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Submission + - DOJ, MIT, JSTOR Seek Anonymity in Swartz Case

theodp writes: Responding to an earlier request by the estate of Aaron Swartz to disclose the names of those involved in the events leading to Aaron's suicide, counsel for MIT snippily told the Court, "The Swartz Estate was not a party to the criminal case, and therefore it is unclear how it has standing, or any legally cognizable interest, to petition for the modification of the Protective Order concerning others' documents." In motions filed on slow-news-day Good Friday (MIT's on spring break), the DOJ, MIT, and JSTOR all insisted on anonymity for those involved in the Swartz case, arguing that redacting of names was a must, citing threats posed by Anonymous and LulzSec, a badly-photoshopped postcard sent to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann and another sent to his Harvard Prof father, cake frosting, a gun hoax, and e-mail sent to MIT. From the DOJ filing: 'I also informed him [Swartz estate lawyer] that whatever additional public benefit might exist by disclosing certain names was, in this case, outweighed by the risk to those individuals of becoming targets of threats, harassment and abuse.' From the MIT filing: 'The publication of MIT's documents in unredacted form could lead to further, more targeted, and more dangerous threats and attacks...The death of Mr. Swartz has created a very volatile atmosphere.' From the JSTOR filing: 'The supercharged nature of the public debate about this case, including hacking incidents, gun hoaxes and threatening messages, gives JSTOR and its employees legitimate concern for their safety and privacy.'

Submission + - Aaron Swartz's Estate Seeks Release of Documents

theodp writes: The Boston Globe reports that the estate of Aaron Swartz filed a motion in federal court in Boston Friday to allow the release of documents in the case that has generated national controversy over the US attorney's aggressive pursuit of a stiff sentence. The Court filing suggests that the US attorney's office is still up for jerking Aaron around a little posthumously, seeking what his lawyers termed overbroad redactions, including names and titles that are already publicly known. Swartz's family also seeks the return of his seized property. Last week, Swartz's girlfriend accused MIT of dragging its feet on investigating his suicide. Meanwhile, Slate's Justin Peters asks if the Justice Department learned anything from the Aaron Swartz case, noting that Matthew Keys, who faces 25 years in prison for crimes that include aiding-and-abetting the display of humorously false content, could replace Swartz as the poster boy for prosecutorial overreach.

Submission + - Should Mary Jo White Be Asked About Aaron Swartz?

theodp writes: The NY Times has some confirmation questions it wants asked of Mary Jo White, President Obama’s nominee for chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who is expected to win Senate approval after her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. So, let's add a few more. How did super lawyer White, who built a lucrative career representing high-profile clients such as JPMorgan Chase, UBS AG and Morgan Stanley, come to represent JSTOR — and by extension the late Aaron Swartz — in failed negotiations with U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's office? And why does she suppose the DOJ declined to drop its draconian prosecution of Swartz despite her intervention? In nominating White, President Obama hailed her as someone 'you don't want to mess with' who could be counted on to 'fight for the American People'. Winning, unfortunately, is sometimes another matter — Swartz had committed suicide less than two weeks earlier.

Submission + - Why Did a Bankster Defense Attorney Represent JSTOR?

theodp writes: Mary Jo White, the White House nominee tapped to head the SEC, appears before a Senate committee for her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. White, the Washington Post notes, built a lucrative career representing high-profile clients (pdf) such as JPMorgan Chase, UBS AG and Morgan Stanley. Kenneth Lewis, BofA’s former CEO, and Rajat Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs board member convicted of insider trading, were also clients. So, as long as White is expected to face questioning, why not ask a few about how the "bankster" super lawyer came to represent JSTOR — and by extension the late Aaron Swartz — in failed negotiations with U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's office to drop the DOJ's prosecution of Swartz? After all, the Senate is also busy at work trying to shed light on the Swartz case. Monday, by the way, marks the two-month anniversary of Swartz's tragic suicide; still waiting for that report from MIT.

Submission + - The Manti Te'o of Physics

theodp writes: When it comes to tales of fake girlfriends, Manti Te'o can't hold a candle to theoretical particle physicist Paul Frampton. In November 2011, writes the NY Times' Maxine Swann in The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble, Frampton met who he says he thought was Czech bikini model Denise Milani on Mate1.com. A Yahoo Messenger romance bloomed, at least in the 68-year-old Frampton's mind (Frampton's ex-wife was a self-described 'physics groupie'). But before starting their perfect life together, fake Denise asked Frampton for one little favor — would he be so kind as to bring her a bag that she had left in La Paz, Bolivia? Yep, bad idea. The UNC Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy soon found himself in a Buenos Aries prison, charged with transporting two kilos of cocaine into Argentina. Currently serving a four years and eight months sentence under house arrest, Frampton reportedly continues to supervise his two current PhD students by phone, and still finds time to post to the Physics archive.

Submission + - The Accidental Betrayal of Aaron Swartz

theodp writes: The anarchist dictum when it comes to grand juries, explains Salon's Natasha Lennard, is a simple one: 'No one talks, everyone walks.' It's a lesson journalist Quinn Norton tragically learned only after federal prosecutors got her to inadvertently help incriminate Aaron Swartz, her dearest friend and then-lover. Convinced she knew nothing that could be used against Swartz, Norton at first cooperated with the prosecutors. But prosecutors are pro fishermen — they cast wide nets. And in a moment Norton describes as 'profoundly foolish,' she told the grand jury that Swartz had co-authored a blog post advocating for open data (the Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto), which prosecutors latched onto and spun into evidence that the technologist had 'malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.' Norton sadly writes, 'It is important the people know that the prosecutors manipulated me and used my love against Aaron without me understanding what they were doing. This is their normal. They would do this to anyone. We should understand that any alleged crime can become life-ruining if it catches their eyes.' Consider yourself forewarned.

Submission + - Aaron Swartz Prosecutors Dared 'Mess With Mary Jo'

theodp writes: 'You don't want to mess with Mary Jo', President Obama said on Jan. 24th as he tapped Mary Jo White to head the SEC. Mary Jo, Obama added, was a nominee who would 'fight for the American People'. Winning, unfortunately, is another matter. While acting as JSTOR's attorney, White reportedly did fight for Aaron Swartz, calling Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann and asking him to drop the case. Sadly, Swartz's prosecutors apparently weren't afraid to mess with Mary Jo, and declined to drop the draconian charges despite her pleas. Swartz went on to commit suicide on Jan. 11th, less than two weeks before White's nomination.

Submission + - Why Couldn't Obama's SEC Chief Save Aaron Swartz?

theodp writes: 'You don't want to mess with Mary Jo,' President Obama quipped on Jan. 24th as he introduced Mary Jo White, his pick to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. White, Obama emphasized, was a nominee who could be counted on to 'fight for the American People.' Unfortunately, while White — acting as JSTOR's attorney — tried to fight for Internet activist Aaron Swartz, his Boston prosecutors apparently weren't afraid to mess with Mary Jo, and declined to drop the ridiculous charges. Swartz committed suicide on Jan. 11th. So, should the President be concerned that his pick for SEC Chief — touted as one of the nation's best lawyers — was given the metaphorical middle finger by his Dept. of Justice? If it's any consolation, there are reports that White and her law firm seem to be having better luck fighting for Wall Street than Swartz.

Submission + - Aaron Swartz Case: Deja Vu All Over Again for MIT

theodp writes: On Saturday, questions for MIT's Aaron Swartz investigation were posted on Slashdot with the hope that MIT'ers might repost some to the MIT Swartz Review site. So it's good to see that MIT's Hal Abelson, who is leading the analysis of MIT's involvement in the matter, is apparently open to this workaround to the ban on questions from outsiders. In fact, on Sunday Abelson himself reposted an interesting question posed by Boston College Law School Prof. Sharon Beckman: 'What, if anything, did MIT learn from its involvement in the federal prosecution of its student David LaMacchia back in 1994?' Not much, it would appear. LaMacchia, an apparent student of Abelson's whose defense team included Beckman, was indicted in 1994 and charged with the 'piracy of an estimated million dollars' in business and entertainment computer software after MIT gave LaMacchia up to the FBI. LaMacchia eventually walked from the charges, thanks to what became known as the LaMacchia Loophole, which lawmakers took pains to close. 'MIT collaborated with the FBI to wreck LaMacchia's life,' defense attorney Harvey Silverglate charged in 1995 after a judge dismissed the case. 'I hope that this case causes a lot of introspection on the part of MIT's administration. Unfortunately, I doubt it will.'

Submission + - Anonymous Warhead Targets US Sentencing Commission

theodp writes: Late Friday, Violet Blue reports, the U.S. Sentencing Commission website was hacked and government files distributed by Anonymous in 'Operation Last Resort.' The U.S. Sentencing Commission sets guidelines for sentencing in United States Federal courts, and on the defaced ussc.gov website Anonymous cited the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz as 'a line that has been crossed.' Calling the launch of its new campaign a "warhead," Anonymous vowed, 'This time there will be change, or there will be chaos.'

Submission + - Got Questions for MIT's Aaron Swartz Review?

theodp writes: Explaining that it believes 'the most important questions are the ones that will come from the MIT community,' MIT announced that it won't be accepting questions from outsiders for its President-ordered 'review' of the events that preceded the suicide of Aaron Swartz. But if you feel the 25 questions asked thus far don't cover all the bases, how about posting additional ones in the comments where MIT'ers can see them and perhaps repost to the MIT site some that they feel deserve answers? Do it soon — MIT President Rafael Reif will be returning any day now from Davos, where he sat on a panel with Bill Gates (video), who coincidentally once found himself in hot water over unauthorized computer access. 'They weren't sure how mad they should be about it,' Gates explained in a 2010 interview, 'because we hadn't really caused any damage, but it wasn't a good thing. Computer hacking was literally just being invented at the time, and so fortunately we got off with a bit of a warning.'

Submission + - MIT: Keep Your Swartz Questions to Yourselves 2

theodp writes: The good news is that MIT plans to release a report in a few weeks on its involvement in the events leading up to Aaron Swartz's suicide. The bad news is that the university won't be accepting any questions or comments on the matter from anyone outside of MIT. 'There have been dozens of questions about these events in the press and on the Net over the past week,' acknowledged MIT's Hal Abelson. 'But the most important questions are the ones that will come from the MIT community, because we are the ones who will be held to account.' Having charged Abelson with the review, which Abelson said he expects will show 'that every person acted in accordance with MIT policy', MIT President Rafael Reif was apparently off to Switzerland, where he's slated to appear on a Davos panel with Bill Gates, who coincidentally once snuck into buildings on the Univ. of Washington campus to grab some free computer time. Reif and his fellow 'RevolutiOnline.edu — Online Education Changing the World' panelists will be discussing strategies 'to give millions of people access to high level education and the chance to a better life.' Hey, didn't Aaron Swartz have some ideas on that?

Submission + - JSTOR an Entitlement for USDOJ's Ortiz & Holder

theodp writes: If Aaron Swartz downloaded JSTOR documents without paying for them, it would presumably be considered a crime by the USDOJ. But if U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz or U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did the same? Rather than a crime, it would be considered their entitlement, a perk of an elite education that's paid for by their alma maters. Ironically and sadly, that's the kind of inequity Aaron railed against with the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, a document the DOJ cited as evidence (pdf) that Swartz was a menace to society. On Thursday, Ortiz insisted Swartz — who she now characterizes as 'mentally ill' — received fair and reasonable treatment from the DOJ. But that wasn't good enough for Senator John Cornyn, who on Friday asked Eric Holder to explain the DOJ prosecution of Aaron Swartz.

Submission + - For U.S. Attorney Ortiz, JSTOR is an Entitlement 1

theodp writes: As a college dropout, Aaron Swartz was not entitled to freely download JSTOR documents, so his doing so would constitute "stealing". Got it? But as a George Washington University graduate, fair-and-reasonable U.S. Attorney General Carmen Ortiz is, in fact, entitled to freely download JSTOR documents (thanks to the 'generous support' of GWU alums and the GWU Libraries), so her doing so would NOT constitute "stealing." Capiche? And that, ironically, is a great example of the type of inequity Aaron railed against with the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto ('Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves...'), a document Ortiz's office cited as evidence that Swartz was a knowledge-sharing menace to society.

Submission + - Ortiz Had 'JSTOR for Life' While Prosecuting Swarz 1

theodp writes: Two days before Aaron Swarz committed suicide while under fire by the office of U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz for downloading JSTOR PDFs, JSTOR reminded folks that graduates of select universities had been provided with free access to JSTOR PDFs for the past three years under the Access for Alumni program. So, because she's a grad of George Washington University, it would appear that Ms. Ortiz ironically had a very nice perk available to her while prosecuting Mr. Swarz — JSTOR for Life — and wouldn't have to worry about being faced with the threat of '35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million,' since she was entitled to freely access JSTOR documents that college dropouts like Aaron Swarz could be prosecuted for downloading. Still, U.S. Attorney Ortiz issued a statement late Wednesday insisting that 'this office's conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case.' As the WSJ notes, philanthropic funding of nonprofits (like JSTOR) doesn't have a great track record for eliminating inequity.

There is very little future in being right when your boss is wrong.