Aaron Swartz is dead. Federal Attorney Carmen Ortiz engaged in stomach-turning prosecutorial overreach. MIT could have pulled back but deliberately choose not to. Both share responsibility for his suicide.
Most conspicuously, there is the Obama administration, and its deep pocket contributors in the high tech, publishing and entertainment industries who have attempted to make what they call the “theft” and what Swartz regarded as the liberation of intellectual property a crime meriting the most severe punishment. A ridiculously disproportionate 35 year sentence was being aggressively pursued by Massachusetts Federal Attorney, Carmen Ortiz who likely viewed the prosecution as an opportunity to raise her profile within the party. The strategy seemed to be working: Massachusetts Governor and close friend of Obama Deval Patrick mentioned her as a likely successor.
It should be our job to ensure that Ms. Ortiz’s cynical calculation will not pay off. A petition demanding her removal from office is being circulated and should be signed, though this is a bare minimum. Demonstrations at her office should become routine and her public appearances should be greeted with conspicuous displays of opposition. Should she receive the nomination for governor, or any other position in the future, those honoring Schwartz’s memory should pledge to nominate, finance, and actively support a third party candidate who can benefit from the legitimate outrage at Ortiz’ exercise in prosecutorial over-reach and extreme Democratic Party triangulation.
Over the dead body of the internet activism will Carmen Ortiz have a future in politics. Internet activists have far more power than she ever will and they don’t forget, especially not in a sickening case of apparent selective and grotesque prosecution for personal political gain.
The other target, MIT, is not used to having the light of publicity affixed to it, but it is well deserved. As the Swartz’s family notes, by filing charges when the primary victim JSTOR refused to do so, MIT’s acquiesence was required for the federal prosecution to proceed.
MIT’s role here has been as bottom-dwelling, cynical, and sleazy as Ortiz’s.