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MIT Releases Swartz Report: Instead of Leading, School Was 'Hands-Off'

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the inaction-is-not-good-enough dept.

News 127

curtwoodward writes "MIT's long-awaited internal investigation into its handling of the Aaron Swartz prosecution has been released (PDF), and it's massive — about 180 pages, not counting the reams of supporting documents. And although the report's authors say they were told not to draw any conclusions about MIT's actions — really — they still gently criticized the university. Swartz, a well-known activist, killed himself earlier this year while being prosecuted for federal computer crimes after he improperly downloaded millions of academic research articles. MIT remained notably 'hands-off' throughout the case, the internal report notes, despite requests that it defend Swartz or oppose the prosecution, and ample opportunities to show leadership. The report quotes an MIT official: 'MIT didn't do anything wrong; but we didn't do ourselves proud.'" Swartz's partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, calls the report a whitewash.

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Gee, I expected different results....! (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44426927)

Can there be any surprise here?
An internal investigation, with nobody sworn in, and no subpoena power, finds the institution that empowers it blameless.

Lets have an investigation of why they wasted the money doing this investigation. No doubt that will find no fault either.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44426961)

Why exactly should your college defend you when you comit a crime?

Why should commiting suicide make you an hero?

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427007)

Suicide shows nothing beyond an individual defaulting to taking the easy way out of this life because they were too pathetic or weak to face up to reality.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427079)

Let's ask Jesus.

Jesus says martyrdom is ok with him, that the automatic disdain for those who commit suicide is a terrible reflection of a desire to judge people and ignore their problems rather than embrace them with the spirit of love which he endorsed.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427209)

For slash dot more like ask the Devil, F-U jerk wad. Was it really a suicide? MIT is full of evil liberals.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427553)

It's easy to turn claims about a "general spirit of love" (compatible with Christianity) into overlooking or excusing anything and everything (incompatible).
This is the first time I've ever encountered a claim that Jesus said something about suicide--although I'm not sure you were serious.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427201)

shh the liberals will cry!

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

avandesande (143899) | about a year ago | (#44427395)

Not to mention that MIT would expose itself to civil litigation from the journal publishers if they didn't cooperate.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (3, Insightful)

Score Whore (32328) | about a year ago | (#44427531)

Not to mention that he wasn't a student at MIT.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (4, Interesting)

sribe (304414) | about a year ago | (#44427535)

Why exactly should your college defend you when you comit a crime?

Well, it wasn't even his college...

But what he did should most certainly not be a crime (just a civil tort instead), and he was charge not just with the "crimes" he committed but a number he most certainly did not commit, and MIT was in a position to know for a fact that the charges were wildly exaggerated, and universities are supposed to represent and defend academic freedom, and as an alum I am deeply disappointed in the administration's behavior.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427727)

People keep forgetting that MIT wasn't Swartz's college in any sense whatsoever.
He was just a member of the general public hanging out on campus.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (2)

achbed (97139) | about a year ago | (#44428199)

Not entirely true. His father is an alumnus, and works there to boot. So he had reason and opportunity to be on campus anyway. That does not make him a student or faculty member, it does make him "legacy" according to most every college I've ever been associated with. These guys are usually given the benefit of the doubt.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428903)

Why should commiting suicide make you an hero?

Do you even intarweb, bro?

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44426993)

Cynical. Very cynical. Not really wrong, but it misses subtlety. In this case we have a government with a heavy-handed response to an active resistance protest. It looks terrible, because it got a political activist arrested for what wasn't intended to do harm. It doesn't matter what others involved did, the blame rests with the DoJ for "cracking down" on a crime that was meant to do no harm.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#44427073)

While I agree in this case and SO many others of late, that the govt. / law enforcement is going so heavily handed (who breaks a butterfly on the wheel?) on so many cases today that just don't warrant it (this one included IMHO)...they didn't kill the young man, he decided to off himself.

It wasn't MITs fault this kid killed himself.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427843)

Please don't call him a kid, that carries connotations of irresponsibility. He was a grown man, and what would you prefer? Years of harassment by the DoJ and apathy by one of the (until now) most respected technical universities who are supposed to defend this sort of thing and have in the past, and then on top of that jail time for a so-called "crime" that did no damage. Or as you so stupidly put it: "Off yourself". It was MIT's fault as much as the DoJ's and his own.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (4, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year ago | (#44428483)

MIT has a responsibility to defend someone who broke into one of their closets and installed a device?

Oh sure, academic freedom and all of that.

Seriously, though, I can't even imagine why they'd want to encourage that. Maybe not throw him to the sharks, but why is it MIT's responsibility to save him from his own plan?

I do agree that he wasn't a kid, although I think everyone wants to treat him that way. Probably because see him as a poor broken bird due to suicide.

Aside from that, though, that doesn't mean I agree with the way the prosecution was handled. That's classic Federal overkill. He was definitely guilty of trespass and probably some civil stuff, but I can't see why they'd go farther than that. Still, breaking the law is always a very, very dicey prospect as a method of protest, even in more benign jurisdictions, and he should have known that.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429217)

Responsibility to at least not act as accomplice for enabling that to happen and then to not act as accomplice for using the MIT as tool for judicially burning the guy.

Say you have a sheriff who doesn't like blacks.. he comes around and asks if you're ever been "afraid" of old Jimbob - you say sure since he's big and mean - sheriff then shoots Jimbob for threatening you - is it your fault? No, not technically. Should you at least ask what the fuck just happened? Then you should at least say something or preferably move the fuck out of town with such a crazy sheriff.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#44428225)

lame rests with the DoJ for "cracking down" on a crime that was meant to do no harm.

The intended harm was to deprive JSTORS of the revenue it requires to handle the peer reviews and publish papers.

Swartz broke the law and decided to not stand up for his principles.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428283)

The intended harm was to deprive JSTORS of the revenue it requires to handle the peer reviews and publish papers.

Oh, please. This is as nonsensical as copyright.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (2)

AuralityKev (1356747) | about a year ago | (#44426999)

It's turtles, I mean investigations, all the way down. Unless it was an external non-related investigating body doing the work, I sincerely doubt the veracity of their conclusions. You'd think the most scientifically advanced (okay, arguably) place of higher learning in the world would have tried to remove any perception of bias on the part of the investigating body. Hire an outside firm at the very least.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44427169)

Unless it was an external non-related investigating body doing the work, I sincerely doubt the veracity of their conclusions

Honestly, with the name Hal Abelson on the report's cover, I don't think anyone would would have berated you had you had higher expectations.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44428861)

It's turtles, I mean investigations, all the way down.

Unless it was an external non-related investigating body doing the work, I sincerely doubt the veracity of their conclusions. You'd think the most scientifically advanced (okay, arguably) place of higher learning in the world would have tried to remove any perception of bias on the part of the investigating body. Hire an outside firm at the very least.

That said, have you read the findings of the report? I don't think you'd want to doubt the veracity of some of their conclusions... they actually sound a lot like what I sometimes consider "rants" on slashdot... talking about protecting the hacker community, preventing chill, encouraging freedom of academic investigation, even for people not directly related to the institution, etc.

The paper has some great recommendations, and I hope they get followed, not just by MIT, but by any other educational institution wanting to avoid this kind of situation in the future. This thing should actually be required reading for anyone dealing with policy and legal action at an educational institution; there's lots of food for thought and questions that should be answered by policy or hiring decisions.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427061)

No, I'm not surprised. No one has claimed MIT did anything else. There's not the slightest evidence MIT did anything at all. So, no I'm not even slightly surprised. It was the publisher that called in the feds. We already knew that.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427589)

You start going around saying "off with their heads", everyone will run and hide.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (5, Interesting)

danceswithtrees (968154) | about a year ago | (#44427671)

Forget the masturbatory self-congratulation that is this report. They almost certainly have something to hide. A reporter at Wired submitted a FOIA request for Aaron's Secret Service file. A judge OKed the release of the file but then MIT intervened to block the release!

See http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/07/mit-swartz-intervene/all/1 [wired.com]

Supposedly, it is _extremely_ rare for non-governmental entities to block FOIA requests. There must be something in there that MIT doesn't want to see the light of day.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427801)

Forget the masturbatory self-congratulation that is this report. They almost certainly have something to hide. A reporter at Wired submitted a FOIA request for Aaron's Secret Service file. A judge OKed the release of the file but then MIT intervened to block the release!

See http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/07/mit-swartz-intervene/all/1 [wired.com]

Supposedly, it is _extremely_ rare for non-governmental entities to block FOIA requests. There must be something in there that MIT doesn't want to see the light of day.

It could easily be the name of the secretary that processed the relevant paperwork. The main legitimate reason to deny a FOIA request is if the documents make reference to someone who is still alive who might face danger or harassment if their name is released.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (2)

danceswithtrees (968154) | about a year ago | (#44427895)

It could easily be the name of the secretary that processed the relevant paperwork. The main legitimate reason to deny a FOIA request is if the documents make reference to someone who is still alive who might face danger or harassment if their name is released.

Try RTA. The names of third parties would have been redacted as SOP for FOIA releases. Try again?

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428141)

The main legitimate reason to deny a FOIA request is if the documents make reference to someone who is still alive who might face danger or harassment if their name is released.

Isn't that what black markers are for?

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#44428285)

They were fading that day...

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428631)

They're trying to block it because staff are named in the report and identified in other way (such as by title or affiliation where a name and contact information could be quickly acquire with duckduckgo.com or another search engine).

After Aaron committed suicide several staff at the Institute received very frightening and detailed death threats both via email and phone. One particular threat involved a "swatting" call that included a caller saying he was a gunman on his way to kill specific employees by name. He accurately described buildings and hall ways that he claimed to be passing through, had very detailed information about the office location, and had very detailed information about the staff member. The call lead to a large armed police response creating a dangerous situation where someone could possibly have been accidentally shot. Many of the threated staff where woman in their 50's and 60's. If the death threats didn't happen, there would be an attempt to block the FOIA requests.

MIT has been very clear both in court and publicly that the attempt to block the FOIA request is about staff safety.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

danceswithtrees (968154) | about a year ago | (#44429211)

OK. I was not aware of the threats/SWATings that have occurred already. Perhaps more than the names could be redacted so that peoples identities could not be found out with bing (or another search engine). Regardless, if the people making these threats (which I don't condone by the way), then the identities of people involved are already known by at least some people.

I think that allowing the release of the Secret Service file with go a LONG way toward making amends for any wrongdoing, perceived or real. Perhaps it might satisfy some angry people enough so that they stop making threats. Blocking the FOIA request after it had been approved for release gives the appearance of something really bad being hidden from view. If MITs real reason for blocking the FOIA request is staff safety, I think a properly redacted folder could do a world of good.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44429237)

Well, what's the point then blocking it if the death threats are happening already to specific members of the staff? it certainly doesn't make it sound like they're clean on it. Maybe they're just shitty by going along with the SS but that's just as shitty in the end.

Still I find it ridiculous that anyone who is involved with FOIA can block them. Call yourself a death threat and block the FOIA on government deal that you got under the table..

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (1)

Neuronwelder (990842) | about a year ago | (#44427675)

There are two rules for accountability: One for the average person who has to be accountable. And the high up people who require none.

Re:Gee, I expected different results....! (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44428721)

Can there be any surprise here?
An internal investigation, with nobody sworn in, and no subpoena power, finds the institution that empowers it blameless.

Lets have an investigation of why they wasted the money doing this investigation. No doubt that will find no fault either.

There's no surprise here -- you obviously didn't read the report. Just going to the findings/questions sections is very illuminating.

First off, this investigation was called by the president of MIT, but was only partly internal.

Second: MIT wasn't found blameless in the findings (it's even in TFS).

Thirdly, if you read the President's report or the prolog to the report, you'll see that the report wasn't about finding MIT guilty of anything, it was to get a third-party summary of what actually happened and who did what. I found it pretty balanced.

Fourthly, the report suggested things that not only MIT, but ALL academic institutions should form policy on NOW -- and used as one of its main areas that of biochemistry IIRC.

Fifthly, even though Swartz wasn't a student, the report faulted MIT for their treatment of him as "not a student" as well as their not waiting for this finding to kick off the external investigation -- he was obviously a member of the larger MIT community, which the report says needs to be better defined than it currently is (as currently, someone who isn't staff/student/faculty is considered "not MIT" and so gets treated less leniently).

It's too late for Aaron. However, if people in academic decision-making positions read this report and act on it, it could go a long way towards having a repeat occurrence. The report even points out that 1994 had a similar case at MIT, but that nobody in current decision positions seemed to know anything about the previous case, or even know to look for that information.

Anyone looking for this to be some sort of a fault-finding "send the president of MIT to jail for gross misconduct" thing is going to feel gypped. But as a report, I appreciated its findings and overall view of how the university setting is different from activities in the general public.

Mistakes... (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | about a year ago | (#44427063)

Mistakes were made ...

Re:Mistakes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428081)

Oh, using the Reaganesque "accepting responsibility while denying responsibility by use of the passive voice" trick?

improperly downloaded articles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427075)

I thought the articles were all publicly accessible, it's just that he mechanized the process of locating and downloading them? If they're accessible by the public, not sure how it's improper to download them, just because he did so efficiently and massively...

Re:improperly downloaded articles? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427193)

They were pay-walled (by journls who claim copyright from authors who did them as works for hire and thus didn't have the copyright to transfer). He downloaded them for free from a university that had payed a license (with a laptop hidden in a closet). There was TOS involved (which he may or may not have violated), which violating is a felony (due to an obscure and unconstitutional law).

Re:improperly downloaded articles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427569)

They were pay-walled (by journls who claim copyright from authors who did them as works for hire and thus didn't have the copyright to transfer).

Work for hire requires all parties agree in writing to the WFH designation [wikipedia.org] . I've never seen a university that does that. I know mine says all copywriters of science papers belong to the author.

Re:improperly downloaded articles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427251)

Most of the articles on JSTOR are only accessible to those who have paid the appropriate fee. To streamline access, most universities (like MIT) pay a big license fee out of their library budget to JSTOR, and then the university's entire subnet is whitelisted for JSTOR access. No user-specific login is required, but there is still an implied license covering the transaction.

Of course that license could be bullshit and unenforceable, but we won't know until the next person tries this and makes it to court.

improperly? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427097)

"Swartz, a well-known activist, killed himself earlier this year while being prosecuted for federal computer crimes after he improperly downloaded millions of academic research articles." (emphasis added)

Given that: 1) he wasn't convicted; 2) the journals in question didn't have the right to the works they were selling access to (the authors were generally funded by university/public money, and thus did not hold the copyright and thus could not transfer the rights to the journal); 3) its even debatable if he violated the TOS (he was apparently doing a research project related to the papers, presumably some sort of meta study, which could might be acceptable use for millions of papers), it seems inaccurate to say his downloads were "Improper".

I personally think his actions were perfectly acceptable, proper and legal.

Re:improperly? (4, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#44427199)

If anything he was properly releasing information that was improperly withheld.

Re:improperly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427297)

If anything he was properly releasing information that was improperly withheld.

The articles in question weren't actually released (don't confuse this with his freeing of the PACER documents, which was clearly legal and accepted, and he paid for!). JSTOR (the claimed owner of the documents in this case) reached an out of court settlement and Aaron Swartz did not release them (and there is no indication that he ever intended to). It was after that that the United States federal government pressed criminal charges.

Re:improperly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427517)

Exactly, this was simply bullying writ large by US Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

Re:improperly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427619)

Yes, this case demonstrates the misuse of power (for personal gain) by Prosecutors who's sole motivation is a stunning WIN record so that they will gain promotions and raises

Re:improperly? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#44429031)

Prosecutors

That seems like a good term for the politicians of the last ~30 years.

Re:improperly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427447)

This is an interesting claim: "the authors were generally funded by university/public money, and thus did not hold the copyright and thus could not transfer the rights to the journal."

Unfortunately, I don't think this is true. You are assuming that research publications funded by government money (federal, state, etc) constitute a "work for hire" under copyright law. I've never seen such an agreement, and the one I just looked up (University of Texas) specifically states that employees retain ownership of scholarly publications created as part of their job. Some grant-issuing agencies have started requiring open access publications for funded research, but that is a fairly new (and positive) trend that still does not alter the copyright of the author.

Note that patents are a different issue entirely. The Bayh–Dole Act of 1980 allows the inventors (or their employers) to claim patent ownership over inventions funded by federal grants, and so now basically all university employees sign IP agreements that grant patent rights for inventions to the university, regardless of who paid for it. This has nothing to do with the copyright question, but is similarly concerning.

Re:improperly? (-1, Troll)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year ago | (#44427687)

I know this is going to get "flamed" into oblivion, but before you "-1 troll" me, please hear what it is that I am actually saying.

All of what you said may be and probably true, and I really don't care. But the guy couldn't stand the heat of the kitchen he was cooking in. Gutless coward if you ask me. Someone who is courageous doesn't kill themselves when presented with a difficult circumstances, they face it with dignity.

Nelson Mandela is a great example of someone who faced hardship with dignity, was a martyr and cause celeb, and never offed himself.

I have little sympathy for Aaron Schwartz. I do, however, feel a great deal of sympathy for the people he left behind having to pick up the pieces of the lives he has shattered. He, however, didn't care enough about them to not kill himself.

Re:improperly? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44428113)

He's making a very good martyr though. His suicide drew more attention to the issue of overzealous prosecution and the use of intimidation than staying alive would have.

Re:improperly? (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year ago | (#44428621)

I'm not a fan of Aaron Swartz, but I would prefer him alive and not dead. He didn't actually choose martyrdom, the depression chose it for him.

I dislike the idea that his end is going to get used in that way, but I guess he's beyond caring.

Re:improperly? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year ago | (#44428739)

He is not a martyr. Suicide is not martyrdom. And claiming it is, just encourages more of the same. Be Very Careful what you're actually trying to say.

Re:improperly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428805)

couldn't stand the heat of the kitchen he was cooking in

While ignorance of the law is no excuse, google "3 Felonies a day". Do you realize the kitchen you are cooking in?

Re:improperly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428973)

"Swartz, a well-known activist, killed himself earlier this year while being prosecuted for federal computer crimes after he improperly downloaded millions of academic research articles." (emphasis added)

Given that: 1) he wasn't convicted; 2) the journals in question didn't have the right to the works they were selling access to (the authors were generally funded by university/public money, and thus did not hold the copyright and thus could not transfer the rights to the journal); 3) its even debatable if he violated the TOS (he was apparently doing a research project related to the papers, presumably some sort of meta study, which could might be acceptable use for millions of papers), it seems inaccurate to say his downloads were "Improper".

I personally think his actions were perfectly acceptable, proper and legal.

So do you personally think that my actions would be acceptable, proper and legal if I hid a laptop in your house and downloaded all content I found on your network that I felt you didn't legally have access to?

Four wrongs don't make a right.

Swartz was definitely improperly downloading information. His actions surrounding the event speak to that as much as the hidden laptop and the license agreement. However, I sometimes improperly open a door by using the key instead of the doorknob -- this isn't a felony, and what Swartz did isn't, in my opinion, close enough to a felony to have a judge even consider the case.

MIT definitely bungled the case, due to campus police and campus counsel not having a clue what to do in this situation.

Local police did the right thing given their mandate; they gave the computer intrusion case to the feds, as they are required to.

The feds did the wrong thing, as after a quick investigation, they went for the public tar and feather treatment instead of handing this back to MIT for civil charges.

And finally, the judge did the wrong thing, as they should have tossed this out and asked for it to be sent to the correct civil court.

Re:improperly? (5, Insightful)

GodInHell (258915) | about a year ago | (#44428977)

The journals in question didn't have the right to the works they were selling access to (the authors were generally funded by university/public money, and thus did not hold the copyright and thus could not transfer the rights to the journal);

This statement has no basis in the law of the United States, it is mere sophistry posing as a postulation of fact. University authors (even publicly funded ones) retain rights to their own work. They're the author. You are confusing by degree restrictions placed on what is patentable for what is copyrightable - they are not the same, restrictions on one don't cross to the other - and there are very VERY few strings attached even to patenting work funded by public monies in the United States.

It is not debatable that he breached the TOS - because he was not a student or faculty (or even invitee) of MIT. Those terms of service posted at MIT's site include that you must be a student/faculty/staff to access JSTOR. JSTOR saw that someone at MIT was systemically downloading every journal in their database -- they asked MIT to look into it. MIT did. MIT took steps to stop whomever was downloading the journals from doing so - Swartz then designed around that limitation - leaving a laptop hidden under a box in a closet. MIT found the laptop and put a camera there -- they saw Swartz enter the closet (taking steps to hide his face while sneaking in to engage in his -- what did you call it "meta study"). When a police officer approached Swartz, he fled (itself a criminal act) and was arrested in the middle of trying to ditch the hard drive full of data.

So, he traveled to MIT from the campus where he was on staff (and had access to JSTOR there), hid a device on campus to downloand the files, hid his face as he came and went, fled from police, and tried to ditch the stolen items when he was accosted. There is a serious question whether or not Swartz knew what he was doing was against the law? Seriously? Not buying it.

Timing (4, Informative)

OECD (639690) | about a year ago | (#44427139)

If MIT is at all serious about implementing any reforms to stop this kind of tragedy from happening again, it must stop objecting to the release of information about the case. Which they will probably do, now that they got "ahead of the story."

Regarding Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman's response, (2)

barlevg (2111272) | about a year ago | (#44427165)

I actually had no idea that JSTOR urged against prosecution. It seems that if anyone were the "victim" of Aaron Swartz's act, it would've been them--the most MIT could complain about would've been a momentary spike in their bandwidth usage. Not that I wasn't enraged by this whole situation already, but that just strikes me as bullshit.

Re:Regarding Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman's respon (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427669)

the most MIT could complain about would've been a momentary spike in their bandwidth usage.

...and breaking & entering, trespassing an unauthorized access to a computer system.

Re:Regarding Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman's respon (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44427765)

I think JSTOR was taken aback by their sudden role in the case and has made some good moves since (starting with the decision to oppose prosecution in that case).

There are a substantial number of librarians there, who tend to have fairly civic-minded views, and see themselves as on the pro-information-dissemination side of things. The main counteracting forces are: 1) for post-1923 journals, the journals rather than JSTOR ultimately own the copyright, so JSTOR has to work with them to be allowed to digitize them at all (and has perhaps in the past been too deferential to their views); and 2) as a slow-moving, somewhat conservative institution, they're focused more on traditional archival questions like how to preserve things for posterity, and what kinds of revenue streams will support that, and less on broadening current access.

In the time since the Swartz case, they have made all out-of-copyright issues freely available [jstor.org] , which is a move they could make unilaterally, and is a big increase in the amount of old journal content now available online, in high-quality scans with good metadata.

"Aaron would be alive today if MIT had acted..." (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#44427249)

So states the linked response by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. Lately there has also been a lot of sympathy expressed for people who committed suicide after being bullied, gay-bashed, or slut-shamed. This could have bad effects. I think we should heap shame on those who did wrong (the bullies/bashers/shamers), rather than pity on those who killed themselves, since doing so makes suicide a very real and potentially attractive lever of power for young people. Suicide is contagious [usnews.com] .

Re:"Aaron would be alive today if MIT had acted... (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about a year ago | (#44427507)

IMO, that's what she was doing. She's not saying, "Poor Aaron--he just couldn't take the pressure," she's calling out MIT, if not for being bullies themselves, then at least for providing aid and comfort to the bullying prosecution.

Re:"Aaron would be alive today if MIT had acted... (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year ago | (#44428671)

Yes, but the comment is still directly linking his suicide to the actions of MIT. If she'd really been trying to center her focus on MIT, she would have left the fact that Aaron killed himself out of that comment and just stated something like: "We feel MIT had a greater responsibility to academic freedom to act and that it has let down the community". Instead, she suicide shamed them, the words were just ordered in a different way.

And since he died of suicide caused by depression, there is actually no way to know if he'd be alive today if MIT had acted. Maybe he'd have gone home and had a fight with Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman a few weeks later, broken up, and then killed himself because he couldn't handle the break up. Depression doesn't just cause you to kill yourself in jail cells.

I understand why his partner is obviously upset and emotional about the situation, but that doesn't make her comment constructive or accurate.

"We want a review, but don't review our actions" (4, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year ago | (#44427259)

"Because we're not doing a review to correct any possible problems, we're doing a review so that we can tell people we did a review and didn't find any problems.

Re:"We want a review, but don't review our actions (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44429035)

"Because we're not doing a review to correct any possible problems, we're doing a review so that we can tell people we did a review and didn't find any problems.

...except that the review found problems. Did you read it?

Re:"We want a review, but don't review our actions (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44429095)

Near the end of the report:

In concluding this review, we recognize the desire for a simple take-away, a conclusion that “if MIT had only done this rather than that, things would have turned out OK.” We can’t offer one. There were too many choices, too many might-have-beens, too great an emotional shock, and a public response that has been supercharged by the power of the Internet, the same power that Aaron Swartz epitomized and that he helped to create. Even today, with the benefit of hindsight, we have not found a silver bullet with which MIT could have simply prevented the tragedy.

If the Review Panel is forced to highlight just one issue for reflection, we would choose to look to the MIT administration’s maintenance of a “neutral” hands-off attitude that regarded the prosecution as a legal dispute to which it was not a party. This attitude was complemented by the MIT community’s apparent lack of attention to the ruinous collision of hacker ethics, open-source ideals, questionable laws, and aggressive prosecutions that was playing out in its midst. As a case study, this is a textbook example of the very controversies where the world seeks MIT’s insight and leadership.

If you can't do the time.... (1)

glrotate (300695) | about a year ago | (#44427377)

Why should have MIT lifted finger for him? He burgled their campus and hacked their network.

Nobody cares (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427419)

I'm tired of hearing about Swartz aka depressed loser.

MIT says MIT not guilty (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#44427433)

Glad the truth finally came out in an independent investigation.

All the important facts are ignored. (2)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44427439)

A young man is dead because the government set out to destroy his life over some documents. Beyond that, very little matters at this point.

Re:All the important facts are ignored. (1)

Score Whore (32328) | about a year ago | (#44427607)

You make it sound like people without basic life skills should be allowed to ignore the law. That's absurd. There are literally millions of people who have had worse interactions with the government and spend much more time in much more difficult incarcerations than Mr. Swartz faced. If Mr. Swartz was particularly unable to deal with the world he should not have made such an effort to cause trouble for himself.

Re:All the important facts are ignored. (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44427713)

The problem with your argument is that he did not actually ignore the law. Mr. Swartz did have access to JSTOR and was authorized to access the material he accessed. At worst, he entered an IT closet. If he damaged any part of the closet, I wouldn't know, as I consider it such a minor matter as to be negligible in this case. Especially since he did have the right to have his laptop on that network.

Re:All the important facts are ignored. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428035)

Exactly. And so the dumbshit offed himself for no real good reason.

Re:All the important facts are ignored. (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44428301)

If you think "no reason" applies to this situation, you don't know much about how the feds get when they are trying to destroy a person as an example. They don't let the facts get away of "sending a message".

Re:All the important facts are ignored. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429245)

A scumbag felon is dead and the world is now a better place because of it.

Fixed that for you.

wastage of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427545)

Letâs ignore this report, as this are all eyewash

another one bites the dust (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427593)

"Swartz, a well-known activist, killed himself earlier this year while being prosecuted for federal computer crimes after he improperly downloaded millions of academic research articles." Good riddance to bad rubbish. The boy killed himself. He wasn't in custody. This is what happens when hipster dedication to "subverting the dominant paradigm" meets reality.

The ultimate copout: " if you're going to hold me to my principles, I'll just kill myself"

More background, New yorker article has more depth (5, Insightful)

citylivin (1250770) | about a year ago | (#44427601)

If you are interested, a few months ago the new yorker had a great article detailing exactly what happened here with first hand interviews with most of the players. You can then make your own decisions.

Requiem for a dream: the tragedy of aaron swartz [newyorker.com]

What I got out of the article was 1) He was not trying to "make a statement" with his "hacking" action, but that was how the government portraited it. 2) He was very ecentric, and primarily seems to have killed himself because of what the legal action would have done to his future career. He had aspirations of running a foundation or becoming active in politics, and he felt that having a criminal record crippled his future. 3) One of the tipping points was having many of his personal correspondences subpenaed, as he was a very private person, which the government did solely to embarrass him, by making him and his girlfriends correspondences over the years, public.

In the end though, I think he just over reacted. His suicide was his doing and no one elses. Sometimes life will try and break you down and if you give up, then you die. I think if he had more robust coping strategies he could have seen that this was just a speed bump on the road of life and not over reacted by killing himself. The "crimes" he committed were not really that bad, and prosecutors are going to be mean and aggressive - that is their job. However of course, I was not in his shoes, so who am i to judge.

It is really just a tragedy.

Re:More background, New yorker article has more de (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427825)

He did have a robust coping strategy. The government simply stripped him of it. Thats why the case is fucked up.

If I tell the media to publicize the possibility that you broke into a school, stolen millions of dollars of 'confidential' information and convince your family, friends and anyone else around you that you're already guilty; what kind of coping strategy are you left with?

Oh and your personal assets have been frozen and you're now being watched by the authorities/media, so you can't run away. Oh and your ISP cut off your internet connection so you can't steal any more data/talk on Slashdot/online with anyone about it either, you evil hacker. Oh and you're probably going to jail, not counting time spent in the county jail/interrogation room(s). For over 20 years (maybe). Not that it matter now that you've been kicked out of school (kicked out for possible criminal activities? That will look good on a resume). And on the verge of becoming a convicted felon (cause copyright infringement!).

Re:More background, New yorker article has more de (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#44428393)

If I tell the media to publicize the possibility that you broke into a school,

Considering they had him on tape doing the break in and the equipment he left in the wiring closet, "possibility" does not apply here.

Swartz knew there would be consequences for his action but was not prepared to accept them. If you can't do the time don't do the crime. If you want to be a political activist look at Nelson Mandela. He spent may years in prison for what he believed in and didn't kill himself.

"If you can't do the time don't do the crime" (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about a year ago | (#44428759)

Every time people say this I refer them to the following link:

http://threefelonies.com/Youtoo/tabid/86/Default.aspx [threefelonies.com]

It has been proven time and after time in history, that ANY criminal justice system is just a political tool for the elite ruling class to suppress those who try to unseat them.

You still have your precious 2nd amendment rights (1)

PhuckIndian (2943641) | about a year ago | (#44428467)

Mao Zedong once said: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. "Criminal Justice" is just a political tool to suppress the oppressing view. People just need to stand united and forge their own destiny. Having no government is better than having any government. You take charge of your own destiny. That's REAL democracy. BTW Aaron Swartz is Jewish. This is why he gets such treatment. Look at how the Obama Administration treats Israel, compare to his muslim buddies.

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428515)

+1 insightful. Rand Paul FTW.

lol! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428763)

You mean the guy who spent hours filibustering Obama's drone policy while being on record as stating the same policy?

Re:More background, New yorker article has more de (1, Redundant)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year ago | (#44428823)

What? No, he didn't have a robust coping strategy. Unless you mean he had a robust coping strategy for dealing with threats at the level of internet trolls or something.

He killed himself. There are people who are in jail for life who don't kill themselves. THAT is a robust coping strategy. Granted, he had a lot more to lose than your usual inmate, but did he think that he was going to just break the law and sort of get away with it?

He didn't know what the heck he got himself into is what happened, but no way is that a death sentence. Not even necessarily with depression, although that's what did him in.

Responsibility belongs where it is due. The government overreacted (as usual), but their practices, as bullshit as they are, do not have a common result of suicide at the end of them. Even with all the asset freezing and internet loss that you describe. It may have given him time to do a little too much overthinking of his situation, but that's about it.

Re:More background, New yorker article has more de (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428143)

His "eccentricity" may well have been undiagnosed depression; God knows that's what happened for me for the first 25 years of my life.

It doesn't take much to put a depressive over the edge, especially if they don't know that what they're experiencing (suicidal ideation) is a disease symptom, not a reality.

MIT did nothing (1)

Stargoat (658863) | about a year ago | (#44427605)

By doing nothing, MIT implicitly condoned the prosecutor's infamous behavior. Neutrality was a pocket signature. They knew this and they persisted in their inaction.

Even after the death of a person, MIT's refusal to condemn its actions shows a lack of moral courage. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Re:MIT did nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428641)

By doing nothing, MIT implicitly condoned the prosecutor's infamous behavior. Neutrality was a pocket signature.

*sigh* Yes, yes, "pick a side we're at war" and "if you're not 100% with us you're 100% against us". Always has been a great way to fuck up everyone. You'd make a great Dubya-era warmonger. Shame that time has passed, you could've made off with some powerful connections.

I guess the reason I bother to keep reading Slashdot's comments is to remind me that there's people out there more self-centered and narrow-minded in their worldview than I am, and then I feel there's hope for me yet.

Re:MIT did nothing (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44429159)

By doing nothing, MIT implicitly condoned the prosecutor's infamous behavior. Neutrality was a pocket signature. They knew this and they persisted in their inaction.

Even after the death of a person, MIT's refusal to condemn its actions shows a lack of moral courage. They should be ashamed of themselves.

...and in politer words, this is precisely what the conclusion of the report says, and goes one further to say that this kind of situation is precisely where MIT should be a LEADER, not avoiding by refusing to step in.

MIT didn't do anything wrong (0)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about a year ago | (#44427697)

MIT didn't do anything at all.
Who are we to try to influence the DoJ? It's not our job.

Weird report (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427873)

The report took almost 200 pages to say almost nothing.

It says that after the Star Simpson breadboard incident MIT got flamed for their commentary (throwing the student in front of the legal bus) so as a matter of policy they are "neutral". The report poses a lot of questions, but none of them ask if neutral is the right response they don't even ask if their relative inaction really counts as neutrality.

This is especially surprising in light of all the questions it had about if, perhaps, the institutions level of assistance wasn't just wrong but perhaps unlawful (they conclude that it wasn't unlawful to be very helpful in the investigation). Even if you accept that hands-off is "neutral", you'd think that making law enforcement subpoena every bit of information would be the actual definition of hands-off.

What was MIT's duty here? (4, Interesting)

BitterOak (537666) | about a year ago | (#44427913)

As far as I know, Aaron Swartz wasn't even a student, faculty member, or employee of MIT, so why does MIT have a duty to defend him? He was arrested for trespassing when he was in a networking closet where he had no business being. If someone breaks into your home, do you have a duty to defend them if they're prosecuted, even if they're being prosecuted over-zealously?

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427991)

He was a visiting research associate of MIT, just forgot to bring his ID at that time.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428233)

Citation needed. I can't find anyone else making this claim online.
It looks like he was just a member of the general public, visiting MIT's famously open campus and making use of the facilities.

Re:Wrong (1)

Seraphim1982 (813899) | about a year ago | (#44428395)

Do you have a source for that? My understanding is that he was a research associate at Harvard.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44429381)

By "research associate", you mean "guy who hides his face from the security cameras"...?

Re:What was MIT's duty here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44428537)

Let's be honest here.

Maybe.

If you did have a B&E and they were charged with...oh... call it use of a deadly weapon for having a screwdriver they used to open the door.

Well... it shouldn't hold up and not really your problem.

If they were your guest -- say, breaking into your guesthouse they rented and would've reimbursed you... then... yeah, you should defend that they had a right to be there even if not by that manner. They're your guest after all...

But more interestingly, if they were a petty burgler, and charges were trumped up load of shit-- then you as a member of a civic society have a fucking DUTY to provide any relevant material in their defense. Even if you hate their guts for the crime they did commit.

Sorry, we're a part of a collective society here... two wrongs don't make a right. Your duty is not just to yourself or your loved ones and friends, but to the collective 'us'. Including the criminal (and society) to have a just and fair trial with all relevant and applicable evidence and testimony.

Punish people for the crimes they commit, not the ones they don't.

I mean, I could hypothetically see your point about MIT not having a duty to the public... in fact, let's cut the public's duty to them too -- by immediately stripping them of all federally funded grants.

Don't like it both ways?

Oh wow (1)

Tolkienfanatic (1111661) | about a year ago | (#44427919)

People are still talking about this, apparently

Coin opperated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427965)

Probably requires a JSTOR account to access the MIT Report

Wow.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44427989)

We are still having full discussions about selfish cuntholes who kill themselves?

I have no respect whatsoever for people who kill themselves. NONE

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