Obama administration won’t act on Aaron Swartz petition


The White House will not act on a petition filed to fire the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit and crusader for a free-and-open internet. Swartz died, of an apparent suicide, two years ago.

Swartz, 26 years old, was reportedly despondent over the government’s decision to pursue federal charges that he hacked into an academic database, downloading millions of research papers. He faced a maximum of 50 years in prison.

A petition filed on White House.gov, which received more than 61,000 signatures, asked the administration to remove Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney out of Boston, for overzealous prosecution for what critics call minor infractions. The petition cites a lack of a sense of “proportionality.”

In its response to the petition, the administration said it will continue to examine such thorny issues as “open access to information, privacy and intellectual property, free speech and security” But it will not fire Ortiz. The response noted that the petition process is not the appropriate for addressing personnel matters.

Both Ortiz and the MIT administration came under blistering criticism for their roles in Swartz’ prosecution. Swartz used MIT facilities to download the data in question from the school’s JSTOR library. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has defended Ortiz.

A documentary on Swartz, “The Internet’s Own Boy” was just nominated for an Writer’s Guild award for best documentary screenplay.

Aaron Swartz in memorium


Citizen Pariah

Petitions are now rendered meaningless. Recently in Houston the mayor was presented with thousands of signatures protesting an illegal first amendment violation, the administration just threw them out.


Perhaps if Aaron Swartz was African American he would have garnered much more reaction from this White House. Yes I’m being snarky; frankly, real issues this Administration ignores. Now Mr. Obama wants to rehaul community colleges (which are funded by State and local taxes) and suggest that Federal funding to community colleges will provide access to all looking for higher education. There is currently an effective way to provide access without this path: Increase Pell Grants, lower Federal student loans both loan origination fee and the interest rates. But this is practical and lacks the vainglory this Administration looks for. This grand gesture does not look at the student. A wealthy student going to community college can afford the fees versus a poor student going to a private university.

Zachary Levi Wall

The Obama Administration may be “looking into these matters”, but their reluctance to actually act speaks volumes.

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