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US Attorney General Defends Handling of Aaron Swartz Case 276

TrueSatan writes in with the latest in the ongoing Aaron Swartz tragedy. "Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday said the suicide death of internet activist Aaron Swartz was a 'tragedy,' but the hacking case against the 26-year-old was 'a good use of prosecutorial discretion.' The attorney general was testifying at a Justice Department oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee and was facing terse questioning from Sen. John Cornyn (D-Texas). ...Holder stated: 'I think that's a good use of prosecutorial discretion to look at the conduct, regardless of what the statutory maximums were and to fashion a sentence that was consistent with what the nature of the conduct was. And I think what those prosecutors did in offering 3, 4, zero to 6 was consistent with that conduct.' Notwithstanding Holder's testimony, Massachusetts federal prosecutors twice indicted Swartz for the alleged hacking, once in 2011 on four felonies and again last year on 13 felonies. The case included hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 to enhance the government's ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality."
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US Attorney General Defends Handling of Aaron Swartz Case

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  • Derp (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:12PM (#43100939)

    The case included hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 to enhance the government's ability to

    ... be so overly vague as to make anyone who uses a computer for any reason, by any method, a felon? Because that act is the quintessential example of how not to do it, and it's quoted by law professors all over the country as a shining example of the problems caused by strict liability laws.

  • by Hangtime ( 19526 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:12PM (#43100941) Homepage

    Between Fast and Furious, Swartz, and now giving the OK on drone strikes against US citizens in America - he doesn't have a friend in the world, he has ticked off everyone.

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:24PM (#43101021) Journal
    It would be the honorable thing to do.
  • Same DOJ That (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) <thecosm3@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:29PM (#43101045)
    This is the same DOJ that denied knowledge of gunwalker. This is the same DOJ that that is in cahorts with ICE to take-down websites without due process. This is the same DOJ that...spends thousands going after gambling sites, illegal 'copycap' handbags and sports paraphernalia, etc.

    For being the entity known as the United States Department of Justice, going after torrent sites, going after guys scraping and trying to release academic journals, proprietors of gambling sites, people making gucci wannabe purses, and allowing the sale of guns to about wrong priorities.

    Fuck you people.
  • Re:What an ass. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:31PM (#43101055)

    this is what is wrong with america specifically: Prosecutors. Their only job is to get a guilty verdict no matter if the accused party is innocent or not of anything even remotely criminal.

    To heck with this system! Use Linux instead!

    Aaron Schartz was caught in a computer closet with his laptop hooked into a network that had specifically denied him permission to connect to their system.

    Think again about what you would do if you found a person who was not supposed to be there in your server room, copying files and doing who knows what else before you talk about "not remotely criminal."

    The prosecutor, from what I can tell, did nothing wrong.

  • A Culture of Fear (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScottCooperDotNet ( 929575 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:36PM (#43101101)

    There has been a significant trend in America that punishment is intended not to provide a reasonable deterrent to crime, but to set an example to keep the rest in line. The higher the possible sentence, the more likely it is for the defendant to plead down to something, or be turned against another defendant in exchange for immunity. All of this is intended to save the prosecutor the hassle of making his case in court.

    Eric Holder is promoting a legal version of the Tarkin Doctrine.

  • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:54PM (#43101197)

    The puppy sitting next to a big poo on the carpet also claims that it wasn't his fault...

    Yes, but a puppy is too young to know better. Puppies can be trained not to shit on everything, unlike US Attorney Generals.

  • Re:What an ass. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Goobermunch ( 771199 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:14AM (#43101611)

    And trespass into a computer network. Which is what the statute was intended to discourage.

    Oh, and there was that whole downloading journal articles from a business that makes its money from charging people to view them. I'm pretty sure there's something in the U.S. code about that.

    Look, I don't agree with what the U.S. Attorneys did in this case, but let's be honest. Aaron Swartz was willfully and intentionally committing at least two felonies. He was doing it because he believed that we, as a people, would be better off if the information he was accessing was freely available to everyone. That's a noble goal. I agree with him.

    But--if you engage in an act of civil disobedience, you have to be willing to accept the consequences, whatever they may be. That's the tradeoff--you get to break the law with a clear conscience, but you also suffer the punishment to demonstrate the injustice of the law. To say that Mr. Swartz ought not have been punished, or that his punishment should be minimal because we like what he was doing is to say that the ends justify the means. If I were to access a server room at your bank to access information that is valuable to you--like the 1s and 0s that represent your bank balance--I suspect you wouldn't be so forgiving, even if I were moving those 1s and 0s to help the poor or the sick.

    I do think the prosecutors should have exercised their discretion in a less overbearing way. It makes me sad and furious that a brilliant young man is dead. But we don't do ourselves any good by glossing over the facts and minimizing what was and is at stake. Aaron Swartz wanted us to change the way we think about "intellectual property." He envisioned a world in which the work of human minds was freely available to enrich the lives of everyone. Where one person's brilliant thoughts could spark genius in minds years and miles from the source. He did so in a legal climate that inflicts draconian civil and criminal punishment on people who try to make that dream a reality. And he did it by flouting the very laws he wanted changed.

    He didn't just trespass, he flipped the bird to the Federal Government. But then, when confronted with the reality that the U.S. Attorneys were going to treat him in the exact same way they treat every "criminal" they see, day after day, he realized he'd bitten off more than he could chew. And he killed himself. I don't know how to respond to the situation, because I'm mad about the whole thing. I'm mad at my government for its stupidity and heavy handed tactics, but I'm mad at Aaron Swartz for not having the courage to stand and fight or to be a political prisoner and a symbol. Hell, I'm even mad at myself for lacking the courage he had. But I'm really frustrated with the idea that we should gloss over what actually happened. The only way we can learn from what went wrong is to look at it with clear eyes.


  • by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:55AM (#43101815)

    This is the guy that gyrated for quite some time today trying to avoid a simple question:

    It is constitutional legal to use a drone to kill a US citizen, on US soil, if he does not present a clear and present danger?

    "It would be inappropriate." - Eric Holder

  • Plea bargains.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:57AM (#43101829) Homepage Journal

    Plea bargains make people plead guilty all the time. I remember when Wennatchee sex ring scandal [] happened. The whole population wanted justice, hang the child rapists! The state went for life sentences for all 40+ people accused.
    Many of the people pleaded guilty when they faced life in prison. Only after years of litigation did it come out the entire thing was a hoax. No child was raped.

    The stresses this young man faced shouldn't be the norm. Obama was suppose to be the voice the people, the people who work in his administration should echo his values.

    I can only hope that a 3rd party takes off someday, we really need to vote the bastards out, not vote pretend in a 2 party system.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @02:48AM (#43102059) Journal

    Except we are talking about not a car but to utterly destroy another person's life. That is the problem in a nutshell with the current system, unless you have a cool quarter million to throw away on a defense you are screwed either way because the state has unlimited resources.

    I should know as I had a friend that lost a house that had been in his family 4 generations because of this kind of plea bargaining horseshit. He was in the midst of a REALLY nasty divorce (heard of a midlife crisis? Well it was her and not him that had one, started fucking a 20 year old on the side) when the bitch got pissed and pulled a "tell the cops daddy touched you and you'll get a new car for sweet sixteen" move. Even the cops ended up testifying for him, saying the girl changed her story so many times there was zero credibility but it turned out the local prosecutor was raped in college and from that point on if you had a penis you were a rapist so by the time she got done digging up every possible charge she could come up with he was looking at triple life. The lawyer fees ended up costing him everything and the bitch used this to her advantage by getting sole custody of his son while he was tied up with the fight for his freedom. She took him overseas and he has never seen him since, wouldn't even recognize his own son if he ran into him on the street.

    so by piling on the charges not only do they try to force a plea bargain by how much time you are looking at but they know your lawyer fees will cost more with each charge so even if you win? Like my friend you lose. He went from having a great job, 2 rental properties and his son to having nothing but a used car and a rented trailer. Some victory huh?

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @04:55AM (#43102431) Journal

    As all these happened in the United States of America, why don't we go back all the way to the beginning of the United States of America - to what the founding fathers had in mind for their new country

    What was the one thing that irritated the founding fathers the most ?

    An abusive government

    It was precisely because of the abuses from the Brits that the American colonialists just couldn't stand it no more and decided to take up arms and revolt

    There are over 200 countries in this world, and the United States of America is one of the handful of countries where not only popular revolution was the spark that had created the country, but also that the founding fathers was thoughtful enough to write down their wish and blessings for the new country that they had formed, and their wish was also expressed in the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights

    The current form of the American government is exactly the form of government that the founding fathers would fight vehemently against

    As an American who isn't staying inside America, I am sad to say that most of my fellow Americans have no idea what America is all about

    How many of my fellow American understand the duty of being an American citizen?

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