(November 11, 2014) Mayday SuperPAC, Lawrence Lessig’s anti-corruption moonshot, lost nearly all of its races in the 2014 midterm election. Does that mean it failed? Did Politico’s screamer headline, “How to waste $10 million,” tell the whole story? Or does the shadow of money in politics extend beyond mere wins and losses?
Professor Lessig and the Progressive Campaign Change Committee’s Adam Green take us behind the vote tally and into the heart of the campaign-finance darkness for part 3 of The Good Fight’s Mayday 2014 trilogy.
It’s very exciting to learn about the Aaron Swartz Day Celebration that took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this year, and the Arabic captioned version of “The Internet’s Own Boy” that came out of it:
By Dan Purcell for BoingBoing.
You might ask, like I did, what Aaron’s actions had to do with “computer crimes.” Aaron hadn’t broken into a secure network and stolen credit card numbers. He hadn’t stolen anyone’s healthcare data. He hadn’t violated anyone’s privacy. He hadn’t caused anybody to lose any money. There are things that are “computer crimes” that we all recognize are invasive and dangerous, and this was not one of them.
But Steve Heymann did what bureaucrats and functionaries often choose to do. He wanted make a big case to justify his existence and justify his budget. The casualties be damned.
..He had the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which is an over broad federal statute that has been made more broad by federal prosecutors trying to stretch its terms. But under the indictment in Aaron’s case, the government still had to prove that Aaron had gained unauthorized access to a computer system. Our defense was really pretty simple. There were going to be other nuances, and we were going to talk a lot about Aaron’s motivations and the type of person Aaron was, but our bottom line was going to be that Aaron had done only what MIT permitted him to do. He hadn’t gained unauthorized access to anything. He had gained access to JSTOR with full authorization from MIT. Just like anyone in the jury pool, anyone reading Boing Boing, or anyone in the country could have done.
We hoped that the jury would understand that and would acquit Aaron, and it quickly became obvious to us that there really wasn’t going to be opportunity to resolve the case short of trial because Steve Heymann was unreasonable.
Of course, after Aaron’s passing, it’s really easy for them to say “35 years. That was a bluff. It was never gonna happen.” That was not what they were telling us. Heymann always insisted on a sentence of hard time in Federal Prison. We said, “this is really a very trivial thing. Can’t we resolve it with probation or some other thing that made a little more sense and would make it possible for Aaron to go on with his life?”
He said “no.” He insisted that Aaron plead to a felony and serve prison time. And of course, what he said, as prosecutors often do, is that if we go to trial, it won’t be so easy, and if we lose, well, this is a tough judge, and the prosecution is going to recommend a very difficult sentence. Aaron may end up having a term of years.
By Brett Wilkins for Digital Journal.
From the article:
…Swartz has become something of a martyr. Not in some pathetic, quixotic way. His life, his work and his untimely demise have inspired a whole generation of ‘hacktivists’ and other open Internet advocates who are hard at work fighting battles in defense of net neutrality and against corporatization of the Internet, government surveillance and other pressing problems.
“Since there are projects like SecureDrop (an open-source whistleblower submission system managed by Freedom of the Press Foundation) going strong, and policy movements aimed at protecting innovative students on college campuses, and more updates on the ongoing fight to have Aaron’s government documents released to the public, and so many people willing to do amazing projects in his honor, I decided to just try to include everything I could, and see how large it became,” Lisa Rein, co-founder of Creative Commons and host of The Internet Archive hackathon, told the Daily Dot.
“Aaron doesn’t deserve to go down in history as some malicious hacker out to steal and make money from his loot somehow,” added Rein.
Purcell agreed, telling the audience of several dozen than what Swartz did was “not hacking.”
“It was walking through a door that was left open for anyone to walk through,” the attorney insisted, calling Swartz’s alleged ‘crime’ “a harmless effort to point out a problem.”
Director Brian Knappenberger was on hand at the San Francisco event for a screening of his critically-acclaimed documentary feature, The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.
A panel discussion and audience Q&A followed. Many attendees had personal connections to Swartz. There was much talk of how activists could honor his memory.
By Thor Benson for Truthdig.
From the Article:
Swartz would have been 28 years this week, on Nov. 8. To celebrate his life and legacy, communities across the globe will observe Aaron Swartz Day on his birthday. He fought for an open and thriving Internet but also for causes like ending corruption and government secrecy, and the day in his honor will mark the full range of his accomplishments and his battles, which remain alive today.
Swartz was adamantly opposed to laws like SOPA and PIPA that he believed would have allowed corporations to shut down free expression and frustrate an open Internet. What many don’t realize is that he also feared government surveillance, well before Snowden arrived. “One thing that Aaron didn’t see—is he didn’t see Snowden,” Brian Knappenberger, director of a documentary about Swartz’s life called “The Internet’s Own Boy,” told Truthdig. “We have footage in the film that talked about Aaron being concerned about NSA surveillance and overreach that was a year before Snowden came forward.”
Knappenberger said Swartz was waiting for a moment when people would realize how serious a problem government surveillance was becoming, and he died before he could witness the Snowden revelations. Instead of learning from what happened to Swartz and being more lenient with Internet activists, “lawmakers in the government just get worse about whistle-blowers and hacktivists by going after them even stronger,” Knappenberger said.
Knappenberger worries when he sees the Obama administration creating “insider threat” programs that encourage people with top-secret clearance to turn in co-workers who they believe might leak information. Sometimes, a recent divorce can be considered a reason for the government to suspect that an employee might leak information. Knappenberger said the U.S. government is targeting legal whistle-blowing instead of dealing with illegal activity such as warrantless surveillance being carried out by its branches.
by Kate Conger for the Daily Dot.
From the article:
Prosecutors painted him as the bad kind of hacker—the Hollywood sort who breaks into computer networks with a flurry of keystrokes to steal top-secret information.
“It’s just nonsense. Of course Aaron was a hacker in the broad sense of the term, but in terms of the criminal term, he was no hacker and he didn’t do anything like that,” said Dan Purcell, a partner at the law firm of Keker & Van Nest LLP in San Francisco. Purcell would have represented Swartz had his case gone to trial. Instead, Swartz committed suicide in Jan. 2013, before the trial commenced.
“What Aaron did, whether you call it a prank or a consciousness-raising exercise, it was not a crime.”
This distinction is an important one for organizers of the memorial hackathon, like Lisa Rein, cofounder of Creative Commons, who selected “setting the record straight” as the theme for this year’s event. Like Purcell, she emphasized that Swartz’s actions were far from criminal.
But as much as Aaron Swartz Day is about dispersing misconceptions about what it means to be a hacker, it’s also about simply hacking.
From Los Angeles Hackathon Organizer Sterling Crispin:
Here’s what we built. Hopefully people will share it and it will have some impact.
It’s a website campaign designed to educate people about their personal data privacy and smart phones, which concludes with some direct action items suggesting people at least password lock and encrypt their phones.
When it comes to app privileges, use your common sense:
- When not using features like GPS, bluetooth, WiFi, you should disable them.
- When installing a new app, ask yourself “why does this app need these permissions?”
- Disable any app permissions and location services that you feel are unnecessary.
Thank you everyone for coming. We have a lot of material to cover tonight, and then a whole movie to watch afterwards, so I will keep my opening remarks brief and to the point.
This year’s event’s theme is “setting the record straight” so that we can move forward. To me, this means providing a better understanding of Aaron’s actions, and how the entire situation became a misunderstanding of epic proportions that pretty much spiraled out of control.
There are a few initiatives underway designed to prevent this from ever happening again, and aimed at protecting innovators, such as Aaron, from relentless prosecution by third parties that don’t understand the nuances of the parties involved. We’ll hear from the EFF’s April Glaser, who will tell us about the upcoming Freedom to Innovate conference, which is designed to protect future student innovators from legal prosecution that victimized Aaron.
Through a combination of learning more about Aaron’s case, which we are going to do tonight, and having access to things like Aaron’s FBI and Secret Service files, which we are beginning to be released to us little by little, thanks to Kevin Poulsen’s Freedom of Information Act requests – can we begin the process of fully understanding what happened to Aaron, so that we can be sure to try to stop it from happening to anyone else.
Cindy Cohn, soon to be the EFF’s new Executive Director, will explain to us why CFAA reform is firmly stalled in both houses. (Probably now more than ever.) Finally, Dan Purcell, from what was Aaron’s new legal team, is here tonight to help us understand what their strategy was going to be for clearing his name at trial.
2013 and 2014 were big year’s for many of Aaron’s projects and ideas. He received a posthumous EFF Pioneer Award in 2013, and was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame as well that year, on the same night as Vint Cerf and John Perry Barlow. Aaron surely would have been pleased to be in such distinguished company.
I think he would also be pleased to see his DeadDrop prototype blossom into the SecureDrop whistleblowing submission platform that now has 15 instances in full swing, protecting leakers from our government’s spying eyes, and enabling submissions to prestigious news organizations such as The Guardian, The Washington Post, the New Yorker, and Forbes. I also think he would’ve been proud to see his mentor Lawrence Lessig and his MAYDAY PAC team raise over 10 million dollars to fund congressional candidates committed to fundamental campaign finance reform. Remember, Aaron is the one who challenged Lessig to set out on his new course, way back in 2007.
So join us tonight, along with hackathoners in
12 16 cities around the world, as we celebrate Aaron, set the record straight about not only what he did not do, but about what was done to him, and try to find a way to move forward together, and continue to make the world a better place. Thank you.
November 9, 2014 for RT
From the interview:
RT: Aaron Swartz was basically driven to suicide for standing up to the government for what he believes in. Do you think his fate will put others off following in his footsteps?
Brian Knappenberger: No. I mean I think that treatment of Aaron Swartz was awful and it was outrageous. But I actually think that if it was meant to be a kind of persecution to put people off of this kind of behavior, I think it backfired. If it was meant as deterrence, or it was meant to make an example, as the prosecution said to Aaron’s dad and to Aaron’s council, I think that effort, probably, backfired.
People are inspired, looked at what he did and are inspired by it. I don’t think that the legal efforts against him actually would put off future Aarons. And if anything they’ll inspire them.
Lisa Rein (Coordinator, Aaron Swartz Day) April Glaser (EFF, Freedom to Innovate Summit)
Yan Zhu (Yahoo, SF Hackathon Organizer)
Brewster Kahle (Digital Librarian, Internet Archive)
Cindy Cohn (EFF Legal Director – CFAA Reform)
Kevin Poulsen (Journalist – FOIA case that MIT intervened in)
Garrett Robinson (SecureDrop)
Daniel Purcell (Keker & Van Nest, one of Aaron’s lawyers)
Q and A after the movie: with Brian Knappenberger, Director, “The Internet’s Own Boy,” Trevor Timm (executive director and co-founder, Freedom of the Press Foundation), John Perry Barlow (co-founder, EFF, Freedom of the Press Foundation), and Lisa Rein (Coordinator, Aaron Swartz Day).