Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Aaron Swartz actually did

Emptywheel, a.k.a. Marcy Wheeler, with her usual obsessive attention to minutia, reconstructs exactly what Aaron Swartz did on which date. (We have discussed the Swartz case in previous posts. Hell, everyone on the net is talking about it.) Also see this HuffPo piece -- and, if you haven't read it yet, this expert's explanation as to why the Great MIT Hack was not really a hack at all.

I think Marcy's point here may be of importance:
The government’s consolidated response to Swartz’ suppression motion claims that “neither local nor federal law enforcement officers were investigating Swartz’s downloading action before January 4, 2011, when MIT first found the laptop.” Note, they refer just to Swartz’ downloading action, not Swartz (though that may just be legal particularity), so it is possible though unlikely that federal law enforcement officers were investigating other activities of Swartz before then (we know the FBI had investigated his PACER downloads the previous year).
"Unlikely"? Well...that's a matter of opinion. The careful wording may be revelatory. I suspect that the government had been looking for a way to get Swartz for quite some time.

As we noted in an earlier post, there are indications that the government was after Swartz for reasons other than downloading a whole bunch of JSTOR articles (which he did not distribute and from which he did not profit). His earlier hack into PACER (the legal information system) put him on Uncle's radar, and his expressed sympathy with Wikileaks no doubt put him on Uncle's enemies list.

To me, the JSTOR charge seems more like a gimmick, a means of intimidation. I think Uncle wanted to turn Swartz -- force him to work for them, or force him to rat someone out. At the very least, they wanted to make sure that Swartz could no longer lead the charge against things like SOPA.

The death of Aaron Swartz certainly removes a strong voice against governmental intrusion. The video above offers Swartz' take on TrapWire, a system which allows the government to access all security cameras in the country. The video below offers Swartz on Wikileaks -- and on Rupert Murdoch's attempt to set up his own "leak" site, which is a hilariously obvious fake. 

Hmmmm. Enemy of the State. Person of Interest. Art imitates life?
Yeah, he knew too much, was too good at what he did, and wouldn't do it for the interests of the rich and powerful. So he had to be neutralized. I don't think they cared how, just that it was done. Sadly, he did it for them, though they certainly drove him to it (that's assuming he actually did kill himself, and I haven't seen anything suggesting foul play in his actual death....which is interesting in itself, because obviously the conpiranuts are quite selective about their conspiracies).
I think the NRA had him killed.
You cracked me up there Bob!
Maybe I'm too conspiratorial, but I just read Barry Eisler's first novel, a thriller about a hitman who specializes in murders that don't look like murders.

There's much to be depressed about in the world, and I urge activists not to make statements that might be construed as suggesting that they suffer from the kind of clinical depression that can be cited to support claims of suicide. How do we know he hanged himself? Was any serious investigation done? What we get from the media is depression/oppression/suicide, closed case.

For all depressed people, whether it's clinical or environmentally-induced, please consider Albert Ellis's thesis that all human unhappiness is caused by irrational ideas. Discard your irrational ideas. Burdensome ideas I discarded were the notion that because I was intelligent and well-educated my labors should achieve great recognition by society, and that society ought to be nice and fair, and if it wasn't that was my fault. I had to jettison all that to survive.


"...please consider Albert Ellis's thesis that all human unhappiness is caused by irrational ideas."

I have never read Ellis. However, the proposition strikes me as wrongheaded. I'm inclined to believe the exact opposite -- that irrational ideas have the paradoxical effect of keeping us sane. That's pretty much the whole point of "The Iceman Cometh." I don't know if you've ever seen that play; it's kind of a long slog but worth it.

A complete rationalist might end up like Schopenhauer. I suspect that ol' Schope was right about a lot of stuff -- but nobody ever called him a lovable funster.
Who would have thought that former Senator John Sununu would come out on the right side of this: ? Here are a couple of representative quotes. "Whereas the institute [MIT] once would have taken pains to find an appropriate and internal resolution to violations of regulations — and even laws — within its campus, it chose to defer to others. That reaction isn’t unique to MIT, but rather a reflection of gradual changes in accepted cultural and government behavior over the past 20 years. Today, regulators and prosecutors regularly use their power to impose agreements, plea bargains, and consent decrees with little judicial review. They threaten the maximum penalty allowable — regardless of whether a rational mind would consider it fitting for the infraction — in order to gain an outcome that enhances their stature or pleases their political base." "The questions central to Swartz’s actions also remain with us: In the digital universe, what should be public or private, paid or free? How much power should governments have over the online world? Ironically, these are questions that MIT, above all institutions, should be eager to help us answer."
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