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March 2, 2013

Congress not done asking hard questions about federal prosecution of Aaron Swartz

As reported in this lengthy Boston Globe article, headlined "Inquiry widens into Swartz prosecution," some members of Congress are not yet satisfied with the Justice Department's account of its prosecution of Aaron Swartz.  Here is how the Globe article begins:

A congressional committee is broadening its investigation of the Boston-based prosecution of political activist Aaron Swartz, whose January suicide prompted questions about whether the Justice Department went too far in enforcing a 27-year-old law regulating computer use.

Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in an interview that he plans to expand his inquiry into how the office of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz of Massachusetts handled the case.

“Are we using excess prosecution, excess claims in order to force guilty pleas?” the California Republican asked.  “Or are we trying to genuinely offer punishment fitting the crime?  In the case of Aaron Swartz, it’s very clear that they were trying to send a message to people other than Aaron Swartz with what they were willing to offer him and what he was charged with.”

Issa said his committee is seeking information from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Swartz hacked computers, and JSTOR, the scholar database whose files he downloaded.   Issa’s staff was recently briefed by the Justice Department on the rationale for the prosecution of Swartz, but Issa said the committee was left with many questions that he hopes will be answered in an expanded inquiry.

Whatever happens in the investigation, the case has simultaneously pushed Congress to review whether to update the law under which Swartz was prosecuted.  That has prompted a debate with potentially far-reaching consequences, as lawmakers ponder whether to revise a law enacted in 1986 — when the Internet as it is known today barely existed — without creating an opening for illegal hacking.

March 2, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Permalink


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Tombstone legislating .

Posted by: Anon. #2.71828 | Mar 2, 2013 12:43:24 PM

loved this part!

“Are we using excess prosecution, excess claims in order to force guilty pleas?”

Talk about one of the stupidest questions on earth! Everyone not in govt knows the answer is YES!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 2, 2013 3:20:43 PM

Someone steals your tools. Your recognize them, in someone's garage, due to the etching of your name into their handles. You trespass onto the garage grounds. You take them back from the thief that stole them from you. The vile feminist prosecutor will persecute the productive male engaging in self help. Why? He is taking away worthless government make work from the thug agents of the prosecutor, the police, and all the other worthless bloodsucking parasites in her worthless, thieving government employ, including the disloyal defense lawyer.

Swartz was retrieving research material belonging to the feminist lawyer besieged taxpayer. All the research had benefited to a large extent from tax subsidies. It belonged to the public and was stolen by these thieving databases.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 2, 2013 9:03:19 PM

I demand the immediate resignation of the vile feminist prosecutor along with that of her vile male running dog. Her anti self help, anti male jihad resulted in the suicide of one of the most promising computer talents in the country. Swarz was targeted for his libertarian beliefs by the hate filled government bloodsuckers. She should never work in government again.

White House Petition to oust this lawyer.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 3, 2013 12:14:19 AM

What the thug Boston prosecutor did to Aaron Swartz was simply SOP for AUSAs.

Now comes a bonehead lawmaker like Issa (no doubt one of the tough-on-crime demagogues responsible for creating/fostering an environment in which prosecutors routinely terrorize/destroy citizens who've hurt no one) fretting about one vicious prosecutor...as if what that prosecutor did was somehow special or unusual; It wasn't.

Truly absurd is Issa's assertion the Boston prosecutor was idealistically motivated to make an example of Swartz in order to make society a better place...as opposed, say, to boosting her career by taking down by any means a vulnerable, high-profile target.

What's remarkable is that more targeted citizens -- the guilty, wrongly accused and innocent alike -- don't kill themselves after being set upon by these monsters Congress has been breeding since Nixon's anti-crime was spawned back in the 1970s.

Posted by: John K | Mar 3, 2013 12:33:01 PM

Hard Questions my butt...

I missed Washington "Dog and Pony Show" part 1.

I am hardly breathless waiting for the "hard questions" in part 2.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 3, 2013 3:28:42 PM

We are not far from Russia and Pussy Riot.

Wall Street criminals are granted immunity no matter how damaging and egregious the crime, no matter how facial the evidence. Meanwhile Anton Swartz and government whistleblowers are hounded relentlessly regardless how well-intentioned or heroic their conduct. Members of the press and "unruly" intellectuals will be next.

And don't forget that the president now claims the right to assasinate even without a prosecution.

Rule of law? Bipartisan consensus has emerged on getting rid of that old anachronism.

Posted by: Jaclson | Mar 4, 2013 12:25:46 AM

I'm glad that Congress is demanding answers. However, I have to ask: Would Darrell Issa be as zealous in his investigation if the U.S. Attorney had been appointed by a Republican president?

Posted by: PDB | Mar 4, 2013 9:04:54 AM

PDB --

Here's another question for you: Why isn't Patrick Leahy demanding answers from this US Attorney? Because she's a Democrat?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 5, 2013 10:26:11 PM

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Posted by: social enterprise | Mar 8, 2013 9:08:25 AM

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