Tag Archives: Ryan Shapiro

Aaron Should Have Been 34 Years Old Today

For Speaker and Hackathon questions – go to:

https://tinyurl.com/ASDSpeakersQuestions

Here are the streaming links for the Speaker talks 10-11:30 am:

Youtube link:

https://youtu.be/L7_endXVkHY

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/AaronSwartzDay/videos/3983636874998597/

We will be starting at 12 noon pst/3pm est :)

Much love,

Lisa Rein & Brewster Kahle
Co-founders, Aaron Swarz Day & International Hackathon

 

This year’s Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon will take place online from 10am-5pm PST on November 14, 2020.

It’s free and livestreamed on our YouTube and Facebook channels.

Register on Eventbrite to have the streaming links emailed to you in the morning on Saturday, November 14. You can also just check our @AaronSwartzDay Twitter or look on our home page here at aaronswartzday.org on that morning.

Today would have been Aaron’s 34th birthday, but instead we mourn our friend and wonder what could have been, had he not taken his own life seven years ago after being terrorized by a career-driven prosecutor and U.S. Attorney who decided to just make shit up, make an example out of Aaron, impress their bosses and further their own careers.

As it turns out though, Aaron’s downloading wasn’t even illegal, as he was a Harvard Ethics Fellow at the time and Harvard and MIT had contractual agreements allowing Aaron to access those materials en masse.

But all this didn’t come to light until it was too late.

Aaron was careful not to tell his friends too much about his case for fear he would involve them in the quagmire. In truth, we wouldn’t have minded doing anything we could to help him, but we didn’t realize he needed help, and that his grand jury’s runaway train had gone so far off the rails.

We should have known though, as Grand Juries are a dangerous, outdated practice that give prosecutors unlimited power, making it easy to manipulate the way that witnesses and evidence are presented to the Grand Jury and convince jurors of almost anything. These kinds of proceedings also often violate the subject and witness’ constitutional rights in different ways. For these reasons, most civilized countries have transitioned away from them in favor of preliminary hearings.

We learned many other lessons from his case, after the smoke had cleared. We learned that Aaron’s Grand Jury prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, and the U.S. Attorney in charge of his case, Carmen Ortiz, were so obsessed with trying to make names for themselves, they were  willing to fabricate charges and evidence in order get indictments that would otherwise be unachievable.

As Dan Purcell explained:

“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…

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.”

We also learned that MIT was more concerned with their own reputation than standing up for the truth or protecting Aaron. In fact, we learned that MIT decided to assist the government with its case against Aaron, rather than helping him by pressuring to Feds to drop the case, even after JSTOR had made it clear it did not wish to prosecute.

We know all this because Kevin Poulsen explained to us how he had to sue the Department of Homeland Security to get access to documents in Aaron’s FBI file, and that MIT blocked their release – intervening as a third party – and demanding to get a chance to further redact them before they were released to Kevin – and the Judge granted their request! Only time will tell what MIT was so worried about, but its behavior suggests that there may have been some kind of cover-up  regarding its involvement in Aaron’s case.

Most recently, thanks to Property of the People’s Ryan Shapiro, we learned that Aaron had an erroneous code in his FBI record  that meant “International Terrorism involving Al Qaeda” – deriving from his sending a single email to the University of Pittsburg, which might explain why the FBI was so suspicious of him during his case.

There are still many pieces of the puzzle missing, but we won’t stop trying to put it all together. We hope you will join us on November 14th to honor him and learn about his projects and ideas that are still bearing fruit to this day, such as SecureDrop, Open Library, and the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project.

Until then, we will continue to come together to help each other and share information, knowledge and resources, and to try to make things better in our world.

Please email us at aaronswartzday at gmail.com or DM us on Twitter if you would like to contribute a project to the hackathon – or want to be on the hackathon or speaker Jitsi calls.

We hope to see you on November 14th!

 Howl For Aaron Swartz (by Brewster Kahle)

Howl for Aaron Swartz

Written by Brewster Kahle, shortly after Aaron’s Death, on January 11, 2013.

Howl for Aaron Swartz
New ways to create culture
Smashed by lawsuits and bullying
Laws that paint most of us criminal

Inspiring young leaders
Sharing everything
Living open source lives
Inspiring communities selflessly

Organizing, preserving
Sharing, promoting
Then crushed by government
Crushed by politicians, for a modest fee
Crushed by corporate spreadsheet outsourced business development

New ways
New communities
Then infiltrated, baited
Set-up, arrested

Celebrating public spaces
Learning, trying, exploring
Targeted by corporate security snipers
Ending up in databases
Ending up in prison

Traps set by those that promised change
Surveillance, wide-eyes, watching everyone now
Government surveillance that cannot be discussed or questioned
Corporate surveillance that is accepted with a click

Terrorists here, Terrorists there
More guns in schools to promote more guns, business
Rendition, torture
Manning, solitary, power

Open minds
Open source
Open eyes
Open society

Public access to the public domain
Now closed out of our devices
Closed out of owning books
Hands off
Do not open
Criminal prosecution

Traps designed by the silicon wizards
With remarkable abilities to self-justify
Traps sprung by a generation
That vowed not to repeat
COINTELPRO and dirty tricks and Democratic National Conventions

Government-produced malware so sophisticated
That career engineers go home each night thinking what?
Saying what to their families and friends?

Debt for school
Debt for houses
Debt for life
Credit scores, treadmills, with chains

Inspiring and optimistic explorers navigating a sea of traps set by us
I see traps ensnare our inspiring generation
Leaders and discoverers finding new ways and getting crushed for it

 

“Property of the People” Lawsuit Proves Aaron Was Scooped Up In An FBI Investigation Back In 2007

We will be discussing this lawsuit and the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project in general (its templates, latest results from Sacramento & other cities in California) at this month’s Raw Thought Salon on March 8th – from 7-9pm.

Then stay from 9pm-2am to dance and hang out in Grumpy Green’s super special Psychedelic Chill Room (an immersive art installation).

DJs include: Melotronix, Tha Spyryt, Ailz, & Cain MacWitish – with visuals by Projekt Seahorse – March 8th Raw Thought at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco! TICKETS

 

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

Highlights from the two documents are displayed below): (1) (2) These documents show the information that the FBI had in its database about Aaron, way back in February of 2007:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 discussing this lawsuit and the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project in general (its templates, latest results from Sacramento & other cities in California) at this month’s Raw Thought Salon on March 8th – from 7-9pm.

Then stay from 9pm-2am to dance and hang out in Grumpy Green’s super special Psychedelic Chill Room (an immersive space for both dancing & chilling).

DJs include: Melotronix, Tha Spyryt, Ailz, & Cain MacWitish – with visuals by Projekt Seahorse – all at our March 8th Raw Thought at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco! TICKETS

 

 

A Little Information About the Vegan Pizza at our Q & A Event January 11th

TICKETS (or just RSVP to aaronswartzday@gmail.com)

A little update on the pizza we are serving for our Aaron Swartz Q & A Event.

It’s really really tasty — and not what you would expect.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the words “Vegan Pizza” struck fear into the hearts of many a pizza lover.

Well, friends, that time has past.

This vegan pizza is very very tasty pizza (from DNA Pizza) – you might not even notice – it just happens to be vegan.

I wanted to let folks know a bit about the “Vegan Pizza” we will be serving from DNA Pizza.

A gluten-free crust is available upon request. I’m not sure if it’s necessary, so, if you’d prefer it,  even require it, please do email me at aaronswartzday@gmail.com.

These are the three styles of pizza we’ll have on hand:

Vegan Potesto: vegan pesto, garlic roasted potatoes, roasted garlic

Vegan Shmegan: olive oil base, vegan ricotta (Note: It’s great! I tried it!), tomatoes, basil, chopped garlic

SFV: olive oil base, red onion, green onion, tomato, chopped garlic

Thanks! :))

Hope to see you from 7:30-9:30 pm – Here are more details about what we are doing then – with special guest Ryan Shapiro.