The suicide of Aaron Swartz was murder by government
As Glenn Greenwald shows in this article, the death of Aaron Swartz has finally woken some people up to the deep corruption in our government and how they use the broken, punitive legal system to attack anyone that appears capable of exposing their evil heart. Our government is broken, and needs to be dismantled, and power returned to the the states.
Whenever an avoidable tragedy occurs, it's common for there to be an intense spate of anger in its immediate aftermath which quickly dissipates as people move on to the next outrage. That's a key dynamic that enables people in positions of authority to evade consequences for their bad acts. But as more facts emerge regarding the conduct of the federal prosecutors in the case of Aaron Swartz - Massachusetts' US attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann - the opposite seems to be taking place: there is greater and greater momentum for real investigations, accountability and reform. It is urgent that this opportunity not be squandered, that this interest be sustained.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that - two days before the 26-year-old activist killed himself on Friday - federal prosecutors again rejected a plea bargain offer from Swartz's lawyers that would have kept him out of prison. They instead demanded that he "would need to plead guilty to every count" and made clear that "the government would insist on prison time". That made a trial on all 15 felony counts - with the threat of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted - a virtual inevitability.
Just three months ago, Ortiz's office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which "carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony", meaning "the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million." That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced "a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers".
Swartz's girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial. At Swartz's funeral in Chicago on Tuesday, his father flatly stated that his son "was killed by the government".
Ortiz and Heymann continue to refuse to speak publicly about what they did in this case - at least officially. Yesterday, Ortiz's husband, IBM Corp executive Thomas J. Dolan, took to Twitter and - without identifying himself as the US Attorney's husband - defended the prosecutors' actionsin response to prominent critics, and even harshly criticized the Swartz family for assigning blame to prosecutors: "Truly incredible in their own son's obit they blame others for his death", Ortiz's husband wrote. Once Dolan's identity was discovered, he received assertive criticism and thensheepishly deleted his Twitter account.
So, no one knows about the suicide of Swartz, and how this Internet pioneer was driven to kill himself by evil, heartless government bureaucrats?
Poor kid -- scared to death by prosecutor legal games.
Meanwhile, no banking executive from Countrywide, Citigroup, or Lehman Brothers have been prosecuted. That would have involved a prosecutor going up against the powerful.
Prosecutors make their careers going after easily prosecutable people with relatively little ability to defend themselves.
The US is closer to social Darwinism than is usually acknowledged.
[quote]So, no one knows about the suicide of Swartz, and how this Internet pioneer was driven to kill himself by evil, heartless government bureaucrats?
Dear heart, bumping your own threads is considered pretty pathetic behavior.
And yes, dear, we know about Swartz. It's precisely because we do that we don't feel compelled to reply here, particularly to a nutcase like you.
Since you were too lazy to read the article-
"Finally, there is the general disgrace of the US justice system: the wildly excessive emphasis on merciless punishment even for small transgressions. Numerous people have written extensively about the evils of America's penal state, including me in my last book and when the DOJ announced that HSBC would not be prosecuted for money laundering because, in essence, it was too big to jail."
The government went after my father during a high profile investigation, in which he didn't do anything criminal (it's a long story). He suffered from depression and committed suicide during the harassment. It's tough for people like Aaron and my father, who suffer from depression, to survive this type of harassment.
In the Los Angeles criminal courts they have a way of winning even if they can't win at trial. prosecutors are often very twisted freaks, who just want to win. Rackets exist where judges help them with getting defendants declared incompetent, if the defendant is too smart, and too able to beat them.Yet, these prosecutors and judges are immune to any liability and so it goes on. Most don't know or care. It's really sad.
R6 and R7
That's why libertarians want to radically reform the legal system.
If the suicide of a family member due to harassment by the cops isn't enough to make you see the superiority of libertarian ideals, nothing will.
Does anyone else agree that Eric Holder has been a horrible Attorney General? He has pursued a neo-con agenda and persecuted many innocent people while carrying out the orders of the right-wingers in the military-industrial complex.
He may be one of the worst Attorney Generals in modern history - even worse than the ones we had during the Bush years.
I'd suck his dead cock.
Greenwald and Schwartz may be right about laws they disagree with but they are mentally ill if they truly believe they're victims.
All of his "legal persecution" could have been avoided if he didn't steal. The prison sentence and legal bills never would've been an issue.
Do any of us have the government threatening us with prison? No.
Schwartz also could've probably pled and avoided bills and prison, but he would've had to pay fines (give up the wealth he made from his computer code), admit wrongdoing and stop hacking. But he was a sociopath who had to do illegal activity on his anti-conspiracy crusade.
People who commit suicide are mentally ill.
And so is anyone who thinks federalism is the answer.
Instead of falling for Greenwald's exploitation of a suicide to score political points, the better piece is written by Schwartz' friend, who makes clear he wasn't just suffering from depression....
1. He was manic, infuriatingly so, to the point of being childlike (even though the author romanticize geeks as little innocent darlings who are just wired differently and can't be controlled).
2. The author and several of her friends know lots of suicides and think of suicide.
and most of all
3. Aaron was a crappy criminal leaving enough of a trail to get himself caught.
Sheldon Cooper may be funny from a distance, but these geniuses are their own worst enemy.
Give me a fuckin' break. The guy killed HIMSELF.
Don't the crime, if you can't do the time.
He is one of these "snowflake" children that couldn't eat peanut butter and thought he was too good and could download all the torrents he wanted as well. And of course if he got caught, he should be EXCLUDED.
There are tens of thousands of brothas railroaded far worse, yet the racist 'mos on Datalounge, don't care. Unless of course they had 10 inches.
[quote]If the suicide of a family member due to harassment by the cops isn't enough to make you see the superiority of libertarian ideals, nothing will.
I just had to repeat this sentence and marvel at the cluelessness and the complete disconnection from reality that led the author to conclude that that was a compelling sentence to write. This is some seriously hilarious shit.
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It was a government hit. Just like 9/11.
Murder by Suicide...cameo by Truman Capote, with Betty White as Jessica Felcher.
There are perverse incentives in the world of US Attorneys to prosecute grossly excessively--promotions, chances to be judges or politicians (Giuliani and both were US Attorneys).
Think of it this way: Swartz stole (arguable, since he had Harvard access) a bunch of journal articles. He faced 35 years in prison. If he had broken into your house in MA and robbed you at gunpoint, he would have faced a less severe sentence. But Ortiz had little to lose and much to gain by pushing for the maximum sentence and multiple charges. If she had acted sanely, however, there'd be few benefits.
That said, suicide is not a rational response to this situation.
[quote]That's why libertarians want to radically reform the legal system.
You misspelled "destroy."
If Aaron had some socially acceptable fatal illness and the investigation accelerated his decline, people would get it. Most people don't understand how deadly depression is, they just blame the victim. I hope to see better understanding and compassion towards those with depression and bipolar disorder in my lifetime.
R11 sounds like a sociopath. May he be maliciously prosecuted one day. Do the crime do the right amount of time. Anyone who excuses prosecutorial misconduct is either ignorant, or evil.
Perhaps the timing of Swartz's crime was not auspicious. Prosecutors and some sectors of public opinion seem to be turning against those who naively or otherwise use the internet to steal, blow things open, and destroy confidentiality and property rights. Julian Assange has ended up basically marooned and friendless -- maybe Swartz should have looked at that example.
r22 do you even know what a sociopath is? Read the linked article from his friend. She describes the quintessential psychopath, right down to the charm, criminality, and determination to violate law and the rights of others for his own gain.
And if you beat the charges, you were wrongfully accused. No one says that's true of Schwartz - all of his friends and colleagues admit he broke the law, stole, and left a trail of evidence so he could be caught.
Are you actually following this case or just arguing for argument's sake?
After putting that tennis umpire through the humiliation of being arrested in Center Court at the US Open and forcing her through countless perp walks, the DA dropped the murder case against her for lack of evidence.
Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” What is with having to humiliate suspects?
R24, yes, I know what a sociopath is and Swartz doesn't strike me as one. I broke no law and faced hell on earth because of a bunch of creepazoids who followed no law. I have no respect for prosecutors. Something is very wrong with that culture. They absolutely knew I was innocent, and they wouldn't leave me alone for 2 impossible years. The fact that I haven't committed suicide is a miracle. Swarz committed misdemeanors, why charge him with tons of felonies? I am telling you, the justice system is not what you think it is. It's a sewer full of ambitious maniacs.
R13, does racial bigotry have to be the root of EVERYTHING in life?
Wow, the posters on this thread sound nutty as fruitcakes. That Swartz guy killed himself, he was not "murdered." He got in WAY over his head, had mental issues (depression) and killed himself. Shit happens. No sadder than any other depressed person taking the gas pipe. People cannot be saved from themselves. We can try, provide resources, compassion, etc. but that's it.
r22 / r26, you're off base on many points.
Swartz was charged with FELONIES not misdemeanors. Under hacking laws, what he did was a felony and he knew they were felonies. If you read the article from his friend at R12, he knew he was breaking the law when he did what he did and considered it his right.
As for him not striking you as a sociopath, I didn't realize you know him well enough to make such an assessment ( though you said the same about me and don't know me either ).
Again, read the article by his friend that Greenwald cited. It's linked right there for you at R12.
Finally, if you were innocent it's terrible you were prosecuted at all. But Swartz hacked and stole more than 1000 articles. He never denied it and the evidence was clear. That's multiple felony counts.
I stand by my original point. If he pled and paid a hefty fine - or even better had done no hacking - he wouldn't have had a problem.
R26 you realize now you're going to have to tell us how these prosecutors came after you for two years and you were innocent.
Even if it's an elaborate scenario, it's got to be worth a post.
R-30- it's too epic a tale. datalounge is a key player, believe it or not. Writing mocking things about obscure(but now semi famous through cancer) comedianne's is more dangerous that one could ever imagine. I'm not a member, and even if I posted it, it would get deleted. It is the most elaborate scenario ever told, but I ain't no troll. I'll just say if you heard it, and came to see that it was all true -- you'd have no regard for the los angeles legal system and lose most faith in humanity. You would see that laws are not followed -- that judges,the city attorney ,and the cops there are in bed with hot shot celebrity lawfirms. And, you would loathe the semi famous through (real or invented)cancer comedian. Or, you'd be impressed with how many frauds and cons she was able to pull off. She is the Lance Armstrong of comedy. Only, he's prettier.
Hey, the kid didn't have the right connections. Make the right friends, and you've got nothing to worry about. Random example at link:
R32's link says it all. And justice of all? That anyone is so harsh on Swartz and thinks it was ok to make him face 50 years is disturbing. Prosecutors are out of control and the masses don't give a damn.
Oh please, R33. Government has always been this corrupt. That has nothing to do with Swartz.
What "says it all" about this thread is how loose hysterics like you are with the facts.
He wasn't facing 50 years. He wasn't even facing 30 years as is reported in the press. Like all of these nutjobs and conspiracy theorists, they blow things way out of proportion.
Swartz was told that IF he fought it and IF he lost on all the counts for which he was charged and IF he was sentenced to prison instead of fines and IF he didn't pay those fines... the maximum the number might start at 30 years and ratcheted DOWNWARD... we have no idea how those would be reduced under sentencing guidelines, served concurrently, etc.
As others have said above, Swartz not only knew he was violating the law (felonies) but told others, including law professors, that he believed he had the right to do it, and left evidence behind. He advocated hacking and IP theft.
This is not a case of someone who was innocent, who was a first time offender, who took one little article, or who didn't have any idea that he was doing anything wrong.
The government had a case because he made the case for them. And as others have said above, if he pled this away and agreed to pay fines and damages, he'd be alive and not facing any legal troubles.
He just didn't think he had to pay for what he stole.
For the record, Swartz took 4 million articles from JSTOR and crashed their servers doing it.
He was mad that he and others were limited to three at a time and had to pay, so he decided to take it because he could.
And people are saying this is like taking too many books out of a public library...
It is surprising that there are people posting on here basically supporting the governments view on how the Swartz case was handled. We have witnessed the looting of America. Billions of dollars have been stolen from the American people. Treason was commited with the outing of Valerie Plame, two wars were started on a lie yet you would sit by and okey doke the aggressive prosecution of a guy who stole information.
The government knows that the way for it to be toppled is for information to be made public that they do not want us to know. The more exposed the corruption the better chance that what is in place will be brought down. Real warfare true attack is to shut down someone's servers or re route their internet traffic or secretly install a firewall the way Anonymous did so that the election would not be stolen in favor of Romney.
Swartz and others like him are patriots as far as I'm concerned. We need more people like him not less. What is going on behind closed firewalls need to be exposed to the public. That is the best way for us to fight back and regain our freedom and our country. After all, the only wealth that exists is kept track of in the ether somewhere on some servers in cyberspace. If you wiped clean those servers, if you ruin that information what happens then?
Hey r34 when do the banks pay all the people back for the wealth they stole? Are you really saying that what Swartz did was worse than what happened during the housing crisis and the banking scandal?
Take your Fox news rewriting of reality somewhere else. I'm sure the government would love for us to start believing that the thieving of information is wore than any of the atrocities committed by Cheney, Rove, Romney and Bush.
R36- Agreed. Some kind of fascist mentality that one. Love the cops.Love the prosecutors. It's ok to Kill Aaron Swartz for messing up(if that's what it was)I don't mean murder . But, you can kill a person without literally murdering them. I read that Swartz faced "a half a century." I read it online. I read he was willing to plea. There is no way to excuse over charging and the "trial by ordeal" that the gov't comes up with when it wants to.
I was not willing to plea, in my case. It was a decision that led to a series of evils that are nearly impossible to believe, and that led to great trauma. Yet, it was a decision that was the greatest decision of my life. The jailing, the cruelty, the horror, were all worth it in that I preserved my spirit. My win at trial was considered unheard of by the public defender etc. When the government has a hard on for you, and you don't have a penny to your name, it's nearly impossible to extricate yourself. I witnessed prosecutors, judges, and cops acting like insane savages. Why? God knows, but the consensus was that I was given "the best plea in the system" and I had the "chutzpah" to refuse it and write about my case on a blog. So they kept adding fake charges and offering the same plea. I didn't think I had chutzpah, I just had all the evidence to prove my innocence, so why plea? They didn't get this. Once they filed that one bad charge they had to win. Why? I don't know because I don't understand that winning at all costs mentality. I never ascribed to conspiracy theories but I am here to tell you that conspiracies do occur in the Los angeles criminal court, and then are covered up in the civil realm ,if you get acquitted, and sue for malicious prosecution and civil rights violations etc. Those who trust the justice system and the government are in for a very rude shock if they ever find themselves there. And, one doesn't have to be guilty to find themselves there.
Wow, R36, R37, R38 ... it's clear here that proportionality and ethics are beyond your grasp. Do you have any understanding of what true civil disobedience means?
That has NOTHING to do with Swartz, or the claim here that the government "murdered" him, and the fact that you have to rage against the banks to get to the idea that Swartz was a hero and a patriot proves how unbalanced you are.
Do YOU have money in banks? Does that justify me hacking into your bank account and stealing from you and anyone who props up banks with money, since you associate with them and giving them power? There's more of a connection there than stealing from an artist, a writer, or an academic service.
I have been just as angry as anyone about the crimes that banks have committed, and if you have been following the news, the Department of Justice HAS sued the banks for fraud, some of which are being settled now, and NONE of which go nearly far enough in my opinion. My personal venom against the wealthy means I would not be sad to see bankers dragged out into the street and hanged. But the RATIONAL mind says in a democracy, you don't justify one wrongdoing by another.
Civil rights marchers were not allowed to speak in public and had no choice to submit to segregation. Breaking those laws are one thing.
The computerist mentality that says anything electronic should be yours for the taking is a serious problem.
Swartz millions of documents that were not rightfully his, NOT FROM BANKS, but from other academic institutions that he couldn't deign to associate with.
Swartz had no right to hack into someone else's computer and steal 4 million documents just because he didn't want to pay, or take 3 articles at a time.
He's not a hero or a martyr. He was a petulant thief. And you are demented to lionize him for it.
R38, trolldar doesn't connect you with the claim at R31 that you
were wrongly prosecuted for something you posted on datalounge.
So as said above do tell us the saga.
But again the facts elude you.
You "read online" that he faced "half a century". I dare you to post a link to those "facts". They don't exist. Nor does his allege plea. He pled not guilty and never agreed to fines.
Nor were his charges trumped up. He hacked, breaking federal law. Every credible law professor agrees on this point, whether he should have been prosecuted for this case or not.
You are confusing wrongful prosecution (your allleged case) with this one.
dare away. You seem angry about all the wrong things.
Good job, R41. There's nothing there. Like the argument.
His OWN attorneys say he was at most facing SIX MONTHS. See the link. As the NEXT link, will show, the last plea agreement was that he would do NO jail time.
"Swartz’s most recent attorney, Elliot Peters, said prosecutors told him two days before Swartz’s death that Swartz would have to spend six months in prison and plead guilty to 13 charges if he wanted to avoid going to trial."
Even this is probably because he could not or refused to pay a fine. There is no credible evidence that he was seriously facing half a century in prison.
Next time, try a credible legal source.
As the Globe columnist correctly reported, the attorneys had negotiated a deal with NO JAIL TIME, but it was MIT -- not the government -- that opposed it.
Of course, like the hysterics here, the columnist leads with the "possibility of 35 years" in prison.... all of which was extremely unlikely for any of the number of scenarios laid out above.
Disagree with all of this. As important a figure as Swartz was and as important as the work he was doing was, he was knowingly involved in civil disobedience.
Those who commit acts of civil disobedience - in this case by theft of intellectual property they earnestly believe should be available to the masses - have to take the responsibility of doing so. They know that doing so will result in prosecution. They do so heroically.
If they enter onto this course - and I do not criticize anyone who does, I myself have been arrested for civil disobedience - they have to be able to face the music.
If Swartz wasn't able to face the consequences, if the consequences contributed to his suicide, that is indeed tragic. And if the laws are wrong and need to be changed, as he believed, than let's have that discussion.
But let's not blame the prosecution for his death because they were enforcing those laws.
Apparently R41 I was angry about the righf thing - people lying that Swartz was facing 35 years in prison and killed himself because of overreacting government.
Now we see - the government offered him ZERO jail time but MIT opposed it so it was upped to 6 months.
6 months misreprented as 35 years (or in lunatic math on DL, half a decade).
Who's overreacting now?
Thanks R42 / R43.
I agree with most of what you say, R44, but to say that theft of intellectual property is appropriate is not "important work", nor is it "for the masses".
Swartz stole 4 million articles that were not only of questionable interest for the masses, but were available just not on Swartz' timetable. One could access those articles online a limited number a day and could otherwise get them for free in libraries.
Beyond this, your argument has no stopping point.
Everything is not for the taking because it can be taken. There is no end point that will protect any artist or any writer under your argument.
Can we just repeat for the sake of clarity what now is settled:
Swartz was not murdered by the government -- he killed himself over a possible six months in prison, not 35 years, and may have gotten a plea with fines and no prison time.
The government -- again, willing to give him no jail time if MIT could have signed off on it -- did not go after him insisting they were going to put him away for decades.
And for kicks, the open question is whether our "I was wrongly prosecuted" poster was actually allegedly prosecuted for something he wrote on DL...
R47 You seem like a jerk. Are you a prosecutor?
Articles are written that say he faced 50 years. If someone cites them are they lying? No. But you call them a liar. Enjoy your "kicks."
R48, can you fucking read?
R42 posted the correct facts -- that his attorney said the plea deal was for 6 months, NOT fifty years. That's SWARTZ' attorney.
There are no credible articles -- or ANY articles -- saying 50 years. The maximum time he could've gotten if he was tried was 35, but the plea deal that the GOVERNMENT offered was 6 months.
And trolldar shows you were the dolt who claimed to have the article who said 50 years, but you posted a shit link. If you can "cite" the article, cite it.
Until then, this imaginary article which was probably some internet scrawl that made up "50 years" shows that you or the author of that fake number are in fact a liar. Just as people like Greenwald claiming that the government wanted to put him away for 30 years. Liars and nutjobs.
Again, the Washington Post article quotes Swartz' attorney as saying they offered him a plea deal of only 6 months.
That's the fact.
Read the article from the Washington Post. It's right there above you in R42.
The more apt points are:
1) Shouldn't the government call the shots on a deal rather than MIT? We don't pay MIT to ensure criminal justice or depend on their choices to be right in terms of how criminal prosecutions are conducted.
2) If it is MIT's fault that no plea deal could go through, that Swartz was then facing Draconian amount of jail time, that Swartz understandably freaked out and killed himself - if that's the take on this - then this might ARGUABLY be decried as "murder by MIT" But "murder by government"? That argument only remotely holds water because the State shouldn't allow itself to be the pawn of complainants in cases, which is a real problem, and the problem I've noted at 1) above.
1. He viewed himself as a messiah
2. He saw the weakness of Assange and Manning
3. He eliminated that weakness in his own attack
4. It just might work
The people supporting the government in this case are an example of how easy it would be for a Hitleresque prez- (D) or (R)- to turn this country into a Nazi state.
Obama, Bush, Clinton, Romney- they are all the same. We live in a police state.
Oh, but the libertarians that see this shit for what it is are crazy.
Anyone who supports this, and can't see why libertarians are the only people that consistently oppose these kind of "official" crimes, are retarded.
[quote]Obama, Bush, Clinton, Romney- they are all the same. We live in a police state.
You see, dear, this is why we don't take you seriously and why we, quite correctly, regard you as a paranoid loon. Until you've actually lived in a police state, dear, you really shouldn't post silly nonsense like this.
OP is our resident Paul Ryan troll.
Ron Paul troll, not Paul Ryan.
Thank you for sharing that, R57. I'm sure the other inmates are moved by your concern.
For the purposes of this thread, the term "fascism" is hereby defined as any person who speaks ill of Libertarians.
So for today, about half of you are fascists.
You bumped this thread because why?
R57 bumped it because he has a habit of bumping all of his old threads every few weeks so that we can bask in the glow of his wisdom.
Aaron Swartz did not take his own life. He was murdered in order to save the state the embarrassment of losing their trumped up trial against him. He faced a maximum of 6 months in jail, reduced to 3 for good behavior as is the law, not 35 years as the complicit press will tell you.
He was killed so that a movement he helped lead would be crippled right before another SOPA/PIPA internet crushing bill is about to take shape. He was killed because he refused a deal and would have stoked the imagination of the opposition by winning in court. Unfortunately, far too few “alternative” activists out there are willing to make this statement. Activists who owe this young man a great deal as they enjoy a free and open internet which is about to close down forever.
Aaron Swartz was murdered and I am sure he won’t be the last. Perhaps the most obvious lesson here is too the “hacktivist” community at large: when we bust you and drum up charges against you, you turn and serve “the greater good” or… you get “Swartzed”.
Swartz was a leading and effective activist standing opposed to the neo-liberalization of America and the people investigating his death are Billioniare Bloomberg’s “mini-CIA”. Get the picture? I guess he’s lucky he wasn’t renditioned to Djibouti like other dissidents as is the custom under Obama.
The narrative is now that he killed himself due to this pending federal case but is simply bullshit.
From what I can tell of the guy, he was looking forward to beating it on behalf of himself and the cause. It was a weak case at best and he was bound to win it. In fact, it was dropped the day after he was found dead.
Swartz was so confident in his ability to beat the charges, that he refused that deal about 2 months ago, preferring to go to trial.
My niece dated the son of one of the directors of President Clinton's secret service. He told her that early on he was told, by his dad, that if he wanted to live a nice long life, he was not to ask questions. And that the walls, the trees, the birds have ears. In other words, do not ever feel like it's safe to repeat info...anywhere. The CIA and the FBI can and do kill people while making the murder look like suicide.
But Aaron spoke against US President Barack Obama’s “kill list” and cyber attacks against Iran.
The government had excellent reasons to wish Aaron dead. As in most cases of covert gov't assassinations Aaron’s death was preceded by a vicious, totally unjustified, campaign of surveillance, harassment, vilification, and intimidation.
In an online “manifesto” dated 2008, Aaron wrote: “Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” He dedicated his life precisely to the goal of depriving the government of this power.
He co-authored the “RSS 1.0″ specification of RSS, and built the website framework and the architecture for the Open Library. Swartz also focused on sociology, civic awareness, and activism.
“Swartz’s Web savvy took him from Internet entrepreneur to online activist, co-founding Demand Progress, a group that campaigns for progressive public policy — in particular fighting against Internet censorship. His crusades boosted his status as something of a folk hero.” Demand Progress had over one million members.
This figure of 1,000,000 is extremely important, for it shows Aaron posed a real threat to the status quo.
[quote]“Swartz had an enormous following in the technology world” and was one of the “most influential figures in talking about technology’s social, cultural and political effect.” The independent Electronic Frontier Foundation concurs: Swartz “did more than almost anyone to make the internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way.”
He was “a frequent television commentator and authored numerous articles on the corrupting influence of big money on institutions including nonprofits, the media, politics, and public opinion. From 2010-11, he researched these topics as a Fellow at the Harvard Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption. He also served on the board of Change Congress, a good government nonprofit.”
As mentioned, government assassinations of dissidents are often preceded by a campaign of terror, intimidation, slander-mongering, litigation, physical intimidation, and incarceration. Aaron’s “suicide” fits this pattern perfectly.
The corporatocracy made it clear that Aaron was in its crosshairs. Especially the MPAA and United States Chamber of Commerce, who have stated their opposition to Demand Progress on numerous occasions, mainly in respect to its stance on internet censorship.
In 2009, the FBI put Aaron under “investigation” for publicly releasing 20% of United States Federal Court documents. The “case” was closed two months later, without filing any charges.
The entire exercise had nothing to do with breaking laws, or justice, but a warning: “Stop harassing us,” the FBI was telling him, “or else!” And yet, just like a tree standing by the waters, Aaron was not moved. Despite the extreme pressure he was under, Aaron Swartz (like Bradley Manning and many other unsung heroes) remained defiant and, in late October 2009, posted his FBI file on the internet. With this single act of defiance, Aaron probably signed his own lynch warrant.
Good God, the conspiracy theorists don't know when to quit. It's how their minds "work."
At least whoever R62 et. al is quoting (not the linked article from what I can tell) acknowledges that the deal offered was 6 months. This meme that he was facing 35 years if he went to trial (and lost) is absurd, as even this nut above concedes. As if the scrutiny of this whole thing would not have resulted in less jail time, concurrent sentences, etc.
And yet he was murdered so he couldn't win? Well, the government was wise to do that then, and turn him into a martyr. Maybe it was a Republican conspiracy to prevent Ortiz from running for higher office!
You clearly don't understand, R64. Why would Swartz commit suicide facing a 6 month or less sentence that he felt VERY confident about beating? Right before his trial??? Yes, the 35-year thing was bullshit and he knew it! No reason to commit suicide. Not to mention, the 2007 post about suicide was in jest.
Tptb wanted him GONE. He was a huge threat as he already helped defeat SOPA/PIPA.
Now watch...this thread will disappear...per usual.
JSTOR, not only declined to press charges against him but, two days before his death, “announced that the archives of more than 1,200 of its journals would be available to the public for free.” Yet, that act of generosity and public spiritedness meant nothing to the fed’s “justice” system, which continued to turn Aaron’s life into a living hell.
And there is yet another curious aspect of this act. MOST OF US spend entire lifetimes without ever accomplishing what Aaron accomplished in his 26 short years. That kind of determination demands a very STRONG spirit. Cajoling a huge organization to place the public interest above his own. His life had plenty of meaning.
So are we to believe that, just two days after this momentous victory, instead of being jubilant, Aaron was depressed enough to hang himself? Yeah right.
Oh but I do understand, R65.
Go back to R12, where his close friend's essay is clearly posted. She admits she and several of her friends, including Aaron, had mental health issues and contemplated suicide more than just over this.
She ALSO says he believed he had a right to break the law to serve his own ends. AND she makes clear he foolishly left a trail of evidence where he would NOT beat the charges.
Aaron was thus facing 6 months in jail. If he went to trial and lost, it might have been a BIT longer and would have had to pay fines or damages.
Because he was NOT the hero you want to make him going to jail for a cause (much less come out victorious), his egomania -- coupled with his "depression" and other mental issues -- he couldn't take his world vision not being accepted, no longer being the maverick who beat the system and bypassed the law, and actually having to go to white collar prison.
Just like the mind of a conspiracy theorist can't accept that he would have killed himself over 6 months, so the mind leaps for new conspiracy theories.
He killed himself. Period.
R67, do you work for the Online Persona Management Services project?
No, R68, I read the very moving and forthright piece by his friend that you refuse to acknowledge, as well as pieces by other people who knew him and all of them -- rational people -- believe he committed suicide.
They say the same thing I do, minus the indictment of his egomania.
Now what conspiracy theory club do you belong to?
People in countries with REAL problems must find US tinhatters hilarious. A JSTOR martyr killed so the state doesn't look silly? Please.
The people that worship the government are just good Nazis.
Our government is evil.
R61 nails it. r71 et. al is at it again.
No one worships government here.
Troll-dar r62, and then go through the thread. LMFAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There are quite a few trolls on this one - R11 and his mysterious wrongful prosecution, allegedly from something posted on DL .... wow...
I think you mean R22, R74 ... indeed, it would be a classic if it were a thread of its own...
[quote]He was murdered in order to save the state the embarrassment of losing their trumped up trial against him.
This is fucking nuts. Every prosecutor, every single one, including me, has lost a big case. We all have had investigations that died for lack of evidence. My office worked on white collar crime investigations that lasted years without going to trial because crucial evidence could not be obtained. No one was killed over that.
Please go outside and breathe some fresh air. You've been reading too many conspiracy theories.
He found the secret file at MIT where they admit helping the government execute 9/11.
He killed himself because the government destroyed his life, bankrupted him and tried to imprison him for life.
Fuck you stupid cunt.
Our government is evil. No conspiracy theory necessary.
You are more tiresome than the misogyny troll, R78.
For LIFE? Now the government wanted to put him in prison for life? Bankrupt him?
The government at most asked him to agree to 6 months and pay for the damage he did by stealing 4 million files and crashing servers in the process.
If a crime is committed against you, you'd be the first to beg the government to do something.
If this dirtbag want a Jew there would be no outcry. Jews always want special treatment.
R79, you are a useless bag of cunt.
"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 US Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished principles."
R78, it's you who are not only useless or deranged.
You wrote they wanted to put him in prison "for life", when the quote you offered disproves that very point...
But of course you're taking it out of context like all hysterics who are blowing this case up to be not what it was.
Again, let us remind you that Aaron's attorney said that the deal that was on the table two days before Aaron killed himself was SIX MONTHS.
Not "for life".
Not "30 years".
Why do all conspiracy theorists have to lie so much? (Answer: Because the truth hurts.)
I am sick of the smash and grab mentality of the internet freaks and I think a lot of other people are too. Julian Assange, once hailed as a hero, has ended up stalemated and abandoned -- Aaron Swartz should have looked very carefully at that example.
Is anyone else sick of the press and the hypocrisy here?
The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Rolling Stone... how many other sites block users from free access to content using technology but are effectively championing someone who claimed all info should be free on the internet?
The hackers, I have to say, have done a brilliant job claiming that the solution is not law but to hire them in some kind of hacker v. encryption war...
Suicide is horrible, but if more of them had breakdowns and quit while they were alive, we'd all be better off.
Hypocrisy is in their blood. They cannot see the value of freedom.
The tragic death of Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz has elicited a plethora of articles highlighting federal prosecutorial bullying, overreaching and abuse. While timely and well-intended, most of these articles fail to discuss the ubiquitousness of the pernicious tactics employed in this matter. Sadly, Swartz’s case is far from unique and is in many ways an ordinary example of how federal prosecutors ply their trade.
There appears to be little doubt that the actions of the federal prosecutors were the proximate cause of Swartz’s suicide. Swartz had been charged with wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges related to his alleged hacking of millions of academic articles from a digital archive at MIT. Swartz had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and was preparing for a trial scheduled to commence later this year. Even though he had not caused any damage or profited from the alleged offense, Swartz faced decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines. Ironically, the database accessed by Swartz voluntarily released over 4.5 million articles just two days before his death.
Aaron Swartz was overwhelmed by prosecutors’ grossly exaggerated claims, as well as the threat of spending decades in federal prison
Much of what troubled Swartz was the prosecutors’ inability or refusal to weigh the equities in his matter. From the time charges were initially filed, the government continuously cast Swartz in as negative a light as possible. Swartz supporter and founder of Creative Commons, Lawrence Lessig, recognized the prosecutors’ mendacity and strongly criticized their actions. “From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The ‘property’ Aaron had ‘stolen,’ we were told, was worth ‘millions of dollars’ – with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of academic articles is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.”
Lawrence Lessig blames Swartz’s death on federal prosecutors’ “extreme and absurd” mischaracterizations
Lessig’s superfluous reference to 9/11 has more relevance to the matter than he may imagine. Enhanced prosecutorial tools resulting from the 9/11 attacks have been routinely employed in cases having absolutely no connection to terrorism. Federal prosecutors, feigning an inability to do otherwise, often claim that they are duty bound to use all available prosecutorial tools at their disposal. The result is that defendants like Swartz are forced to face the full fury of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for relatively innocuous offenses.
The 9/11 attacks vested federal prosecutors with extraordinary powers to fight terrorists. They have been routinely used in relatively benign matters
Additionally, the very structure of the U.S attorney’s office encourages defendants like Swartz to be depicted as negatively as possible, even if it is, as Lessig observed, in a “most extreme and absurd way.” The more seriously the crime can be depicted, the more significant the prosecution. Thus, prosecutors looking to fast track their careers and move quickly up the judicial corporate ladder have added incentive to mischaracterize and embellish. There is simply no reward for accurately portraying the alleged crimes of the accused.
It is likely that these repeated and harsh mischaracterizations of Swartz’s alleged offense added greatly to the pressure he was under. From all accounts, Swartz was a thoughtful and sensitive young man who had probably never encountered an entity as thoroughly devoid of decency as the DOJ. His odyssey through the federal criminal justice system likely revealed an evil of which most are blissfully unaware. That it was elements within his own government employing such extraordinary means against him could have only added to Swartz’s level of fear and frustration.
The DOJ continues to make mountains out of molehills while avoiding serious scrutiny
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced Swartz’s indictment in July of 2011 with typical prosecutorial glee and zeal. Swartz was precisely the kind of high profile defendant federal prosecutors seek, newsworthy and guaranteed to generate self-serving publicity. “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away."
Ortiz’s position on the case grew more ridiculous as the case dragged on. Unhappy with Swartz’s failure to accept the government’s proposed plea bargain, additional charges were added through a superseding indictment. This is a relatively common tactic employed by federal prosecutors and is often an effective mechanism by which to extract guilty pleas. Defendants are told that their opportunity to plead to the initial charges will expire if not quickly acted upon and that additional, more severe charges will be filed if they insist upon their constitutionally guaranteed right to trial. This tactic increased the total counts faced by Swartz to 15 and raised his potential sentence to 50+ years and a fine in the neighborhood of $4 million.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz hounded Swartz into his grave with scurrilous and exaggerated claims of wrongdoing
AUSA Stephen Heymann maintained Ortiz’s hard line. Heymann and Ortiz recognized Swartz’s high profile and were determined to milk the matter for all they could. A reasonable plea accurately reflecting the relatively harmless nature of the offense would only serve to diminish the significance of the prosecution. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that two days before Swartz killed himself, federal prosecutors rejected a plea offer from Swartz's lawyers that would have kept him out of prison. They instead demanded that he "would need to plead guilty to every count" and made clear that "the government would insist on prison time.” The prosecutors’ intransigence made trial, and a lengthy prison sentence if convicted, a virtual inevitability.
So what is it that drives such destructive behavior? How have supposed public servants veered so far off course? The desire to get ahead is hardly unique. Seeking career advancement and being willing to cut a few corners in order to do so is seen in numerous fields and can hardly be viewed as being the exclusive domain of federal prosecutors. There is something significantly more insidious at work in these matters.
A powerful signifier of sociopathy is a lack of empathy, which has become a virtual hallmark of federal prosecutors. Yet there is something unique about the type of sociopathy often displayed by federal prosecutors because it is accompanied by an inflexibility and certitude often found in religious dogma. This flows from a visceral conviction that they are doing God’s work on earth and are empowered to courageously battle all perceived evil. Federal prosecutors often employ an infantile Manichean view of the world in which people either wear white hats or black hats. Once the initial determination is made that one is on the side of “evil,” reasonableness is, by design, removed from the equation. The specifics of the charges are of no moment; mitigating factors are ignored. The accused must be punished to the fullest extent allowed by law.
There is also a persistent belief that if they look hard enough, prosecutors will find “something.” Rarely, if ever, will federal prosecutors concede that a defendant is innocent, or that charges should not have been brought. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the definitive reference source for psychiatry, the inability to admit error is another indicator of sociopathic behavior. Even in cases of documented false conviction, prosecutors typically insist upon the defendant’s guilt and attribute any legal reversal to “technicalities.”
Prosecutors’ inability to admit error is identified in the DSM as an indicator of sociopathy
Add into the mix the additional elements of self-serving career advancement, a public easily manipulated into demanding harsher sentences for all perceived transgressions and a legal playing field that increasingly favors the prosecution, and you have a perfect storm of unchecked power and rampant abuse. It can hardly be a surprise that a defendant like Swartz, fighting the full force of the United States federal government, would find himself mentally overwhelmed and unable to continue his battle.
Interestingly, the decision to target Swartz likely preceded the alleged charges that lead to his suicide. In 2009, Swartz drew attention from the FBI after he legally downloaded about 20 million pages of legal documents from the federal courts and distributed them free across the internet. This would be consistent with federal prosecutors’ practice of targeting people as opposed to crimes. The feds likely had Swartz in their sites for years and simply waited for the right opportunity to bring charges against him. The alleged hacking of the articles was likely merely a premise for bringing charges that had been anticipated all along.
In the aftermath of Swartz’s suicide, criticism of the prosecutors has been relentless. Ortiz and Heymann, who had previously seized upon all available opportunities to publicize the matter, have refused comment since Swartz’s death. Ortiz did, however, use her husband to voice her sociopathic lack of contrition. "Truly incredible that in their own son's obit they blame others for his death and make no mention of the six-month offer," said Ortiz’s husband, Thomas Dolan, apparently referring to an unconfirmed plea offer, in a Twitter message sent on Monday night.
Swartz’s family has been outspoken in their criticism of the prosecution. "Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach," Swartz's family wrote in a statement posted online. "Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished principles."
MIT failed to support Swartz and played a yet to be determined role in his prosecution
Officials at MIT are attempting to distance themselves from Swartz’s prosecution. MIT President Rafael Reif, who was provost at the time of Swartz's alleged offense, has vowed to investigate MIT's role in Swartz's prosecution. "I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many," Reif wrote in a letter posted Sunday afternoon. "It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy."
MIT President Rafael Reif is attempting to deflect blame for Swartz’s suicide
Adding her voice to the chorus of criticism is retired USDJ Nancy Gertner, who served on the federal bench for 17 years. Gertner says she was troubled by much of what she learned and saw from the bench before leaving in 2011. She asserts that Ortiz should not have prosecuted Swartz. “Just because you can charge someone with a crime, just because a technical crime has been committed, doesn’t mean you should,” Gertner said.
“At the time of the indictment, [Ortiz] said, ‘Stealing is stealing.’ I saw that all the time when I was on the bench,” she said. “This is a classic line. Stealing an apple if you’re hungry is different than Bernie Madoff. It is obviously different.”
USDJ Nancy Gertner is a vocal critic of prosecutorial excesses
Most federal prosecutors would likely dispute that point. In their black and white universe, all evil must be punished. There is simply no need to discern between one type of stealing and another.
Gertner’s time on the bench offered her a clear insight into the inner workings of the U.S. attorney’s office and she is vociferous in her displeasure with what she saw. “What happens with the press, you don’t talk about the cases which really reflect this kind of poor judgment. You talk only about the cases that succeed,” Gertner said. “This is the example of bad judgment I saw too often.” When asked if she was referring to the bad judgment of Carmen Ortiz, Gertner pulled no punches and said, “That’s right.”
While the tragedy of Swartz’s death and their complicity in the matter is almost certainly lost on the prosecutors involved in the affair, others have been quick to lay blame directly upon Ortiz and Heymann. Swartz’s case has opened a veritable flood of criticism questioning the tactics, motives and judgment of federal prosecutors. The media has hitherto been too compliant, and ultimately complicit, in doing the bidding of federal prosecutors. Swartz’s tragic demise may ultimately cause a reexamination of how and why federal cases are prosecuted. Federal prosecutors may finally be subjected to a meaningful level of scrutiny and accountability. Reform of federal prosecutorial abuse would be a fitting legacy for Aaron Swartz.
The death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz has generated a lot of discussion about the power of prosecutors -- particularly federal prosecutors. This is a good thing. The conversation is long overdue. But the discussion needs to go well beyond Swartz and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Prosecutors have enormous power. Even investigations that don't result in any charges can ruin lives, ruin reputations, and drive their targets into bankruptcy. It has become an overtly political position -- in general, but particularly at the federal level. If a prosecutor wants to ruin your life, he or she can. Even if you've done nothing wrong, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it.
There are a number of factors that got us here, and it's worth looking at them in turn.
We have too many laws.
There have been a number of projects that attempted to count the total number of federal criminal laws. They usually give up. The federal criminal code is just too complex, too convoluted, and too weighted down with duplications, overlapping laws, and other complications to come to a definite number. But by most estimates, there are at least 4,000 separate criminal laws at the federal level, with another 10,000 to 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally. Just this year 400 new federal laws took effect, as did 29,000 new state laws. The civil libertarian and defense attorney Harvey Silverglate has argued that most Americans now unknowingly now commit about three felonies per day.
But you, citizen, are expected to know and comply with all of these laws. That isn't possible, of course. It would probably take you most of the year to understand them all, at which point you'd have the next year's batch of new laws to learn. You'd probably also need to hire a team of attorneys to help you translate the laws into terms you can understand. After the McCain-Feingold legislation passed in 2003, for example, both parties held weekly, three-hour classes just to educate members of Congress on how to comply with the bill they had just passed. This is a bill they wrote that applied to themselves, and they still had to bring in high-paid lawyers explain to them how not to break it.
Most of us don't have that option. And it's absurd that someone should have to hire an attorney or tax accountant merely to pay their taxes, run a business, run for office, or start a political organization without fear of getting hit with exorbitant fines, or going to jail.
Worse, while we citizens can go to prison for unwittingly breaking laws of which we weren't aware, prosecutors and law enforcement officers who wrongly arrest, charge, and try citizens based on a misunderstanding of the law generally face no sanction or repercussions. Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, a police officer who illegally arrests someone because he wasn't aware of the law can only be held liable if the law in question was "clearly established" at the time he violated it. Prosecutors are protected by absolute immunity, which basically shields them from liability no matter how egregious their mistakes.
We need to move away from the idea that every act we find immoral, repugnant, or unsavory needs to be criminalized. Every new criminal law gives prosecutors more power. Once we have so many laws that it's likely we're all breaking at least one of them, the prosecutor's job is no longer about enforcing the laws, but about choosing which laws to enforce. It's then a short slide to the next step: Choosing what people need to be made into criminals, then simply picking the laws necessary to make that happen.
The laws are too vaguely and broadly written.
Federal laws on matters like conspiracy, racketeering, wiretapping, mail fraud, and money laundering gives prosecutors enormous discretion and leeway. Likewise for many of the post-9/11 laws that address giving aid to designated terrorist organizations, the notoriously awful Honest Services Fraud law (which the Supreme Court narrowed in 2009), and of course the CFAA.
There has also been a trend over the last 20 years or so toward laws that don't require prosecutors to show criminal intent. This means you can be prosecuted for crimes you had no idea you were breaking -- even laws you actively tried not to break. A 2010 study co-authored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Heritage Foundation found that in its rush to criminalize more and more behavior, Congress has been passing poorly-drafted laws that increasingly lack any requirement at all to show intent. Even when intent is included, the study found, it tends to be vague and open to interpretation (which also means open to abuse) by prosecutors.
At the state and local level, laws against "public nuisance," "disorderly conduct," and "keeping a disorderly house" also typically give law enforcement and prosecutors wide discretion.
Take all of that with the massive total number of laws, and you get a system ripe for abuse. If a prosecutor has it out for you, he can probably find a law he can plausibly argue you've broken. Even if you're acquitted -- in fact, even if the charge is dropped, or if you're investigated but never charged -- you don't get compensated for the time, stress, and expense the whole affair cost you. In federal cases you're supposed to at least be reimbursed for you legal expenses, but that doesn't appear to happen much, either.
Prosecutors have perverse incentives.
At the state level, prosecutors are reelected, move on to higher office, or win prestigious jobs at high-powered law firms for racking up large numbers of convictions -- and for getting high-profile convictions. They're rarely publicly praised or rewarded for declining to prosecute someone in the interest of justice. I'm sure it happens. But it isn't the sort of thing even a well-intentioned prosecutor is going to boast about in a press release.
USA Today recently found that federal prosecutors who commit misconduct en route to wrongful convictions are rarely if ever sanctioned. Other studies have come to similar conclusions about state prosecutors. Often, prosecutors aren't even named in appeals court decisions that overturn convictions due to misconduct. And there's of course the aforementioned absolute immunity, an absurd bubble of protection afforded only to prosecutors and judges that the Supreme Court basically cooked up from scratch.
It isn't difficult to see how we might get unjust outcomes when incentive points toward building an impressive volume of convictions, and seeking out high-profile, publicity-seeking cases that tend to me more driven by politics than justice, while there's rarely penalty for breaking the rules or going too far.
Protections have morphed into weapons.
Grand juries, intended and once used to protect people from the excesses of prosecutors, are today used by prosecutors to harass and intimidate. I wrote about one example a few years ago when Assistant U.S. Attorney used a grand jury investigation to silence pain patient advocate Siobhan Reynolds, who had been criticizing the office's prosecution of doctors. Plea bargaining is often seen as a tool that lets guilty people get off with less punishment than they deserve by pleading to lesser crimes. But too often, it too is used as a weapon. Thanks to the overlapping and duplicitous laws, prosecutors can stack charges to build enormously long potential sentences. This happened with Swartz. The threat of decades in prison can then make pleading to a lesser charge and lesser time enticing, even to an innocent person. This is an everyday thing, but the problem was put on wide display during the scandals in Tulia and Hearne, Texas, where dozens of people pleaded guilty to crimes they didn't commit.
Bringing the hammer down.
The federal government in particular seems to be getting less tolerant of challenges to its authority, and more willing to use more force and more serious charges to make an example of people who defy the law. You see this with the ridiculously disproportionate SWAT raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. No one seriously believes the people running these businesses are a threat to federal law enforcement officers. Sending the SWAT team is about sending a message. The government is sending a similar message when it conducts heavy handed raids on farmers and co-ops that sell raw dairy products, or when it sends paramilitary teams to raid the offices of doctors suspected of over-prescribing prescription painkillers. You see it when the feds throw the book at suspected copyright violators, or at the executives of online poker sites, threatening decades in prison. The goal in these cases isn't to stop and punish someone who is a serious threat to other people. It's to send a message to the rest of us: Defy the government as this person did, and here is what will happen to you.
The politicization of criminality.
When everyone is breaking the law, it becomes rather easy to use the law as a political weapon. We saw this during the Bush administration with a number of targeted prosecutions aimed at prominent members of the other party, or at "sending a message" of some kind. And of course the law and order instinct toward more power for cops and prosecutors has long been more associated with conservatives.
But the left is guilty, too. The rush to publicly convict George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin resulted in an indictment that most defense attorneys have since characterized as absurdly overreaching and aggressive. Yet outside of legal commentators and pundits, most on the left seemed to be okay with it. There have also been credible accusations of prosecutorial misconduct that have received little coverage outside the conservative media (which itself seems suddenly interested in protecting the rights of the accused). When Elliott Spitzer was trouncing the constitution with aggressive tactics in his pursuit of corporate bigwigs, he was largely cheered by progressives and editorial boards who are traditionally more supportive of the rights of the accused. When the Heritage Foundation first undertook its overcriminalization project, the progressive organization Media Matters actually mocked the conservative think tank for being soft on crime.
Too often, criticism of prosecutorial excesses isn't framed as this should never happen, but why isn't this happening to the people I don't like? Until that changes -- until partisans are willing to condemn abuses even by their own, or committed against their political opponents or people they personally find unsavory -- the problem is only going to get worse.
I'd suggest all of these factors (and probably a few I haven't thought of) have increasingly made us a nation ruled not by laws, but by politics (and by aspiring politicians). And once criminality is influenced primarily by politics, we're all just potential criminals.
Congress Weighs in on DOJ's Handling of Swartz Prosecution
Congress is wading into the controversy surrounding the death of political activist Aaron Swartz, with top House oversight legislators asking the Department of Justice for a briefing in the federal case brought against the 26-year-old Internet entrepreneur.
The top Republican and Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent a joint letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. late Monday afternoon that raises questions about whether the level of punishment that prosecutors sought for Swartz’s alleged offenses was appropriate.
more at link