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Crime United States Your Rights Online

The Accidental Betrayal of Aaron Swartz 409

theodp writes "The anarchist dictum when it comes to grand juries, explains Salon's Natasha Lennard, is a simple one: 'No one talks, everyone walks.' It's a lesson journalist Quinn Norton tragically learned only after federal prosecutors got her to inadvertently help incriminate Aaron Swartz, her dearest friend and then-lover. Convinced she knew nothing that could be used against Swartz, Norton at first cooperated with the prosecutors. But prosecutors are pro fishermen — they cast wide nets. And in a moment Norton describes as 'profoundly foolish,' she told the grand jury that Swartz had co-authored a blog post advocating for open data (the Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto), which prosecutors latched onto and spun into evidence that the technologist had 'malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.' Norton sadly writes, 'It is important the people know that the prosecutors manipulated me and used my love against Aaron without me understanding what they were doing. This is their normal. They would do this to anyone. We should understand that any alleged crime can become life-ruining if it catches their eyes.' Consider yourself forewarned."
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The Accidental Betrayal of Aaron Swartz

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @05:41PM (#43084205)

    If you need to be warned that a group of people who collaborate with violent thugs who will kidnap you and steal from you are not interested in your well being, I doubt a warning would actually be useful. Even the simplest thing like a subpoena is an utter transgression against innocent people. Imagine if we stripped away the pomp, the ceremony, the special euphemisms, and just saw these actors for what they are; a subpoena is a threat. A subpoena is a group of people declaring that they will attack you if you do not visit them. That they will steal from you, they will kidnap you if you fend off their theft, and should you somehow manage to resist all that, they will put a bullet in your fucking brain. THAT is the nature of this system we live in. We exist in a murder based society, a pre-philosophical contradictory quagmire where the simplest moral truths between individuals become completely negated when the magical word 'government' is attached to a deed. That is who prosecutors voluntarily associate with.

    If you think a prosecutor sees you as anything other than the bait for his next paycheck, you are blind to the nature of our society.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @05:54PM (#43084377)

    You are lucky you were not charged with assault or anything else they could come up with. Far easier to go after you who are easy to reach than hunt down someone else. They might be temporary allies, but not friends.

  • by UsuallyReasonable ( 2715457 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @05:56PM (#43084403)

    I don't believe that story for a second.

  • Re:We Know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:07PM (#43084541) Homepage Journal

    That's funny. I've had several pleasant conversations with cops.

    It helps when you're not an adversarial dickbag to the cops.

  • by Looker_Device ( 2857489 ) * on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:07PM (#43084545)

    My father, who was the most straight-laced, church-going guy you would ever meet, once told me that if I ever got into trouble and got arrested that the one and *only* thing I was to say to police was "I won't speak to you without my lawyer present." It was pretty shocking to me that my Ned Flanders-esque dad would give me that kind of advice. But the older and more experienced I get, the more I realize that this is exactly the same advice I'm going to give to my son (after telling him to try to avoid getting into trouble to begin with, of course).

  • Lessons learned (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gnujoshua ( 540710 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:13PM (#43084635) Homepage
    I too was subpoenaed [] (note I redacted two names) for evidence and to testify before the grand jury that indicted Aaron. They were certainly fishing for a lot of information relating to Guerrilla Open Access. I'm not sure there was much that either Quinn or I could do to prevent the indictment. Although, I can say that on an emotional level rationalizing about the situation doesn't make it suck any less knowing that the evidence and testimony I provided was probably bastardized and used against him. Maybe I'll write up more about the whole thing some time.
  • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:17PM (#43084689)

    "We got your wallet back. Looks like there was a little cocaine in there. Well, maybe the mugger had it, maybe he didn't."


    "Now I can get a warrant to search your phone and house. You have receipts for all this music?"

  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @06:35PM (#43084925)

    It's good advice. Except when it isn't. I kept my mouth shut when a cop tried to interrogate me at a sobriety checkpoint and that led to my being beaten, nearly strangled to death, and brought up on enough false charges to put me in jail for 3-5 years.

    Angering or annoying the wrong cop can be very dangerous or even fatal and standing up for your so called "rights" pisses most of them off. The honest ones won't do anything about it. The dishonest ones may take matters into their own hands and the consequences can be severe. Standing up for your rights is really a kind of Russian Roulette, at least here in the US.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb