|Ryan Shapiro from Property of the People will be there in person (with Lisa Rein) this Friday night, January 11, in San Francisco, 7:30pm) to tell us about his FOIA lawsuit and how he was able to obtain parts of Aaron’s FBI file that were previously unavailable. Email us at AaronSwartzDay@gmail.com to RSVP & get on the guest list. If you wish to purchase a $10 ticket, great! – you can do so here. Here’s information on the vegan pizza involved.
By Lisa Rein
A “Property of the People” Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit has obtained documents proving that Aaron was scooped up in an FBI investigation as far back as 2007, even before the PACER project, in 2008. (Previously we thought the PACER project was the first time the FBI had concerned itself with Aaron.)
Aaron had been erroneously swept up in a 2007 terrorist investigation that, most likely, caused law enforcement agencies (FBI, DOJ) to treat him with rougher hands during its subsequent encounters with him afterwards.
His email was only scooped up because the Feds were probably using National Security Letters (NSLs) to get all of a University Department’s email headers, in bulk, from a computer science department that Aaron had emailed. (More on NSL’s here.) Long story short they enable the FBI to demand information from entities without court approval. (No warrants. No judicial oversight.)
Here’s the article by Dell Cameron for Gizmodo: https://gizmodo.com/fbi-secretly-collected-data-on-aaron-swartz-earlier-tha-1831076900
This document is from November 4, 2008:
From the Article:
How specifically the FBI came to possess Swartz’s email data remains unclear.
But after reviewing the document and other related files, several legal experts told Gizmodo the most likely explanation was that the FBI had used a National Security Letter (NSL), a ubiquitous tool for obtaining email header data at the time. An NSL would have enabled federal agents to demand access to the data and then impose a gag order to maintain secrecy around the investigation, all without a judge’s approval.
Authorized under the Stored Communications Act, in cases of suspected terrorism or espionage, these letters enable the FBI to seize a variety of electronic records under its own authority. While agents cannot use an NSL to acquire the contents of an email message, the FBI’s notes appear to show that, in Swartz’s case, it sought only “email headers,” data the FBI would argue falls well within the scope of its power to seize.
NSL Letters are over reaching, post-911 creations that we’ve all learned a lot about these last few years because Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive went public with his experience with them, and then he worked with the ACLU and the EFF to challenge NSLs as being unconstitutional. Here’s a great story about it by Richard Koman for ZDNet, where Brewster Kahle offers a cookbook for fighting security letters:
Just talked to Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive about their successful settlement with the FBI of a lawsuit over a National Security Letter. The FBI had demanded personal information on a user; the Archive replied with a lawsuit challenging the propriety of the NSL.
We will be talking about this in more detail at the January 11th Q & A Event at the DNA Lounge. Remember to Email us at: AaronSwartzDay@gmail.com to RSVP & get on the guest list. Or, if you wish to purchase a $10 ticket, great! – you can do so here.