Secret Service releases first 100 pages of Aaron Swartz investigation

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   Published time: August 14, 2013 00:29                                                                            

Aaron Swartz (Photo by Phillip Stearns)Aaron Swartz (Photo by Phillip Stearns)

Freshly unveiled documents indicate that the US Secret Service was involved in the investigation into Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who was awaiting trial on hacking charges when he committed suicide earlier this year.

The 104 pages, released Monday as part of an ongoing Freedom of  Information Act (FOIA) request, include a report on Swartz’s  death and mention that agents were on hand when local police  questioned people who knew Swartz.

On 1/11/13, Aaron Swartz was found dead in his  apartment in Brooklyn, as a result of an apparent suicide,”   states a Secret service memo dated January 17, 2013. “A  suppression hearing in this had been scheduled for 1/25/13 with a  trial date of 4/1/13, in US District Court of the District of  Massachusetts.”

Swartz, who co-wrote what eventually became RSS and started the  digital rights organization Demand Progress, allegedly downloaded  articles from the academic database JSTOR using the Massachusetts  Institute of Technology (MIT) campus network, intending to  distribute the articles for free online.

Federal prosecutors charged him with two counts of wire fraud and  11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Swartz could  have faced 35 years in prison and a one million dollar fine if  convicted.

The reports also show that Secret Service agents obtained  documents and electronics during a February 2011 search of  Swartz’s home and office at Harvard University.

Swartz was home at the time the search was executed,” one  documents states. “While the search was conducted, Swartz made  statements to the effect of, what took you so long, and why  didn’t you do this earlier?”

A federal judge ordered the Department of Homeland Security and  Secret Service to release their files on Swartz after a FOIA  request from Wired magazine. While the documents are heavily  redacted, Wired reported that these 104 pages are just the first  of an eventual 14,500 documents that will be released on a  rolling basis. The government estimated the reports would take  six months to process.

The pages released Monday also indicate the Secret Service was  especially interested in Swartz’s ideas outlined in the “Guerilla  Open Access Manifesto,” which advocated the liberation of data  from private entities – JSTOR’s stranglehold on academic research  articles, for instance.

Swartz’s attorney Elliot Peters told Wired earlier this year that  the prosecution was planning to focus heavily on the document  during the trial.

They were very focused on it, and appeared to be planning to  use it as evidence of Aaron’s intent to take the JSTOR material  and somehow post it online to make it available for all,”   Peters said in February. “They had spent a lot of energy  investigating that document – who wrote it, whether it conveyed  Aaron’s point of view, etc.”

The redacted documents were released just after the prosecutors  in the case, US Attorneys Stephen Heymann and Carmen Ortiz, were  accused of pursuing Swartz so doggedly for personal reasons.  Critics alleged that Heymann, in particular, decided to escalate  the case from a so-called “human level” to an   “institutional” prosecution after Swartz refused to accept  a plea deal.


Aaron Swartz Usss First Release 08-12-13

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