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Aaron Swartz  (Source:
The letter includes questions about Swartz' involvement with ending SOPA

Two members from a congressional committee have sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) wanting answers in regards to the charges against Aaron Swartz.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, wrote a letter to the DOJ asking what exactly pushed the department to prosecute Swartz in such an intense manner.

The letter, written January 28, asked the following seven questions since this is no longer a criminal case:
  1. What factors influenced the decision to prosecute Mr. Swartz for the crimes alleged in the indictment, including the decisions regarding what crimes to charge and the filing of the superseding indictment?
  2. Was Mr. Swartz's opposition to SOPA or his association with any advocacy groups among the factors considered?
  3. What specific plea offers were made to Mr. Swartz, and what factors influenced the decisions by prosecutors regarding plea offers made to Mr. Swartz?
  4. How did the criminal charges, penalties sought, and plea offers in this case compare to those of other cases that have been prosecuted or considered for prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?
  5. Did the federal investigation of Mr. Swartz reveal evidence that he had committed other hacking violations?
  6. What factors influenced the Department's decisions regarding sentencing proposals?
  7. Why was a superseding indictment necessary?
“It appears that prosecutors increased the felony counts by providing specific dates for each action, turning each marked date into its own felony charge, and significantly increasing Mr. Swartz’s maximum criminal exposure to up to 50 years imprisonment and $1 million in fines,” said the letter.

Swartz, an internet activist and co-creator of Reddit and the RSS standard, was in hot water after he accessed JSTOR database with a personal laptop in 2011. Using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) data network, Swartz downloaded over 4 million academic journals and planned to make them available to the public for free.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz decided to slam Swartz with 13 felony charges that could have sent him to jail for up to 50 years. He also would have had a $1 million fine for his actions.

However, Swartz was offered a couple of different plea deals, such as a 7-8 month prison sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to all 13 felony counts, and a six-month prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. Swartz turned down all of the plea deals, since he didn't want any felony charges on his record and didn't want to spend any time in prison.

With the weight of the government on his shoulders, Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013.

Source: The Next Web

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Slam Dunking a Duck
By drlumen on 1/29/2013 5:56:59 PM , Rating: 5
I find it absolutely disgusting that the DOJ is so upset by the alledged actions of one person for copyright infringement. Yet, they have not even filed an indictment against any Wall Street executives for the BILLIONS lost to fraud and scandal in the mortgage and derivative bubble.

It appears the DOJ had rather pile on and try to slam dunk something they consider to be an easy case than to have to do any actual work building cases against thousands of much guiltier people.

RE: Slam Dunking a Duck
By dgingerich on 1/29/2013 6:57:29 PM , Rating: 2
That's just typical, lazy, stupid behavior of most government employees.

Ever tried to get a passport? The people who make them are tasked with getting one done per day, same as it was in the 70s, and with all the technology advantages these days it now takes about an hour to an hour and a half to actually get one done. Yet, the management in that office never adjusted the workload requirements accordingly. Back in the 70s, it made sense because it actually took six to eight hours to do all the paperwork. That just isn't the case anymore. Now we have a six to eight month waiting list to get one.

It's much the same in other offices. Where work in done out of the sight of the public, expect them to slack off.

I bet the PTO has a bunch of people rubber stamping Apple patents without any actual work, yet somehow only getting one done per week or something.

RE: Slam Dunking a Duck
By semiconshawn on 1/30/2013 5:24:26 AM , Rating: 2
My passport took 36 hours to get and my wife's took 48 hours. Some small town called Houston

RE: Slam Dunking a Duck
By MZperX on 1/30/2013 12:07:58 PM , Rating: 2
Give this man a 6.

By 96suzuki on 1/29/2013 9:18:04 PM , Rating: 3
A prime example of Government control and abuse of authority.

Serious Questions
By zozzlhandler on 1/29/2013 6:50:24 PM , Rating: 2
So far, little has been said about whether Swartz's actions should have been a crime or not. Everybody seems to be assuming what he did was wrong. I am not so sure (not sure it wasn't either - just saying it needs looking at). The documents he downloaded we publications of research funded with public money. Should this information only be available to those wishing to pay? (Pay *a lot*, I believe.) It is an important question. He did not even make them publicly available, although he threatened to.

Predatory prosecution...
By MZperX on 1/30/2013 12:06:13 PM , Rating: 2
... should have serious legal consequences. It's an abuse of power that can and does ruin people's lives. Now, this guy was not a saint but what he did rates very low on the continuum of "wrong doing". Some argue it was on the level of breaching the terms of his service agreement. (I don't know I'm not a lawyer). If so, then to go after someone like him with such heavy handed prosecutorial tactics is a miscarriage of justice.

This is the DOJ that did nothing to prosecute documented voter intimidation, that for years knew about and were possibly complicit in the sale of weaponry to drug cartels, and like the first poster already pointed out, this is the DOJ that does nothing to make the high and mighty criminals of Freddy Mac, Fennie May, and Wall Street accountable for billions of $$$$$ scammed out of investors.

The big problem is who can prosecute the prosecuters if/when they refuse to do their job, and instead they decide to abuse their power? Congress? I guess they ought to, but we all know how ethical and responsible those guys are...

By Reclaimer77 on 1/29/2013 5:50:43 PM , Rating: 1
For the past 5 years the Senate and the President have treated the House with disdain and contempt. No time to discuss why the Government is crushing people like this poor guy like ants. They are too busy crushing the Second Amendment and NOT working on a budget.

If you wanna do the crime....
By littleprince on 1/29/13, Rating: -1
RE: If you wanna do the crime....
By ritualm on 1/29/2013 7:39:44 PM , Rating: 5
What social-mental issues?

The moment you plead guilty to anything , it's game over as far as your legal defense is concerned. Those guilty plea bargains only benefit the prosecutors, not the other way around.

How many white-collar financial executives have been jailed for their crimes? You can probably count with your bare fingers. This is a travesty of justice.

Just B.S.
By Beenthere on 1/29/13, Rating: -1
RE: Just B.S.
By Philippine Mango on 1/29/2013 6:55:33 PM , Rating: 3
he didn't 'hack' anything, he merely accessed, no 'hacking' involved. The definition of 'hacking' and 'wire fraud' has been used so broadly and widely that nearly everything you do on the computer could be construed as that. It's absolutely ridiculous!

RE: Just B.S.
By inperfectdarkness on 1/30/2013 2:43:27 PM , Rating: 2
Wait....I thought Obama was all "pro-hacking" now...

RE: Just B.S.
By ritualm on 1/29/2013 7:34:15 PM , Rating: 2
illegible rant

Do you honestly believe any of the diatribe you just wrote?

What bad choices did Swartz make? He elected to take his own life because the alternative - a criminal record for what is a relatively minor offense, especially compared to the bigger white-collar crime that affected thousands - is intolerable for anyone with a smidgen of common sense. You don't have any of it.

What really happened is the government decided to give Swartz hell just because, after it's long decided that he didn't do anything wrong at all.

You should really stop posting on DT.

RE: Just B.S.
By tng on 1/30/2013 8:56:51 AM , Rating: 2
What bad choices did Swartz make?
I know that I will get voted down for this, but here it is... Swartz made a whole string of bad choices, ending with his decision to commit suicide.

No matter what I think of the DOJ's behavior here (they went way to far), he had to have known what he was doing and that there could be consequences involved.

Hopefully this will serve as a platform to do some reform on what is considered "hacking" and the penalties will be reformed for the how the real world operates.

RE: Just B.S.
By mbungle87 on 1/30/13, Rating: 0
RE: Just B.S.
By guffwd13 on 1/30/2013 10:43:44 AM , Rating: 1
If you can't live by the laws of society then I'm perfectly fine with you checking out.

By that logic, the founding fore fathers of this country should've killed themselves instead of leading a revolution. Not equating hackers to them - though Washington et al were just people until they did something important and succeeded - but pointing out that it is up to the people to keep the government in check by whatever means.

Russia became a democracy. The people got so excited by the idea and the fact they were making money, they ignored the government quietly passing law after law to become the same government it was before the fall of Communism. Thus they have the same oppressive government they had before. OneState, Big brother... whatever you want to call it, hacking is the only weapon the people still have against governments with large militaries. You think semi-automatic rifles are going to do anything?

Not condoning all forms of hacking, but don't be so quick to pass judgement over others who in principal are necessary for survival.

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