New information about Aaron Swartz’s hacking activities at MIT tell quite a different story than the one that was initially revealed by Swartz’s former attorney and expert witness over the weekend. Different enough, in fact, that I would have to say that Alex Stamos lied in Saturday’s post in which he claimed Aaron’s actions were “inconsiderate”, not “wrong”.
The Washington Post reported that Swartz invaded a MIT server closet and installed a laptop computer on the college’s network from which he downloaded the research materials in question and the Daily Mail ran pictures of Swartz as he was later caught in the act of trying to remove the computer.
Contrary to the picture painted by Stamos and others, the photos reveal that Aaron Swartz was plainly engaged in an “extra-legal” activities at MIT. Period. End of discussion.
In fact, what Swartz did was so blatantly wrong that I am sorely tempted to redact my THOUGHTS ABOUT AARON SWARTZ, “HACKING”, AND THE LAW post in its entirety.
However, I do believe the questions about whether Swartz’s actions warranted the kind of dogged, relentless pursuit that the DoJ engaged in deserve to be answered. The case I understand sounds more like criminal mischief than anything else, so why was Aaron Swartz facing decades in prison? Was he deliberately started because of his leadership in the anti-SOPA movement? Those questions are still to be answered.
In the meantime, a White House petition has been started with the aim of removing U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who supervised the prosecution of in Swartz’s case, for “overreach.”
A prosecutor who does not understand proportionality and who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges to extort plea bargains from defendants regardless of their guilt is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path.