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US Attorney General Defends Handling of Aaron Swartz Case

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the that's-some-good-police-work-there-lou dept.

Crime 276

TrueSatan writes in with the latest in the ongoing Aaron Swartz tragedy. "Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday said the suicide death of internet activist Aaron Swartz was a 'tragedy,' but the hacking case against the 26-year-old was 'a good use of prosecutorial discretion.' The attorney general was testifying at a Justice Department oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee and was facing terse questioning from Sen. John Cornyn (D-Texas). ...Holder stated: 'I think that's a good use of prosecutorial discretion to look at the conduct, regardless of what the statutory maximums were and to fashion a sentence that was consistent with what the nature of the conduct was. And I think what those prosecutors did in offering 3, 4, zero to 6 was consistent with that conduct.' Notwithstanding Holder's testimony, Massachusetts federal prosecutors twice indicted Swartz for the alleged hacking, once in 2011 on four felonies and again last year on 13 felonies. The case included hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 to enhance the government's ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality."

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Duh. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43100925)

Huge asshole defends being a huge asshole. News at 11.

Re:Duh. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43100965)

Huge asshole defends being a huge asshole by prosecuting a huge asshole . News at 11.

In other news... (5, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43100931)

The puppy sitting next to a big poo on the carpet also claims that it wasn't his fault...

Re:In other news... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43100975)

Who mods up moronic crap like this?

Re:In other news... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101347)

Who mods up moronic crap like this?

Niggerlovers.

Re:In other news... (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101197)

The puppy sitting next to a big poo on the carpet also claims that it wasn't his fault...

Yes, but a puppy is too young to know better. Puppies can be trained not to shit on everything, unlike US Attorney Generals.

Pleading guilty compulsary (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101405)

" Even after that, a plea offer was made of a range of from zero to 6 months that he would be able to argue for a probationary sentence. The government would be able to argue for up to a period of 6 months."

You can see the problem here, he's arguing that the guy's rights are dependent on him pleading guilty. He should have been charged with a crime that had a 6 month sentence, but instead they charge him with crimes which would have locked him away for most of his life, in ORDER TO FORCE HIM TO SKIP THE TRIAL AND PLEAD GUILTY.

And admitting they thought a 6 month sentence was appropriate confirms they shouldn't have gone for the more serious crimes.

So MIT and JSTOR didn't think a criminal charge was appropriate, which removed their evidence. That removed the 'exceeded access authority' (they dropped that charge when it became untenable) and the 'didn't have access authority' claim was dodgy as f*** since he certainly did have authority to access the site.

So the charges they had against were untenable. They then piled on a load of BS Federal claims to try to go for the smear tactic. The 'he's charged with 13 crimes so he must be guilty of at least one of them' tactic. Make it so risky that he has to accept the plea bargain.

And here the prosecutor is confirming the only way to get an appropriate sentence was to go for the plea. Which confirms what we know.

Really, the prosecutor is abusing the system, he might think its for the greater good (to reduce court ques and put more people in jail), but its not. Carmen Ortiz on the other hand is the real criminal here, she literally used this case as a stepping stone in her political career.

Re:Pleading guilty compulsary (-1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101457)

You can see the problem here, he's arguing that the guy's rights are dependent on him pleading guilty. He should have been charged with a crime that had a 6 month sentence, but instead they charge him with crimes which would have locked him away for most of his life, in ORDER TO FORCE HIM TO SKIP THE TRIAL AND PLEAD GUILTY.

Tell me, do you sell your car for what it's actually worth, or do you add a little bit extra to negotiate down from? Same thing. Admittedly, most people add 10--15%, not 1000%...

Re:Pleading guilty compulsary (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101511)

Except we aren't talking about selling a car. We are talking about putting people in prison and labeling them as a felon.

Re:Pleading guilty compulsary (5, Insightful)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101579)

You list the exact motive why such bargains shouldn't be allowed. As long as they are they will be used exactly like this, which is a derailment of the legal system's purposes. Plea bargains are an abomination of US justice system whose only purpose is to blackmail people into forfeiting their constitutional rights.

Re:Pleading guilty compulsary (-1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101667)

Plea bargains are an abomination of US justice system whose only purpose is to blackmail people into forfeiting their constitutional rights.

Show me the part of the constitution where it says "And the state shall not do anything that might make administration of the judicial process cheaper, faster, and more efficient." There's no depriving of due process, there's nothing saying the defendant can't have the right not to self-incriminate. Plea bargaining is just that: Bargaining. And there's nothing in the constitution that says you can't bargain with the prosecutor, or vice versa.

But by all means, beat your chest and rip up the grass thinking people are being "blackmailed" to give up their non-existant non-rights. This is the internet afterall, where everyone's an armchair constitutional scholar!

All the way to the top. (4, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43100935)

Hopefully now they can sweep them all out, from the AG all the way down to the frontline prosecutor. As a warning to others that "Justice" in "Justice Department" is not some vestigal null word.

Re:All the way to the top. (4, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101059)

Uh.

What he did was really illegal.

SHOULD it be super illegal? No. Of course not.

We also need a sea change in both jurisprudence and how we view crime. You know part of this is him trying to keep his ass out of hot water in the mainstream press. If we change how we as a people view crime and justice, there wouldn't be this snap call to be "tough on crime."

Rationality has left our culture. It's happening on both sides, but in Swartz's defense, and those who are outraged by Holder and everyone involved, now is not the time for well reasoned disconnected logic.

Someone died because a prosecutor turned the screw over an incident where no money was lost, no lives were lost and by all measure, relatively harmless.

To blame Holder or the prosecutor specifically ignores the bigger social context at work. That needs to change. We need to not forget what happened here.

Re:All the way to the top. (2)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101095)

This vaguely sounded disconnected and appealing to rationality when that was the thing I was arguing against.

I advocate for well reasoned and thoughtful outrage.

Re:All the way to the top. (5, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101159)

What he did was really illegal.

SHOULD it be super illegal? No. Of course not.

This is not the issue.
The problem is that plea-bargaining mechanism (an abomination in itself) leads to situation where to get 6 months (!) he was threatened with something like 30 or 50 years (yes, yes, federal guidelines, blah blah, but the judge would have discretion and it could lead to a lot more than 6 months)

Prosecutors should be barred from piling on an unreasonable number of charges just to scare the defendant into plea bargain.

Re:All the way to the top. (0)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101271)

Absolutely agree. But who wants to ever have to answer to being reasonable?

Again, the problem isn't just the lack of prosecutorial restraint, its certainly a problem there is also the problem of "why should anyone have being rational a problem?"

Re:All the way to the top. (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101355)

What he did was really illegal.

Whether something is illegal or not has no bearing on whether it is ethical or moral. And there are also shades of illegality. It is, for example, illegal to be publicly intoxicated, and yet if you go downtown you are sure to spot drunk people parading about, along with many police officers watching them do so. There's a reason why public intoxication is illegal, just as there are equally compelling reasons why the officers don't give a damn. Morality and ethics is the short answer.

You know part of this is him trying to keep his ass out of hot water in the mainstream press.

Do you mean the corpse, or the attorney general? I'm going to go with attorney general: His ass isn't in hot water. It's his job to ensure that the laws are applied fairly, and that the laws themselves are fair. As long as he's doing his job, he should have nothing to fear. So if his ass is in the proverbial hot water, then it's because he wasn't doing his job properly, which in turn means myself, and many others, are quite pleased to see him get a thorough roasting for causing a situation so repugnant.

If we change how we as a people view crime and justice, there wouldn't be this snap call to be "tough on crime."

You're assuming that an enhanced understanding of the problem will solve it. That illusion is one of mankind's oldest.

Rationality has left our culture.

That implies it was ever present. Even tracing back to the very foundations of our society, we can find plenty of examples of how irrationality dragged us forward. One might even argue that a dose of irrationality is exactly what's needed sometimes -- if you are known for having a strongly vindictive nature, then even though someone may be stronger than you and able to beat you up, they may leave you alone because you're simply not worth the effort. Is being vindictive rational? No of course not: It could earn you an ass pounding! And yet, counterintuitively, that's exactly what it prevents.

Someone died because a prosecutor turned the screw over an incident where no money was lost, no lives were lost and by all measure, relatively harmless.

No, someone committed suicide because society had no place for them. What he was doing may have had value to him, but society as a whole has, through its legal system, has made it so even in cases where there is no financial or physical harm to others, said that what he was doing had no value. Since what he was doing was at the core of who he was (obviously, since it drove him to kill himself when he was deprived of it), it is more accurate to say society had no place for him. Whether that's moral, or ethical, right, or wrong, I leave to you. But that is why he died.

To blame Holder or the prosecutor specifically ignores the bigger social context at work.

The larger social context here is that nobody gives a damn. It's apathy and indifference on a mass scale. There's no need to make vague motions towards a "larger social context", as though that means something more than "people are fucking self-centered, lazy assholes." It doesn't sound as academic, as intellectual, to say that, but it's closer to the truth.

Re:All the way to the top. (2, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101517)

The larger social context here is that nobody gives a damn. It's apathy and indifference on a mass scale. There's no need to make vague motions towards a "larger social context", as though that means something more than "people are fucking self-centered, lazy assholes." It doesn't sound as academic, as intellectual, to say that, but it's closer to the truth.

It's also really fucking lazy. Because this isn't about JUST Swartz.

How many people are in prison or on death row or even dead because prosecutors are under pressure to get convictions? Or how many Governors are just simply unwilling to grant pardons or approve parole because of Willie Horton?

Ignoring why is so superficial and what's wrong with our political system right now. No amount of voter or finance reform will matter unless we stop responding to having hot buttons pressed and giving into sensationalization. Our problem is a lack of nuance, not ethics. No one wants to sit through a longer news story or have to hear about the grey areas.

I don't know if this is historical or not, but that's the problem.

Right now the media is reporting that Eric Holder will not rule out the use of drone strikes on American soil.

What they didn't report on is that even military intervention is such an extreme reaction to anything that it's generally not anything we have to worry about. It's an extremely extraordinary circumstance, the weight of which is lost in the cultural zeitgeist.

Re:All the way to the top. (1)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101537)

Whether something is illegal or not has no bearing on whether it is ethical or moral. And there are also shades of illegality. It is, for example, illegal to be publicly intoxicated, and yet if you go downtown you are sure to spot drunk people parading about, along with many police officers watching them do so. There's a reason why public intoxication is illegal, just as there are equally compelling reasons why the officers don't give a damn. Morality and ethics is the short answer.

And whether it is ethical or moral has nothing to do with the Executive's job, who have sworn to faithfully execute the laws, not to faithfully execute their own ethical and moral judgment.

I am far more terrified of an Attorney General that decides to start pursuing their own internal sense of justice than one who tries to reliably and impartially implement the Constitution and the law. In the former case, he would be essentially unbounded -- free to do anything he though was right and proper. In the latter, he might do (admittedly stupid) things like imposing penalties based on the (idiotically drafted) CFAA but at there exists some limiting principle to his actions (the law) and some balancing branch (Congress) to his power.

Re:All the way to the top. (5, Insightful)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101609)

No, someone committed suicide because society had no place for them. What he was doing may have had value to him, but society as a whole has, through its legal system, has made it so even in cases where there is no financial or physical harm to others, said that what he was doing had no value. Since what he was doing was at the core of who he was (obviously, since it drove him to kill himself when he was deprived of it), it is more accurate to say society had no place for him. Whether that's moral, or ethical, right, or wrong, I leave to you. But that is why he died.

You make it sound as if the legal system represents society's will, which is obviously not the true (and never was). Society had a place for him, but those who rule did not, and despite any illusions you may have of living in a democracy, rest assured those who rule are not the people.

Re:All the way to the top. (5, Insightful)

Rashkae (59673) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101543)

The 'crime' here was violatoin of terms of service. It was the equivalent of having out too many library books at the same time. It is the *same* Federal crime as creating a Facebook or Google+ profile under an assumed name.

Prosecuters refused any plea bargain that did not involve jail time because Aaron was politically emberassing to some.

Re:All the way to the top. (3)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101071)

Why would you think this would happen? After the 200+ people killed in Mexico because of him and he doesn't even have to answer questions about it, why would he even have to be bothered admitting this happened?

Re:All the way to the top. (3, Insightful)

Scutter (18425) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101105)

Fast and Furious wasn't enough to even make him break a sweat. Hell, Waco happened and Janet Reno skated. This won't even be a blip on the DOJ's radar.

Re:All the way to the top. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101381)

This won't even be a blip on the DOJ's radar.,

"Guantanamo Bay called sir, something about not being on the radar? They say we're routinely torturing the shit out of hundreds of people for years at a go, and they are kept on suicide watch all the time because if they had the chance, every single one of them would kill themselves in moments."

DOJ: "I thought I told you I wanted a LIGHTLY toasted bagel! Wait, what were you saying again?"

Re:All the way to the top. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101475)

Fuck you racists whiteys! I gots my Obama phone!

Re:All the way to the top. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101123)

Look Ma, he made a new word... vestigal!

And he did it right after he proved he doesn't know the meaning of the word, "justice," as in the department thereof. I've no doubt the prosecutors pursued Swartz with the vigor and passion that should be reserved for white collar criminals and which is demanded by the politics surrounding the issue of property rights, but if you think anyone's gonna lose his job, let alone much sleep of a sensitive geek's over reaction to prosecution, then you're only fooling yourself.

Property rights have become holy in America, in case you haven't noticed. And those who seek political favor have only to prove they hold that truth to be self evident. That's what makes America and its tradition of capitalism uber allis great! That's why none of the investors in corporations which established the original colonies lost their property as a result of the War for Independence.

I feel some sympathy for anyone who was involved in this tragedy, but the fatal mistakes were written and enacted through legislation that Swartz knowingly challenged. The culture that pursues prosecution where little if any harm can be shown rather than pursuing the institutionalized chicanery of so-called fiduciaries with Series Seven ethics certifications is one that keeps us all at the mercy of board members, Wall Street moguls, corrupt immoral executives and the culture of finance that we're all encouraged to revere.

If you want revenge, you're looking in the wrong place. Live well and promote the antithesis of that which you claim to abhor.

Derp (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43100939)

The case included hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 to enhance the government's ability to

... be so overly vague as to make anyone who uses a computer for any reason, by any method, a felon? Because that act is the quintessential example of how not to do it, and it's quoted by law professors all over the country as a shining example of the problems caused by strict liability laws.

Re:Derp (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101003)

how not to do it? Your government controls you. every BIT of you.
People in America think they are free and moral.
They are neither.

Re:Derp (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101343)

People in America think they are free and moral.

More free still than most, but definitely losing them. As for morals, we gave those up years ago.

Re:Derp (1)

arf_barf (639612) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101621)

One could argue that being oppressed and knowing it, is better than being too stupid to know that you are being oppressed. At least in the former case, you can still yell out loud: You can take my life but you will never take my freedom ;-)

Re:Derp (2)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101175)

vague as to make anyone who uses a computer for any reason, by any method, a felon?

Yes!
And the best part is that with such vague laws, the prosecutor could decide to go after anyone they want. The laws don't have to be enforced -- everyone is a felon and can be charged as needed.

There should be a law requiring to pursue existing charges against everyone and not based on prosecutor discretion. That would cut down on ridiculous laws overnight.

Re:Derp (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101283)

There should be a law requiring to pursue existing charges against everyone and not based on prosecutor discretion. That would cut down on ridiculous laws overnight.

There wouldn't be anyone left then, except perhaps newborns... who would promptly starve to death since any adult capable of taking care of them would be in jail. It would, quite literally, be the end of human life in this country -- there is no person alive who doesn't commit a crime deserving of jail every week in the course of his/her everyday activities.

And you don't need vague laws for prosecutors to go after anyone they want... it just makes it easier. All you need is a big helping of the just world hypothesis [wikipedia.org] and a side of Milgram's obedience experiments [berkeley.edu] to clean up anyone who doesn't get suckered by the first one.

This is the morality sieve in every culture that has allowed freedom and liberty to de-evolve into tyranny and abuse of power: Anyone hurt by it deserved it and anyone who disagrees vocally enough to start convincing others this is not the case will be punished, and naturally then, they deserved it too. As far as why people go along with things they clearly know are wrong or hurtful... it's because they're afraid of being punished by The Authorities. But here's the real interesting thing... when you add in a helping of Bureaucracy, then you can have an abstract authority where no one person is responsible. When you divide responsibility amongst even a small number [southeastern.edu] of people, then nobody takes responsibility, nobody is at fault, and the process continues on its merry, eating people left and right. "I was just following orders."

Re:Derp (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101547)

there is no person alive who doesn't commit a crime deserving of jail every week in the course of his/her everyday activities.

I hear that stated a lot, but I've never been convinced. What laws are these normal people breaking every day that would put them in jail? Are you sure this isn't just hyperbole?

Don't get me wrong, I know there are laws on the books that are ridiculous, and I think it should be simplified, I'm just not convinced that most people break laws deserving of jail every day.

Re:Derp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101591)

People write that kind of crap around here all the time, and no one ever provides justification.

Not long for this administration (4, Interesting)

Hangtime (19526) | about a year and a half ago | (#43100941)

Between Fast and Furious, Swartz, and now giving the OK on drone strikes against US citizens in America - he doesn't have a friend in the world, he has ticked off everyone.

Re:Not long for this administration (4, Insightful)

mkiwi (585287) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101031)

Between Fast and Furious, Swartz, and now giving the OK on drone strikes against US citizens in America - he doesn't have a friend in the world, he has ticked off everyone.

Don't worry, there are still plenty of people drinking the Kool-aid. People tend to chain themselves to a particular ideology because it makes life easier to absorb. The "us vs. them" mentality is a basic human survival mechanism.

What will be interesting to find out is how Obama is perceived after the "not so nice" parts of his healthcare law take effect in a couple years––then scholars truly can debate who was worse, Bush II or Obama.

Re:Not long for this administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101073)

You mean the parts that exist only in republicans minds, and those who listen to their propaganda? I am not worried. Historians will note this as the beginning of the united states slow transformation into a modern society.

Re:Not long for this administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101251)

Wow. Partisan much? Of course you have read the 2,000+ page law, right?

Re:Not long for this administration (1)

hermitdev (2792385) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101535)

Having only read part of the law and listening to the repeated propaganda and "your taxes will not go up" under "Obamacare": I can tell you one thing: my taxes immediately went up $6K/yr after the very first parts of that law took effect. And that's not even counting my increased health care contributions my employers takes out of my check, or the increased copay (copay went up 50% the very first year, is now up 250% from year previous to Obamacare's passing).

I said it then, and I'll say it now: If you haven't personally read the entirety of the text of a law you're voting on, you have no business voting on the law. Party politics aside, Pelosi's comment "We'll know what this bill says when we pass it" ought to have been enough alone to impeach her.

Re:Not long for this administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101471)

Connecting health care to this is 'us vs them' mentality.

Re:Not long for this administration (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101061)

Not so. Obama worship goes way beyond the props given to Reagan during his time.

Re:Not long for this administration (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101145)

Election and popularity poll results provide evidence that your idea is baloney.

Re:Not long for this administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101467)

True. However, I think that far too many Obama supporters -- including many, if not most, of my friends and family -- should be smart enough to know better, and would consider many of his policies immoral and repugnant if he was a Republican. We're talking MIT and Stanford grads and PhDs among others who still "like" Obama on Facebook and never post stories about his terrible policies like they do when it comes to members of the GOP.

Re:Not long for this administration (1)

hermitdev (2792385) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101497)

You forget, we (the American populace), not I, reelected this administration already knowing about Fast & Furious and the drone strikes.

But, Swartz *did* break the law as it stands now. And, it appears he did so knowingly. And, rather than work to change the law, he decided he was above it and broke it. As such, he deserved to be prosecuted. He didn't work to change the law, he just wantonly broke it. As such, they brought down the hammer on him. He wanted access to a system he didn't have legal access to. Sure, it was just to download research docs from an educational system. But, what it if was financial records from a bank? He would have performed the same act, but against a different target. How is this different? HE. BROKE. THE. LAW. And did so knowingly.

Were the criminal penalties Swartz was facing just? I'm not sure. But, he did break the law as stands, and should have been prosecuted for it. If you selectively enforce a law, it loses are baring and effectiveness, and arguably could have been used as precedent in future cases, with more severe consequences, to dismiss a case. Common law sucks in that regard.

Re:Not long for this administration (1)

Rashkae (59673) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101587)

Not exactly correct. He *did* have legal access to Jstore. Where his mistepped is creating a automatic "spider" to fetch the articles for him, against terms and service.

Re:Not long for this administration (2)

JWW (79176) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101645)

Just to pile on the, with all due respect, horseshit prosecutor that handled Aaron's case.

She's also responsible for trying to seize a hotel from its owners because a couple of drug deals happened there. It didn't matter to her that the owners helped the police and were not at all involved other than renting out rooms.

Again with all due respect, this prosecutor shold have already resigned in disgrace for this.

Our legal system has no honor when the officers of the court behave worse than the supposed criminals.

Re:Not long for this administration (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101555)

Except Obama?

What an ass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43100951)

this is what is wrong with america specifically: Prosecutors. Their only job is to get a guilty verdict no matter if the accused party is innocent or not of anything even remotely criminal.

To heck with this system! Use Linux instead!

Re:What an ass. (3, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101055)

this is what is wrong with america specifically: Prosecutors. Their only job is to get a guilty verdict no matter if the accused party is innocent or not of anything even remotely criminal.

To heck with this system! Use Linux instead!

Aaron Schartz was caught in a computer closet with his laptop hooked into a network that had specifically denied him permission to connect to their system.

Think again about what you would do if you found a person who was not supposed to be there in your server room, copying files and doing who knows what else before you talk about "not remotely criminal."

The prosecutor, from what I can tell, did nothing wrong.

Re:What an ass. (2)

mbc2000 (886849) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101393)

How about charging him with trespass, which under Massachusetts law is punishable by "one hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days or both such fine and and imprisonment [malegislature.gov] ?"

Re:What an ass. (1)

Rashkae (59673) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101601)

Nope, they couldn't even charge him for Tresspass, The closet was publicly accessible... (and was even being used by some of the public as a coat closet.) Using the network jack he found in there, however, was a no-no.)

Re:What an ass. (0, Offtopic)

hermitdev (2792385) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101653)

What about grand theft larceny? By plugging in his computer into their network, it became more than a mere trespass. At the going rate, the documents he was downloading would likely have qualified under that consideration.

But, by your argument, if I broken into a woman's bedroom, whipped out my equipment and plugged it in, it'd be mere trespass, not rape. Besides, it didn't cost her anything to give it up.

What's the difference? Because it was electronic? Because it was to access information *you* believe should be free? What if I told you I thought that woman's vagina ought to be free? Does that then make it right? Because I thought it to be so? What if I can get tens of thousands online to agree with me, does that then justify it? What if I substitute wallet for vagina/network? For what substitutions is this now right? And for which is it wrong?

Swartz was caught accessing something that did not legally belong to him, and he was being made held accountable for his actions.

Re:What an ass. (1)

rok3 (1133003) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101439)

I was going to use my mod points but I didn't see an 'idiot' option. The only illegal thing he actually did was to trespass in a computer closet.

Re:What an ass. (2, Interesting)

Goobermunch (771199) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101611)

And trespass into a computer network. Which is what the statute was intended to discourage.

Oh, and there was that whole downloading journal articles from a business that makes its money from charging people to view them. I'm pretty sure there's something in the U.S. code about that.

Look, I don't agree with what the U.S. Attorneys did in this case, but let's be honest. Aaron Swartz was willfully and intentionally committing at least two felonies. He was doing it because he believed that we, as a people, would be better off if the information he was accessing was freely available to everyone. That's a noble goal. I agree with him.

But--if you engage in an act of civil disobedience, you have to be willing to accept the consequences, whatever they may be. That's the tradeoff--you get to break the law with a clear conscience, but you also suffer the punishment to demonstrate the injustice of the law. To say that Mr. Swartz ought not have been punished, or that his punishment should be minimal because we like what he was doing is to say that the ends justify the means. If I were to access a server room at your bank to access information that is valuable to you--like the 1s and 0s that represent your bank balance--I suspect you wouldn't be so forgiving, even if I were moving those 1s and 0s to help the poor or the sick.

I do think the prosecutors should have exercised their discretion in a less overbearing way. It makes me sad and furious that a brilliant young man is dead. But we don't do ourselves any good by glossing over the facts and minimizing what was and is at stake. Aaron Swartz wanted us to change the way we think about "intellectual property." He envisioned a world in which the work of human minds was freely available to enrich the lives of everyone. Where one person's brilliant thoughts could spark genius in minds years and miles from the source. He did so in a legal climate that inflicts draconian civil and criminal punishment on people who try to make that dream a reality. And he did it by flouting the very laws he wanted changed.

He didn't just trespass, he flipped the bird to the Federal Government. But then, when confronted with the reality that the U.S. Attorneys were going to treat him in the exact same way they treat every "criminal" they see, day after day, he realized he'd bitten off more than he could chew. And he killed himself. I don't know how to respond to the situation, because I'm mad about the whole thing. I'm mad at my government for its stupidity and heavy handed tactics, but I'm mad at Aaron Swartz for not having the courage to stand and fight or to be a political prisoner and a symbol. Hell, I'm even mad at myself for lacking the courage he had. But I'm really frustrated with the idea that we should gloss over what actually happened. The only way we can learn from what went wrong is to look at it with clear eyes.

--AC

No wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43100969)

If the head prosecutor of the nation is like this, its no wonder people make a run on the gun stores whenever the government mentions anything related to gun control. If trespassing on a university justifies 35 years in prison, failing to register a firearm would probably get you hanged.

35 years you get less time for rape and other stuf (3, Funny)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101067)

35 years you get less time for rape and other stuff. Hell I can go down to the quick mark beat up the clerk, rob the join and be looking at 3 to 20

Eric Holder: Guilty Of Murder ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43100977)

By his own words is Eric Holder, Sec. of Justice, guilty of murder ?

Can charges of premeditated murder be leveled against Eric Holder and his subordinates ?

Can real Justice Exist in the United States of America ?

Eric must go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43100985)

And that along with all the other Federal misdeeds in the name of law enforcement is why Eric Holder must go!

What else can he say? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year and a half ago | (#43100989)

If he tells a Justice Department oversight hearing that a prosecutor who worked for him drove a man to suicide then he may as well resign on the spot.

Re:What else can he say? (5, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101021)

It would be the honorable thing to do.

Re:What else can he say? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101085)

You can be sure he will apologize in his memoirs after he does retire, just like all those before him. SOP

Re:What else can he say? (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101177)

I'm immediately reminded of the opening scene in "Serenity" where The Operative is describing to the admin official how, in the old days, when someone failed so completely, as he had, that they would commit suicide. The official retorts about being in a more modern era or some such and The Operative... helps him do things the way they used to.

Re:What else can he say? (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101091)

Folks, the creature staked out in front of the White House, make no mistake is a pitbull. It may wear an expensive three piece suit and answer to the name "Attorney General", but the long polished teeth, wide muscular muzzle, ripped forelegs and haunches bespeak an animal more fit to tear the heads off other dogs. Asking it if it thinks its lust for blood and fresh meat have any moral justification is just a piss poor use of your breath. Its a pitbull. Jeez! Its simply doing what it was lead and bred to do. Being a human pitbull, you might be inclined to hold it responsible for its actions. Good luck with that.

However, were I someone interested in the future of American culture, I might be rooting around higher up the food chain for somebody who decided that Aaron Schwartz made a better meal for a pitbull, than a fighter for American Liberty and Justice. The rest is sideshow drama designed to distract. America keeps losing important people, important moral infrastructure. That is the issue to address.

Same DOJ That (3, Interesting)

cosm (1072588) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101045)

This is the same DOJ that denied knowledge of gunwalker. This is the same DOJ that that is in cahorts with ICE to take-down websites without due process. This is the same DOJ that...spends thousands going after gambling sites, illegal 'copycap' handbags and sports paraphernalia, etc.

For being the entity known as the United States Department of Justice, going after torrent sites, going after guys scraping and trying to release academic journals, proprietors of gambling sites, people making gucci wannabe purses, and allowing the sale of guns to cartels....talk about wrong priorities.

Fuck you people.

Re:Same DOJ That (1, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101131)

> This is the same DOJ that...spends thousands going after ... illegal 'copycap' handbags and sports paraphernalia, etc.

So what the heck is wrong with going after this sort of stuff? Trademark infringement is seriously bad news. Ask anyone who has gotten fake merchandise thinking it was genuine.

Re:Same DOJ That (4, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101411)

> This is the same DOJ that...spends thousands going after ... illegal 'copycap' handbags and sports paraphernalia, etc.

So what the heck is wrong with going after this sort of stuff? Trademark infringement is seriously bad news. Ask anyone who has gotten fake merchandise thinking it was genuine.

My sarcasm meter is off but.... seriously? People who buy a 10 dollar Iphone or a 4 euro gucci purse know what they are getting....point me the the pool of angry people getting fake merchandise unintentionally and I'll point you to a DOJ that prosecutes serious issues of criminal action where actual victims lost life/liberty/pursuit of happiness. Currently they seem to be prosecuting to take those same things away away from whoever their super pac funded blame-thrower is aimed at...making them the wanton aggressor....not the guy pushing handbags or the site taking bets on a football game.

Re:Same DOJ That (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101441)

No one on Canal Street has any delusions.

Don't try to kid us with your claims that trademark in this case is being wielded to the benefit of the consumer. The consumer knows what's going on and wants a cheap knockoff. They would never buy the real thing anyway (for lack of funds). So they aren't really relevant to the poor aggrieved trademark owner.

You're focusing on the wrong "victim" here. No one cares about the overpriced designer. They can go to hell for all we care.

Genuine consumer protection issues are interesting but that's not what this is about. Although you will happily help muddle the issue for situations have have ZERO consumer protection concerns.

Re:Same DOJ That (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101133)

Their priorities involve protecting the people that pay their salaries and most of the taxes.

Come on, man. Don't you think it's a little weird that in some cities we are required to use Gatorade to "water" our lawns?

Re:Same DOJ That (1)

cosm (1072588) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101425)

Come on, man. Don't you think it's a little weird that in some cities we are required to use Gatorade to "water" our lawns?

I always thought it was because it has what plants need!?!?!

Re:Same DOJ That (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101395)

So it turns out that the government is inhabited by the same sorts of capricious assholes that one encounters in the private sector. We can ignore private businesses and individuals but the government has ways of forcing the issue, as the DOJ has so amply demonstrated with their handling the Aaron Schwartz affair, among others. Perhaps the libertarians are on to something with this idea of small and limited government? Nah, that would make too much sense. Those who argue for more powerful government and greater government involvement in society and everyday life should be careful what they wish for, lest they actually receive it. The same power that punishes your enemies one day can just as easily be turned against you in the future by the government you empowered.

A Culture of Fear (5, Interesting)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101101)

There has been a significant trend in America that punishment is intended not to provide a reasonable deterrent to crime, but to set an example to keep the rest in line. The higher the possible sentence, the more likely it is for the defendant to plead down to something, or be turned against another defendant in exchange for immunity. All of this is intended to save the prosecutor the hassle of making his case in court.

Eric Holder is promoting a legal version of the Tarkin Doctrine.

Re:A Culture of Fear (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101607)

punishment is intended not to provide a reasonable deterrent to crime, but to set an example to keep the rest in line.

I have no idea what you might think could be the meaningful distinction between these two.

Re:A Culture of Fear (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101659)

Maybe he wasn't very precise in the terms he chose, but regarding the meaning he implied the distinction exists on the intensity and proportionality to the crime. When the punishment applied is completely out of proportion to a crime it is clear that it is an instrument of terror not a reasonable deterrent.

Yikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101121)

I like Eric Holder a lot for his anti-dope stance, but he keeps making other mistakes like the gun running thing and now this.

The Schwartz case was a classic example of letting large groups have way too much leverage against individuals. It was not handled well. Holder should have just said "we can learn from this" or something neutral. Nobody could ever say there were positive aspects about how things went.

Found at the bottom of the page here (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101127)

Ain't no right way to do a wrong thing. -- The Mad Dogtender

Coincidence?

Abuse comes in many forms; arrest the prosecutor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101129)

What amazes me is everybody called for tougher laws when that adult who fake friended a girl who committed suicide and yet this prosecutor who did something similar is going to be congradulated on his actions.

We need to reform the prosecutorial system in the United States. Prosecutors should not be rewarded for convictions and defense lawyers should be paid by the government 100% of the time. The prosecutors, police, etc should not get more resources to prosecute a case than the defense has available to defend it.

They should not be able to threaten people with an infinite number of years in prison either. There should be strict reasonable limits where the crime does not physically harm anyone. Even where it does there should be reasonable limits. White collar crime should have a higher penalty where the consequences are significant (approve of unsafe waste disposal) but not where they are minor financial crimes that effect many people. Those financial crimes should be penalized through high financial personalties and severely limited imprisonment, but not when the financial crime is of minor consequence (a few million is NOT a major financial crime).

Which party? (4, Informative)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101143)

terse questioning from Sen. John Cornyn (D-Texas).

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

John Cornyn III (born February 2, 1952) is the senior United States Senator for Texas, serving since 2002. He is a member of the Republican Party and the current Senate Minority Whip for the 113th Congress. Cornyn previously served as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 2007-2011.

Re:Which party? (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101455)

Yes this jackass is politically motivated. That's the beauty of the American system. This goes ALL the way back to the beginning. If one party gets out of line with something like the Alien and Sedition acts, then the other party can pounce come the next election.

Personally I think that Cornyn is a big fat jackass that sends form letters to his real constituents that don't even attempt to hide is insistence on pandering to out of state interests. Although I am happy that our interests manage to align just this once.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Re:Which party? (2)

TrueSatan (1709878) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101525)

Sorry about that...I (submitter of this article to /.) took the offending part from TFA and didn't double check to see if it was correct.

One solution to this problem (2)

jonwil (467024) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101189)

Change the law such that the owner of the computer system that was accessed without authorization has to "press charges" before the feds can investigate.

If the owner of the computer does not want the alleged offense prosecuted, no prosecution can go ahead.

Re:One solution to this problem (1, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101491)

If the owner of the computer does not want the alleged offense prosecuted, no prosecution can go ahead.

Not worth the ink on paper.

DOJ: "Sign here that you want him prosecuted."
Server owner: "But I don't want to hurt him."
DOJ: "OK, then I must treat you as a conspirator; you will be arrested in a few minutes. By the way, the English-Arabic dictionary that the guy illegally downloaded may have been used to translate the drawings of a nuclear weapon. You will be charged with terrorism. Or, perhaps, you changed your mind and want to sign this little paper? The choice is all yours." (DOJ starts absently playing with handcuffs.)
Server owner: "But... but... you cannot do that!"
DOJ: "Who is going to stop me? All the police that you see around here are under my command. Their orders are law to all peasants. Any disobedience is a shooting offense. If you didn't have an illegal gun when you attacked an officer, a drop gun will be provided for you. We also have a choice of bags with drugs, maps of subway systems, and some other items that you may like. Do you understand, WORM, that you are still alive only through my kindness? Don't make me angry. Sign here and I will let you live."

John Cornyn (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101205)

While I would like to see this case be the impetus to reform the way we deal with criminals, John Cornyn is not the one who is going to do it. This is just a political ploy to gain points with the right wingnuts. Cornyn sponsored a bill that would force anyone detained by the police to submit a DNA sample. Not arrested, no arraigned, not indicted, but simply stopped by a police officer for no apparent reason. He fully supports the patriot act and wiretapping without a warrant. He in no way is concerned that the police and prosecutors have too much power. He is simply one of those people who is leveraging people fear of the man in the office of the presidency. He is simply trying to win the next election.

I would add one more thing. While I really question what happened in this case, I also know that when you play with the big dogs you have to be able to deal with getting bit. Someone like Schwartz who father gave him ample opportuniteit and who was private school educated may have they did not have to live in the real world. Maybe they thought they had protection, and when they did not it frightened him. I saw this a lot when I was growing up, and even now. There were some white kids in Louisiana, for instance, who thought it might be fun to taunt the black boys. They were asked nicely to stop, but they did not. When retaliation did occur then thought it was very unfair. After all they were white and protected. I am not saying that the cases are similar, just that some people don't know that real world consequences exist. We live in a dangerous world where people, especially powerful people, will retaliate with excessive force. Fairness is not the point. Solving the problem is. Some of us have had experience with this from a young age

Compare this case to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. The retaliation against them are orders of magnitude greater than against Schwartz, yet they are dealing with it the best they can. Actions have Consequences. Thoreau was against the war, did not pay taxes, and went to jail. He honored his conscience and paid the price. Just as we all do.

I support the prosecution in this case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101213)

It's documented that he sought legal advice before he was busted at MIT, so there's no question of him being unaware of the law and its consequences. Reading Swartz's bio on Wikipedia (that beacon of unbiased reporting), one would think that Swartz was being hounded for downloading a few dozen articles. Try *4.8 million* articles downloaded in secret taking advantage of his access to MIT's network, and this was two years after he was allowed to walk in a similar case where he downloaded and published millions of pages of Federal court documents online. Now, I don't necessarily disagree (or agree) with his contention that the articles in question should be publicly available for free download (in an ideal world, yes, but there are nontrivial expenses associated with editing, assembling, and administering these document repositories). But Swartz forced the issue, and he showed with his repeated behavior that he would *keep on forcing the issue* until either 1) the laws were changed in his favor, or 2) he was put away. I'm not knocking Swartz for that in itself, that is civil disobedience and has a distinguished history in the US and around the world with Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and others. But Swartz evidently didn't have the guts to follow through with his mission, he wasn't willing to pay the price of going to prison to advance his cause. I just don't see what the adulation is, if he was trying to be a civil libertarian he failed when he hung himself.

Here's an analogy... lots of people are realizing that pro football is so violent that it is causing irreparable brain damage in many of its participants, including kids in high school and college. Suppose I took that up as my mission and started disrupting NFL games, first by going out on the field and then by destroying broadcast equipment. You could argue whether my objective was right, but we all know what would happen - I would be hauled in court and be put away long enough for the judge to think that I learned my lesson. Decent cause, lousy game plan.

Error in summary - Cornyn is a Republican (3, Informative)

pgoldstein (603508) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101247)

John Cornyn is a Republican, not a Democrat - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cornyn [wikipedia.org] . So it should be "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)"

Re:Error in summary - Cornyn is a Republican (1)

TrueSatan (1709878) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101531)

It was also an error in TFA...I submitted this article and had assumed that they had it right.

Eric Holder is a flaming douchebag. (0)

jcr (53032) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101279)

...as if anyone didn't know it yet.

-jcr

Holder also supports drones killing Americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101291)

So what is new with him?

Waah! (-1, Flamebait)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101305)

Guy breaks the law then kills himself when he realizes he's going to prison for *MAYBE* 6 months. He could've ended up with 35 years if they were *really* trying to intimidate him. No sympathies here and I'm not sure why Slashdot keeps romanticizing these punks.

Re:Waah! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101485)

Dude committed suicide because the prosecutor was drafting paperwork to charge his girlfriend too and take away her child. So he took away their reason to do so.

Anonyclerk

Attorney General Eric Holder: (3, Informative)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101311)

FUCK. YOU. ASSHOLE.

what part of using a law for ATMs applies to this? (1)

Creepy (93888) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101359)

The part of the CFAA being used against Aaron Swartz was designed exclusively for ATMs. Any variance is an abuse of authority on the part of the prosecutors, who reinterpreted a law just to prosecute a benign act. Eric Holder should be held accountable for an abuse of justice and for murder.

Remove them both! (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101367)

Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz
http://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck [whitehouse.gov]

Remove Attorney General Eric Holder from office
http://wh.gov/GGrN [wh.gov]

Unfortunally he is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101415)

Here lies the problem. The current legal system is set to maximize monetary gains for large corporations, with little regard for those they step on. Rather than look at the harm actually done, they look at the maximum "potential" harm, in an unrealistic worst case scenario. They don't examine the actual harm done. They use an absolute scale, and try to make all judgments uniform, rather than fair. The more experienced, and thus more expensive lawyers who have this game of uniform judgements down pat, often go to those with the most money. Thus those at the bottom get treated even more unfairly, as they get "unexperienced" lawyers who are just entering this game. And if somehow an "unexperienced" lawyer manages to win a case they get bought up by one of the firms who favors the large companies. Thus the cycle repeats.

When someone is looking at real jail time, for a speculative case where no harm has yet been done. Of course you are going to see a few people commit suicide in face of a permanently ruined life. I have to ask, even if the files were released how much harm would have actually come to JSTOR, especially since most of their clients are universities, and corporations that don't want to deal with legal issues. They may have taken a minor hit, and a minor reputation hit. But over all they would have been fine. Aaron was facing a ruined life over this. Thus the problem with the current legal system.

It isn't the sentence that is appalling (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101443)

The focus should not be on the fact that the statute lists 35 years, or that Ortiz offered him a plea bargain of 3 months. The question is more fundamental: Why did anyone even think to prosecute this guy at all, when J-STOR dropped the charges?

Two Words (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101449)

Horse and Shit.

I struggle to think of a situation more aptly described with the term "prosecutorial misconduct"

He was intimidated and bullied by the force of the US government, which stretched, contorted and perverted a dated and obsolete law designed to prevent people from hacking ATMs, not copy documents (created with public money) from a computer in a slightly and ambiguously shady way.

But we all know they acted with extreme prejudice and vengeance because of the PACER situation (even though he didn't actually do anything illegal, just pissed off the establishment which moved too slowly in the age of digital technology)

Fun trivia: by the definition they extrapolated from the CFAA, you're committing a felony just by browsing public websites everyday. Selective enforcement for everyone!

what we should have done... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43101567)

Is 80,000 slashdotters downloaded and published the same stuff as Aaron. Our strength is our numbers. If we want to stand up against these mother fuckers we have to do it together.

In other words (1)

jameshofo (1454841) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101593)

"No we do this all the time, its unfortunate he killed himself but its easier to us to harass petty criminals into oblivion rather than utilize the justice system in a balanced way, I mean come on how are we supposed to measure success around here?"

The feds be THOR. (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about a year and a half ago | (#43101675)

Every prosecutor wants the POWER to DICTATE the plea bargain that the prosecutor thinks is fair.

That is a good thing because it enables cost-effective prosecution of bad guys.

But every prosecutor craves that POWER, and we must watch out that we don't give them too much, of it, because we all know about absolute power . . ..

Aaron Swartz got SCREWED. We need changes in our copyright law NOW! NEVER FORGET!

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