DOJ Persecuted Internet Activist and Technologist Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide

Today is a bad day. We have lost one of the most valuable and promising minds in the world. Aaron Swartz was an incredibly dynamic voice in the global conversation about technology's place in society. He was only 26 years old, but had managed to be a co-author of the RSS 1.0 specification, a co-founder of Creative Commons, an early builder of Reddit, the founder of DemandProgress, and the target of a DOJ case against his liberation of publically available academic journal articles. Aaron was instrumental in the effort to stop the SOPA Internet censorship legislation from being enacted in Congress. In the days ahead, many will speculate that the cause of his suicide was his self-admitted depression. However, I think it can be safely assumed that the prospect of up to 35 years in prison for downloading articles might have had something to do with his malaise. There is also some discussion as to whether the Department of Justice was persecuting Aaron because of his involvement with the PACER/RECAP project and subsequent escape of any prosecution. I believe a fitting tribute for Aaron would be to take personal responsibility for changing a society which would even dare attempt to criminalize linking or to prosecute someone for downloading public information. Let Aaron's voice speak for himself:

 

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Quinn Norton. CC by 2.0)

Topic: 

Tags: 

Rating: 

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (9 votes)

Comments

I wholeheartedly agree.

Glinda's picture

I believe a fitting tribute for Aaron would be to take personal responsibility for changing a society which would even dare attempt to criminalize linking or to prosecute someone for downloading public information

 

Thank you.

 

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (5 votes)

Obama's In-Justice Department Is Acting Criminally

sartoris's picture

The Justice Department/Obama Whitehouse is getting more embarrassing by the day. Voter restrictions? Yeah.......we can't investigate that right now.....bank fraud???? nope, not enough resources to investigate that........medicinal marijuana in a state that has LEGALIZED MEDICINAL MARIJUANA????? yeah, that's a threat to America and must be prosecuted. This young man was charged with committing Wire Fraud because he downloaded articles from Academic Journals. He did not download classified documents. Wire fraud. Wonder if any bankers committed wire fraud during the financial collapse?

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (7 votes)

Obama's Justice Department chose to prosecute him????

sartoris's picture

26 years old.  He was 26 years old.  Run that around your mind.  Are you 26?  Do you remember being 26? 

This is the kind of bullshit case that is determined by Obama's flunkies to need to be prosecuted.  One of America's best and brightest young people.  Wire fraud.  What a bullshit charge.  Wire fraud.  A brilliant young man who could have made a contribution to society was hounded by the Obama Administration. Wire fraud? Not one article was classified that he released was classified. Wire fraud?

 

Holder should resign immediately.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (7 votes)

I had a difficult time writing this.

aigeanta's picture

I had to call a friend and talk. We cried. THIS SHOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED. What the DOJ did was WRONG. We feel like internet activists failed him. His name should have been plastered across every protest sign and bumpersticker, just like Free Leonard Peltier has been. I vow, as long as I live, to use my voice to right the wrong that has been committed against Aaron. Eric Holder, I'm looking at you. You can't bring charges against criminal banksters, but you can prosecute this kid? For downloading articles? AYFKM? This means war.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (6 votes)

he was extremely introverted

UnaSpenser's picture

the possibility of trial and prison was probably far too much for him to handle.

and, really, no prosecutions for bankers, or torturers. he was only releasing documents which reported on research which was publicly funded but being withheld from the public. I doubt he expected it would reap him such devastating consequences. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, if he has physically grabbed the papers, copied them and published them, it would have been some light charge that most protesters get. What they went after him with was way beyond the pale.

I've had it with anyone who tries to tell me Obama is really ok. He's a murderous toadie for corporate welfare.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (7 votes)

Give him time

ratmach's picture

The only reason Obama hasn't yet murdered, or otherwise destroyed the lives of as many people as Bush/Cheney did, is that he hasn't yet had the time or opportunity to do so. But he's getting there.... let's just be patient with the guy.

You're SCUM, you know that, Barack? I've been screaming for years that Bush and his buddies need to be sitting in front of the World Court. Well, now I can't honestly do that without also demanding that YOU are sitting right along side them.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (4 votes)

Charging Wire Fraud for downloading articles?

sartoris's picture

Charging wire fraud for downloading articles is simply indefensible.  Aaron Sandusky was sentenced to 10 years for running a legal medical marijuana dispensary.  This is completely insane.  Why our American tax dollars funding these types of insane prosecutions?????

 

Where are the charges against General David Petraeus?  He allowed unauthorized access to top secret comparmentalized information.  When will he be prosecuted?  Will he die in jail or will he remain another protected American hero??

 

Swartz' misstep was believing that the American government was not idiotic.

 

 

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (6 votes)

From Lawrence Lessig:

aigeanta's picture

 

Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash ofACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.” 

In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge.  And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.

Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.

One word, and endless tears. 

(Prosecutor as Bully)

 

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (6 votes)

An appropriate RFK quote:

aigeanta's picture

 

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (6 votes)

Is it not now clear, for those with eyes to see . . .

geomoo's picture

. . . that a cornerstone of the Obama administration is ruthless defense of government secrecy?

This last week we heard Jesselyn Radack discussing the upcoming sentencing of her client, John Kiriakou.  Like others before him, that lifelong public servant was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which is meant to target the most dangerous and subversive enemies of the United States.  What Kiriakou did was blow the whistle on crimes of the government.  It is time that we accept the fact that the United States government considers its enemies to be those who insist on protecting freedom of citizens and the rule of law.  This is NOT an exaggeration.  This is not the time to mount the argument, but the evidence is in and the conclusion is inescapable.

Why is the USG so determined to maintain secrecy and protect its actions from any form of public scrutiny?  Back when we bothered to discuss warrantless spying on citizens, it used to be said, "If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about."  This statement misses the point wildly, but it is certainly only fair to insist that those who promoted this faulty reasoning apply it to themselves.

And by the way, there is also a war on journalists who dare attempt to publish information the USG does not wish to see published.

We live in a time of increasing tyranny.  We are seeing far too many victims.  Psychopaths are walking free while good people are ruined or dead.  Such a society cannot hope to last very long.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (6 votes)

just a comment on the charges against him

sartoris's picture

This is the legal definition of wire fraud:

Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

 

  What scheme did he create to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.......

 

I wish he would have taken his chances on a trial.  I'm not a lawyer but it seems that his actions did not meet the definition of the 'crime' with which he was charged.

 

 

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (6 votes)

those who say he illegally released this information

sartoris's picture

Some of the information he released was beyond any copyright life.  Generally, the length of a copyright is the life of the author plus 50 years (sometimes 100).  Large corportations like Disney have abused the court system to extend the life of their own creations.  However, some of the information released by Swartz was well beyond the length of copyright life.  This case highlights some of the idiocy surrounding American copyright laws.  This young man was being criminally charged with crimes that simply do not meet the definition of a crime.  This insanity has to stop.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (6 votes)

What a wonderful country we live in

ratmach's picture

I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't know much about Reddit, or this guy. But now reading this, and what you guys are saying here, it's getting ME angry. Like Sartoris said... yeah, let's prosecute people like Aaron, like Bradley, like people running med MJ clinics. But NOOOO, not people like those who cause the collapse of the economy, or who torture people, or who murder countless people in illegal wars. NOOO, can't do that.

Considering a number of things in their personal makeup, and the "they should know better" theory of guilt, I think I'm beginning to hate Barack Obama more than I do George W. Bush.

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (5 votes)

Official Statement from the Family and Partner of Aaron Swartz:

Glinda's picture

Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.

 

Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.

[...]

 

Remembrances of Aaron, as well as donations in his memory, can be submitted at http://rememberaaronsw.com

 

3
Your rating: None Average: 3 (3 votes)