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FBI Investigates Liberator of Court Records

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the stop-doing-our-job-better-than-we-can dept.

Privacy 445

eldavojohn writes "Federal court documents aren't free to the public, they cost $0.08/page through a system called PACER. During a period when the US Government Printing Office was trying out free access at a number of courthouses around the US, a 22-year-old programmer named Aaron Swartz installed a small PERL script at the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals library in Chicago — a script that uploaded a public document every three seconds to Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service. Swartz then donated over 19 million documents to public.resource.org. That's when the FBI took interest in the programmer responsible for this effort and ran his name through government databases. How did he discover this? His FOIA was approved, of course, and he received the FBI's partially redacted report on himself. The public.resource.org database was later merged with that of the RECAP Firefox extension, which we discussed a couple of months back." Update: 10/06 18:22 GMT by KD: Timothy Lee pointed out that the summary as originally posted garbled the Swartz / RECAP connection. Improved now.

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Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29656843)

The GOVERNMENT wants to be able to ingest money on this. Huge, creamy, swaths of glorious money.

Re:Money (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657455)

I love the american government, where even public information is available at anytime -- for a modest fee. Flamebait aside, but where the hell does your tax dollars go? You have almost no public health care, barely any public schooling, your elderly are crammed inside tuna cans, yet you're one of the wealthiest nations in the world. And if you say "Obama" I will smack you over the face with the European continent.

Re:Money (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 5 years ago | (#29657515)

Proof that lean living nets profits.

Our tax dollars primarily fund a welfare system known as civil service. We don't know what they do, but it requires a lot of them and a whole lot of time to do it.

Re:Money (1, Insightful)

Trails (629752) | about 5 years ago | (#29657529)

Big pew-pew and boom-boom, make ruskies go bye-bye, cost lots of bling-bling.

Re:Money (-1)

buswolley (591500) | about 5 years ago | (#29657565)

We have a military that will kick your lilly-ass any day we choose. My public education was fine. Tuna cans?

Re:Money (4, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | about 5 years ago | (#29657577)

...even public information is available at anytime -- for a modest fee.

Just as an aside on that point, this guy found out about this investigation because he issued a FOIA on himself. If you have any inkling that you might have been looked at, file one. It takes a while, but it's easy. In my case, I've filed two. In one case (FBI), they told me that they didn't (yet) have anything that involved me. In the second case, they sent me a document that totaled 88 pages and was terribly interesting to read and included interviews with people I went to high-school with, known aliases (common nick-names), and information dating back to when I was 9.

Unlike the story at hand, all of this was done at no cost to me (surprisingly - the administrative work and postage must have cost something). They did ask on the FOIA form how much I'd be willing to pay to get my information, but I was never charged a penny.

Aside from the aside: I do not currently commit nor do I plan on committing criminal acts in the near future. I also have no criminal record.

What's wrong with this picture? (5, Insightful)

PunditGuy (1073446) | about 5 years ago | (#29656869)

Man makes public documents available, for free, to the public. Obviously, this sort of thing cannot be allowed to continue.

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29656989)

'Cept they (gummint) closed the case, meaning they couldn't make anything stick.

The good thing here is that the gummint realized that this guy did nothing wrong, and their 27, 8x10, color glossy photographs with the circles and arrows, and a paragraph on the back of each one, weren't going to be of any use.

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | about 5 years ago | (#29657053)

A case of American Blind Justice.

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 5 years ago | (#29657305)

Please tell me I'm not the only one who read your comment and had an 18.5 minute long Arlo Guthrie song [wikipedia.org] pop into my head.....

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | about 5 years ago | (#29657549)

Please tell me I'm not the only one who read your comment and had an 18.5 minute long Arlo Guthrie song [wikipedia.org] pop into my head.....

Are your kidding? Of course not!

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657057)

Yea but that's not what the article came to tell you about, the 2nd half actually talks about the draft.

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (0, Offtopic)

Chyeld (713439) | about 5 years ago | (#29657337)

+1 for appropriate use of Alice's Restaurant.

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (1)

Suzuran (163234) | about 5 years ago | (#29657391)

They'll fine him $20 and make him delete all the documents while out in the snow, but that's not what we came to read about...

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657039)

Did you miss the part about installing (presumably non-permitted) software on a court computer?

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657083)

I didn't. That could certainly be construed as a criminal activity, but was totally outside the scope of the FBI investigation.

How ironic that the only thing he did that could potentially be illegal (according to my understanding of events and the law) was totally igored by the FBI.

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657137)

Did you miss the part about installing (presumably non-permitted) software on a court computer?

Did you miss the part where the software was installed on a library computer?

Re:What's wrong with this picture? (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 5 years ago | (#29657433)

I did. Since that didn't happen. Read the article again.

Fixed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657415)

Man makes free public documents available, for free, to the public. Obviously, this sort of thing cannot be allowed to continue.

Fixed that for you.

retaliation (5, Insightful)

yincrash (854885) | about 5 years ago | (#29656871)

if you look too closely at the gov't, they'll look too closely at you.

Re:retaliation (0, Offtopic)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 5 years ago | (#29657021)

+6 Insightful.

Re:retaliation (1, Offtopic)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 5 years ago | (#29657079)

Nice paraphrase of Nietzsche.

Re:retaliation (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 5 years ago | (#29657385)

if you look too closely at the gov't, they'll look too closely at you.

Oh please. Put the tinfoil hat away. If this was 'retaliation' I suspect that it would have gone a lot further than an investigation that was closed after concluding that no laws were broken. Did he really expect the FBI not to take an interest in him after he installed his own code on a Government computer? Frankly I'd be worried if they didn't take an interest when some IT person notices a script running on a Government computer that's uploading hundreds of thousands of documents.

Doesn't the FBI have better things to do? (4, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29656881)

Seriously, as far as I know, all this material is a matter of public record anyway. It should already be freely available. I've used bulk.resource.org primarily to read opinions of appeals court cases, and it's fantastic to have all that information freely available online. The FBI should be investigating the turrurists instead.

Moral of the story is that if you don't pay 8 cent duplication fees and you know how to use PERL the FBI could come a knockin'?

Re:Doesn't the FBI have better things to do? (0)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | about 5 years ago | (#29657175)

The FBI should be investigating the turrurists instead.

I read that as, "The FBI should be investigating the tourists instead."

Re:Doesn't the FBI have better things to do? (1)

unwastaken (1586569) | about 5 years ago | (#29657375)

I took that as the point of the post...

Re:Doesn't the FBI have better things to do? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657201)

An alternate explanation is this:

  • Government agency says, "Hey! It looks like we've got an automated breach of our system."
  • Investigative body looks at the problem. Developer won't talk, so techies look at the "program".
  • Techies say it's not a virus, not an unauthorized breach (coming from authorized computer), and doesn't even violate any possible "terms of service" equivalent.
  • Investigative body closes case. No harm, no foul, no worries.

The only indication of pissiness would be if they continued the investigation, trying to bring up other strange charges to justify shutting him down.

As a matter of fact, nothing says one way or another if the plugin was wiped from the accepted computer.

Re:Doesn't the FBI have better things to do? (1, Redundant)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 5 years ago | (#29657341)

You mean like investigating the installation of unauthorized software on a federal government computer?

Oh wait....

The System Works (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 5 years ago | (#29656893)

Looks like the system is working a lot better than I could've expected... though the bit in the FBI report valuing the data downloaded at $1.5 million is a little vexing. Government data has value, sure, but it should be shared widely so it can't be lost.

A great power (5, Funny)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 years ago | (#29656901)

The Schwartz makes anything possible!

Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | about 5 years ago | (#29656903)

... this kid has really given power to the people!

Not.

Why does the current generation of kids seem to think just about everything should be free no matter how little it costs? Are government bodies not entitled to charge a nominal fee for services rendered?

Now get off my lawn!

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (3, Insightful)

teknopurge (199509) | about 5 years ago | (#29656959)

100% agree. He installed a script on a 3rd-party system that funneled info off-site? Is he seriously thinking that's ok? Can anyone here imagine what would happen if they did that where they worked?

And spare me the "it's a public library and the docs are public" - the fact you can only access them from the library means there are controls in place(pricing, etc) for a REASON. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO CIRCUMVENT THEM. Why not drive around toll-booths on turnpikes then? Hell, there is some grass over there, next to the row of toll booths, I should write a plugin to drive around these damn $1 shacks!!

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657119)

the fact you can only access them from the library means there are controls in place(pricing, etc) for a REASON. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO CIRCUMVENT THEM.

What law is being broken here? In the US, government works can't be copyrighted [wikipedia.org] . They're automatically public domain. They could be classified, so you need security clearance to legally view them, but the PACER docs aren't.

This isn't any more illegal than Project Gutenberg.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (-1, Flamebait)

teknopurge (199509) | about 5 years ago | (#29657141)

No, I'm not a troll. It's too bad that the people that modded the post as such think everyone should work for free, regardless how many families need to put food on the table.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

richlv (778496) | about 5 years ago | (#29657417)

courts are private business entities in usa now ?

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 5 years ago | (#29657195)

The point here is that the works were public domain; Walking in and reproducing them only incurs the cost (to the customer) of paying for the reproduction, i.e. toner, electricity, copier maintenance, paper. That's it.

What this script did was bypass the arbitrary $0.08 "reproduction fee" for accessing these public domain works, and make them available free of charge (as they are by signing up to the library service, as I understand it).

AFAIK, he used a script to automate the procedure of accessing each page, and uploaded it elsewhere. Doing it on a computer which wasn't his was dumb, but hardly a big issue in the context.

$1.5m "value" is just idiotic. On the internet, reproduction costs decrease to zero in an insignificant amount of time.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657205)

Please explain what the reason for the 'controls in place' could be.

The documents are, by law, available to the public. I can see the government charnging eight cents to cover the costs of them retreiving the document for him if they wish, but by law, there's no penalty for reproducing or distributing public information. If he distributes the information on his own, the government has no right to reimbursement. (Standard IANAL disclaimer here.)

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 years ago | (#29657263)

To use your tollbooth analogy, if there's a free on-ramp and a free off-ramp, why not use them?

    There's a particular stretch of highway that I drive, where I can get on at two different places. Both places are free (no toll on the on-ramp). Both have a in-highway toll. #1 is $1.75. #2 is $1.50. I take #2.

    Towards where I get off the highway, there are several choices. #3 is free. #4 is $0.25. #5 is free after a $1.00 in-highway toll.

    I *could* get on at #1 and off at #5, which would cost me $2.75.
    I *choose* to get on at #2 and off at #3, which only costs me $1.50.

    The difference in distance is negligible.

    Just because there is a more expensive route, we are under no obligation to take that route.

    Since he had access to acquire the information for free, he did no wrong there. They also provided him the ability to upload the same information. The fees that they were charging were presumably for the hard-copy versions. So, he didn't make the hard-copy versions. He uploaded them. Big deal.

   

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (2, Informative)

prgrmr (568806) | about 5 years ago | (#29657453)

Read the article. PACER was specifically giving the documents out for free via the library. He didn't circumvent anything, just made very efficient use of a perfectly legal process using perfectly legal means.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (3, Insightful)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | about 5 years ago | (#29656981)

This makes it easier for everyone to access information. It's faster (search and download) and cheaper (don't have to pay them to print and mail).

This is a good thing for everyone.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (3, Insightful)

Utini420 (444935) | about 5 years ago | (#29656987)

"Are government bodies not entitled to charge a nominal fee for services rendered?"

No.
Especially in this instance, as the service wasn't rendered. If you pay for Document X, the money doesn't go to the people who did whatever work went into that document, it goes to the reproduction office. All he's really done is take out the middle man. There's also that whole taxation thing...

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (0, Flamebait)

teknopurge (199509) | about 5 years ago | (#29657087)

No. Especially in this instance, as the service wasn't rendered. If you pay for Document X, the money doesn't go to the people who did whatever work went into that document, it goes to the reproduction office.

Can you cite this or did you just make it up? All the infrastructure that makes the documents available, scanned them in, store them, bandwidth, power, man-hours, backups, etc. COSTS MONEY. And you know what? They are entitled to it. You don't get to ask people to work for free.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (5, Informative)

dwillden (521345) | about 5 years ago | (#29657197)

Yes it all costs money, and we the TAX payers have paid that money. Thus the works are public domain.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (4, Informative)

BigRedFed (635728) | about 5 years ago | (#29657343)

When something is in the public domain, you can still charge for reproducing or hosting it. You just can not prevent someone from copying and distributing it in the manner that they want as well. Public domain does not preclude paid access. Also, since people pay money to file court documents, IE filing fees, etc. There are instance where you paid NOTHING for court documents to be produced at all. Courts do not run wholly on tax dollars alone.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657507)

No, courts do not run wholly on tax dollars alone. Kickbacks from the private prisons and correction centers are a major source of funds.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 5 years ago | (#29657419)

I imagine the public domain nature of the works is why the FBI investigated him but he's never been charged with anything, non?

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 5 years ago | (#29657525)

Mod parent up. Maybe those plush federal court offices with all of the grandiose furnishings might be paying for public access to documents which we OWN anyway. Taxes, filing fees, judgments to the government, these all produce revenue.

And by the way: pay judges more money so they're less incented towards feeling other financial influences that skew judments. /highhorse

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29657319)

All the infrastructure that makes the documents available, scanned them in, store them, bandwidth, power, man-hours, backups, etc. COSTS MONEY. And you know what? They are entitled to it. You don't get to ask people to work for free.

PACER fees are not designed to recover those costs, which are probably just normal operating costs of the court system. After all, it's not like they run the service solely for public benefit - it's a necessity for a functioning justice system. According to the New York Times article from the summary,

But even the seemingly cheap cost of Pacer adds up, when court records can run to thousands of pages. Fees get plowed back to the courts to finance technology, but the system runs a budget surplus of some $150 million, according to recent court reports.

Secondly, the documents are not copyrighted, and were being offered for free at a library. The fact that this guy mass downloaded them and put them up on a separate server is actually probably SAVING the government money, since they will no longer have to field PACER requests from people who want what is freely available elsewhere.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

richlv (778496) | about 5 years ago | (#29657447)

you truly are trolling :)
if not, advocate for taking away tax money from government.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 5 years ago | (#29657317)

I imagine that PACER fees also pay for archiving of the physical documents, digitisation, etc. It's not just digital storage and retreival (which for the sake of argument we'll say could be done essentially for free; it's not obvious whether that's the case). Either people using those documents get to pay for their upkeep through a retreival fee, or everyone gets to pay it through taxes.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (3, Insightful)

Oidhche (1244906) | about 5 years ago | (#29657007)

8 cents per PAGE doesn't sound like a nominal fee to me.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (4, Funny)

Viol8 (599362) | about 5 years ago | (#29657461)

Thats probably because you're 12 andyour pocket money isn't much more. Now go do your homework.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about 5 years ago | (#29657017)

Government services charge a nominal fee that the majority of people pay for services rendered already.

They call this fee, "tax"

Most people don't want to pay again for what they've already paid for.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657491)

That is what makes sales and property taxes unconstitutional.

You work and earn wages or a salary. That is taxed very heavily. Then you make a purchase; that money is taxed again. Then, you are charged property taxes. That same money is in effect taxed yet again.

Never mind the fact that people do not legally earn income per the legal definition: you exchange x amount of time for an equivalent value of debt (fiat currency). There is no increase in value and therefore no profit, and legally, no income as it is defined by both law and the tax code. The 1040 instructions even state this and that the tax system is voluntary, but just try to not volunteer and see what happens. Many people have filed suit against the government and won and don't pay taxes, but far many more fail and get screwed by the private corporation known as the IRS.

Also, if you pay property taxes, you actually do not own your property. Try not paying your property taxes and see what happens.

This country has been on the slippery slope to communism for a very long time, and like the proverbial frog in the pot of water (I know, it's not true and the frog would jump out, but the metaphor does hold true in this situation) people are so infused with their entitlement attitudes and suckling Uncle Sam's teet that they are completely uninterested in stopping this slide - and won't be interested until it's too late and the government is dictacting which doctor you can see, that you cannot get your own health insurance, how many children you can have, and what your salary will be - oh and by the way you can give up your guns "for the children." By the time people wake up and start voting sensibly we will have a choice of Stalin or Stalin running for office, and if you question it, the new KGB (homeland security) will come and make you disappear.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (3, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29657027)

Why does the current generation of kids seem to think just about everything should be free no matter how little it costs? Are government bodies not entitled to charge a nominal fee for services rendered?

In the first place, this stuff is public information, so the goal of the government should be to make it as widely available as possible at the smallest cost.

Second, the guy took advantage of a free trial period to download as many documents as he could. When the government found out, they shut down the free service.

Third, it's fine to charge a "nominal fee for services rendered," and it makes sense to do so when there is a real cost involved. However, the fee needs to reflect the real costs of retrieving the information. In this case, 18 million pages of documents are not "worth" $1.5 million dollars. They were giving away access to the material at libraries, the search and retrieval mechanism was obviously automatic, so it wasn't wasting people's time or costing more to get the documents.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657031)

They do charge a fee... called taxes. We pay taxes so we can have services provided for us. If they are taxing and charging a nominal fee then they are double dipping. I can understand though. If I had a couple trillion in debt I would do the same.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 years ago | (#29657503)

If you had a private corporation and you charged $FOO amount for $BAR services, and then charged a fee so customers can use $BAR after they have already been paid, you would be charged with crimes for overbilling and/or fraud.

However, since this is the government, it's okay.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (3, Insightful)

datapharmer (1099455) | about 5 years ago | (#29657113)

Are government bodies not entitled to charge a nominal fee for services rendered?

No. First they didn't "render" and service - these records are available electronically anyway. Second these public records were already paid for by public taxes - the "nominal fee" has already been paid by Joe public (this is clear from having 17 free locations).

The problem is that the poor defendant might not be able to go to one of these 17 locations (because of terms of release, physical ability, cost etc) and might not be able to afford hundreds or thousands of dollars to do the necessary research to defend himself. This gives the government and the wealthy an advantage over the poor and thus impedes democracy.

Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657401)

Mod parent up!

Not at all surprised (5, Insightful)

FrozenGeek (1219968) | about 5 years ago | (#29656929)

Install unauthorized software on a government, or business, computer anywhere and see what sort of response you get. This fellow installed an unauthorized perl script on a computer in a federal court (okay, the library thereof). I'm not surprised that the government decided to take a look at things. I'd be disappointed if they had not done so. DUH.

Re:Not at all surprised (5, Insightful)

dwillden (521345) | about 5 years ago | (#29657077)

I agree. And I have a hard time seeing what the big deal about this is anyway. So they investigated. No charges were filed.

End story: The FBI was doing it's job to ensure a crime wasn't being committed, when something unexpected was occuring on a government computer system.

Re:Not at all surprised (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657477)

I agree. And I have a hard time seeing what the big deal about this is anyway. So they investigated. No charges were filed.

End story: The FBI was doing it's job to ensure a crime wasn't being committed, when something unexpected was occuring on a government computer system.

Sorry, this is Slashdot, after all. We're all a bunch of pseudo-anarcho-libertarians. If the FBI is actually doing its job, that's an example of too much government interference, so it should be disbanded so we can get back to work. And we're really really smart nerds, which makes us right.

Of course, all this changes if some company is screwing us over or we otherwise need the government. Then we'll take all the government we can get.

Close the thread... (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | about 5 years ago | (#29657547)

...the parent and grandparent post have said everything that needs to be said.

Re:Not at all surprised (3, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | about 5 years ago | (#29657483)

Install unauthorized software on a government

Didn't RTFA eh? What he actually did was access the PACER database using the username/password of the library from his Amazon IP address. One request every 3 seconds (which apparently counts as "inundated"), worth an imaginary $1.5 million. So they investigate the IP address, Amazon helpfully coughs up all the accounts details, with the name they find his web page and from Accurint get his social security number and other details, then gain access to his LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, drivers license, drive by his house and get photos (they suggest surveillance will be difficult), then he gets interviewed by the New York Times [slashdot.org] . After all that, they drop the case.

Possibly the best quote from the FBI: AARON SWARTZ would have known his access was unauthorized because it was with a password that did not belonged to him.

Re:Not at all surprised (1)

chrb (1083577) | about 5 years ago | (#29657543)

Ok, there is conflicting information here. Swartz says he ran the script only on the library computer. The FBI report states PACER was accessed by computers from outside the library utilizing login information from two libraries participating in the pilot project.

You know what pisses me off about stuff like this? (3, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | about 5 years ago | (#29656945)

Congress could easily allocate enough money to make PACER a free service, maybe even get some contractors to write a solid web service API so government agencies and the public could easily access the service.

But they don't... because in so many cases they want the public to pay for services like this out of pocket so that they have revenue to spend on others.

It disgusts me that on the local level, there's money for welfare programs and all sorts of other crap, but no money to actually pay for a full-time fire fighting service in most communities.

The public really needs to demand that core services (defense, police, fire fighters, courts, transportation) be funded first and funded generously, and that the social services be funded with the scraps that are left over from the core budget and user fees.

Re:You know what pisses me off about stuff like th (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657439)

I disagree: "defense" as is implemented in the USA is NOT a core service. It is a tool for some (not you, a simple citizen) to gain power on others inside and outside of the USA.

Re:You know what pisses me off about stuff like th (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 5 years ago | (#29657533)

I would put things in a different order - education being first. Others would have their own order. I know something needs to be changed, but who decides?

Re:You know what pisses me off about stuff like th (1)

hitnrunrambler (1401521) | about 5 years ago | (#29657575)

The public really needs to demand that core services (defense, police, fire fighters, courts, transportation) be funded first and funded generously, that the social services be funded next, and that corporate interests & pork barrel kickbacks & empire building be funded with the scraps that are left over from the core budget and user fees.

clarified that a bit for you

Re:You know what pisses me off about stuff like th (2, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 years ago | (#29657579)

"social services" really ought to be handled by private organizations like they used to. The government ought to stick to protecting the borders, punishing evildoers (you know, like rapists and murderers and burglars, not "criminals" like stoners and crack heads), and maybe building roads. That's it. Then, the budget problems would go away, and there would be no need for oppressive taxes. Everything can then be funded through import tariffs.

Hey, why didn't our founding fathers consider that? Oh right, that's what they intended in the first place. The problem is bleeding hearts had the though "wouldn't it be nice if government could provide __________ - for the children" and after having done that like eleventy trillion times we have a national debt that isn't $11.x trillion, which is horrifying enough, but really more like $60 TRILLION dollars when every liability (social security, bonds, etc.) are all accounted for. That doesn't include states' debts either.

Re:You know what pisses me off about stuff like th (1)

jbeach (852844) | about 5 years ago | (#29657583)

I think the public understands core services just fine. They just consider "social services" which feed kids and families and support the disadvantaged to be a core service.

Bad English (3, Informative)

AlterRNow (1215236) | about 5 years ago | (#29656947)

AARON SWARTZ would have known his access was unauthorized because it was with a password that did not belonged to him.

Proof-reading. A valuable tool.

Re:Bad English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657225)

Proof-reading. A valuable tool.

"Poor English," actually. "Bad English" indicates that the English (either the English people or the English language) is misbehaving. Just for the record, of course.

Re:Bad English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657329)

"Poor English" of course refers to English as used by people with incomes less than the poverty limit.

Re:Bad English (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657413)

Hey man, this are internet lands. You're kind of crap isnt belonged hear, so just make like a tree and hit the road.

19,856,160 records at 3 seconds per record (4, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 5 years ago | (#29656963)

((((19,856,160 x 3 sec)/60 sec)/60 min)/24 hours)/365 days = 1.9 years

entirely doable

Re:19,856,160 records at 3 seconds per record (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657169)

Not quite.

Document != page

19,856,160 pages at 3 seconds per court document.

I expect many (most?) of those court documents are multi-page documents.

Re:19,856,160 records at 3 seconds per record (1)

Nyall (646782) | about 5 years ago | (#29657559)

The article isn't clear, but I would assume that there are multiple terminals he could have installed this script on.

And where did he get the password? (1, Redundant)

Kagato (116051) | about 5 years ago | (#29656967)

What the /. summary doesn't say is that Aaron used a user name and password of the library to run his script from an outside location. I would guess the FBI closed the case because 1) he got a lawyer and and refused the interview. 2) most likely the librarian had lax password handling that didn't specifically say he shouldn't have use it at home.

On the other hand if he did something like grab the password from a config file or unencode a URL with the credentials embedded I wouldn't feel bad if he landed in court.

Re:And where did he get the password? (3, Informative)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | about 5 years ago | (#29657037)

RTFA... He ran the script on the library computer, and the computer had a cookie set that allowed access to the PACER system without inputting a password.

Re:And where did he get the password? (4, Informative)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 5 years ago | (#29657471)

RTFFBI report, they say that he ran the script from a location outside of the library using the library password. Either the FBI are wrong, or the article summary is.

Re:And where did he get the password? (1)

chrb (1083577) | about 5 years ago | (#29657621)

The FBI report states PACER was accessed by computers from outside the library utilizing login information from two libraries participating in the pilot project.

Re:And where did he get the password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657331)

The summary doesn't say he used a username and password because he didn't use a username and password.

So, it took 1.9 years? (1, Redundant)

s-whs (959229) | about 5 years ago | (#29656975)

Wired article:

> Swartz decided to use the trial to grab as many of the public court records as he could and, perversely, release them to the public.

How is that perverse? 'Ironically' would perhaps fit, but using the word perverse seems, eh, perverse :)

And 20 million documents, one every 3 seconds should take 1.9 years. However, the wired article says it was done in a few weeks. What am I missing?

Re:So, it took 1.9 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657029)

What am I missing?

not your virginity thats for sure!

Re:So, it took 1.9 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657177)

The script requested a new document every three seconds. Many of the documents had multiple pages, the sum total of which was ~20 million.

Re:So, it took 1.9 years? (4, Informative)

kent_eh (543303) | about 5 years ago | (#29657241)

> What am I missing?

Document != page

19,856,160 pages at 3 seconds per court document.
I expect many (most?) of those court documents are multi-page documents.

Fix the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657005)

I love how they wanted his help to "fix" problem.... mainly how to get him in jail (incriminate himself).

Incompetence Malice (1, Interesting)

Gudeldar (705128) | about 5 years ago | (#29657041)

The most likely explanation for this is that some FBI employees who were ignorant to the fact that this was legal decided to run his name through their database and probably figured out he wasn't some evil-doer stealing court records. Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Re:Incompetence Malice (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 5 years ago | (#29657411)

Revenu stream under threat?
Favor from Washington...

Context please (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 5 years ago | (#29657043)

I want to go on state red full-on black helicopter paranoia rant, but before that, can someone tell how probable/unusual for FBI to look into your record, say, in comparison to a no-name newspaper reporter, for example.

So did he upload the FOIA? (3, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | about 5 years ago | (#29657075)

His FOIA was approved, of course, and he received the FBI's partially redacted report on himself.

So, did he have a script that automatically uploaded this FOIA on himself to a public server?

What's the big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657259)

This is what the FBI is for? They see something strange, investigate, and find that it's nothing. I didn't RTFA, but nowhere in the summary above did it mention any charges being pressed. AFAIC, this is exactly what the FBI is there for.

I'm for once happy with the actions of the government here.

Inquire Within (4, Interesting)

MelloHippo (607765) | about 5 years ago | (#29657279)

I wonder if the mere act of requesting your FBI file will cause them to open one. I'm sure it must be of interest to the Bureau that somebody is curious what the FBI has on them.

Sure (1)

Zygamorph (917923) | about 5 years ago | (#29657513)

I would guess that some sort of file is created, how else do they keep track of and coordinate the progress and work done to satisfy the request? Said file would have to be associated with the original requester since they have to know who to send the results to. - duh

So much... (0, Troll)

kenp2002 (545495) | about 5 years ago | (#29657289)

So much for "unreasonable search and seizure" protection. Amerika Da Free! Next stop "your travel papers and ID card"!

In Gulag U.S.A. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657371)

Court records investigate F.B.I. !

Yours in Desnogorsk [qreallexx.ru] ,
Kilgore T.

Pacer charges even more than it says (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657405)

Pacer is worse than presented. Itâ(TM)s not just 8 cents a page for downloaded, itâ(TM)s 8 cents a page for any page you pull into your browser. They consider any Web page you surf on their site in search of the legal document to be a âoedownloadedâ document.
I work at a newspaper and one of my reporters ran up a $250 bill with Pacer checking many times a day to see if an important local opinion were issued. When it was, it was just 4 pages long; I expected to pay 32 cents. Instead they said we owed over $250. We never paid it and consequently no longer use Pacer.

Unauthorized Automated Clicking and Saving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29657609)

What is unauthorized about using a program to do what the user could do manually?

Select - File - Save As (repeat 1 million times)

-or-

mput list_of_files remote_storage

And how can you call something unauthorized when there is obviously a perl interpreter installed on the computer and the user is given permission to run it. Now if the user rooted the box to install perl and/or given himself permission to run perl scripts, then he did something nefarious.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

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