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Was Wikileaks the Root of Aaron Swartz's Problems?

Posted: 01/22/2013 5:22 pm

According to Mashable, Aaron Swartz may have been a source for Wikileaks:

"In a series of tweets, Wikileaks claimed Saturday that late Internet activist and hacker Aaron Swartz was an ally and possible source for the organization.

It also disclosed that Swartz, who committed suicide last week, was "in communication" with founder Julian Assange during 2010 and 2011."


Add to that the revelation that, in the course of the investigation into Swartz's activities MIT handed documents not to the Justice Department or the FBI but to the Secret Service.

So we have a young man who used a computer network, at a school he did not attend, to download academic papers which he was accused of planning to distribute. In response the Secret Service gets involved and federal prosecutors seek up to 35 years in prison? Even the most conservative individual, who considered what Swartz did reprehensible, would have to call that a overreaching and disproportional response. That is unless there was more to the story.

The US Government's response to Wikileaks has been nothing less than rabid. They have gone so far as to classify the organization as an enemy of the United States (for the crime of spreading information about government in a free society.) The UN has called the treatment of (confirmed leaker) Bradley Manning "cruel and inhumane." There is little doubt that they will pursue Julian Assange until the day he dies and there was a massive international effort involving governments and private corporations toprevent donations to Wikileaks.

If looked at in light of the US vendetta against Wikileaks their extreme overreaction to Aaron Swartz 'copyright violations' involving academic journals suddenly makes sense. It is, in fact, the only way it makes any sense.

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  • Sir Tim Berners Lee, Founder Of The World Wide Web

    He <a href="https://twitter.com/timberners_lee/status/290140454211698689">tweeted</a>: “Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”

  • Quinn Norton, Freelance Journalist And Swartz's Close Friend

    "We used to have a fight about how much the internet would grieve if he died. I was right, but the last word you get in as the still living is a hollow thing, trailing off, as it does, into oblivion." Read more <a href="http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/?p=644">here</a>.

  • Danah Boyd, Social Media Researcher And Swartz's Friend

    "What I feel right now is anger. I'm angry at Aaron, angry at the state, angry at MIT, angry at anti-hactivist sentiment & angry at myself." Read Boyd's full statement on Swartz's death <a href="http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2013/01/13/aaron-swartz.html">here</a>.

  • Cory Doctorow, Science Fiction Author And Swartz's Friend

    "Whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn't solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever. If he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends. If he was despairing of the fight, he will never again rally his comrades with brilliant strategies and leadership. If he was sorrowing, he will never again be lifted from it." Read more <a href="http://boingboing.net/2013/01/12/rip-aaron-swartz.html">here</a>.

  • Swartz Family Statement

    “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.” Read more <a href="http://rememberaaronsw.tumblr.com/post/40372208044/official-statement-from-the-family-and-partner-of-aaron">here</a>.

  • Lawrence Lessig, Director Of The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics At Harvard University

    "The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a 'felon.' For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million-dollar trial in April -- his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it." Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-lessig/aaron-swartz-suicide_b_2467079.html">here</a>.

  • JSTOR, Academic Archive

    "We are deeply saddened to hear the news about Aaron Swartz. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Aaron’s family, friends, and everyone who loved, knew, and admired him. He was a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the internet and the web from which we all benefit." Read more <a href="http://about.jstor.org/statement-swartz">here</a>.

  • L. Rafael Reif, MIT President

    "I have asked professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in Fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it." Read more <a href="http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/letter-on-death-of-aaron-swartz.html">here</a>.

  • Anonymous, Hacktivist Collective

    On Sunday night, one day after Swartz's death, Anonymous knocked out Internet access at MIT, <a href="http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N61/anonymous.html" target="_hplink">according to The Tech</a>, a campus newspaper. Two MIT-affiliated websites were rewritten with the following message from the hacktivist group: "Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for - freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it - enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing - an ideal that we should all support." Read the full text of the hack <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5975646/anonymous-hacks-mit-in-aaron-swartzs-name">here</a>.

  • Danny O'Brien, Journalist And Swartz's Friend

    "Ada [O'Brien's daughter] cried, then we hugged, then Ada suggested we have a goodbye party, with ice-cream and sprinkles and a movie, and make a board where we could pin all our memories. We laughed at how funny he was. Aaron taught her so well." Read more <a href="http://www.oblomovka.com/wp/2013/01/12/he-was-funny/">here</a>. <strong>Correction:</strong> This slide originally reported that Ada was Aaron Swartz's daughter, not Danny O'Brien's. The Huffington Post regrets this error.

 

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