Tag Archives: BoingBoing

Aaron Swartz Was No Criminal; Was Fully “Authorized” to Download JSTOR Articles

Republished from 2014

Aaron Swartz Was No Criminal

By Dan Purcell for BoingBoing.

aaronboingboingFrom the article:

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.

Chelsea Manning Interviewed on BoingBoing

Chelsea Manning interview: DNA, big data, official secrecy, and citizenship

by Cory Doctorow for BoingBoing.

Photo of the actual exhibit, in Davos, Switzerland, at last week's Economic Forum. Photo by: danah boyd, Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum
Photo of the actual exhibit, in Davos, Switzerland, at last week’s World Economic Forum. Photo by: danah boyd, Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum

From the article:

The U.S. Government has refused to confirm or deny that there is any ongoing investigation in to your matter, but it looks like they spilled some beans to you? Can you explain what happened, and what it means?

Nearly two years ago, I requested a copy of the FBI files related to their role in the investigation of my case. After going through a lengthy FOIA process, I finally filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI and the Department of Justice to turn over these records.

The basis of their denial is that there is still an ongoing investigation into my case. They have admitted as such before the court in a joint filing. This is the reason that they won’t turn these records over. However, their response is still vague. The government has not acknowledged who they are investigating, or why—just that it is directly related to my case and court martial…

What’s your call to arms for people who care about the issues that sent you to jail? What should they be doing? What would you be doing, if you were free?

Read everything. Ask your own questions. Be your own filter. Nobody is going to look at the world around you and tell you what important things are happening that affect you and the ones you love.

They will sell you things. They will ask you to vote for them. They will offer their services to you. They have an ambiguous agenda that doesn’t really involve your interests as a citizen. There is a difference between a consumer—who passively receives the information that they are spoon fed—and a citizen—who engages with society, asks questions, does research, and works towards making a difference in their neighborhood, city, and country. This is what I try to be—whether I’m in prison or outside—I keep reading and asking questions as a citizen.

Chelsea Manning digital rendering from DNA - gender parameter assigned female - photo credit Heather Dewey-Hagborg
Chelsea Manning digital rendering from DNA – gender parameter assigned female – photo credit Heather Dewey-Hagborg