Anonymous is going nuclear after the death of Aaron Swartz, which was provoked by the prosecutorial abuse of Carmen Ortiz and other government officials who wanted to make an example of him. Anonymous is promising releases of docuements which they say will be very damaging to the government and the shadow government.
Hacktivist organization, Anonymous, is threatening perhaps their biggest play ever: a massive WikiLeaks-style exposure of sensitive U.S. government secrets. . As proof of their power, they announced details of the plan on hacked government website, the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC.gov). Citing the recent death of free information activist Aaron Swartz, they explain, “With Aaron’s death we can wait no longer. The time has come to show the United States Department of Justice and its affiliates the true meaning of infiltration.”
Mr. Swartz’s case raises important questions about prosecutorial conduct:
First, on what basis did the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts conclude that her office’s conduct was “appropriate?” Did that office, or any office within the Department, conduct a review? If so, please identify that review and supply its contents.
Second, was the prosecution of Mr. Swartz in any way retaliation for his exercise of his rights as a citizen under the Freedom of Information Act? If so, I recommend that you refer the matter immediately to the Inspector General.
Third, what role, if any, did the Department’s prior investigations of Mr. Swartz play in the decision of with which crimes to charge him? Please explain the basis for your answer.
Fourth, why did the U.S. Attorney’s office file the superseding indictment?
Fifth, when the U.S. Attorney’s office drafted the indictment and the superseding indictment, what consideration was given to whether the counts charged and the associated penalties were proportional to Mr. Swartz’s alleged conduct and its impact upon victims?
Sixth, was it the intention of the U.S. Attorney and/or her subordinates to “make an example” of Mr. Swartz? Please explain.
Finally, the U.S. Attorney has blamed the “severe punishments authorized by Congress” for the apparent harshness of the charges Mr. Swartz faced. Does the Department of Justice give U.S. Attorneys discretion to charge defendants (or not charge them) with crimes consistent with their view of the gravity of the wrongdoing in a specific case?
MIT cries crocodile tears about how deeply tragic the death of Aaron Swartz is. They vow a thorough investigation of themselves before of course finding themselves mostly blameless because after all who could have predicted such an outcome. That their actions allow MIT to keep sucking on the federal government money tit is of course completely coincidental.
“As an institution, [MIT] declined to take a formal position in the plea negotiations, even though they recognized that a large segment of the MIT community cared deeply about Aaron and would have wished to have this case resolved in a positive manner,” one of his attorneys, Martin Weinberg, said in an interview.
Lawrence Lessig says Aaron Swartz was his mentor, not the other way around and that his fight is now our fight to continue and carry on.
When I decided in 2006 to give up the work I was doing on internet policy and copyright reform, Aaron Swartz — the Internet turned social activist found dead in his apartment Friday — was there. Sipping a cup of water on a cold December night in Berlin, he pressed me, “How do you think you’ll get anything done so long as there is this corruption?”
I didn’t have an answer for him, because of course he was right. Six months later, I made the announcement that I was turning my focus to the problem of corruption. Six months after that, Aaron was among the first board members of “Change Congress.” Change Congress is what morphed into Rootstrikers.
People have called me Aaron’s mentor. The truth is the other way around. Aaron was my mentor. Since I first met him 12 years ago, he had pressed questions exactly like that. Again and again, his questions steered me, and guided me.
But no longer. I have written about the bullying that I believe contributed to this outrage. But I wanted to write to you to remind all of us that our fight was his fight. And that while only he was Aaron Swartz, we are all now Aaron Swartz.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his incredible parents.
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.