One of recent tragedies is the death of Aaron Swartz who was pushed to death by federal bullying. This is just the latest chapter of the government being used to go after those who threaten those in power, and want to replace cartels with more freedom and competition. This from NaturalNews.
Enter Aaron Swartz, the brilliant tech-savvy Internet activist and co-founder of a company that would eventually grow into social media site Reddit. Potentially facing 50 years behind bars for allegedly downloading more than four million academic journals from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Swartz hung himself in his apartment ahead of a pending court date. Now, we will never know of his guilt, his alleged motivations or what good he may have accomplished over the course of his life.
In the wake of his death, Swartz’s family and friends are now blaming federal prosecutors, for being overly aggressive, and MIT, for failing to vouch for Swartz. In a statement to the media, they claim the U.S. attorney’s office was pursuing an “exceptionally harsh array of charges” for an alleged crime that had no victims, while skewering MIT for abandoning Swartz and the school’s own “cherished principles.”
‘Boy genius’ bullied by feds
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” wrote the family and his 26-year-old partner, Taren Stinebricker-Kaufman. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and MIT contributed to his death.”
In addition they wrote:
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Larry Lesig, a Harvard University professor, Internet law expert and friend of Swartz’s, also blamed the federal prosecutor, calling him a “bully” on his blog and writing that Swartz, who hinted previously at having a history of depression, had been “driven to the edge” by the government’s disproportionate and overly aggressive handling of his case.
50 years for hacking?
“Our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed,” wrote Lessig.
“A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you,” he said.
Swartz, a gifted programmer, helped develop the RSS at age 14, and went on to help found Demand Progress [http://demandprogress.org/], a political action organization that campaigns against Internet censorship, reported Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
The Reddit co-founder was arrested in 2011 for allegedly downloading the academic journals from the JSTOR online journal archive, with the intent of distributing them free of charge via file-sharing sites. He was charged with 13 counts of felony hacking in September 2012.
Lessig and others were especially outraged by the amount of jail time prosecutors were seeking.
“50 years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the ‘I’m right so I’m right to nuke you’ ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: shame,” he wrote in his blog.
Like Grace, who adopted the mindset that guilt makes it okay to cajole and bully suspects, the prosecutor in Swartz’s case obviously felt the same way. It became not a matter of right or wrong, per se, or pursuing the government’s interest in this case, but seemed to become more about getting even with some activist with whom the government disagreed.
The real crime may be what led Swartz to take his own life
If the allegations against him were true, writes Peter Eckersley at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a day after Swartz’s death:
[T]he situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, and particularly their punishment regimes. Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activism, and taking such an act in the physical world would, at most, have meant he faced light penalties akin to trespassing as part of a political protest. Because he used a computer, he instead faced long-term incarceration. This is a disparity that EFF has fought against for years. Yesterday, it had tragic consequences.
Zach Carter, Ryan Grimm, and Ryan J. Reilly provided even more insight into what appears to be a clear case of prosecutorial bullying. From the Huffington Post:
Swartz spent the last two years fighting federal hacking charges. In July 2011, prosecutor Scott Garland working under U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, a politician with her eye on the governor’s mansion, charged Swartz with four counts of felony misconduct – charges that were deemed outrageous by internet experts who understood the case, and wholly unnecessary by the parties Swartz was accused of wronging. Swartz repeatedly sought to reduce the charges to a level below felony status, but prosecutors pressed on, adding additional charges so that by September 2012 Swartz faced 13 felony counts and up to half a century in prison.
In the end, federal prosecutors’ zealous pursuit of Swartz and unwillingness to negotiate on charges undoubtedly led him to choose death. They may not have physically strung him up by his neck, but they cannot credibly claim they had no role whatsoever in his death.
Did the White House Even Try to Prosecute Wall Street Execs?
- by Kevin Mathews
- January 26, 2013
- 11:30 am
Five years after the collapse of our economy, zero Wall Street power players have gone to jail. When everyone seems to know who to point the fingers at for this financial disaster, why is it that not one of these bigwigs have so much as been arrested or stood trial?
This is the question PBS’s Frontline decided to explore in a report this past Tuesday, which you can watch in full here. Speaking to a number of experts and insiders, the show found that the Department of Justice made minimal effort to bring those responsible for Wall Street’s fraudulent activity to justice.
The longstanding excuse from the White House is that there is not enough evidence to secure convictions against these executives. Although DOJ Criminal Chief Lanny Breuer claims the Obama administration would love to bring cases against those who committed such felonies, he insists he simply must back off without having a winning case.
While it seems fair to avoid losing trials, what is preposterous is the notion that out of hundreds of such potential cases against Wall Street heads, not a single one was deemed to have sufficient evidence. This excuse is proven even more ludicrous when Frontline interviews reporters who found employees who were willing to whistleblow to prove criminal intent, as well as people who worked for the DOJ who saw specific Wall Street cases with more than adequate evidence that were not pursued anyway.
Furthermore, it’s not as if the Department of Justice has a pristine reputation for only pursuing the most clear cut of cases. As Forbes points out, just last year, the DOJ prosecutors moved forward on a weak case against baseball pitcher Roger Clemens that resulted in a not guilty verdict. “The loss should be a wake-up call for the Department of Justice, which has failed at times to use prosecutorial discretion and good judgment in high-profile cases in recent years,” said the Forbes article, which outlines a whole series of DOJ misfires.
In other words, it is a joke for the White House to pretend it only pursues cases it can win. Skipping over all Wall Street felonies shows a disturbing bias. The DOJ can tell Frontline that it is merely a “professional decision”, but it is remarkable that it is choosing to exercise unprecedented “professionalism” in the face of Wall Street tossing aside ethics for the sake of profits.
Perhaps most telling was a speech Breuer gave saying he lost sleep at night contemplating the possible ramifications that prosecuting a large financial institution could have on the overall economy. When Frontline asked whether he should be taking into account outside factors when deciding cases to prosecute, Breuer replied affirmatively, citing a “responsibility” to bring negative consequences on those who had nothing to do with the banks’ mistakes.
However, the job of a federal prosecutor is to prosecute criminal activity, not worry about the fate of the banks. Besides, if Breuer is primarily concerned with the welfare of the general population as he suggests, it leaves the question why is he valuing a potential harm to Americans over the certain suffering that occurred because of bank fraud? Why let that go unpunished?
When no steps are taken to punish this criminal behavior, it sends a clear message to the elite: you are immune from prosecution and the rules do not apply to you.
For what it’s worth, the Justice Department has said that it does not like its portrayal on the Frontline story and refuses to cooperate with the show in the future. One would assume that it would continue to cooperate with the bankers, however.
Also, since the airing of Frontline’s report, it has been announced that Breuer will step down from his role with the Department of Justice. Maybe he can get a cushy Wall Street job as a thank you for his lack of vigilance like so many politicians before him!