Start A Petition

How Aaron Swartz Helped Build the Internet and a Sad Loss to Us All

Science & Tech  (tags: Aaron Swartz, prosecutorial overreach, intimidation, internet, open access )

- 1980 days ago -
Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Past Member (0)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 5:18 pm
Aaron Swartz is a martyr to the cause of internet freedom and a victim of the police state that the United States has become.

Sheryl G (360)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 5:20 pm
On Friday, Internet pioneer and open information activist Aaron Swartz took his own life at age 26. At the time of his death, Swartz was under indictment for logging into JSTOR, a database of scholarly articles, and rapidly downloading those articles with the internet to make them public.

If Swartz had lived to be convicted of the charges against him he would of served more time than......


Bank Robbery

Selling Child Pornography

Knowingly Spreading AIDS

Selling Slaves

Genocidal Eugenics

Helping al-Qaeda Develop A Nuclear Weapon

Violence At International Airports

Threatening The President

Assaulting A Supreme Court Justice

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, an outspoken writer on Internet issues, said: "From the beginning the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. Somehow, we need to get beyond the 'I'm right so I'm right to nuke you' ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame."

Land of the free, ha ha. In any case please learn what a loss to America this young mans death has left. A brilliant talented mind with a heart as big.

AESOP 620 - 560BC (how little has changed)


greenplanet e (155)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 5:44 pm
" "He really, really believed that public information should be free and accessible to everyone," said Soghoian."

Doesn't seem like a crime.

Marjolein soederhuizen (284)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 6:36 pm
Thank u dear. for posting this, awfull, how ppl make u get this down, so cannot live anymore.........sad, make it so he did not die just like that, lets fight on for free word, thaughts and information for all

Julian Robert Gonzalez (112)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 7:51 pm
TY Dandelion for a well placed thread. Government police state is so real.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 8:05 pm
Thanks Sheryl! His funeral was this morning and there will be more nationwide memorial actions coming up.
If you are interested, visit these links that I also placed on my newsstory(US court drops charges on Aaron Swartz days after his suicide) yesterday "Aaron was killed by the government" -his father
Memorial Page for Aaron Swartz

Terry V (30)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 8:06 pm

Victoria P (113)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 8:34 pm
Trying to understand

Devon Leonar (54)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 8:57 pm
"........steal a little and they throw you in jail.......steal a lot and they make you king." (Bob Dylan) I'm so very saddened at the loss of this brilliant young man.......his death is our loss. The government authorities who led this possee of extremists in action need to be shamed .....they were out for blood and they got it. This must not happen again...........!

Rose Becke (141)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 9:19 pm
So SAD Thanks Dandelion for passing this on to me

Patricia E G (54)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 10:33 pm
Deplorable fate for one so talented.
Aaron's grasp of technology was truly brilliant without a doubt.
However, his approach to Freedom was reckless.
The outcome of his actions brought out his worst fears and led him
to relinquish his soul.

Superb reporting Sheryl. Thank you

Past Member (0)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 11:45 pm
Sadly noted.

AWAY AWHILE Cal Mendelsohn (1067)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:09 am
Very sad...thanks Dandelion.. a real victim of systematic abuse

Robert O (12)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:14 am
Terribly sad. Thanks Dandelion.

P A (117)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:32 am
How utterly, utterly awful - this death is dreadful both for Aaron Swartz and his family and for the whole world. God comfort them in their grief.

"Swartz died Friday of an apparent suicide in his apartment in Brooklyn, New York. He was 26." If he did commit suicide he was certainly hounded to his death. This needs really thorough investigation. REALLY thorough - not just convenient assumptions.

Thanks Dandelion.


divergent revolution (309)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 2:07 am
Murder someone in the states.Death penalty or lif imprisonement. Kill someone during war declared a hero.
The world is insane.
Thanks Dandelion

Arild Gone for now (174)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:21 am
It's so sad that one more brilliant mind is lost for us,just imagine what he could have done for us if the USA wasn't a Police-State.Thanks for posting this Sheryl.

Jim Phillips (3257)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:46 am
White House Petitions to have these two people, the federal prosecutors fired:

Stephen Heymann

Carmen Ortiz

Ty, Dandelion.

Sheryl G (360)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 6:41 am
Thanks Jim. You cannot currently send a star to Jim because you have done so within the last week.

Hot links to Petitions that Jim Phillips left.

Stephen Heymann
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann's overzealous prosecution of an allegedly minor and non-violent electronic crime led to the suicide of Aaron Swartz. President Obama recently said, as repeated by Vice President Biden, "if our actions result in saving only one life, they're worth taking." We should not destroy the lives of human beings for crimes against computer systems that harm no one and provide no benefit to the perpetrator. Such actions should be treated as forms of protest and civil disobedience. To prosecute these actions the same as rapes and murders is a savage abuse of the criminal justice system which continues to destroy the lives of peaceful, productive members of society.

Carmen Ortiz
It is too late to do anything for Aaron Swartz, but the who used the powers granted to them by their office to hound him into a position where he was facing a ruinous trial, life in prison and the ignominy and shame of being a convicted felon; for an alleged crime that the supposed victims did not wish to prosecute.

A prosecutor who does not understand proportionality and who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges to extort plea bargains from defendants regardless of their guilt is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path.


Pat B (356)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 7:17 am
What a crying shame. So young and talented. Thanks, Sheryl for this. BTW...Thanks, Jim, I signed both petitions.

Jim Phillips (3257)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 9:06 am
Thanks to Dandelion for making the petitions into hot links.


. (0)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 9:48 am
A terrible loss. Just goes to show what our "justice" system has become. TY Dandelion and Jim for the petition sites

. (0)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 10:02 am
I find this saddening and maddening at the same time. The government authorities should be held accountable for manslaughter.

john byrne (50)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 10:22 am

Read about this young man what a loss to the World & his own family, never forget Governments all Governments can kill you & justify it.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 11:48 am
Jim (and Sheryl) thanks so much for these important petitions! Signed!
As I commented before, think how anyone would react facing several decades of jail time plus a $1 million fine!

Sheryl G (360)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:22 pm
Yes, and he wasn't a hardened criminal in any sense of the word. In fact, his heart was in a good place. All of the entities that fleece the public from educational loans, fees, scams of one type or another at all levels of society, it just goes on and on the hurt to people that is caused. Yet this man was trying to help the underdogs, the poorer and less fortunate, dispersing information for free he had paid for and he gets the full weight of the law thrown at him. This isn't justice, it isn't correct under any sense of the word, fair. No matter what comes out of this, it will not ever bring back his life. But I hope some good does come from it.

Jelica R (144)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 1:43 pm
Aaron’s Death: Product Of A Criminal Justice System Rife With Intimidation; By; 14 January, 2013

"...Get angry. Then get busy."

Kathleen R (138)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 1:46 pm

Dotti L (85)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 2:24 pm
Thank you Dandelion. Very sad.

Sheryl G (360)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 2:35 pm
Very sad Dotti. As a Mother of two children, one almost 25 and the other 27, therefore near this young mans age, of 26, I can only imagine the devastation his parents are going through right now. To have a bright son with a full life ahead, a promising future, who knows what we all could benefit from with this brilliant mind, now taken from us all. To have a son taken in such a careless and thoughtless way by an overzealous justice system that shows no real justice in many ways.

We have major white collar crime that has put millions out of their homes and into the street, jobs ripped from the people so a few can make a quick buck and scams that wiped out retirements and yet nothing has happened to them. This is not "just" there is nothing "just" about much of anything taking place in this Country anymore. I feel so terrible for his family and friends.

Kerrie G (116)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:10 pm
Noted, thanks.

LaurenBackSoon Kozen (173)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:25 pm
Noted. Thanks Sheryl.

Petra M (259)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:43 pm
Thank you Dandelion; very sad!

Natalie V (27)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:43 pm

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:49 pm
Thank you so much for posting these petitions...absolutely signed!
*I'm sorry I'm unable to send a green star to Dandelion or Jim since I sent one in the past week.

Jim Phillips (3257)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:11 pm
Enjoyed reading the article in Jelica's comment box. Very Nice.

Trying to get used to her new"picture"... lol.

Sending a Green Star is a simple way to say "Thank you"
You cannot currently send a star to Jelica because you have done so within the last week.


Angelika R (143)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:17 pm
Yes Jim, me too. that was a good summary although I knew most of the content already from other publishings.
Well, Palestine is not so much enchained anymore, I guess that's why she changed her avatar. We'll get used to it :)

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 5:10 pm
Here's some hopeful news: California Rep Zoe Lofgren has proposed an amendment to the CFAA calling that bill "Aaron's Law".
Congresswoman introduces ‘Aaron's Law’ to honor Swartz

Sheila D (28)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 5:39 pm
Such a tragedy, and for what? It seems as though he really didn't do anything illegal, the prosecutors were out to "get" him, and his death was the result. They should be held responsible.

Jelica R (144)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 6:31 pm
Don't get used to my avatar. I like to change it occasionally to demonstrate my support for a cause. :-)

I have two links for you:

Aaron Swartz, a Spark in Life and Death; 14 January 2013 15:06; By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, The Daily Take | Op-Ed

Aaron Swartz's FOIA Requests Shed Light on His Struggle; 16 January 2013 00:00; By Jason Leopold, Truthout | Report

Theodore Shayne (56)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 6:40 pm
What sentence should all the white collar criminals receive then?

Jelica R (144)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 6:41 pm
Here is what I found last weekend, it is loosely connected to this topic and not-so-loosely with Bradley Manning case:

Free Jeremy Hammond!

On March 5, 2012, Hammond was arrested by FBI agents in Bridgeport, Chicago ahead of an indictment unsealed the following day in the Lower Manhattan federal district court. He is one of six individuals from the United States, England and Ireland indicted, due to a cooperating witness known online as Sabu. ....

Crusader for Information Liberation & WikiLeaks
Jeremy Hammond, a 27-year-old hacktivist and accused member of Anonymous, has been charged with the electronic infiltration of U.S. security company Stratfor. Stratfor, which has been referred to by Barron's as “the shadow CIA,” is an aggressive private spy agency that is not bound by the restrictions that its state counterparts face. WikiLeaks published more that 5 million of Strafor's global intelligence emails allowing the world to peer into what The Guardian referred to as the "intelligence-industrial complex." Among other revelations the emails disclosed Stratfor's recruitment of a network of informants, including government employees and journalists, it's monitoring of activists seeking redress from the Dow Chemical/Union Carbide environmental disaster in Bhopal, India, Stratfor's monitoring of the medical condition of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, and revealed that intelligence officers in Pakistan knew Osama Bin Laden location and had regular contact with him. In addition, more than 4000 of the Stratfor emails concerned WikiLeaks and revealed a sealed indictment against its founder Julian Assange. Hammond came to the attention of the Federal Government after the FBI secretly arrested Hector Monsegur (AKA Sabu), a leading Lulzsec member turned informant. Hammond is now being detained at Manhattan Correctional Facility awaiting trial and faces more that a decade in prison.

From DemocracyNow! - The Other Bradley Manning: Jeremy Hammond Faces Life Term for WikiLeaks and Hacked Stratfor Emails

A federal judge has refused to recuse herself from the closely watched trial of jailed computer hacker Jeremy Hammond, an alleged member of the group "Anonymous" charged with hacking into the computers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor and turning over some five million emails to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Hammond’s lawyers had asked Federal Judge Loretta Preska to recuse herself because her husband worked for a client of Stratfor, and himself had his email hacked. Hammond’s supporters say the Stratfor documents shed light on how the private intelligence firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. He has been held without bail or trial for more than nine months. We speak with Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, about Hammond’s case.

--- Can you link the dots?


Shawna S (45)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 8:35 pm
sadly noted....almost seems like a BIG case of bullying

Jelica R (144)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 8:54 pm
Must see: Aaron Swartz - a Fighter Against the Privatization of Knowledge; TRNN; January 15, 2013

Two colleagues and friends of Aaron Swartz talk about his activism and vision of technology in the service of a more democratic and just society.

Prosecutor pursuing Aaron Swartz linked to suicide of another hacker; RT; 15 January, 2013

In 2008 Jonathan James killed himself after being implicated in the largest personal identity hack in history. The case was spearheaded by Massachusetts Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann, who was also integral to the investigation against Swartz, Buzzfeed reports.

Heymann reportedly pursued James with zeal, he was the first minor to be taken into custody for a federal cybercrime case.

In the criminal complaints filed with the US District Court in Massachusetts, James was believed to have been identified as “JJ.”

Two weeks after the Secret Service raided his house in conjunction with the investigation led by Heymann into the theft of tens of thousands of credit card numbers, James was found dead.

In his suicide note, James wrote the decision to take his own life was a direct response to the federal investigation implicating him in a crime he says he did not commit.

"I have no faith in the 'justice' system. Perhaps my actions today, and this letter, will send a stronger message to the public. Either way, I have lost control over this situation and this is my only way to regain control," Buzzfeed cites the note as saying.

"Remember," he continued, "it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether I win or lose, and sitting in jail for 20, 10, or even 5 years for a crime I didn't commit is not me winning. I die free."

** James spent 5 years in prison before, starting when he was 17. Source: Wikipedia

Edith B (146)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 9:03 pm
Thanks, Sheryl for posting this, thanks Jim for the links to the petitions. I signed both and have shared them on Facebook. This is a heartbreaking end to the life of a genius.

Jim Phillips (3257)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 9:07 pm
Congresswoman, Lofgren, introduces ‘Aaron's Law’ to honor Swartz

"According to Rep. Lofgren, the US government could make great strides in lessening the odds of another hacker suicide should they decide to make changes to the CFAA, a legislation first passed in 1986 that is largely considered antiquated by today’s technology standards."

Read more in Angelika's comment box above. Hot Link.


Edwin M (346)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 11:28 pm
A hypcritical justice system that pursued this young man to the point of taking his own life while a host of companies that almost brought our Country to it's knees has not seen a single indictment

Arthur S (88)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 1:38 am
Thank you Sheryl. Noted.

Sheryl G (360)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 8:03 am
Thank you Angelika and Jelica for the additional informational links that I hope people will take the time to read. For in reading these, one can learn more of what type of society they are living in, what type of a Country we have and to pull the blinders off.

Our youth, from Bradley Manning to Aaron Swartz is getting caught up in this "new" and not improved Country. It can be anyone of our sons or daughters facing such things. Our women are being violated on the side of the road, on the airways, and from our so called leaders. Take the blinders off.

As one of the articles that Jelica left read:

Despite it being a victimless crime, and JSTOR itself settling the matter with Aaron, the Department of Justice threw the book at him.

Meaning that JSTOR and he had solved their issue.

As Aaron’s family said in a statement, his death was the result of, “an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims."

Aaron was an activist, not a murderer.

The punishment for his crime should have reflected this reality, but it didn’t. Instead, Aaron was dogged to death by an overzealous Justice Department that targets activists and whistleblowers with all its fury, while turning a blind eye to actual criminals - thieves and murderers - on Wall Street and in Corporate America.

This is the exact same sort of prosecutorial overreach we’re now getting used to in a nation that more and more resembles a police state.

I repeat.....

This is the exact same sort of prosecutorial overreach we’re now getting used to in a nation that more and more resembles a police state.

"resembles a police state."...........a police state. (Americans take your blinders off)

Conservative faux-journalist, James O’Keefe and his colleagues walked into a sitting United States Senator’s office and tried to wiretap her phones.

O’Keefe got three years of probation.

It’s clear: if you are a right-winger defending the oligarchs of Corporate America, then the ustice Department gives you a break.

But if you're trying to speak truth to America and protect the common man’s access to information and economic opportunity, then you're treated as an enemy of the state.

It can happen to anyone........

It IS happening to many average Americans.......

I repeat......

This is the exact same sort of prosecutorial overreach we’re now getting used to in a nation that more and more resembles a police state.

The Occupy movement drew attention to this two-tiered, corrupt justice system.

Let’s hope that Aaron’s death will be just like his life – a spark for nonviolent revolutionary change to bring about a more just, freer, and more equal America.


Past Member (0)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 8:55 am
Thank you for posting this, Dandelion, and to Angie, Jim, Jelica and others for links and comments.

I am desperately sad about this,, sad for his parents and his friends, sad for all of us for the loss of a fine mind, a remarkably brave young man who had already contributed so much to the world and had so much more to give - all to feed the huge egos of people who, I hope, will now be consigned to the garbage bin of history.

One would think that this had happened in Russia, instead of in a supposedly free country.

Glenn Greenwald has a fine tribute in the Guardian:

The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz


Joanne D (38)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 9:11 am

Also very interesting. I wonder if either Aaron's or Jonathan's death was really suicide.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 9:21 am
Again, many thanks to all contributors here, Jelica and also Zen provided more, very enlightening links to the matter. This story is getting more and more frightening and my guess is that Aaron had an uneasy sense of a fate awaiting him much like that of Assange or Bradley and wanted to escape this hopeless future.
I have no clue if it makes sense to follow up to the suspicion theories out there already that his death miight NOT have been suicidal. Should the latter be the case we'd never know anyways.

SuSanne P (193)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 9:46 am
Thank you Dandelion, all all those who posted links. NO EXCUSE for what IS happening...NONE! Many Brilliant posts as well...I thank you all.

Past Member (0)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 9:48 am
Thanks Angie - and Dandelion for the star. :-)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great article about Aaron and about the law that put him in this terrible position.

It's way past time for all US citizens to get those laws changed. Sometimes it's hard to rememberwho's in the White House. :-(

In the Wake of Aaron Swartz's Death, Let's Fix Draconian Computer Crime Law

Also a great photo of Aaron, with a quote, something for all of us to take to heart.
I have it on my page:

"Be curious. Read widely. Try new things.
I think a lot of what people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity."

Aaron Swartz
1986 - 2013

Sheryl G (360)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 10:31 am
From the first article that Zen left, and I thank you Zen...

As Lessig wrote: "Aaron had literally done nothing in his life 'to make money' . . . Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good."

Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a "justice" system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation's most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power.


Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 10:40 am
Thx Zen, signed and sent. But I doubt they are willing to change the CFAA-except for worse.
Those laws are there for a reason, and this tragic case of Aaron makes that reason evermore clear: to prevent by all means, or at least delay, that some visionary revolutionary genius might enable the global societies to might and power through knowledge. That knowledge would bring the entire fake and miserable construct of the house of cards to crash, bring truth to light and revolution to the world.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 10:52 am
Sheryl just said more or less the same in her own words, particularly her last sentense. Her comment just appeared now.

Jim Phillips (3257)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 11:43 am
Zen's petition above signed.

In the Wake of Aaron Swartz's Death, Let's Fix Draconian Computer Crime Law

For more readings, look into Jelica's comment box above. Excellent.

Check out other links too above. Well worth the time to read and learn.


Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 12:14 pm
I found the video most informative-and emotional. Bottom line- we are all thrown back decades in the effort to better the world.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 12:31 pm
I just posted another petition from his Demand Progress org. to the news, please note and SIGN. Thx.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 1:45 pm
Please also visit JILL's / Peasant Diva story post, she has more in there including more petitions.

Russell R (2)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 2:00 pm
and, most of all, those who challenge power.

James Merit (144)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 2:28 pm
Tragic loss. Thank you for post and to all who left links.

MmAway M (506)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 3:55 pm
Sad, but IMHO if we never had the internet we would not be in all of the problems we are in. Screwballs looking for children, looking up guns for sale, twitter, facebook. Ummm I remember the old days when children were safe with a black dial up and a pecking typewritter. Progress has done nothing but distroy innocence. Thanks dear! I feel so sad! Can't star you and going to get to all of the posted links!

Nancy C (806)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 5:44 pm
Some system. Until we all wake up, we'll keep paying the price. Global information is not a "bad" thing. Our brothers and sisters across the world can keep us posted. Whistle blowers and transparency seekers need realistic protection, period. RIP Aaron. I'd like to think that you keep up the good work.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 5:56 pm
Read the latest comments from that prosecutor b§7h

Aaron Swartz Prosecutor Defends Charges, Days After Activist's Suicide

OMG-what a hypocricy, what a b57§$ -watch the video

Sheryl G (360)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 6:16 pm
Thank you all for the additional posts, I've been away most the day. However I'm going to hotlink all of the links you left so will be easier for others. And please, I'm not looking for points here, there is a lot of vital information on here that should be shared with others. Please, in Aarons memory, share.

Joanne Dixon left this link
Why Did the Secret Service Take Over Aaron Swatzs Case Two Days Before he was Arrested

Jim and Zen
Reform Draconian Computer Crime Law

Peasant Diva's Post
More information

Angelika's Post
Petition Demand Justice for Aaron Swartz

And some people were wondering why Julian Assange didn't want to be brought to the USA. Wonder no more. If we do this to our own, do you think this Government would care about an Australian?


Angelika R (143)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 6:23 pm
That's the problem-they DO CARE LIKE HELL-in their own way though

Sheryl G (360)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 6:40 pm
Democracy Now a Speech of Aarons

"It’s a bill about the freedom to connect."

COICA a bill that would censor the internet.

So if even Orrin Hatch’s Senate website was found to be violating copyright law, what’s the chance that they wouldn’t find something they could pin on any of us?

And since they (Congress) were starting all over again, they figured, why not give it a new name? And that’s when it began being called PIPA, and eventually SOPA. Remember that?

Thank you Aaron for all you did. I hope a thousand fold take up your banner and fill those very large shoes you left behind.


tiffany t (142)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 7:44 pm
Petitions signed, thank you for the article

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Friday January 18, 2013, 3:50 am

Glenn Greenwald has, in addition to his "fine tribute in the Guardian" to Aaron that Zen linked to above, an excellentJanuary 16th piece (from his Guardian series on security and liberty) entitled Carmen Ortiz & Stephen Heymann: Accountability for Prosecutorial Abuse in Aaron Swartz Case that I've posted here.
There are many links to substantiate everything he says (as always, Greenwald is meticulous), as well as to provide background to the whole case as well as the short but brilliant life of Aaron. He also connects the dots between the govt's unjustifiably relentless hounding & judiciary harassment, their "wildly overzealous pursuit" of Aaron Swartz and the Obama administration's larger & systematic war on whistleblowers, among which the Bradley Manning prosecution.

I agree with the comments here which say it all... but will add my 2 cents though this is basically comes down to quoting from Greenwald's brilliant piece :

It is outrageous that Aaron was so relentlessly hounded that he felt he had no way out but suicide. The tragedy is beyond words.

Greenwald writes: "Just three months ago, Ortiz's office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which "carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony", meaning "the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million." That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced "a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers".

Swartz's girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial."

He also quotes (& links to) CNET's Declan McCullagh: "there is little question that her (prosecutor Carmen Ortiz') office sought to make an example out of Swartz for improper and careerist benefits. Swartz "was enhancing the careers of a group of career prosecutors and a very ambitious - politically-ambitious - U.S. attorney who loves to have her name in lights," the Cambridge criminal lawyer Harvey Silverglate told McCullagh. Swartz's lawyer said that Heymann "was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper." Writes McCullagh:

"If Swartz had stolen a $100 hard drive with the JSTOR articles, it would have been a misdemeanor offense that would have yielded probation or community service. But the sweeping nature of federal computer crime laws allowed Ortiz and [] Heymann, who wanted a high-profile computer crime conviction, to pursue felony charges. Heymann threatened the diminutive free culture activist with over 30 years in prison as recently as last week."

To begin with, there has been a serious injustice in the Swartz case, and that alone compels accountability. Prosecutors are vested with the extraordinary power to investigate, prosecute, bankrupt, and use the power of the state to imprison people for decades. They have the corresponding obligation to exercise judgment and restraint in how that power is used. When they fail to do so, lives are ruined - or ended.

The US has become a society in which political and financial elites systematically evade accountability for their bad acts, no matter how destructive. Those who torture, illegally eavesdrop, commit systemic financial fraud, even launder money for designated terrorists and drug dealers are all protected from criminal liability, while those who are powerless - or especially, as in Swartz's case, those who challenge power - are mercilessly punished for trivial transgressions. All one has to do to see that this is true is to contrast the incredible leniency given by Ortiz's office to large companies and executives accused of serious crimes with the indescribably excessive pursuit of Swartz.

This immunity for people with power needs to stop. The power of prosecutors is particularly potent, and abuse of that power is consequently devastating. Prosecutorial abuse is widespread in the US, and it's vital that a strong message be sent that it is not acceptable. Swartz's family strongly believes - with convincing rationale - that the abuse of this power by Ortiz and Heymann played a key role in the death of their 26-year-old son. It would be unconscionable to decide that this should be simply forgotten.

Beyond this specific case, the US government - as part of its war to vest control over the internet in itself and in corporate factions - has been wildly excessive, almost hysterical, in punishing even trivial and harmless activists who are perceived as "hackers". The 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) - enacted in the midst of that decade's hysteria over hackers - is so broad and extreme that it permits federal prosecutors to treat minor, victimless computer pranks - or even violations of a website's "terms of service" - as major felonies, which is why Rep. Lofgren just announced her proposed "Aaron's Law" to curb some of its abuses.

But the abuses here extend far beyond the statutes in question. There is, as I wrote about on Saturday when news of Swartz's suicide spread, a general effort to punish with particular harshness anyone who challenges the authority of government and corporations to maintain strict control over the internet and the information that flows on it. Swartz's persecution was clearly waged by the government as a battle in the broader war for control over the internet. As Swartz's friend, the NYU professor and Harvard researcher Danah Boyd, described in her superb analysis:

"When the federal government went after him – and MIT sheepishly played along – they weren't treating him as a person who may or may not have done something stupid. He was an example. And the reason they threw the book at him wasn't to teach him a lesson, but to make a point to the entire Cambridge hacker community that they were p0wned. It was a threat that had nothing to do with justice and everything to do with a broader battle over systemic power.

"In recent years, hackers have challenged the status quo and called into question the legitimacy of countless political actions. Their means may have been questionable, but their intentions have been valiant. The whole point of a functioning democracy is to always question the uses and abuses of power in order to prevent tyranny from emerging. Over the last few years, we've seen hackers demonized as anti-democratic even though so many of them see themselves as contemporary freedom fighters. And those in power used Aaron, reframing his information liberation project as a story of vicious hackers whose terroristic acts are meant to destroy democracy . . . .

"So much public effort has been put into controlling and harmonizing geek resistance, squashing the rebellion, and punishing whoever authorities can get their hands on. But most geeks operate in gray zones, making it hard for them to be pinned down and charged. It's in this context that Aaron's stunt gave federal agents enough evidence to bring him to trial to use him as an example. They used their power to silence him and publicly condemn him even before the trial even began."

The grotesque abuse of Bradley Manning. The dangerous efforts to criminalize WikiLeaks' journalism. The severe overkill that drives the effort to apprehend and punish minor protests by Anonymous teenagers while ignoring far more serious cyber-threats aimed at government critics. The Obama administration's unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers. And now the obscene abuse of power applied to Swartz.

This is not just prosecutorial abuse. It's broader than that. It's all part and parcel of the exploitation of law and the justice system to entrench those in power and shield themselves from meaningful dissent and challenge by making everyone petrified of the consequences of doing anything other than meekly submitting to the status quo. As another of Swartz's friends, Matt Stoller, wrote in an equally compelling essay:

"What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn't just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It's also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There's a reason whistleblowers get fired. There's a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There's a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriakou - who told the world it was going on. There's a reason those who destroyed the financial system 'dine at the White House', as Lawrence Lessig put it.

"There's a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There's a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There's a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq.

"This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice."

In most of what I've written and spoken about over the past several years, this is probably the overarching point: the abuse of state power, the systematic violation of civil liberties, is about creating a Climate of Fear, one that is geared toward entrenching the power and position of elites by intimidating the rest of society from meaningful challenges and dissent. There is a particular overzealousness when it comes to internet activism because the internet is one of the few weapons - perhaps the only one - that can be effectively harnessed to galvanize movements and challenge the prevailing order. That's why so much effort is devoted to destroying the ability to use it anonymously - the Surveillance State - and why there is so much effort to punishing as virtual Terrorists anyone like Swartz who uses it for political activism or dissent.

The law and prosecutorial power should not be abused to crush and destroy those who commit the "crime" of engaging in activism and dissent against the acts of elites. Nobody contests the propriety of charging Swartz with some crime for what he did. Civil disobedience is supposed to have consequences. The issue is that he was punished completely out of proportion to what he did, for ends that have nothing to do with the proper administration of justice. That has consequences far beyond his case, and simply cannot be tolerated.

Finally, there is the general disgrace of the US justice system: the wildly excessive emphasis on merciless punishment even for small transgressions. Numerous people have written extensively about the evils of America's penal state, including me in my last book and when the DOJ announced that HSBC would not be prosecuted for money laundering because, in essence, it was too big to jail.

All the statistics are well known at this point. The US imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in the world, both in absolute numbers and proportionally. Despite having only roughly 5% of the world's population, the US has close to 25% of the world's prisoners in its cages. This is the result of decades of a warped, now-bipartisan obsession with proving "law and order" bona fides by advocating for ever harsher and less forgiving prison terms even for victimless "crimes".

The "drug war" is the leading but by no means only culprit. The result of this punishment-obsessed justice approach is not only that millions of Americans are branded as felons and locked away, but that the nation's racial minorities are disproportionately harmed. As the conservative writer Michael Moynihan detailed this morning in the Daily Beast, there is growing bipartisan recognition "the American criminal justice system, in its relentlessness and inflexibility, its unduly harsh sentencing guidelines, requires serious reexamination." As he documents, prosecutors have virtually unchallengeable power at this point to convict anyone they want.

In sum, as Sen Jim Webb courageously put it when he introduced a bill aimed at fundamentally reforming America's penal state, a bill that predictably went nowhere: "America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace" and "we are locking up too many people who do not belong in jail." The tragedy of Aaron Swartz's mistreatment can and should be used as a trigger to challenge these oppressive penal policies. As Moynihan wrote: "those outraged by Swartz's suicide and looking to convert their anger into action would be best served by focusing their attention on the brutishness and stupidity of America's criminal justice system."

But none of this reform will be possible without holding accountable the prime culprits in this case: Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann [MIT officials have their own reckoning to do]. Their status as federal prosecutors does not and must not vest them with immunity; the opposite is true: the vast power that has been vested in them requires consequences when it is abused. It is up to the rest of us to ensure that this happens, not to forget the anger and injustice from this case in a week or a month or a year. A sustained public campaign is necessary to bring real accountability to Ortiz and Heymann, and only then can further urgently needed reforms flow from the tragedy of Swartz's suicide."

What a terrible & terribly true portrait of what our country has become & I am distressed at the lives of wonderful people simply crushed by this power system.
(I have not reproduced here all the links)

Sheryl G (360)
Friday January 18, 2013, 7:24 am
As Lessig wrote: "Aaron had literally done nothing in his life 'to make money' . . . Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good."

Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a "justice" system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation's most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power.

Wonder no more why Julian Assange fears being brought to the USA. If the USA will do this to one of it's own it will show no mercy on an Australian. Brave warriors do not have to be out on the batttlefield they are behind their computers, giving speeches, and doing their best to keep information open and accessable to all. They are placing the information there that "they" understand and bringing it to everyone else's level that may not understand the full implications of such things.

A people can only be as free as the information that they receive that is in truth to the reality of what is going on and taking place. I realize much ill tidings happened under the Bush Administration but this is all happening under the Obama Administration, we also got NDAA, we have the only peace prize winner with a kill list that so happens to be a head of Government. Liberals and Progressives where are you? Are you so content that the lesser of the two got in that it is time to sit back and relax.

It is exactly for reason like this story that I voted for THE JUSTICE PARTY with Rocky Anderson. This is EXACTLY what Rocky Anderson wanted to go up against, but he had to have THE PEOPLE ......WITH.....him. We can sigh, moan, and now moarn another young man's life lost to us, but if we keep voting in the same old same old it will not change, it hasn't changed. We've had both Republican and Democrats for the past 40 years and have watched our rights, our standard of living, our standing within the world, become more and more a loss to us.

The Justice Party........It stood for something!

Kamila A (141)
Friday January 18, 2013, 9:55 am
May he rest in peace. That list of offenses really puts things into perspective. He was trying his best to do something positive, but these are days of great changes and some sensitive ones like Aaron can't hold on. My prayers are sent for him and his family.

Angelika R (143)
Friday January 18, 2013, 10:58 am
Endless repeats and numerous analysis no matter how correct and excellent they may be-and Greenwald's certainly is, there was never a doubt- are neither bringing Aaron back to life nor will they change the system.
Guess most of you have read the response Ms Ortiz had-I gave the link further above- and will recognize that there is way too much shielding for this diabolic system.
For real change in the future you MUST get rid of that bipartisan useless pile of trash and seriously think about Sheryl's/Dandelions suggestion for A THIRD PARTY.
The more time goes by, the less folks will remember this past campaign and these parties-be it the Justice, the Greens or another- will need every single day until 2016 to gain supporters.

Jelica R (144)
Friday January 18, 2013, 7:25 pm
White House Petitions:
Fire Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann. - this one needs more signatures.*

Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Petition: Reform Draconian Computer Crime Law - US citizens only

Demand Progress Petition: Demand justice for Aaron: Support "Aaron's Law" and inquiry into his prosecution
* Prosecutor pursuing Aaron Swartz linked to suicide of another hacker; RT; 15 January, 2013

In 2008 Jonathan James killed himself after being implicated in the largest personal identity hack in history. The case was spearheaded by Massachusetts Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann, who was also integral to the investigation against Swartz, Buzzfeed reports.

Heymann reportedly pursued James with zeal, he was the first minor to be taken into custody for a federal cybercrime case. ...


Tanya W (65)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 2:50 am
Sadly noted.

Sheryl G (360)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 5:29 pm
I wish that people like Attorney Stephen Heymann would be as aggressive to go after the Wall Street types that have destroyed so many lives. No, they don't do they. Thanks Jelica.

Judy C (97)
Tuesday January 22, 2013, 12:28 am
Somehow your message with the link to this story got lost in my bulging inbox, Dandelion. I had posted a couple of stories on this sad and outrageous chain of events myself. It's incredible that Swartz could have faced such extreme charges for this act of civil disobedience. And you're right, the Wall St. and Banking criminals walk free, getting their bonuses, facing no consequences for trashing the world economy, and creating untold loss and suffering.

I will have to check out the many interesting links others have posted in these comments. Thank you, Dandelion.

Julian Robert Gonzalez (112)
Tuesday January 22, 2013, 4:06 pm
Hi Dandelion,
I want to state I dislike the socialist governments like Russia and Red China but when they this case Russia states the truth I give them credit. RT America on Aaron Swartz.

God Bless Aaron Swartz founder of Demand Progress.

Gina Caracci (219)
Tuesday January 22, 2013, 5:28 pm
Ive received many emails about this OUTRAGEOUS TRAGEDY and signed many petitions DEMANDING JUSTICE for AARON! What is this world coming to anymore? As usual MONEY talks and crooks walk. Thanks for posting this Dandelion.

Sheryl G (360)
Tuesday January 22, 2013, 5:40 pm
Thank you Julian...a good piece. Hotlink below
Remembering Aaron Swartz

Lets Do it in Aaron Swartz Honor. Stand up Speak out Don't let the Bullies win.

Merike Lillenberg (52)
Sunday January 27, 2013, 3:51 am

l L (1)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 1:10 pm
thx all read and noted.. will return to read all post I haven't gotten to. Joanne D.... one can only wonder these days.... condolences to his family and may he rip.....

Darlene W (303)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 2:08 pm
Truly sad and thank you for sharing this--Bless his soul and prayers to his family for their loss.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Science & Tech

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.