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MIT Investigating School's Role In Swartz Suicide 382

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
The untimely death of Aaron Swartz has raised a lot of questions over the weekend. Now MIT is launching an internal investigation to determine what role the school played in his suicide. From the article: "In a statement, MIT President L. Rafael Reif offered his condolences, saying that the school's community was 'extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT,' Reif said. '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.'"
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MIT Investigating School's Role In Swartz Suicide

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  • Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alostpacket (1972110) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:11AM (#42580851) Homepage

    However it's sad that it took a suicide for them to examine their role here. For a college that pioneered OpenCourseWare, I never understood why they stood idly by.

    • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by coastwalker (307620) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (reklawtsaoca)> on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:24AM (#42580913) Homepage

      3% of Americans are under the correctional supervision of their justice system. There are seven times more people in prison in the US as a percentage of the population as there are in Europe.

      There is no evidence that this policy is any more effective than things like removing Lead in Gas for reducing overall crime. The rest of the world looks on in horror at prison camp America which locks up slightly more people than the Russians. Ever tried looking in the mirror?

      I'm not surprised this guy looked at the options and chose the one he did, it was probably the most rational sane thing to do.

      • You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:48AM (#42581053) Journal
        Okay well I suppose this is going to be a really unpopular post but I don't see anyone else saying anything like this.

        First off, I am deeply saddened and distraught that such a prolific person that had already helped the world so much took his own life. I hope his family and friends take solace in the amount of achievements this young man had made before his decision to take his own life.

        3% of Americans are under the correctional supervision of their justice system. There are seven times more people in prison in the US as a percentage of the population as there are in Europe.

        There is no evidence that this policy is any more effective than things like removing Lead in Gas for reducing overall crime. The rest of the world looks on in horror at prison camp America which locks up slightly more people than the Russians. Ever tried looking in the mirror?

        The US Justice System is there to enforce the law. I don't know what relevance this has or what you hoped to achieve with your parroted statistics but I don't find it very helpful here. He was charged with wire fraud, computer fraud among other things [archive.org] and when someone alerts the authorities that this may have taken place, they investigate it. If I bypassed your home's security and installed a laptop in your home that connected to your network and took all your files, would you want there to be laws against that? That's what they were investigating -- is there any evidence of undue or unjust actions in this investigation? I think that's what MIT wants to find out here.

        I'm not surprised this guy looked at the options and chose the one he did, it was probably the most rational sane thing to do.

        You know, that almost sounds like an endorsement for suicide which is probably one of the most disgusting and vehement posts I've read here so far. There is nothing rational nor sane about taking one's own life. When I was 16 one of my friends committed suicide and more recently a roommate's girlfriend came over while my roommate was gone and committed suicide. As someone who has witnessed the aftermath both to someone who meant so much to me and someone I barely knew, I will tell you right now that it is a terrible act that impacts everyone -- and most often in a profoundly negative way. To call it 'rational' or 'sane' in any case reveals that you do not know anything about suicide.

        I didn't know Aaron Swartz although I've been following this case with interest. What I suspect happened was that Swartz wanted to make a statement about opening up journals to the public and he wagered that it would be hard to pin any fallout on himself if he did all of this covertly. And he tried. But at the end of the day they figured out who was taking these articles of information. Did you know he was a Fellow at Harvard University's Center for Ethics? What do you think this meant for his career to be indicted on such charges? How would you, as a student, listen to a lecture on ethics from someone who had broken laws and evaded police? I think that Swartz saw this as a sort of "civil disobedience" but when his peers did not agree, he took the coward's route instead of letting society decide his fate for his actions -- and I think the case was still open!

        Let's assume Swartz was completely in the right on all of his actions. What, precisely, would you have MIT and the US Government do differently to prevent this suicide? What actions of theirs do you find culpable for forcing Aaron Swartz into no other choice than to take his own life?

        • You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mister Liberty (769145) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:05AM (#42581191)

          Take your penultimate question and look at it a bit broader
          (not that others haven't done that already -- therefore my surprise).
          Look at proportionality. Keep your suspicions out of the picture.
          Good luck.

        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:07AM (#42581217)

          3% of Americans are under the correctional supervision of their justice system. [...] There is no evidence that this policy is any more effective than things like removing Lead in Gas for reducing overall crime.

          The US Justice System is there to enforce the law.

          So, what's your point? That anything which is law must be good policy? In the US, the penalty for identity fraud is up to 30 years in prison. In Germany, fraud, in "especially serious cases," may get you 6 months to 10 years. US law imposes harsher sentences for similar crimes (especially certain classes of crime), and these draconian penalties seem to serve no social benefit.

        • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:11AM (#42581239) Homepage

          I'm not surprised this guy looked at the options and chose the one he did, it was probably the most rational sane thing to do.

          You know, that almost sounds like an endorsement for suicide which is probably one of the most disgusting and vehement posts I've read here so far.

          Just as a reminder, Swartz was subject to bouts of extreme depression. Although it's a human tendency to want to find external causes and somebody to blame, it is most likely that depression has more to do with his suicide than any other factor.

          • by afeeney (719690) on Monday January 14, 2013 @10:25AM (#42581841)

            Agreed. The following is based on my own experience.

            To put it metaphorically, depression manages the volume control for positive and for negative thoughts and emotions. It turns the volume to almost zero on positive thoughts and to zero on positive emotions. At most, after something that makes a normally functioning person happy, the person with severe depression is only aware that something good has happened.

            For negative emotions and thoughts, on the other hand, it turns the volume to maximum. Problems become insurmountable and the person with depression is typically too emotionally drained to contemplate or execute ways to solve them. (This is one reason why cognitive behavioral therapy is such a vital part of successful treatment. The brain needs to get out of that groove once the underlying physiological problem is resolved by relearning how to process negative and positive thoughts appropriately. It's another reason why the placebo effect is so powerful with depression. The person may well have been recovered physiologically but the brain had gotten into a rut of negative thoughts.)

            It is quite possible that anything bad might have tipped Swartz over the edge. The end of a relationship, the death of a pet, a personal or professional failure, anything like that.

        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:13AM (#42581263)

          In your idiotic support of the current system you seem to miss out a lot of things. Maybe your ignorance or your unwillingness to confront them leads you to spout this nonsense.

          1. MIT's investigation is not about just and unjust actions - it is more about the fact that they did not actively stop the justice department from going after Schwartz. JSTOR aggressively responded to the prosecutorial threat and declined to pursue charges, whereas MIT did not. If MIT too had strongly declined, then, the prosecutor would have very little grounds to prosecute Aaron.

          2. The justice department is there to enforce laws - yes. But Very often, due to the fact that most prosecutors seem to aim for political office, they make their prosecutions a populist action. Thus you have prosecutors often hiding exculpatory evidence, going after lifetime charges against kids to please the local population and basically looking out for themselves. That's not exactly a 'justice is blind' policy - it is more like 'what do I do get headlines and further my career'

          3. After watching US going after Assange, Lulsec and others and basically meting out punishments in decades to computer hackers, a person who is facing 35 yrs in the slammer wont exactly be happy. Especially because no one recently has managed to get out of such charges. So now 26 Aaron had a choice. Fight for 3-4 yrs in the courts and then spend 15-20 yrs in the slammer or hug the grim reaper.

          Finally, if ignorance is your excuse - learn to keep your rants to your head. Unfortunately, the world has too many of you, and too few of people like him... we can ill afford to lose people like him ... and would not feel the difference if 100s of people like you disappeared this instant.

          • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:53AM (#42581567) Homepage

            A few minor corrections.

            After watching US going after Assange...

            Uh, the US has not gone after Assange (not yet, anyway). The US went after Bradley Manning, is that who you're thinking of? Sweden is going after Assange, who is wanted in Sweden for questioning on rape charges, and Assange says that he fears that if he goes to Sweden to answer the charges, they will extradite him to the US... but to date, there is no U.S. action against Assange.

            ...So now 26 Aaron had a choice. Fight for 3-4 yrs in the courts and then spend 15-20 yrs in the slammer or...

            Newspapers always like to phrase indictments with words like "up to XX years in prison!" This makes the news story more exciting. However, there are such things as federal sentencing guidelines [ussc.gov]. Non-violent crime, first offense, no previous convictions, no aggravating factors-- I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with a fine plus time served.

            Furthermore, he almost certainly could get a plea bargain-- believe it or not, prosecutors don't want to go to court if they can possibly get a conviction without doing so. Unfortunately, a plea bargain would have required Swartz admitting that he did broke the law, and it looks like he was not the type of person who would do that.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by steelfood (895457)

              the US has not gone after Assange (not yet, anyway).

              Not officially, and not in so many words ("No comment" is only two words). But we all know who's pulling the strings behind that fiasco.

            • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Informative)

              by FileNotFound (85933) on Monday January 14, 2013 @11:22AM (#42582367) Homepage Journal

              Unfortunately, a plea bargain would have required Swartz admitting that he did broke the law, and it looks like he was not the type of person who would do that.

              He tried to use a wifi connection to download the articles. He was kicked off wifi - over and over and over. So instead he broke into a network closet, and hid a hardwired laptop in to continue downloading the articles.

              The university installed a camera - which he was aware of and used a bicycle helmet to block his face from the camera.
              I am as unhappy with the outcome as anyone here - but come on - to even imply that he is not guilty of knowlingly trying to gain unauthorized access REPEATEDLY is insane.

              • It was not unauthorized access: he had rights to the material. What he didn't have was the right to hog all the bandwidth. They booted him off because he was slowing down everyone else. And using the closet connection was trespassing, at best.
                • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:4, Informative)

                  by FileNotFound (85933) on Monday January 14, 2013 @12:01PM (#42582773) Homepage Journal

                  Seriously?

                  Please don't try to split hairs.

                  It WAS unauthroized access - as he was certainly NOT authorized to download gigs from JSTOR. Furthermore - it was unathorized because JSTOR and MIT both kept trying to block him over and over and he kept circumventing their blocks. If you have to constantly change IPs and mac addresses and finally end up breaking and entering to get physical acceess - you don't get much more unauthroized than that.

                  He entered the MIT wiring closet, and plugged in a laptop - where once again he was unauthorized to plug in. The time MIT and JSTOR both had to spend trying to kick him off their network was probably totaled hundreds of hours. I'd hate to have been their admin.

                  He was commiting what he MUST have known was a criminal act. What did he expect?

            • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:4, Informative)

              by JobyOne (1578377) on Monday January 14, 2013 @05:24PM (#42586227) Homepage Journal

              ...I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with a fine plus time served.

              Furthermore, he almost certainly could get a plea bargain-- believe it or not, prosecutors don't want to go to court if they can possibly get a conviction without doing so. Unfortunately, a plea bargain would have required Swartz admitting that he did broke the law, and it looks like he was not the type of person who would do that.

              Swartz tried to plea bargain two days before he killed himself. The prosecutor adamantly refused to accept less than a guilty plea to every single charge (even the patently absurd ones), and was also adamant that prison time would be required.

              http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2262137/Aaron-Swartz-Reddit-founder-request-plea-deal-turned-Massachusetts-prosecutor.html [dailymail.co.uk]

              If you're just going to make stuff up, you should probably be quiet.

            • http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/28/assange_designated_enemy_of_the_state/
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DerekLyons (302214)

            1. MIT's investigation is not about just and unjust actions - it is more about the fact that they did not actively stop the justice department from going after Schwartz. JSTOR aggressively responded to the prosecutorial threat and declined to pursue charges, whereas MIT did not. If MIT too had strongly declined, then, the prosecutor would have very little grounds to prosecute Aaron.

            You seem to be suffering from the common delusion that anyone but the prosecutor has any say as to whether prosecution goes for

          • by nbauman (624611)

            In your idiotic support of the current system you seem to miss out a lot of things. Maybe your ignorance or your unwillingness to confront them leads you to spout this nonsense.

            1. MIT's investigation is not about just and unjust actions - it is more about the fact that they did not actively stop the justice department from going after Schwartz. JSTOR aggressively responded to the prosecutorial threat and declined to pursue charges, whereas MIT did not. If MIT too had strongly declined, then, the prosecutor would have very little grounds to prosecute Aaron.

            This is the second time I can think of where the MIT administration acted like assholes.

            http://tech.mit.edu/V127/N40/simpson.html [mit.edu]

            MIT releases statement, says student’s actions were ‘reckless’

            MIT is cooperating with the state police in the investigation, according to a statement released by the MIT News Office this afternoon. “As reported to us by authorities, Ms. Simpson’s actions were reckless and understandably created alarm at the airport,” the statement continues.

        • by aepervius (535155) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:21AM (#42581307)
          There are a lot of ethical action which are unlawful and vice versa, a lot of unethical action which are perfectly lawful. I would certainly hear the lecture of somebody which know the difference between ethical and lawful and the ramification.
          • I'd go so far as to say that a person who lectured about ethics, but has never toed the line of legality, probably has little or nothing of value to say about ethics. If you come from a world where nobody has ever questioned whether you did the right thing, who the hell are you to tell me you know right from wrong?

            Doing the right thing is difficult. It's difficult because there are consequences to your actions, and very often that does, or could potentially include legal consequences. Being forced to pro

        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Vintermann (400722) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:25AM (#42581341) Homepage

          The problem is that he ran into a careerist prosecutor. To be a former prosecutor with a record of being touch on cybercrime, especially anything related to "information activists" (think Julian Assange), is a big red loyalty star in the party book, and this prosecutor was (is) running for office. Aaron's earlier stunt with the legal database PACER was also completely legal, yet pissed off many in the US legal establishment.

          Not all lawyers are created equal. O.J. Simpson could afford a team of star lawyers, one would have to be pretty naïve to think it didn't matter. One would have to be similarly naïve to think it didn't matter that Aaron was a prize target for a powerful Democratic party apparatchik.

          Unfortunately for Aaron, he wasn't as rich as O.J. (It's well known he'd given away a lot of the money he made on the reddit sale to charity). He really wasn't prepared to fight on the terms of this corrupt system. Something the prosecutor exploited grossly in the plea bargain, of course - a great example of how plea bargains corrupt justice.

          If he hadn't been a high-profile target of a high-ambition prosecutor eager to score political points, charges would have been dropped the moment JSTOR asked for it.

          • I am sure that had he been willing to put up a fight he could have easily secured a high caliber lawyer at little or no cost due to the high profile of the case. EFF and others may have been willing to help and if not - all he'd have to do is start a fund raiser.

            The problem isn't that the charges are overblown, or that he ran into a career prosecutor - the problem is that the evidence is damning. He'd have a very tough time getting out of this without a felony conviction - which he actually does deserve bec

            • I think you're a little off base, myself. I'm unhappy he killed himself, but I'm not particularly unhappy at all that he committed acts that were probably illegal. Illegal does not automatically mean wrong, and in this case I really don't think he was doing anything that deserved prosecution.
            • by 0111 1110 (518466)

              I am sorry that he killed himself, I am even more sorry that he chose to comit acts that should have been obviously criminal to him.

              This says a lot about you as a person. You would prefer that this man die than he get off without spending half his life in prison. I am an atheist myself. Always have been. But the message about compassion and kindness and forgiveness, enforced by cultural norms and a belief in eternal damnation, is as needed in the world now as it ever was. And it's due to people like you who would rather see this guy dead than him getting away with downloading some files. People like you make me almost physically ill.

        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:28AM (#42581359)

          Overcharging is the issue. The DOJ has a habit of charging misdemeanors and felonies and low felonies and high felonies in order to try to get plea agreements. And US Attorneys have a habit of using high profile criminal cases to get publicity to run for office or to get appointed as a federal judge. The overcharging happened here. They charged Aaron Swartz with anything they could remotely stick to him and exaggerated his downloading of academic documents to look like a major cybercrime. There is nothing about this case that served justice. The only logical reason that this case was prosecuted with the ferocity and with the resources that were expended is that the US Attorney and Assistant US Attorneys involved wanted a trophy they could put on their wall.

        • The US Justice System is there to enforce the law.

          Except when 'prosecutorial discretion' is employed in cases, e.g. that of David Gregory [blogspot.com].
          As you browse Overcriminalized [overcriminalized.com], you may get the impression that the second best way to destroy a country, after debt, is regulation.

        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by pla (258480) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:51AM (#42581539) Journal
          Let's assume Swartz was completely in the right on all of his actions. What, precisely, would you have MIT and the US Government do differently to prevent this suicide? What actions of theirs do you find culpable for forcing Aaron Swartz into no other choice than to take his own life?

          Let's assume you didn't mean that as a troll.

          For a nonviolent crime with no victims and no damages (sorry, but we really need to move beyond considering people torrenting movies as "lost customers" - And even JSTOR, for all their other evils, did the right thing here and decided not to pursue any civil penalties), what would you consider a proportional reaction by the relevant authorities?

          Ideally, this should never have reached the police intervention level (never mind the feds) - The only "real" offense here involves misusing access to MIT's network. A purely internal student misconduct disciplinary board could best have handled the whole affair with a semester or two of probation.

          Once it did go to the police level - Okay, he technically committed a crime. Guilty as charged. Which better serves society and justice - 30 years in prison (or a death sentence, as it turns out), or 100 hours of community service?

          Everyone, at every level of escalation here, should have taken a step back and considered what really happened. A kid abused his uni's access to a subscrption service to download more than he should have. That is not a fucking capital offense.
          • Stuffing a laptop into a wiring closet that isnt yours is a serious CRIME. Even if he didnt take any data, the act of placing the laptop in the closet should be a felony in itself.
            • by pla (258480)
              Stuffing a laptop into a wiring closet that isnt yours is a serious CRIME.

              A crime. Yes. B&E, arguably (if the average passer-by would have reason to believe they shouldn't peek inside). But a "serious" crime? Not talking about breaking into the Pentagon here; not even someone's home where we'd have a reasonable expectation that no one but the owners would casually stroll within a few feet of that spot; but a (literal) closet in the basement of the same building MIT that students occasionally turn
        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:55AM (#42581585) Homepage

          The US Justice System is there to enforce the law.

          No it isn't. Start with this: https://secure.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/20/myths-of-the-criminal-justice-system_n_879768.html [huffingtonpost.com]

          And the problem is that it's becoming nearly impossible to know what the law actually is. The U.S. Constitution outlines just three federal crimes -- treason, counterfeiting, and piracy. Various projects have tried to count the number of federal criminal laws passed since, and many have simply given up. But by most estimates, there are at least 4,000 separate criminal laws at the federal level, with another 10,000 to 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally.

          In his most recent book, the civil libertarian and defense attorney Harvey Silverglate argues that most Americans now unknowingly commit about three felonies per day.

          link to the book referenced: Three Felonies a Day, how the Feds target the innocent: http://www.harveysilverglate.com/Books/ThreeFeloniesaDay.aspx [harveysilverglate.com]

          The Federal criminal system is designed to give the Feds total power and control. A government can take such control in several ways. The transparent manner is for a government to just do what it wants without explanation. Such governments are rightly despised as despotic. The US Federal government has chosen a different method. It has made so many crimes of such a vague nature, that everyone commits them without even knowing it. As a result, the Feds have no difficulty figuring out how to persecute a person should they decide they don't like that person for one reason or another. They just shuffle the deck and "pick a crime, any crime."

          Now, whether Swartz committed a crime or not is sort of beside the point. Even assuming that he did, how does a 35 year prison term fit into what he did? It doesn't. It lacks all proportionality. What this lack of proportionality does do howver, is give the Feds absolute despotic control over people's lives, a power which they can exercise at will, with total immunity, against any person they decide to hate.

          And worse, despite its ruthless disproportionate persecution, a signficant portion of the population will respond like you by blaming Swartz for being a crook. Problem is, with so many laws on the books -- you too are a crook. You just don't know it and not knowing the law is not a defense (except for police and prosecutors). That's a nice catch 22. You can't use lack of knowledge to defend yourself, but the code is so vast, vague, and disorganized, you can't know the laws.

        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Monday January 14, 2013 @10:22AM (#42581819)

          "There is nothing rational nor sane about taking one's own life."

          Please do not generalize. I've witnessed the suffering of a terminally ill relation who more than once pleaded with me for some drug that could end it all. I find it more disgusting that you'd presume to know some other person's pain well enough conclude that surviving to the end of your natural lifespan is the end-all of human existence.

        • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Monday January 14, 2013 @10:33AM (#42581881)

          > There is nothing rational nor sane about taking one's own life.

          Fallacy.

          Why prolong pain and suffering when you can give a world a message that they might actually pay attention for a brief second instead of watching all the unreality and whatever passes for mindless entertainment these days.

          If I have the right to life then that ALSO implies I have the right to death.

          NOTE: It is _perfectly_ legal to perform suicide in most countries.

          * You can smoke yourself to death.
          * You can drink yourself to death.
          * Etc.

          But the instant somebody decides the time frame is far too long and should be minutes instead of years all of a sudden everybody throws a hissy-fit. Why is the _duration_ the focus instead of RESPECTING a person's right to life AND death?

          > To call it 'rational' or 'sane' in any case reveals that you do not know anything about suicide.
          Statements like this just proves you _know_ _nothing_ about what happens after death or before life.

          However, with all that said, I would put this big disclaimer out there: Death does NOT solve any problems -- it just merely DELAYS them. You can't run away from yourself -- sooner or later you WILL be forced to confront yourself. The ONLY fallacy in suicide is the incorrect thinking that somehow you avoided a problem.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          The US Justice System is there to enforce the law.

          No it's not. If it were, people like Lloyd Blankfein would get much more attention than Aaron Swartz. The US Justice System is there to keep the powerful powerful. Nothing else.

        • by Culture20 (968837)

          instead of letting society decide his fate for his actions

          Society doesn't care about this case at all. Ask any man on the street who Aaron Swartz is. I didn't know who he was until he committed suicide and it was posted on /.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          isn't it justice systems fault when case law is cited as reasons for why it's ok to pile up charges to 35 years in jail for something so simple as dumping documents - documents which are by no means secret. counting it as wire fraud worth as 35 years in prison most definitely WAS up to the state attorneys to decide. doesn't help that you guys have the bullshit system of plea deals where the whole crime is transformed to be something else in the books than it was if you make the state attorneys job easier! T

        • by nbauman (624611)

          Let's assume Swartz was completely in the right on all of his actions. What, precisely, would you have MIT and the US Government do differently to prevent this suicide? What actions of theirs do you find culpable for forcing Aaron Swartz into no other choice than to take his own life?

          They shouldn't have prosecuted him.

          It's called prosecutorial discretion.

          Just the way they didn't prosecute the financial companies responsible for the housing collapse, even though the companies committed wholesale fraud by falsely swearing they had properly handled legal papers.

        • he took the coward's route instead of letting society decide his fate for his actions

          He was looking at 35 years and up to $1 million in fines.

        • by cellocgw (617879)

          The US Justice System is there to enforce the law

          Maybe you should review just what happened when HSBC was caught red-handed laundering billions of dollars for drug cartels and Al-Quaeda.

        • by boorack (1345877)

          The US Justice System is there to enforce the law.

          No, it isn't. Federal prosecutors routinely use fucked up laws, trumped up charges and fabricated evidence to indict innocent people and don't give a shit if their targets are felons or not. Defending oneself in a court is very expensive and US prosecutors have practically unlimited funds to drag their suspects long enough to bleed them dry. Thus you get >99% conviction rate for all who decide to go all the way through courts. Less than one person of 100 has chance to avoid jail. The only practical way t

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Our Crime Rate is dropping, so why are all these people in prison"?

        Whoosh!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Just to be clear, the 3% number includes Americans who are on parole or probation. It's about .8% in prison. Still very high.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      However it's sad that it took a suicide for them to examine their role here.

      "Examine their role" indeed.

      They're trying to establish that they are not liable. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was a bully, pure and simple, as was the prosecutor.

      Now, we see all the ass-covering. Well, fuck you, MIT. It's too late.

  • RE: Unusual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archon-X (264195) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:17AM (#42580879)

    What I have found the most unusual about this situation is the outright-condemnation of techniques such as changing a MAC address, writing scripts, etc.

    As anyone with a vague notion of computing can attest to, these are simply 'problem-solving techniques' - and are incredibly far removed from the judge's analogy of "a digital crowbar".

    The closest 'real' analogy that I can come up with is someone sneaking into the library to photocopy journals - and when known to the doorman, putting on a hat or a fake moustache.

    One can't help but question why the government had such a hardon for the case, considering JSTOR dropped all charges, and MIT didn't really care.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      A crowbar is also a problem solving technique. All sort of times two items are attached too firmly and you need to apply more leverage. A lot of the time this is perfectly legal - stuck doors, opening wooden crates and so on. This is a pretty good analogy for a script.
      • Re: Unusual (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fredprado (2569351) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:28AM (#42580941)
        And when it is not legal and you use a crowbar you get up to 30 days of prison in the worst case scenario for trespassing, but when you do it electronically it magically becomes 35 years.
        • Re: Unusual (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 91degrees (207121) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:40AM (#42581007) Journal
          Perhaps, but the problem here seems to be the plea bargaining system rather than the actual law.

          In the case of a crowbar it wouldn't take too imaginative a prosecutor to come up with an argument for attempted burglary and to consider the crowbar as a weapon.
          • Re: Unusual (Score:5, Interesting)

            by fredprado (2569351) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:47AM (#42581043)
            The plea bargain system only works as it does because the law is draconian enough to allow for decades of punishment as punishment for small crimes. If not for that people wouldn't be forced to take plea bargains regardless of their culpability to avoid the possibility of ridiculous punishments.
            • by TheSpoom (715771)

              The plea bargain system works (for the government) because the government, as the first step of the indictment process, freezes all of the target's bank accounts, forcing them to either accept a plea or attempt to defend themselves against highly-paid, very resourceful federal prosecutors with a court-appointed, as-dumb-as-they-can-make-them public defender (who, by the way, is basically telling you that accepting a plea is the only option).

  • Hypothesis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:19AM (#42580891) Homepage Journal

    Let's see if the final report:

    Clears MIT of any real responsibility.
    Talks about the need to listen more to issues that affect its community.
    Talks about he need for MIT as an institution to take an active role in trying to educate authorities on technical issues.
    Advocates for handling more issues internally but always cooperating with the authorities.

    I'd hope the report won't look like the bound edition of this 15-second CYA.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Based on what I've read and heard so far about this matter, I fail to see how MIT should be responsible for something that Swartz did to himself, in his own apartment.

      In fact, it sounds like MIT is very much a victim of this whole ordeal, too, and were dragged into it solely by the actions of Swartz that happened on their property.

      • MIT were more dragged into it by the Feds. MIT had no desire to pursue legal action against Swartz. The Feds pushed this matter, one might infer, because they had an axe to grind with him.

  • by darkeye (199616) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:25AM (#42580921) Homepage

    it's not how MIT acted, but the copyright law, that's what they should investigate. like how come someone can be threatened with 35 years in prison and a $1m fine for making state-funded research papers accessible to people at large?

    for killing a person, you only get 4 years.

    yeah, for killing Micheal Jackson, you get less than for distributing one song of his 'illegaly'

    this has to stop.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He wasn't charged with breaking Copyright law, rather he was charged with wire fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, recklessly damaging a protected computer, and aiding and abetting.

      If convicted on all charges and the judge chooses the maximum sentence and chooses to have all sentences run consecutively then yes it would be 35 years. However, both the federal sentencing guidelines and common sense indicate that someone like Swartz with no criminal record and relatively benign

      • And anyone with common sense would also realize that this was a very political act on both Swartz & the prosecutors' parts.

        Thus the sentence is very likely to be much higher than the run of the mill first time convict.

      • Do you see what happened here? Charge with 35 years offer 6-24 mos. In the context of the trial, sounds like a great deal. In the context of reality --- WTF? Two years in prison for what?

        Americans are becoming enslaved -- quite literally -- to the special interest groups that can afford to buy legislation. Welcome to fascism -- government for the benefit of the mega-corporation.

        • by rmstar (114746)

          Americans are becoming enslaved -- quite literally -- to the special interest groups that can afford to buy legislation.

          That - and a significant portion of those slaves stand behind this slavery and call it "freedom".

  • Prosecutors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qbast (1265706) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:33AM (#42580971)
    I would rather see internal investigation in prosecutor's office. Or if they are unwilling, external one.
    • I'm not sure how that works but I've seen it happen before. Maybe prosecutors earn extra XP by trumping up the charges.
      Running a meth lab? Manufacturing of biological weapons of mass destruction.
      Burned a flag? Sedition!
      Jail-walked? Terrorism!
    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      I hope the next time I get accused of something they let me do the investigation.
  • This is classic institutional behaviour. Something happened that could in some way cause the administration to look bad? Do something to delay outside scrutiny until public interest moves elsewhere. Immediately announce that a really really serious investigation is already underway. The result is unimportant. The actual goal is to prevent outsiders from poking around in your kingdom and causing blame.

    Is there actually any question as to exactly what MIT did? What new questions remain to be answered?

  • Reflection (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:57AM (#42581597)

    ".... Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, ..."

    Seems to me that before his suicide would have been better timing.

  • Good news everyone! Our self investigation shows we were not at fault for anything
  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday January 14, 2013 @10:18AM (#42581793)
    Understanding why hackers do this may prevent some future suicides anywhere in the hacker community.

    Up to a half dozen students commit suicide any year. Several large lawsuits from the parents of suicide victims in the past decade prompted MIT to beef up round-the-clock mental health care help. Most recently the MIT student newspaper conducted and extensive study [mit.edu] of stress in student life. Its almost like coming out gay- plenty of students think they are the only ones suffering from stress and retreat into their personal hell-holes. The need to talk to each other and professionals.
  • In other words we will take the Warren Report, change the name from Kennedy to Swartz, feed it back throught the MIT Paper Generator [mit.edu], and provide it everyone. Proving, that our lack of action in the previous year provided us with the ability to have an annual discourse on our probable deniability, fully exonerating us of apathy, poor judgement and a full disclosure of our tenacious mendacity. Thank you, I'll have my tea now.

  • Swartz decided that the JSTOR information should be free. They charged for access to it. His copying of the articles violated their terms of service (they don't even let paying customers do what he did in terms of downloading that volume of articles). He used MIT's paid for access to JSTOR to vilated JSTOR's terms of service. He put JSTOR's business at risk by downloading large amounts of articles that could be freely distributed. Basically he had a philosophical disagreement with JSTOR and decided tha
  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:35PM (#42585079) Homepage

    It's pretty clear from many of the top voted comments that most people here have no clue what Swartz was actually doing. On the off chance that some people might want to base discussion on facts, here's a nice post [volokh.com] by a law professor who has worked, for both defense and prosecution, on these kind of cases, covering what Swartz was actually alleged to have done and analyzing the charges.

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