, was they received more emails and more phone calls on SOPA blackout day than they’d ever received about anything. I think that was an extremely exciting moment. This was the moment when the Internet had grown up politically.


AARON SWARTZ: It’s easy sometimes to feel like you’re powerless, like when you come out in the streets and you march and you yell, and nobody hears you. But I’m here to tell you today: You are powerful.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, that recalls a happier time in Aaron’s life as an activist. We also heard from Aaron’s friend David Segal, founder of Demand Progress; and Ben Wikler, a friend of Aaron’s. When we come back, we’ll be joined by Aaron’s brother Noah and his father Robert. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah, from the Sundance Film Festival, where a film on Aaron Swartz has just premiered. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: "Extraordinary Machine" by Fiona Apple. Aaron Swartz reportedly said it was his theme song. And this is_Democracy Now!_, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival is underway. We’re spending the hour today looking at the life of the young Internet activist, Aaron Swartz. It was a year after he tragically took his own life, and now a new film about him has premiered at Sundance, called The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. We’re joined now by Aaron’s brother, Noah, and his father, Robert.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! It’s a year later, but it’s so important to share condolences because of the just tremendous loss that you have suffered. Robert, talk about Aaron and what you feel it’s most important for people to understand.
ROBERT SWARTZ: I think—I mean, there’s lots of things to understand, and it’s complicated. I think Aaron was interested in making the world a better place and changing the world for the better. And I think that’s all that we have to do and can do to remember his legacy.
AMY GOODMAN: He took his own life. He committed suicide just over a year ago. Talk about the circumstances leading up to his death, what he was facing.
ROBERT SWARTZ: Well, he was facing trial for a felony—on felony charges from the federal government, and a—a really vindictive and, in many respects, nearly sadistic prosecution by the federal government, and which turned his whole life upside down, drained his financial resources, and terrified him with the prospect of destroying his future.
AMY GOODMAN: Noah, you, too, are a computer programmer. You’ve grown up in this household with computers since you were tots. Talk about the significance of Aaron’s work.
NOAH SWARTZ: As Ben Wikler is quoted in the movie, Aaron thought very firmly that he should work on what was most important in the world at any given time, and he really felt that he could do this through computers and through technology. And much of his work in the last four years had been around this. With Demand Progress and the SOPA protest, he built a whole framework for—specifically for Demand Progress, but basically for any activist organization that wants to maintain an email list, wants to be able to send actions to people, and sort of revolutionized this space with technology, in addition to working on things like SecureDrop and—
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what SecureDrop—
NOAH SWARTZ: SecureDrop is a tool to protect journalistic sources by allowing them to submit articles anonymously and through an encrypted connection—or documents rather than articles.
AMY GOODMAN: Noah, you have organized hackathons. Explain what they are.
NOAH SWARTZ: So, after Aaron’s death, we decided that there was lots of work still to be done, work specifically that Aaron had touched and work done by people that he had worked with that needed help, and so we organized a number of hackathons to help people figure out what they could do with technology and with activism. So, we organized a number of hackathons. The idea is to have it either yearly or twice a year to continue Aaron’s legacy and work.
AMY GOODMAN: Bob, talk about Aaron’s growing up, his worldview. It’s a little odd to say, you know, when he’s growing up, his worldview, as five-year-old, but Aaron really did have a worldview.
ROBERT SWARTZ: I don’t know. I find these questions a little difficult. I mean, his worldview seemed to me to be normal and ordinary. And when people ask why he acted the way he did, it just seems to me peculiar, because isn’t that the way everyone would? He was very curious. He was certainly very interested in computers.
AMY GOODMAN: A deep questioner, questioning, when he was growing up, school and its role?
ROBERT SWARTZ: I don’t think that’s a particularly deep question. I mean, that’s an obvious question. Deep questions are much—are much more serious. There are much more serious deep questions than that. I mean, that’s not a deep—that’s just clear.
AMY GOODMAN: Like father, like son. As Aaron grew older, the kind of work he did, truly remarkable, I mean, one of the founders of Reddit, and moving on, though, to talk about what happened in 2010, how you came to know what happened when Aaron was arrested, and the weight of the state on Aaron?
ROBERT SWARTZ: Well, I was—I had landed in San Francisco for some meetings, and I got a call from my wife that Aaron had been arrested, and was just shattered by that news. I couldn’t really think at all the rest of the day, and tried to learn more about what was going on. I guess, initially, on the one hand, we were devastated, because any—the notion that Aaron would be arrested and be involved in the criminal justice system was completely incomprehensible, but on the other hand, the notion was that we could get this resolved in some rational way. As time went on, that became clear that it was much more complicated than we had ever imagined and much more difficult. And the weight—the weight on Aaron, in particular, was immense, as we struggled to try to resolve this.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you came to understand he did. I mean, when we talk about JSTOR—well, students in college understand what JSTOR is, but most people don’t. Explain what it is and what he did.
ROBERT SWARTZ: JSTOR is a repository for scholarly journals. So, if you take something like the American Mathematical Association’s journal, JSTOR makes that available electronically on a subscription basis to primarily academic libraries.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, they didn’t produce these articles, right? There are millions of articles that are gathered.
ROBERT SWARTZ: Right, right. No, the articles are produced for free by the academics, and the journals are edited and produced by the academic societies, in general, for free. JSTOR is not-for-profit, but nonetheless they charge both universities and their subscribers and individual users for access to those journals. So it’s very different than, say, a Disney movie, where there are people who are paid to produce the content. The people who produce this content are never paid, and I’ve never met an academic who wants to see their work behind a pay wall. The notion that the knowledge of mankind, that is—that is provided for free, should be behind a pay wall is completely wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what Aaron did.
ROBERT SWARTZ: So Aaron downloaded a substantial portion of the JSTOR database—or at least that’s what’s alleged—onto a computer.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to comments of Aaron himself made at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in October of 2010. He spoke about JSTOR.
AARON SWARTZ: I am going to give you one example of something not as big as saving Congress, but something important that you can do right here at your own school. It just requires you willing to get your shoes a little bit muddy. By virtue of being students at a major U.S. university, I assume that you have access to a wide variety of scholarly journals. Pretty much every major university in the United States pays these sort of licensing fees to organizations like JSTOR and Thomson and ISI to get access to scholarly journals that the rest of the world can’t read. And these licensing fees are substantial. And they’re so substantial that people who are studying in India, instead of studying in the United States, don’t have this kind of access. They’re locked out from all of these journals. They’re locked out from our entire scientific legacy. I mean, a lot of these journal articles, they go back to the Enlightenment. Every time someone has written down a scientific paper, it’s been scanned and digitized and put in these collections.


That is a legacy that has been brought to us by the history of people doing interesting work, the history of scientists. It’s a legacy that should belong to us as a commons, as a people, but instead it’s been locked up and put online by a handful of for-profit corporations who then try and get the maximum profit they can out of it. Now, there are people, good people, trying to change this with the open access movement. So, all journals, going forward, they’re encouraging them to publish their work as open access, so open on the Internet, available for download by everybody, available for free copying, and perhaps even modification with attribution and notice.

AMY GOODMAN: After Aaron Swartz’s suicide, JSTOR expressed deep condolences to the Swartz family and maintained that the case had been instigated by the U.S. attorney’s office. They wrote, quote, "The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge. At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011." Bob Swartz, so JSTOR did not have a beef with Aaron.
ROBERT SWARTZ: That’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: But MIT—explain. Now, this is a place, MIT, that you worked for, and you were part of the MIT community. Your father did, as well?
ROBERT SWARTZ: My father didn’t work for MIT.
AMY GOODMAN: Your father had no relationship with MIT, but you did.
ROBERT SWARTZ: I still do.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about MIT’s role in this.
ROBERT SWARTZ: Well, first of all, MIT brought in the federal authorities. They worked at the direction of the federal authorities. Rather than, as was their custom, just—which they did with another instance of this, of downloading of academic journals that was going on at the same time—disconnecting the computer and stopping it, they put a camera in order to build a case against him, and then continued to collaborate and cooperate with the U.S. attorney’s office in that, in the making of that case, where they fundamentally stonewalled us in terms of all our inquiries. We pleaded with them to intervene on Aaron’s behalf and advocate that the case be dropped, in a similar fashion to JSTOR, which went to the U.S. attorney and asked that the charges against Aaron be dropped, and they refused.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you had, presumably, a sort of a way to talk to the higher-ups at MIT. You had worked there for years.
ROBERT SWARTZ: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What was their response to you?
ROBERT SWARTZ: Their response was that MIT was neutral, which was nonsense and which—
AMY GOODMAN: Why is that nonsense?
ROBERT SWARTZ: Because they cooperated with the prosecutor. They provided the prosecutor evidence without a subpoena and a warrant. They violated any number of laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Aaron’s Fourth Amendment rights, the Massachusetts wiretap statute, the U.S. wiretap statute, among others, the Stored Computer Act, in their—in the way that they proceeded in the case. They also refused to cooperate with us, give us evidence, and we had very significant difficulty even getting them to respond. And when we asked them to intervene on Aaron’s behalf, they said they were unable to do that because there were multiple, different perspectives about this on MIT’s part, and therefore they must remain neutral. But in the report, the report makes clear that MIT did not remain neutral, and worked with the government.
AMY GOODMAN: Noah, what would you like to see MIT do now?
NOAH SWARTZ: Lots of things, mainly change the way they deal with this sort of playful hacking that goes on at MIT all the time.
AMY GOODMAN: Hadn’t something like this just happened, a massive downloading of information, where the student got a slap on the wrist?
NOAH SWARTZ: I mean, things like this happen at MIT all the time. And if you’re—
AMY GOODMAN: It’s MIT, after all. It’s—
NOAH SWARTZ: If you’re an MIT student, you can typically get out of the way. And if you’re not, apparently this is what happens. And if you’re an MIT student who does this off campus, you get sort of the same result that Aaron did, which is a very overprotective response from the university, trying to distance themselves from any sort of backlash or association with, you know, not illegal, but questionable activities.
AMY GOODMAN: Aaron’s partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman (http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/17/exclusive_aaron_swartzs_partner_expert_witness), joined us on Democracy Now! about a week after Aaron’s suicide in January of 2013. I asked her to talk about Aaron, who he was, what he wanted, also how the upcoming trial had affected him.
TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Aaron was the most—person most dedicated to fighting social injustice of anyone I’ve ever met in my life, and I loved him for it. He used to say—I used to say, "Why don’t you—why we do this thing? It will make you happy." And he would say, "I don’t want to be happy. I just want to change the world."


Open access to information was one of the causes that he believed in, but it was far from the only one. He fought for—during the course of this two-year ordeal, he led the fight against SOPA, the Internet censorship bill, which no one thought could be defeated when it was first introduced and which Aaron and millions of others, together, managed to fight back. And he did that all while under the burden of this—this bullying and false charges.


He was just the funniest, most lovely person. He—sorry. He—he loved children. He loved reading out loud. That was one of his favorite things. He loved David Foster Wallace. He started trying to read me Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson out loud from the first volume. We didn’t get that far because it’s very, very long. One of his favorite—favorite books was Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfic. We would read it to each other as chapters came out online.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Aaron’s partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, who was with us on Democracy Now! about a week after Aaron died last year. Your last thoughts? In a moment, after break, we’ll be joined by Aaron’s lawyer, as well as the filmmaker who did The Internet’s Own Boy. But, Bob, if you could talk about Aaron’s goals and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a little more about it, the CFAA, what Aaron’s Law would be and why it’s stuck in committee right now, and what you think needs to be done?
ROBERT SWARTZ: Well, I mean, I don’t really understand Congress that well to explain why things don’t get through, but gridlock in Congress is very well known. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it a felony to violate terms of use of a website. So, for example, if you give your HBO password to someone else, both of you could become felons. And the revision of the act, among other things, is to change it so that this act can’t be used by prosecutors to destroy people like Aaron.
AMY GOODMAN: Aaron, in the end, could have pled and maybe gotten six months in jail, is that right?
ROBERT SWARTZ: Yes. I mean, it was more complicated than that, but yes.
AMY GOODMAN: He would have pled to felonies.
ROBERT SWARTZ: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And why was that—did that mean so much to Aaron, what it would have meant to be a felon?
ROBERT SWARTZ: It’s just incomprehensible, the notion that Aaron should be a felon and go to jail for something that was clearly not illegal, and he did nothing wrong. He was innocent. And to be railroaded on this basis was a complete distortion and corruption of the criminal justice system.
AMY GOODMAN: Noah, what do you feel people can do to continue Aaron’s legacy?
NOAH SWARTZ: I feel that in the film and in one of the clips I think we played on the show, Aaron says, "I’m here to tell you—you may feel powerless, but I’m here to tell you: You are powerful." And with the work that I’m trying to do with these hackathons, a lot of people are and have been justifiably upset recently with Snowden’s revelations, with WikiLeaks, with all these things that they’re learning about how the world works. And I think Aaron’s message that we can all take on with us is that there are things we can do about this. We can actually have an impact, and we can—we can see the change we want to see in the world by participating, rather than feeling helpless and useless. And so, watching the documentary, I see Aaron, but I also see all the work that he did and all the work that I could be doing and all of us could be doing. And I think that’s the most important message to take out.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Bob, as you watched the premiere of The Internet’s Own Boy, the story of your son, the story of Aaron Swartz, with hundreds of people yesterday, what were your feelings?
ROBERT SWARTZ: Just being completely shattered.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Bob and Noah Swartz, the father and brother of Aaron Swartz. When we come back, we’re going to find more out about the legal case against Aaron, what happened in the last months of his life, and we’re going to talk to the filmmaker who did this remarkable film, Internet’s Own Boy.
I want to play another clip from The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. In this extended clip, we hear from Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web; Aaron himself; Aaron’s friend, Matt Stoller; Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, who founded the Creative Commons and was a mentor to Aaron; and Cory Doctorow, an author, activist and friend of Aaron’s.
TIM BERNERS-LEE: I think Aaron was trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it. So he was a bit ahead of his time.


AARON SWARTZ: It is shocking to think that the accountability is so lax that they don’t even have sort of basic statistics about how big the spying program is. If the answer is, "Oh, we’re spying on so many people, we can’t possibly even count them," then that’s an awful lot of people. It would be one thing if they said, "Look, you know, we know the number of telephones we’re spying on; we don’t know exactly how many real people that corresponds to," but they just came back and said, "We can’t give you a number at all." That’s pretty—I mean, it’s scary, is what it is.


MATT STOLLER: They put incredible pressure on him, took away his—all of the money he had made. They, you know, threatened to take away his physical freedom. Why did they do it? You know, I mean, well, why—why are they going after whistleblowers? You know, why are they going after people who tell the truth about all sorts of things, I mean, from the banks to the—you know, to war, to just sort of government transparency?


DAVID SIROTA: Secrecy serves those who are already in power, and we are living in an era of secrecy that coincides with an era where the government is doing also a lot of things that are probably illegal and unconstitutional. So, those two things are not coincidences.


AARON SWARTZ: It’s very clear that this technology has been developed not for small countries overseas, but right here for use in the United States by the U.S. government. The problem with the spying program is it’s this sort of long, slow expansion, you know, going back to the Nixon administration, right? Obviously, it became big after 9/11 under George W. Bush, and Obama has continued to expand it, and the problems have slowly grown worse and worse. But there’s never been this moment you can point to, say, "OK, we need to galvanize opposition today, because today is when it matters." Instead, it’s mattered for a long time.


LAWRENCE LESSIG: So he was just doing what he thought was right, to produce a world that was better.


CORY DOCTOROW: I guess the one thing that I would say to people who are feeling the—you know, for whom the black dog is visiting, is that Aaron’s problems didn’t get solved when he died. Even now, as we try to honor Aaron’s legacy, it’s us, it’s not him. The one thing that being alive tells you is that you have the power to make things better.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s an excerpt of The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. We are broadcasting from Park City, Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival is underway, spending the hour looking at the life of this young Internet freedom activist, Aaron Swartz. It’s one year since he tragically took his own life. Now a new film about him has premiered. The Internet’s Own Boy premiered yesterday. We’re joined by Brian Knappenberger, the director of the film. He also directed We are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists. And we’re joined by attorney Elliot Peters, who represented Aaron.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Why did you make the film, Brian?
BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER: Well, I was powerfully moved by Aaron’s story, on so many levels. I think that some of his early life is a very poignant chronology of Internet history. His contributions to RSS, Creative Commons, being co-founder of Reddit, it all just suggests somebody with this vision you mentioned earlier, this kind of worldview at a very young age. But I think what happened after he sold Reddit is particularly interesting to me, because he turned his back on startup culture. You know, we have a culture, a startup culture, that’s about creating, you know, companies and selling them, and he turned his back on it.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain. A lot of people might say, when he sold Reddit—he was one of the founders of Reddit.
BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER: Yeah, right. So he’s—yeah, he started a site with Y Combinator called Infogami. Infogami merged with Reddit, and so he became one of three—what they call co-founders of Reddit. And when Condé Nast bought Reddit, Aaron became a 19-year-old, probably, more or less—I mean, we don’t know how much he made, but he was a very rich 19-year-old. And that startup culture didn’t sit well with him. I didn’t think—I don’t think it merged well with his sort of sense of social justice and the kind of political—the areas that he wanted to go in. You know, and let’s face it, startup culture often says they want to change the world, but it becomes a kind of slogan of sorts. It’s really about build to flip—you know, create a company, sell it to a big corporation, and do the whole thing again. I think Aaron, at that—that part of his life was really interesting to me, because he shifted to using his skills and energy to his—towards political organizing, towards the causes that he really cared about.
AMY GOODMAN: Elliot Peters, explain when you got involved in Aaron Swartz’s life. I mean, you’ve represented Google. You represented Lance Armstrong. Talk about what happened with Aaron.
ELLIOT PETERS: I got involved with Aaron after the government filed what’s called a superseding indictment against him, and he was charged with 13 felonies, including wire fraud and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It could have put him in jail for an absurdly long time. And I met—so I met Aaron in the kind of the middle of 2012. I took over his case from some other lawyers that were handling it, and started getting ready to defend it and try it. And I got to know Aaron, and I got to know his dad, and I got to know even better the U.S. government that was chasing him.
AMY GOODMAN: All right, so talk about the pressure that Aaron was under. Talk about the 35 years of prison he faced, the million-dollar fine, the plea bargain offers that were being made, and Aaron’s attitude towards it all.
ELLIOT PETERS: Well, just the preface to that is, in my view, Aaron was innocent. I don’t believe Aaron committed a crime, and I think that we could have successfully defended him at trial. But he was under tremendous pressure, facing 13 felony counts, and they had added charges to ratchet up his exposure to jail. The prosecutor insisted that in any plea or any agreement in the case Aaron would have to go to jail and that the government would seek jail time. And I said to him the proper disposition of this case is to tell Aaron to do community service in Brooklyn by teaching high school students in the public schools in Brooklyn about computer programming, and after he’s done some of that, dismiss the case. And they said, "Absolutely not. He needs to plead guilty to 13 felonies, and he needs to go to jail." And the kind of person that Aaron was, he never struck me as a very good candidate for federal prison. I think that the thought of that was very frightening to him. I thought it was tremendously cruel and unfair. And given my line of work, I was very eager to fight them and defend Aaron, because he deserved it.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the prosecutor, what he prosecuted before.
ELLIOT PETERS: Well, he was a computer crimes prosecutor, or so he said.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Michael Heymann?
ELLIOT PETERS: His name is Stephen.
AMY GOODMAN: Stephen.
ELLIOT PETERS: Steve Heymann in Boston. And as I said in Brian’s terrific film, you’re not much of a computer crimes prosecutor if you don’t have a computer crime to prosecute. And when MIT referred this case to this task force, which included a Secret Service agent, Heymann immediately got involved. He took over the case. They turned it into an investigation. And they tried to turn it into the biggest case they could for their own purposes, with no regard, in my mind, to what was fair, or even any appreciation of who Aaron Swartz was. I’m not even sure that they cared.
AMY GOODMAN: You warned the prosecutor that they could break Aaron.
ELLIOT PETERS: He was aware that Aaron—there was a certain fragility about Aaron. But they were trying to put pressure on Aaron. They were trying, in a different way, to break Aaron. I’m not saying that they were trying to cause him to commit suicide, but they were trying to bring him to his knees so that he would knuckle under to the pressure that they were putting on him. And they were aware of that. They were intentionally maximizing the pressure on this young man. And to what end, I really don’t understand.
AMY GOODMAN: The main prosecutor in the case, Ortiz, said, "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars," said Carmen Ortiz.
ELLIOT PETERS: So facile, so ignorant, so stupid. Aaron wasn’t a thief. He was making a political statement. They charged him with fraud as if he was stealing something for profit. He wasn’t. He was an authorized user of the MIT computer network. He didn’t hack into anything. He logged in as any guest on the MIT campus could. He certainly downloaded more of JSTOR than they wanted, but it wasn’t to steal anything. These are a bunch of old academic journals that exist now for the purposes of increasing people’s knowledge. The idea to call Aaron a thief is just pandering to the lowest instincts of people, of viewers or listeners of Carmen Ortiz’s press conference.
AMY GOODMAN: We just played—Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney in Boston who Steve Heymann worked for.
ELLIOT PETERS: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: We just played a clip of Aaron talking about his philosophy and talking about JSTOR, and being concerned about the disparity of resources, intellectual resources, for people, say, in India versus in the United States. Brian?
BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER: Yeah, absolutely. It was a huge concern of his, this walling-up of the world’s information behind a pay wall.
AMY GOODMAN: You are one of the people involved in the February 11th action that will be taking place. Explain what it is.
BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER: Well, we’re leading up to some actions. You know, it’s part of a group called Stop Watching Us that was formed to protest NSA overreach and, you know, this kind of surveillance state that’s been revealed to us by Edward Snowden. And so, we are—
AMY GOODMAN: Amazing to listen to him, a year before Edward Snowden, talk about NSA surveillance.
BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER: [B]Well, when we found that clip of Aaron, it was chilling, actually. We found Aaron talking quite a bit about NSA overreach, the amount of searching that they were doing, the amount of people that they were surveilling at that point. And those clips come about a year and a week or so before the main Snowden revelations.* And he even says in the clip, there’s never been a moment when we really mobilize, that really sparks action. And he just didn’t live to see that moment.

*My note: This may well be the real reason Aaron was leaned on so hard and/or murdered [I still don't buy the suicide].

Dawn Meredith
01-26-2014, 03:06 PM
I did not buy the "suicide" explanation either. I remember seeing a video he made many years ago and he did not strike me as one who would take his own life.

Dawn

Dawn Meredith
01-26-2014, 03:10 PM
I did not buy the "suicide" explanation either. I remember seeing a video he made many years ago and he did not strike me as one who would take his own life.

Dawn

On second thought I think I am confusing him with someone with the same first name. ???? Been too long

Magda Hassan
03-30-2015, 12:02 PM
I saw this when it first came out but I found it on You Tube tonight looking for some thing else. I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already. What a beautiful soul was Aaron. The light just poured from him. We were so lucky to have him even for such a short time. May a thousand flowers bloom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpvcc9C8SbM