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Sad irony in Aaron Swartz case

Sad irony in Aaron Swartz case

This is a follow up to my post yesterday about Aaron Swartz.

Patterico has the full details and documents.

It’s somewhat complicated.  I’ll try to summarize Patterico’s research briefly.

On Friday, the day Swartz committed suicide, papers were filed in his federal criminal case which reflected a possibly significant evidentiary defense.  In an email filed in connection with a motion to suppress evidence on Swartz’s laptop and a flash drive, it was revealed that the federal government had access to the laptop onto which academic papers were downloaded, which was in the possession of the Cambridge police, for a much more extended period than the government previously had admitted.  The significance was that the feds’ excuse for delay in obtaining a search warrant to examine the computer — that they supposedly had no access to the laptop — was inaccurate.

The unreasonable delay in seeking a warrant, as a matter of law, could have resulted in the contents of the laptop and flash drive being excluded from evidence.  That would be a significant victory for the the defense in a case in which the feds had demanded substantial jail time and were playing very tough in plea negotiations.

From Patterico:

[Swartz’s attorney, Eliot] Peters refused to speculate about why Swartz committed suicide. He described Swartz as a “very sensitive and very smart person” who had been “very scared” by the Government prosecution. Peters told me that, in his opinion, the Government had been “awfully unreasonable” in their approach to the case. He said that they insisted that Swartz plead to all 13 felonies. They said that even if Swartz pled guilty, they were going to seek a prison sentence. They told Peters that if the case went to trial and Swartz were convicted, they would seek a prison sentence of 7 to 8 years. They told Peters that they thought the judge would impose that sentence. (Peters told me he didn’t agree; he thought the case was defensible and that even if Swartz lost, Peters didn’t think the judge would have sentenced him to custody time.)

As Patterico notes, Swartz apparently was aware of this significant new development.  But whatever else was going on in his life and thinking, it didn’t stop him from taking his own life.


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Jon Corzine steals 1.2 billion from his customers and not one charge was brought against this scumbag. Fast and Furious, 1 dead American border agent, not one person help to account…

And yet, this 26 year old was being pursued because he wanted millions of scientist white papers to be open to the public, which as of 2011 they are all now free to the public.

    alex in reply to alex. | January 13, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    help = held

    RickCaird in reply to alex. | January 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Yes, Corzine has been going through my mind, too. We have a whole system of justice that is no longer an “equal under the law” system.

    We need to have a punishment system for prosecutors who over charge. I suggest firing and disbarment.

    two.bit.score in reply to alex. | January 14, 2013 at 12:43 am

    And Benghazi may be the biggest criminal action by a US President in history and it’s not even being investigated.

    snopercod in reply to alex. | January 14, 2013 at 6:21 am

    …and how about Sandy Berger who stole, then destroyed, original documents from the National Archives in order to protect his boss, Bill Clinton?

BannedbytheGuardian | January 13, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I first learnt of this through following Julian Assange & the British press . I caught this on a rare visit to the Guardian.

So before all this uber emotion I recommend readers google. The article & it appears. It laid out the serial nature of his offenses which include warnings , conciliation & then he broke in to MIT secure premises & hooked directly into their network.

Of course the family is blaming MIT that their son is a criminal.

    byondpolitics in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | January 14, 2013 at 2:17 am

    This is not an accurate characterization of what happened.

    MIT intentionally has an insecure network, much more so than any other university or business. During orientation for new students and employees this is explicitly described. They expect that anything they would do would just create an enjoyable challenge for hackers (a proud component of MIT culture) and there’s no point investing their time playing that game. Members of the MIT community are told that they are responsible for the security of their own computer and data. Guests on campus can access the network and even set their own IP address.

    Furthermore, even the closet that he accessed was not secure by any stretch. The MIT campus is completely open at all times and the closet had a cache of a homeless person’s belongings.

    Yes, he was asked to not download large numbers of papers. One expert characterized what he did as “inconsiderate” because of the bandwidth. It was akin to slowly writing checks in a supermarket with other customers waiting.

    The articles, all of them, were legally accessible through the open MIT network. No locked doors were breached.

    None of the material was classified and presented no problems in terms of national security.

    The vast majority of the material was generated through tax dollars. This includes not only the cost of the research but also the time spent by the authors in typesetting the articles (this has been standard for scientists to do for over twenty years through software such as LaTex) and also standard “publication costs” which can amount to as much as several thousand dollars (typically charged to taxpayers) per paper.

    Mr. Swartz’s actions, a few lines of code (Python and using curl to get the files over the internet), hardly merited Ortiz’s witchhunt. However, she persisted until he was driven into near bankruptcy and was terrified by the possible outcome as most of us would be.

    Byzantine laws, drawn up by people with no understanding of the issues, and selective prosecution of those laws are forms of ruthless brutality that one expects in a tyranny.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to byondpolitics. | January 14, 2013 at 5:10 am

      I read this article in 2011 . I have mostly kept up with the larger issues arising from Assange & Manning.

      Assange is under no US law , and thus able to publish. Swartz is in Mannings position so can be charged. are you saying Manning should also be able to download restricted files because his aim was true?

      Anyhow he hung himself . Drama Queen to the end.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to byondpolitics. | January 14, 2013 at 5:16 am

      Btw who writes f*ckin cheques these days . I have not seen one for 15 years. .

      YOu really need to get outta that basement.

        While I agree with your basic premise that he created a lot of his own problems, I do have a problem with the way you debate the issues. Your cynicism and combative style is more appropriate on left-leaning blogs than here. I have no idea how old you are, but you need to mature a bit more than you demonstrate here. I’m actually off to mail two checks right now. We do not use cheques here.

      There are a number of people, including myself, who firmly believe that all published papers from tax payer funded research should be available to the tax payers. Not surprisingly professional organizations like the ACS are against that. Not surprisingly the ACS is a big supporter of big government and cronyism. After being bombarded beyond my level of tolerance with global warming green weenie crap I dropped my membership.

Looks like this case is about to get broader coverage in the tech world.

Ferenstein is a bit more libertarian than most of the tech journalists which are more lightweight leftists. Will be tracking this coverage closely.

It appears Carmen Ortiz was more concerned with getting a “scalp” than doing justice. For shame. This is just terrible.

Henry Hawkins | January 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm

“But whatever else was going on in his life and thinking, it didn’t stop him from taking his own life.”

It is important to note that Swartz had a history of major depression since childhood, that he may have suicided without any criminal charges extant (correlation vs causation).

1. Instapundit has more links, including a post by an expert witness for the Swartz defense.

2. I thought the era was behind us when the Establishment killed off transformational minds because of the disruption they cause. Apparently not.

3. It’s almost 60 years since the persecution-induced suicide of Alan Turing at only 46.

BannedbytheGuardian | January 14, 2013 at 1:22 am

Ok has no one realized this dude w as with Harvard. Yet he is breaking into MIT where he had no rights at all.

I think breaking into someone’s email account & distributing the contents is an offense. Even if it was no immediate monetary profit there could well be increased fame & reputation .

Case – Sarah Palin & the Tennessee senator’s son. He was found guilty. & I do believe he tried a few of the excuses here as defence & appeal. These were federal charges.

I see irony here aplenty but it ain’t sad at all.

Maybe actor and Chi Com defender Jackie Chan is right, and America during Obama’s time in office HAS become the most corrupt nation in the world:

And think: we’ve got another 4 years to go.

Orin Kerr over at Volokh has a part 1 of a promised 2 part post up on this. Looks to be somewhat light on the big picture and is based just on the charging documents and indictment. Worth the read.

aaron swartz probably found out info that 0bama was a neo-communist spreading communism across the USA who had gay sex with camels, arabs, socialists, and communists. And then 0bama cooked and ate his pet dogs and cats. That was just the final straw for him.