7 Comments

Summary:

The Secret Service is set to release files related to the death of hacking activist Aaron Swartz, but now MIT has asked for a new delay in order to review the documents.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, citing fear for the safety of its networks and employees, has taken the unusual step of intervening in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over files related to the late activist Aaron Swartz.

The university, in court documents reported by Wired, is asking a federal judge let its lawyers review redacted Secret Service documents before they are released to the public. The school wants to ensure the papers don’t identify MIT staff who assisted a criminal prosecution that, in the eyes of critics, led the 26-year-old Swartz to commit suicide in January.

The criminal case concerned Swartz’s decision to run a computer script to obtain thousands of scholarly articles from the academic database, JSTOR. Schwartz’s supporters regard his actions as an idealistic gesture to support the sharing of knowledge, and have blasted the school and the government for an over-zealous reaction.

After the Secret Service refused to release details of its investigation, a colleague of Swartz’s filed a federal lawsuit to demand the agency comply with Freedom of Information laws. The judge agreed and two weeks ago told the government to “promptly” release the records.

But the release has now been delayed as the judge considers MIT’s request to review the documents — a request the plaintiff in the FOIA case is opposing. The university in March said it would release its own documents related to the matter.

This post was updated at 7:45am PT to correct the spelling of Swartz’s last name throughout, and earlier to clarify the actions that led to his prosecution.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Why are you perpetuating the myth that Schwarz “hacked into” MIT’s computers? He didn’t hack into them, they were open to the public. His crime was that he violated the terms of service on the MIT website by downloading more than they wanted him to, and then using an ethernet connection to avoid getting his computer discovered. That isn’t “hacking”.

    1. Jeff John Roberts keninca Friday, July 19, 2013

      Thanks for your comment, keninca. I was using “hacking” as a shorthand to describe Schwartz’s unauthorized distribution of the JSTOR docs, but perhaps it was a poor choice of phrase, especially as law enforcement sometimes uses “hacking computers” to portray an act as criminal or sinister — which was not the case with Schwartz

      1. I was under the impression that Swartz never actually distributed the documents from JSTOR…

    2. Jeff John Roberts keninca Friday, July 19, 2013

      I’ve updated the story with different phrasing

  2. It’s “Swartz,” not “Schwartz.”

    1. Thanks, this is fixed.

Comments have been disabled for this post