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MIT Attempts To Block Release of Documents In Aaron Swartz Case 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the actions-speak-louder-than-words dept.
Dputiger writes "In the wake of activist Aaron Swartz's suicide, MIT launched an investigation into the circumstances that led to his initial arrest and felony charges. It's now clear that the move was nothing but a face-saving gesture. Moments before the court-ordered release of Swartz's Secret Service file under the Freedom of Information Act, MIT intervened, asking the judge to block the release. Supposedly this is to protect the identities of MIT staff who might be harassed — but government policy is to redact such information already."
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MIT Attempts To Block Release of Documents In Aaron Swartz Case

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  • Who? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Arkiel (741871)
    Mmm hmm, mmm hmm. And what ARE the names of the people employed by MIT who helped drive Aaron Swartz to kill himself? I'm not interested in threatening them, I just want to make sure their names are on the Internet and forever associated with the terrible, terrible thing they did.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by smooth wombat (796938)

      Exactly, because when someone installs their own equipment in someone else's closet, tries to hide the fact that they installed the equipment, carfs down oodles and oodles of documents which the general public did not have access to because THEY felt they had the right to decide how the information is used, that person bears no responsibility for their actions.

      It's all on the backs of those who caught the person doing something they didn't have a right to do, not the person committing the crime.

      • Re:Who? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Arkiel (741871) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:10AM (#44326535) Journal
        No one is arguing that Aaron Swartz own actions did not contribute to what happened to him. It was suicide, after all. Way to use the all-or-nothing fallacy. Someone is arguing that MIT should not have gotten the government involved, and that there is a pattern of behavior here by them and their employees that should not be rewarded and should, in fact, be punished. I happen to think letting everyone know what these people did is punishment enough.
      • Re:Who? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hawkinspeter (831501) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:13AM (#44326557)
        You're right, Aaron should have been held responsible for what he did. However, what he did amounted to the digital equivalent of checking out too many library books. He should have been held responsible for that and made to pay back damages to the victim(s).

        However, I don't believe that his "crimes" should have involved any jail-time whatsoever and I'm surprised by anyone who did think that Aaron was a danger to society and should have been locked up for years.

        So, with people being held responsible for their beliefs and actions, why is MIT not just releasing the information and instead weaseling around the court system?
        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by smooth wombat (796938)

          It was not checking out too many books. He deliberately went into the library, where he didn't have access, and took books which the library had which could only be checked out under strict controls (i.e. the books were rare, old, in bad shape, etc).

          You would agree that someone breaking into a library and performing the above acts should be jailed, correct? If not, then apparently breaking and entering isn't a crime in your eyes, nor is stealing something you don't have access to.

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            If MIT doesn't have anything to hide, they don't need to block the release of the documents. Se how fun it isn't, when it's applied the other way around? Bunch of fucking hypocrites, and they are allowed to continue due to idiots like you.

            It's a fucking shame. And you're a fucking disgrace.

          • Re:Who? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by djmurdoch (306849) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:50AM (#44326909)

            Rare old books are a limited resource. If he took those, nobody else could use them. That would be stealing.

            Checking out too many books from the library means those books aren't available for other library patrons to check out. That's rude.

            What he did was weaker still. He violated a copyright license. JSTOR had negotiated monopoly rights to copy those articles, and he violated their rules. He probably didn't deprive anyone of anything, though he may have damaged JSTOR by making it harder for them to negotiate rights in the future.

            • by geekoid (135745)

              Convenient that you forget about the breaking and entering and then illegal access to the computer system.

              You idiots needs to realize it is not about the docs, it was about the crimes he committed to gain access to the docs.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                So .. breaking and entering will get you, what? 4 months?

                Take a moment to go through the list of charges and tally them up until you hit 35 years and ask yourself if justice was being served. The punishment should fit the crime and, when it doesn't, we need to revisit our laws and sentencing guidelines.

                And no need to call anyone an idiot -- this is one of those issues that divides people and when they feel passionate they respond passionately. There's room for passion in debates like these because it's a po

              • by djmurdoch (306849)

                The B&E wasn't the basis of the threatened 35 year penalty, and in fact Wikipedia says those charges were dropped. The charges that remained were that he didn't follow the JSTOR rules. It's ridiculous that not supporting a monopoly is legally so much worse than breaking and entering.

          • Re:Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:50AM (#44326913)

            If not, then apparently breaking and entering isn't a crime in your eyes, nor is stealing something you don't have access to.

            where have you been the last year or so? the government is breaking and entering our digital lives at a much deeper level and much wider level of population (ie, EVERYONE).

            they are not punished for their 'digital break-ins'. why should citizens, then? it seems its ok, in today's world. if the gov can get away with it, then it must be legal. RIGHT?

            doublestandard much?

          • by AHuxley (892839)
            Digital files on an "open campus" do not seem to be like ~"books were rare, old, in bad shape".
          • by jsrjsr (658966)
            Admittedly, he did wrong things. However, how is this the equivalent of books that were "rare, old, in bad shape, etc."? Accessing physical books may damage them. Accessing data on a network doesn't.
          • by tylikcat (1578365)

            Er, no. In the situation you mention, by removing the books he would have been depriving other people of being able to use them, and (perhaps) harming the books themselves. Not particularly analogous at all. (And this is important, as being able to differentiate between physical and intellectual property is pretty central to having a meaningful discussion of intellectual property.)

            He did violate access rules. He *might* have been intending to make the material publicly available - this is broadly asserted,

          • Re:Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday July 19, 2013 @09:03AM (#44327033)

            It was not checking out too many books

            Right, because Aaron being in possession of them did not stop anyone else from reading them.

            He deliberately went into the library, where he didn't have access

            He did have access, MIT's network is open and anyone who has access to MIT's network can access JSTOR.

            took books which the library had which could only be checked out under strict controls

            So strict that they give them out in PDF form to anyone who asks.

          • by microbox (704317) on Friday July 19, 2013 @09:06AM (#44327063)

            where he didn't have access, and took books which the library had which could only be checked out under strict controls

            Bullsh*t. You're just making it up. Swartz was a research fellow at a university with a JSTOR account. That mean he had legal access to them.

            Say, you're not part of Idiot America [amazon.com] are you?

            • by geekoid (135745)

              He committed breaking and entering, and he access a computer he DID NOT have authorization to do so.
              Just becasue you can get to a place on the web, does not mean you can go to where the web sited is hosted, break in the back door, and plug in your laptop behind their firewall.

              You seem to know nothing about the case, nothing about his actions. You have the some gall to imply other people are idiots.

              How about you learn the facts about something for talking about them?

              • by Uberbah (647458)

                He committed breaking and entering, and he access a computer he DID NOT have authorization to do so.

                Which merits at worst a few weeks in jail. A lotta dumbfuckers, then and now, pretend that objecting to 35+ years in jail meant Swartz should have suffered no consequences. No, it means that if the choice is walking or spending half in life in jail for trespassing, the guy should walk.

                Anyone who thinks otherwise, I ask why they haven't immigrated to Saudi Arabia yet so they can watch people be executed for

          • I think all the replies to this comment have demonstrated what a poor analogy and false dichotomy you've just made.

            For the record, I do not think that a member of the public who breaks into a public library should be jailed. Why should we prioritise the "locking down" of information over the freedom of an individual? Something's very wrong with your world view if you think that makes sense.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          "what he did amounted to the digital equivalent of checking out too many library books. "
          No. What he did wast the equivalent of going to closed library, smashing smashing in the window, and then throwing books out the window.
          Would you argue the someone who did that was just giving out information that was going to be free anyways?

          Remember, there was breaking and entering, physical access a computer he was not authorized to access.

          You example would only apply if he sat at home a distributed the files via bit

          • Re:Who? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday July 19, 2013 @10:25AM (#44328105)

            What he did wast the equivalent of going to closed library, smashing smashing in the window, and then throwing books out the window.

            We can quantify the damage done when a window is smashed. Books that are removed from a library must be replaced or they will be unavailable to patrons; that can be quantified as well.

            Can you quantify the damage Aaron did? I suspect it is somewhere around "13 cents in electricity costs."

          • Not really.

            If we want to tune the analogy further, it'd be more akin to picking the lock on the library door to get out-of-hours access and then copying loads of books and letting anyone read those copies. (I don't know if he actually caused any significant damage or not).

            Obviously, there's a lot of difference between moving physical books and digitally copying stuff.
      • Re:Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:36AM (#44326767) Journal

        Using a sledgehammer to swat a fly is bad, not because the fly doesn't need to be swatted.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They don't want to block them, just put them behind a pay wall as a final FU to the memory of Aaron.

  • Aren't MIT supposed to be the "good/brilliant guys" in all things tech? I don't understand why they have so much trouble with the Schwartz case... In any case, RIP Aaron Schwartz!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Boston.com article says that MIT's side of things is that they don't want the files blocked, just redacted.

      Nate Nickerson, associate vice president for communications at MIT, said that the university was not trying to block release, simply trying to ensure the safety of MIT employees and security of university networks was protected, particularly after a hoax gunman report in February was linked to Swartz’s death.

      “The basic idea is we want to do this quickly, and have a process where we can

      • by sjames (1099)

        I guess by redacted, they mean the classic joke where the end result is a fax consisting of 100 entirely black pages.

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:27AM (#44326685)

      Sometimes, someone gets faced with an ethical dilemma and doesn't immediately know what the right thing to do is. In those circumstances, it's understandable that the first thing he does is not necessarily the best thing he could have done.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        But when, like MIT, they select nearly the worst thing they could do, you should at LEAST question their ethical judgement.

        They had lots of choices. Picking the best would have been difficult. Not picking a blatantly evil one would have been easy. They picked a blatantly evil one.

        This will tarnish the name of MIT for at least the next decade. (To, admittedly, a decreasing amount.) But the people who made the decision should never again be put in a responsible position. They have proven that they are e

      • by sjames (1099)

        Sure, but since this was a slowly developing situation, they had plenty of time for second thoughts but freely chose to double down on the incorrect action.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Apparently you don't know much about the history of MIT.

  • Guess someone is a little ashamed to be caught in bed with the Feds. Hope MIT at least demanded they wear a condom.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Were they black? They were black weren't they. This was racially motivated.

    Now here's a bunch of unrelated people to talk about it on tv.

    (i have no idea if i'm joking anymore.... worlds gone insane)

  • by intermodal (534361) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:07AM (#44326517) Homepage Journal

    There were a lot of problems with the whole Swartz case. In particular, that his actions were considered grounds for harsher punishment than many murderers and rapists. I don't care about the documents half as much as I care about the fact that our system is so broken that copying data is so disproportionately punished.

    It doesn't even matter if Aaron was right or wrong when the fundamental laws, rules and regulations of the case were so flawed in the first place.

    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Your comments are great, only lifelong activists and hacktivists such as myself and others, don't believe the system to be broken, but simply purposely perverted to serve the needs of the super-rich.
    • by b4upoo (166390)

      Court verdicts and punishments normally are irrational. At times the system has deliberately used irrationality as a supposed method of crime control. For example you might have ten people charged with exactly the same crime with very similar life histories. One defendant gets a fine. Most of the other defendants get fines of various sizes and one gets 30 days plus a fine. But the last defendant gets 1 year in jail plus 2 years probation with a hefty fine on top of that.

  • Ok, so I as an organization do something wrong. Judge orders me to release a documentation about it. What stops me to choose what documents I would release and what documents I would forget/destroy/whatever ?

    Everytime I hear about freedom of information and disclosure of documents I'm thinking about this. Especially when it comes to governments which is not the case here.. but the point is still valid.

    Or do they have some sort of 'protection' against this, that I'm not aware of ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AHuxley (892839)
      A few have done reverse FOIA:
      http://www.annarbor.com/vielmetti/foia-friday-reverse-foia/ [annarbor.com]
      eg confidential commercial information vs defective parts
      employment records
      individual's privacy
    • Your example makes no sense as it doesn't relate to the story. If you as an organization do something wrong, the judge wouldn't do anything except authorize a search warrant, at which point the police will take everything they can find. If you try to hide/destory/whatever, you face significant punishments, above and beyond whatever else they can prove. What's happening here, however, is that MIT is trying to block release of documents from the Secret Service, not themselves. MIT doesn't have those files
    • by mephox (1462813)

      Presumably there's always the danger of someone, somewhere remembering that there was a document that was supposed to be there. Especially a lawyer on the opposition. Some piece of paperwork that is part of the bureaucracy that serves as a flag in a folder as thick as a thigh that, if missing even by accident, raises warning flags.

      Also, shredding papers and burning papers tends to raise eyebrows among the staff who may or may not be in on your scheme and, if not, may just tip off the authorities.

      There are l

    • by Xest (935314)

      Nothing, that's exactly what happened under Bush regarding the Iraq war. Some hard drives just went "missing".

      As someone else said you can always hope that someone recognises something is missing or destroy but for many organisations it'll be a cost-benefit analysis. What's going to hurt the organisation more, the revelations themselves, or the data proving the revelations themselves being found to have disappeared?

      Say Obama ordered the NSA to assassinate the Queen of England, say someone leaked this but th

    • by microbox (704317)
      From Yes Minister, "The Skeleton in the Cupboard"

      Jim: How am I going to explain the missing documents to the Mail?

      Sir Humphrey: Well this is what we normally do in, circumstances like these. [hands over a file]

      Jim: [reading] This file contains the complete set of papers, except for a number of secret documents, a few others which are part of still active files, a few others lost in the flood of 1967. [to Humphrey] Was 1967 a particularly bad winter?

      Sir Humphrey: No a marvellous winter, we lost no en
      • by cptnapalm (120276)

        Yes, Minister: the only show that is probably more relevant now than when it aired in the 1980s.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In its motion, MIT asked the court to establish a process by which MIT could review and propose redactions to any such documents prior to their release. With this motion MIT does not oppose the release of these documents, but seeks only to redact information that could threaten the safety and privacy of its employees, or that could threaten the security of MIT’s computer network.

    Jeez MIT, its not as if you turned state's evidence against the mob and now need witness protection! The fact that they're seeking to hide information which ordinarily would be completely unremarkable, now only piques the interest of everyone concerned with the case. Is MIT hiding something more than the names of a few employees who were trying to track down an illicit use of network resources?

  • by ggraham412 (1492023) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:33AM (#44326743)

    Nate Nickerson, associate vice president for communications at MIT, said that the university was not trying to block release, simply trying to ensure the safety of MIT employees and security of university networks was protected, particularly after a hoax gunman report in February was linked to Swartz’s death.

    “The basic idea is we want to do this quickly, and have a process where we can take a look and propose redactions based on those two characteristics [employee safety and network security],”

    FOIA requests can be redacted to protect the identities of agents in ongoing or sensitive investigations or to protect things like social security numbers whose release could abet fraud. They cannot be redacted to protect institutions from embarrassing imbroglios and bad decisions. That is the whole point of FOIA: the public has a right to know.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      ..wouldn't they like to know if their data is on the swarts secret service file anyways? unless of course if they know it's some info that is going to bomb their reputation to the ground.. which I guess it is.

  • Supposedly this is to protect the identities of MIT staff who might be harassed — but government policy is to redact such information already.

    There is nothing in the article that supports your conclusion. From the article:

    In its motion, MIT asked the court to establish a process by which MIT could review and propose redactions to any such documents prior to their release. With this motion MIT does not oppose the release of these documents, but seeks only to redact information that could threaten the s

  • From the article, MIT wants to protect the identity of the people involved and to make sure their network security is protected. They want to be able make redactions above and beyond what the government would normally redact in such a release of information under the Freedom of Information Act.

    I'm pretty sure that everybody would like that opportunity when information is released, but why should MIT get preferential treatment? There are established laws and procedures on what should and should not be redac

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:33PM (#44329761)
    They will politely remind you the coverup always ends up worse than the crime.
  • by sgt_doom (655561) on Friday July 19, 2013 @02:11PM (#44330961)
    At the latest Bilderberg meeting, who were some of the attendees, and what was the connection to owning the Internet (Web), Aaron Swartz and WikiLeaks?

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-03/full-list-2013s-bilderberg-attendees [zerohedge.com]

    First, there was the primary person pushing for the extradition of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, Carl Bildt of Sweden.

    Next, we have Robert Kaplan of Stratfor, the private intel outfit which was hacked by Anonymous, providing some most interesting and incriminating data.

    Of course, we also see Alex Karp, of Palantir, the bunch who were prostituting themselves and tripping over themselves to run a disinformation campaign for the banksters against WikiLeaks.

    Most telling, though, was a Harvard attendee, Lawrence Lessig, the dood and attorney for Aaron Swartz, the guy who was supposed to be Aaron's friend and mentor, the guy who brought Aaron into his fold so he could "watch over him" (or how about observe, compromise and interdict Aaron), the guy who waiting until after Aaron had committed suicide before he was planning to tell him that the federal prosecutors had backed away from their original onerous agenda of legally making Aaron give up any online computing for the remainder of his natural life?

    Looking at that latest list of Bilderbergers, it is certainly not surprising to read this about MIT and company!

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