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US Attorney Chided Swartz On Day of Suicide 656

theodp writes "The e-mail that Defendant Swartz's supplemental memorandum (pdf) cites as paramount to his fifth motion to suppress [evidence against him] is relevant, but not nearly as important as he tries to make it out to be,' quipped United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz (pdf) in a court filing made on the same day Aaron Swartz committed suicide. In the 1-7-2011 e-mail Ortiz refers to, which was not produced for Swartz until Dec. 14th — almost two years after his 1-6-2011 arrest — a Secret Service agent reported to the Assistant U.S. Attorney that he was 'prepared to take custody anytime' of Swartz's laptop, although no one had yet sought a warrant to search the computer. In Prosecutor as Bully, Larry Lessig laments, 'They [JSTOR] declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the "criminal" who we who loved him knew as Aaron.' Swartz's family also had harsh words for MIT and prosecutors: '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.' With MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest currently serving as a Trustee of JSTOR parent Ithaka as well as a Trustee of The MIT Corporation, one might have expected MIT to issue a statement similar to the let's-put-this-behind-us one JSTOR made on the Swartz case back in 2011."
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US Attorney Chided Swartz On Day of Suicide

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  • terrorism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:23AM (#42574123)

    the US seems to have terrorized a youth into killing himself.

    I'd seek gitmo for the US 'official' who performed this act of terrorism.

    if we don't stop the american terrorists (gov hacks who can ruin lives at-will for essentially no good reason at all) then we all have BECOME part of them.

    a message needs to be sent. TO THE GOVERNMENT. stop being asshats wrapped in the false flag of 'justice'.

    • Re:terrorism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:43AM (#42574221)

      Typical american. You'd fight to have Guantanamo closed and I'm sure you criticize him for keeping the place open -- yet when it comes to someone you don't like, you have no problem condemning them to torture, physical and otherwise. You're no better than the attorney himself.

      If you want to stop something like this from happening again you need to take a good, long look in the mirror as a country. You're all guilty, guilty of negligence by putting these people into power and then sitting on your thumbs when they commit atrocities like this. Flail your arms and point fingers all you want but you are ALL TO BLAME.

    • Re:terrorism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:26AM (#42574491) Homepage

      the US seems to have terrorized a youth into killing himself.

      I've highlighted the operative word. While it's reasonable to assume that they probably didn't help (to put it extremely mildly), even those closest to him will spend years agonizing over what exactly was going through his mind and what, if anything, they could have done to prevent this. Why does everyone else seem to think they've got to the bottom of it in five minutes?

      • by kenh ( 9056 )

        He broke into the MIT wring closet, installed his own computer, programed his computer to download files at a rate sometimes 100x the normal load for every legitimate user at MIT, hid his face from security cameras, and generally gave off every indication that he fully understood what he did was wrong/illegal, yet continued. Plain and simple, you don't have to work in the Ethics department to understand he comitted crimes.

        Maybe, if anything, the letter that "chided" the defendant's FIFTH attempt to supress

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Khyber ( 864651 )

          "Plain and simple, you don't have to work in the Ethics department to understand he comitted crimes."

          Fuck no he didn't. He showed the real hacker spirit of MIT.

          I'm pretty sure you don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, so I suggest you read Stephen Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution and learn for yourself.

          • "Plain and simple, you don't have to work in the Ethics department to understand he comitted crimes." Fuck no he didn't.

            Perhaps GP should have said you don't have to work in the Law department, because, yes, he did commit crimes*. That's why he was arrested and charged and would, most likely, have been found guilty.

            I'm pretty sure you don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, so I suggest you read Stephen Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution and learn for yourself.

            Why? Does that book point to the statute that makes what he did not a crime?

            *if he was still alive I'd probably have to add "alledgedly," since he was never convicted.

      • by kenh ( 9056 )

        Why does everyone else seem to think they've got to the bottom of it in five minutes?

        I'm sorry, are you new to Slashdot?

        Typically you're lucky if commenters even read the entire clip provided at the top of the story, let alone the linked-to article. ANd additional/background research to form an opinon, that's nearly unheard of here! ;^)

  • Catalyst (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:26AM (#42574133)

    If anything good comes of this situation it would be nice if Swartz were to become the Mohamed Bouazizi [] of prosecutorial reform in the US. Unlikely, but one can hope.

  • Shame on MIT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:31AM (#42574151)

    It used to be the home of the hacker culture.

  • Psychopaths (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:35AM (#42574175)

    These people seem to be soulless automatons devoid of any compassion and quite willing to destroy a life without good reason just so they can advance their own careers a bit. This behavior is the hallmark of dangerous psychopaths. People like that belong into a closed mental institutions, not into positions of power.

    • by pkbarbiedoll ( 851110 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:55AM (#42574287)

      The group of psychopaths also known as the Roswell City Council pushed Andrew Wordes (also known as the Roswell Chicken Man) to take his life in March 2012 [].

    • by bytesex ( 112972 )

      Not psychopaths. Fused with their jobs + lack of empathy. Just like IT-people can sometimes have a problem imagining that there are other people who do not know, understand, or even like, IT, these people cannot empathize with other people that are not lawyers, or bureaucrats. They think that they have the most wonderful job in the world and imagine that everyone else wants to have it too. And therefore, do not mind dealing with the lawsuits and the paperwork. Those are fun challenges!

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Lack of empathy is one of the main characteristics of a psychopath. I meant that quite literally as a diagnosis, not as an insult. The problem is that these people do not see or understand what they are actually doing to others. That is what makes them so dangerous. They do not belong into positions of power as they will kill, maim and torture without remorse or regret or even understanding what they did.

      • by nomadic ( 141991 )
        I think you're on to something, I have worked in both IT and law and both fields seem to have a higher than average incidence of people with little or no empathy.
    • Re:Psychopaths (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:05PM (#42574751)

      I hate to say this - but I will - most of the so-called privileged class is so heartless and cruel and uncaring that they'd lose NO sleep over doing such things to other people.

      congress, judges, police, governors, you name it: they are so protected and insulated from the real world, they don't UNDERSTAND what compassion and reasonableness is.

  • Who? (Score:5, Informative)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:39AM (#42574195) Homepage

    Swartz was an American computer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist. Swartz co-authored the "RSS 1.0" specification of RSS, and built the Web site framework and the architecture for the Open Library. He also built Infogami, a company that merged with Reddit in its early days, through which he became an equal owner of the merged company.

    On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR, which became the subject of a federal investigation.[2][3] JSTOR offended Swartz mainly for two reasons: it charged large fees for access to these articles but did not compensate the authors and it ensured that huge numbers of people are denied access to the scholarship produced by America's colleges and universities.[4][5] On January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn, apartment, where he had hanged himself.
      - Wikipedia

    • Re:Who? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Necroman ( 61604 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:04AM (#42574339)

      As a reader of Hacker News [] I'm getting a bit sick of this coverage myself. Last night, 9 of the 10 top stories were in relation to Aaron and the whole situation. The guy did some great work, but he never even got into a courtroom to see how things would play out. The other thing to note is that it was known even publicly that he suffered from depression []. A high-stress situation plus depression is the recipe for this type of situation.

      I'm not say either side (the people making him into a martyr or prosecutor for going after him) is right or wrong with what they are doing. But to me, the reaction I've been seeing so far from those on sites like Hacker News seems to be a little far out there.

  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:45AM (#42574229)
  • * (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pkbarbiedoll ( 851110 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:48AM (#42574253)

    * the government reserves the right to engage in bullying any time it wishes, for any reason. In this case parents are encouraged to teach their children that bystanding is appropriate and expected.

  • by Yarhj ( 1305397 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:50AM (#42574263)
    A lot of people are outraged over the prosecutorial overreach in this case (and, by extension, the tradition of prosecutorial overreach in most cases prosecuted by the federal government), and a petition has popped up to remove the DA in charge of this case: []

    It's a start, though what I'd really like to see is some proper judicial reform, so we can bring some sanity to the judicial system.

    Links to the Ars coverage of this story: [] []
  • Just taking orders (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordThyGod ( 1465887 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:58AM (#42574307)
    It's not so much the prosecutors fault, as it is a system that over zealously values intellectual property, so that the prosperous can be even more prosperous. We, as a society, have lost our bearings. Things are out of whack. I read today an article in the nytimes about sex trafficking, and how border guards in Pakistan, are on the alert for terrorists and pirated DVDs, yet ignore blatant evidence of young girls being sold into slavery. The reasoning? They want to please the Americans whose priorities are terrorism and piracy. We are broken.
    • When the only things we're known for are movies, code, and delivering pizza, you defend the cash cow. But yeah, the system is pretty messed up and the legal system doesn't have a clue how to deal with anything digital.

      But that's no reason to simply ignore the behavior of the prosecutor. "Just following orders" is not an excuse. Regardless, he wasn't following orders, it was his decision to go after this case. The district attorneys have a lot of leeway about what they do, a lot of which ends up being po
  • The Aaron Swartz Act (Score:5, Interesting)

    by decora ( 1710862 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:04AM (#42574329) Journal

    1. To reform the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 to rationalize it with the 21st century by the following measure

    A. Repeal any and all language from the CFAA that originated in the Espionage Act of 1918 or its amended forms such as the McCarran Internal Security Act or the Subversive Activities Control Act of the 1950s.

    B. Alter the definition of "Protected Computer" so that the act only covers Federal Government and Financial computer systems, and no others.

    C. Remove any and all language that creates a crime simply because a computer is involved in an activity, where otherwise the activity would not be considered a crime.

    D. Specifically state that the Interstate Commerce Clause does not apply to the Act. Almost all modern communications are 1. done on a computer, and 2. interstate in nature. Whereas it is against the spirit of the Founding Fathers to have the Federal Goverment control every single communication in a Free country, this act should be adopted by the congress and signed by the President.

    • I'm not up on the subtlties of this law, but as a layman:

      'Protected Computers' should include those machines that store personal information. Many machines do that, some store personal information over the long term, others over the sort term, so it is difficult to express exactly what should and what shouldn't fit that definition.

      Further to that, the definition of 'computer' is getting harrier all the time. Where does one start and another begin?

      So maybe it makes more sense to define protected information

    • Alter the definition of "Protected Computer" so that the act only covers Federal Government and Financial computer systems, and no others.

      I think there needs to be more specificity there.

      At least in my state, all corporations are considered financial institutions, so any computer owned by a corporation technically qualifies as a "Financial computer system".

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:30AM (#42574515) Homepage

    but not nearly as important as he tries to make it out to be,' quipped United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz

    Quipped? Chided? These words do not mean what you seem to think they mean.

  • A Modest Question (Score:5, Informative)

    by poena.dare ( 306891 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:39AM (#42574591)

    How many MIT student pranks ended with felony charges?

    I highly recommend reading Alex Stamos' thoughts on Aaron Swartz:

    The Truth about Aaron Swartz's "Crime" []

  • such BS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:40AM (#42574595)

    1. Swartz wasn't facing 30+ years unless he already had a bunch of prior violent felony convictions. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, he was facing maybe 6-24 months if he was convicted of everything.

    2. It was a victimless crime if you don't count anyone that works/studies at MIT, works at JSTOR, or uses JSTOR anywhere in the world. The entire campus was cut off as JSTOR/MIT scrambled to stop Swartz, who repeatedly attempted to circumvent the blocks put up by JSTOR/MIT over a period of weeks. Reports from JSTOR indicated that Swartz activities were causing servers to crash and were impacting other users. JSTOR backed down because of bad publicity, not because Swartz caused no harm.

    3. Trespassing, breaking and entering, unauthorized use of a computer system, and denial-of-service attacks are all crimes. Prosecutors don't need support of every victim or even any victim to pursue a case because they represent the People who have an interest in stopping such activities. Every day, wife beaters are convicted despite the protests of their spouses. You would think a law professor would know this kind of stuff but Lessig, by all appearances, is not much of a lawyer just a supreme bullshitter.

    4. Swartz had a lot of time to realize that he should probably stop his activities because the admins were on to him and trying to stop him but instead he escalated his crimes.

    5. Harvard must be incredibly embarassed to have brought this guy on as a Fellow in their Center for Ethics.

    6. There should an award in memory of Swartz for the person who's own actions cock up the greatest streak of good fortune. Maybe he didn't screw up as bad as OJ Simpson but you can't have a memorial award in the name of someone who isn't dead.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:06PM (#42574757) Homepage Journal

    and won't be fixed by itself. You can get 30 years for making public something that should be, get sued for millons of dollars for copying a few songs, sued for billons for doing common sense implementations. But if you screw the entire world economy (causing indirectly the dead of thousands of people) you get even more money, driving drunk have barely any legal consequences or carrying assault weapons in populated areas for "defense" is all ok (to put very few examples, is far worse than this). Justice is a nice meaningless (or with a real meaning that have no relation with what people think it means) word by now.

    And you can't use the legal or political system to fix it, as not only they broken it, but would break it even more given the opportunity (i.e. the golden opportunity of asking them to fix it).

    With a hopeless situation like this, im not surprised that people suicide themselves when this mess touch them.

  • by divisionbyzero ( 300681 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:54PM (#42575087)

    governor's race now. If she had any hope of running for governor, as many claim that she does, this kind of PR should put an end to it. Bullying a 26 y/o until he commits suicide isn't going to play well even if the average person doesn't understand the case. And if what has been said so far about the case (i.e. ambitious prosecutor trying to make a name for herself over-zealously pursues disproportionate punishment for a victimless crime when she probably doesn't even understand how a network operates or what JSTOR is), then she is even more screwed. It's a small consolation but at least it's something.

  • by SlovakWakko ( 1025878 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:34AM (#42579917)
    People, what happened to you? I grew up in the communist block, and we used to like the USA, the country where you could express your opinion, where there was real justice, where anybody could live a decent life if he was willing to work, without everybody else trying to rob him... This seems so long ago. Now I see exactly what we have overthrown some 23 years ago - a totalitarian state with security everywhere and unprosecutable prosecutors (who watches the watchers? well, nobody does), where the government bullies a smart, standup guy, and his neighbours are so twisted by all the intellectual property hype that they don't do anything about it but rather rationalize their apathy by explaining to themselves how he actually did commit a crime. Looks to me like the terrorists already won, your precious freedom is long gone, and your stay in Afghanistan is just a waste of money. Feel free to hate me for this opinion, at least you will have some illusion of freedom ;)

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann