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Aaron Swartz and MIT: The Inside Story 106

An anonymous reader writes: "The Boston Globe has reviewed over 7,000 pages of documents from Aaron Swartz's court case, shedding light on the activities that got him in trouble and how MIT reacted to his case. Quoting: 'Most vividly, the e-mails underscore the dissonant instincts the university grappled with. There was the eagerness of some MIT employees to help investigators and prosecutors with the case, and then there was, by contrast, the glacial pace of the institution's early reaction to the intruder's provocation. MIT, for example, knew for 2½ months which campus building the downloader had operated out of before anyone searched it for him or his laptop — even as the university told JSTOR they had no way to identify the interloper.

And once Swartz was unmasked, the ambivalence continued. MIT never encouraged Swartz's prosecution, and once told his prosecutor they had no interest in jail time. However, e-mails illustrate how MIT energetically assisted authorities in capturing him and gathering evidence — even prodding JSTOR to get answers for prosecutors more quickly — before a subpoena had been issued. ... But a number of JSTOR's internal e-mails show a much angrier face in the months that Swartz eluded capture, with employees sharing frustration about MIT's "rather tepid level of concern." JSTOR officials repeatedly raised the prospect, among themselves, of going to the police, e-mails show."
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Aaron Swartz and MIT: The Inside Story

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  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MouseTheLuckyDog ( 2752443 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @05:24AM (#46613839)

    So MIT as a body did not care about Swartz, but some busy bodies did. I wonder if it is a part of their job description?

    • Bureaucracy is low intensity conflict, i.e. war. War is hell. Hell surely has a hellish bureaucracy.
      • "Bureaucracy is low intensity conflict, i.e. war."

        No. Office politics are low intensity war.

        Bureaucracy is a virus; existing only to grow and multiply at the expense of the host.

    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday March 30, 2014 @09:03AM (#46614339) Homepage Journal

      some busy bodies

      Beware the Little Eichmanns. []

      • "Beware the Little Eichmanns."

        Indeed. I have often said that it doesn't take a genuine conspiracy in order to have the effect of a conspiracy. A group of wrong-headed individuals, acting entirely on their own, can really mess things up in a way that appears to outside observers as the result of a concerted effort.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well... I've seen MIT try to cope with problems. I've known people working at MIT try to get the Institute to do something about things that most of the people there care about. it's not a pretty picture.

      The thing you may be missing about MIT is that it is a behaviorally rigid bureaucracy that swallows up and individual initiative and spits out ... nothing. Yes, I know that describes many higher education institutions, but I've worked with many such institutions, even as part of a non-profit that was supp

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well, swartz was pissing on JSTOR's business model, not MIT's.

      soo.. all the employees were pissed off that someone was threatening their milking cow.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It was never about Aaron or JSTOR. It is how can some people fulfill their dreams on advancing their careers by throwing somebody 6 feet under.
    Well job done, US prosecution.

    • The least that can be done is to expose the people who treated him so appallingly so we all know who they are
    • Not just any somebody. This particular somebody had been instrumental in organizing public opposition to the SOPA act. Schwartz was targeted by the Justice Department in a clear cut case of political suppression.

      As we all know, the Department under Holder and Breuer has better things to do with their time(banks, guns, etc), but instead chose to politicize their offices instead of upholding justice.

      • No, this was someone who'd been caught, repeatedly, doing marginally illegel or marginally legal bulk downloads of paid websites. Aaron's abuse of the PACER resources should have correctly led prosecutors that he'd pulled this sort of thing before and would continue doing so without an actual conviction.

  • too sad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @08:00AM (#46614137) Journal

    The whole story is just a damn shame.

    I just hope there are some people who feel guilt about it.

    • I'm not sure that guilt is the right response. His father is probably feeling absolutely destroyed by this, and I don't think he needs to be dragged through the muck by people looking for someone to blame.

      Kids like Aaron are probably all over the place - young people who think the only moral thing to do in the world is to try to steal from those with power because of how that power has been so abused by its bearers. I don't blame them for thinking that way, but it's really sad that there's nobody other th

      • > because of how that power has been so abused by its bearers

        Except that JSTOR abused _nothing_. They're a non-profit corporation. They did all the work to _organize_ the data and make it a 24x7 worldwide resource. Their rates are very reasonable, they had excellent sliding scales for poorer clients, and universities, laboratories, and libraries worldwide, and their clients were able to share those resources with the public. JSTOR is available in public libraries world wide, and they're a _model_ of ho

        • I'm not sure that Aaron saw JSTOR as the enemy so much as the intellectual property laws governing research that have such distorting effect economically and politically.

  • I never really understood why Swartz felt he needed to break into a closet at MIT in order to download those journal articles. I am all in favor of information being freely available, but I don't agree with his choice of method.

    Every public university I have been to thus far (and some private ones as well) has had public wifi that grants anyone on campus the ability to access all the digital journals that their library subscribes to. Unless MIT is different, he could have just used the wifi (or perhaps
  • If JSTOR is disseminating public-domain papers and just charges the cost of hosting them for downloaders, what was it afraid that Swartz would actually do with the trove of downloaded papers? Had he gone set up his own database and website, it would have incurred costs similar to JSTOR, and so Swartz would have charge about the same to keep it running.

    If Swartz' bulk downloading was crashing the site, why doesn't JSTOR just teergrube its download process. Imposing a one-second delay at the start of each dow

  • Let's beat it to death!
  • That the MIT IT people must have been frazzled about this. I've been in similar situations and my answer pretty much echoes theirs in that I too told them so.

    But the case against the kid did i fact have several exploitable holes in it. That whole guest access thing. I've been in places where we've had to have public access. I made sure that the screws were torqued tight regarding security on those public machines. You could get on the web but you were blocked off from things the content manager didn't li
  • I forget the exact details. but the feds were pursuing a a student startup company related to bitcoin. MIT decided to give some legal help to them and to future such problems. I think the Swartz case increased their sensitivity.

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