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back to article Swartz suicide won't change computer crime policy, says prosecutor

The aggressive prosecution of computer crimes won't be changed in light of the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, a spokeswoman for Boston US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has said. "Absolutely not," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're …

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Anonymous Coward

Pressing further

When pressed further on the issue, Ortiz said

"I mean come ON - we were able to hound somebody until they KILLED themselves. Not only is that a real example of judicial economy - we don't have to bother with a trial now! - but we can now use that when we lean on anybody else! Think of how many 'confessions' we'll get! Think of how many people we can turn on their friends! 'Are you now, or have you ever been, a computer hacker? Do you know any computer hackers? and if so, why did you not notify authorities?' - it positively gives me goosesteps (or is that goosepimples?)!

And think of all the people who will 'self-censor' - we can cut down on this 'crime' (we really need a new name for it: it takes thinking, maybe thought crime?) just by making everybody fear what happens if we look at them.

And it's not like this guy was clean - after all, if he had nothing to hide, if he had done nothing wrong, then he had nothing to fear, amirite?"

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Re: Pressing further

In fact Oritz' behaviour, regardless of whether it is the department's culture or not, could easily come under the FBI's definition of "domestic terrorism" - if it wasn't for the fact that it doesn't apply to themselves.

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Re: Pressing further

this is really starting to sound like those cliched movie plots, where "they suicided him"

[tinfoil hat] i wonder how much investigation went into the supposed "suicides"[/tinfoil hat]

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Re: Pressing further

Hounding someone to death...hey they were just following the great example set by that other paragon of US organizations, the IRS...

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Meh

They

They finally admit their aggressive stance!

So this is justice American Style.

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Re: Pressing further

Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're going to continue doing the work of the office and of following our mission."

Translation:

Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "Hey, you think I'm going to admit I did anything wrong? Look, I cruelly hounded this guy to his death. You think I want to make myself look more guilty than I already am? I have political ambitions, bitch!"

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Re: They

They finally admit their aggressive stance!

"They"?

Anyone with even a passing acquaintance of the US judicial system knows that it is adversarial, and that the State[1] explicitly and openly seeks conviction or capitulation. That's how the system is designed. I'm not saying it's a good design, but it is hardly a fucking secret.

Ortiz's comments here boil down to "yes, I'm going to continue doing the job I am employed to do". We may deplore that job, and condemn Ortiz for performing it or not seeking to change its nature. But she's not announcing some personal vendetta here. And while this is hardly an excuse, if she declined to do it, the US DOJ would lose no time in replacing her with someone who would.

[1] In the political sense - this applies equally to the Federal government and those of the several states.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They

< if she declined to do it, the US DOJ would lose no time in replacing her with someone who would.>

Why should she decline? She's got two suicides under her belt and is getting a reputation from the press for her big pair of balls.

"Absolutely not," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're going to continue doing the work of the office and of following our mission."

Remember, if plea bargains cost less than trials, suicides are even cheaper than plea bargains.

Ortiz is so confident she's in tight with DOJ, she ordered a new strap-on dildo for her next crop of young male hackers.

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4 Simple Points.

1) What kind of moron thinks that it's a good idea to undermine a non-profit academic archive?

2) Offering Swartz a 6-month sentence is hardly "bullying".

3) The blame for any consequences suffered by Swartz as a result of hacking JSTOR belong to the person who hacked JSTOR: Swartz himself.

4) The people responsible for Swartz' suicide are his family and friends for not intervening in the life of this chronically-depressed individual who has been threatening suicide for years. I am sure that they find comfort in blaming Ortiz but the blame is theirs alone.

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Re: 4 Simple Points.

1) One who believes that academic articles funded by the taxpayer, and that are in the public domain, are most effectively used by society as a whole if they are freely available.

2) Yes it is - he had to plead guilty without trial to the charges to get that much reduced sentence. As far as we can tell, he both wasn't guilty (see 3 below), nor thought he was guilty. You also have to account for the cost of US federal court cases - unlike in the UK, the loser doesn't have to pay costs, and they cost millions.

3) It's not clear he committed any crime at all - see this account by an expert witness for the trial: http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/

4) How do you know what intervention they took, or what worked or didn't? Depression is a disease, and by no means a simple one for those suffering or their friends/family. We don't know exactly why Aaron died, however it seems likely to be a combination of clinical depression, along with the circumstances of his prosecution.

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Mushroom

Re: 4 Simple Points.@Turtle

You're an idiot.

that is all

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Re: 4 Simple Points.

@Turtle

You missed the bit where JSTOR was a repository of research funded by the taxpayer but which, as part of the convoluted mess that is academic publishing & peer review, had seen the IP relating to publication handed over to for-profit journals, with the authors being expected to pay a charge if they want to make their research available through Open Access channels.

Threatening a 5-decade sentence and then offering a 6-month plea bargain only if he cops to the crimes in such a way that he never gets a trial (which is more accurate than your description), would probably be constituted as bullying by most people - using the threat of an undesirable outcome to force someone into doing something.

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Linux

Re: 4 Simple Points.

Agree. The taxpayer funds most of these articles and then has to pay a private party AGAIN to read them. The authors must pay AGAIN for their own work. The entire university publishing system needs to go in the ash can...

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Re: point #3

Any time you take special actions to access a service, YOU KNOW you are breaking the law or at least policy. So do the police. He was guilty and needed to deal with it.

The theory of civil disobedience to correct perceived wrongs in the law does not absolve one from serving the time for the crime. In fact it rather depends upon it.

And yes, he alone is responsible for his suicide.

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Re: point #3

@Tom 13

Any time you take special actions to access a service, YOU KNOW you are breaking the law or at least policy. So do the police. He was guilty and needed to deal with it.

I agree this far.

The problem is, the providers of the services which he misused didn't want to pursue this. Carmen Ortiz did, and in doing so exercised the same (lack of) thinking that US prosecutions of computer misuse have seen since it's been possible to mount such prosecutions; if anything her idiotic pronouncements about how "stealing is stealing" suggest that she fails utterly to understand either the nature of the issue at hand - that tax-funded research is being moved behind a for-profit paywall without any oversight mechanism or explicit approval of the tax-paying public as a whole - or Swartz's actions - becauseretrieving millions of articles via an automated system to which he had legitimate access via Harvard University is a policy issue, and does not become "theft" until he's actually deprived someone else of access to something, or actively attempted to redistribute all those files in a manner that deprives the rightful owner of the ability to profit from them. Which would likely trigger an awkward discussion about whether research groups allocated funding sourced from taxpayer contributions are assigned the ability to transfer all intellectual property rights to their research barring acknowledgement of authorship to privately-owned journals who charge for access.

As a sysadmin anyone attempting to misuse systems for naughtyness deserves a slap. I disagree that copyright infringement constitutes a serious computer crime simply because it's done with a computer - that's kind of like saying that hitting someone with a laptop is a computer crime, IMO.

I would argue that sustained efforts at coercion towards a known sufferer of depression would put at least some responsibility on the shoulders of Ortiz and her office. Ultimately, I doubt we'll get an answer either way. The best we might get out of this is more attention for the case of reforming academic publishing strategies (and ideally a subsequent review of the publication strategy for privately-funded research, since the current method is exceptionally wasteful) and a bit more consideration prior to action on the part of US Attorneys pursuing crimes involving computer misuse.

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Re: 4 Simple Points.

JSTOR was a repository of research funded by the taxpayer

Many of the journals included in JSTOR are not funded by public revenues (I'll ignore the "by the taxpayer" nonsense), and the same is true of much of the research documented therein. And JSTOR itself is not publicly funded, so while your argument might hold water if Swartz had reproduced articles from the original publications, it fails when applied to JSTOR itself.

The law in question (USCFAA) is certainly hugely disproportionate, and prosecutions like this are a tremendous waste of public resources. But the provenance of the JSTOR materials, even if you were correct in the source of the funding that led to them, is not a mitigating circumstance.

This should have been a civil case, not a criminal one, with JSTOR filing suit for violation of terms & conditions, and possibly for tortful loss of income (though that'd be hard to prove). In a fantasy world where a Swartz criminal case went to trial and I was on the jury, I'd vote to nullify,[1] because screw you, Congress, and your idiotic legislation. But I don't pretend that the public-ownership argument (even if it wasn't highly dubious) overturns JSTOR's rights or the law.

[1] By voting to acquit, since explicit nullification is rarely allowed under jury instructions in the US.

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FAIL

Re: 4 Simple Points.

2) Offering Swartz a 6-month sentence is hardly "bullying".

Repeat after me:

Swartz was never offered a 6-month sentence.

Never.

He was never offered a six-month sentence.

Swartz was never offered a 6-month sentence.

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Trollface

Obama administraton

Ortiz is another life long bureaucrat who played the affirmative action card to get where she is much like Holder himself who is simply the African America Alberto Gonzalez. I sure there are plenty of other very qualified minority candidates out there but they weren't Obama's Chicago buddy going back years or one of his early political supporters. Patronage at it worse. Another heckva job Brownie. Both parties suck.

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Stop

Re: Obama administraton

After "life long bureaucrat" this wanders off into the inappropriate. We should not, and hopefully try not to, judge people by ethnicity or race or religion. In a case like this, it draws attention from what should be the real points. The first is that prosecutors generally have a great deal of power and unless they have the internal controls necessary to use it wisely (and sometimes to resist their superiors' demands) risk doing great damage. In this, they are enabled by sometimes crude and overly broad laws such as the CFAA, RICO, and hate crime specifications that allowor even encourage them to elevate relatively minor offenses into major felonies with potential for large fines and lengthy imprisonment. In the short run, the damage is to the individuals who, like Aaron Swartz, are pressured, perhaps, beyond their ability to cope; in the long run the damage is to the legitimacy of the regime, as greater numbers of citizens come to believe the government is unworthy of their trust.

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Re: Obama administraton

"prosecutors generally have a great deal of power "

In the US, the criminal code is so complex that one law professor recently estimated that every single US resident is unknowingly breaking 3 criinal laws every day. There are so many statutes on the books that the prosecuters can choose to prosecute the same (presumed) offence under multiple different statutes, hence they can threaten you with many years in jail if a case is ever brought to trial. If a US citizen happens to cross a US attorney, whether they are innocent or not, their choices are (a) confess to something they haven't done and take the 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, whatever of jail time + criminal record (b) Go to a very expensive trial up against practically unlimited resources*, you still have 6 months, 1year, 2 years of hell during the trial. Even if you DO win, you're broke** because the loser does not pay your legal expenses as another poster pointed out, not to mention that you'll have had to give up your job to concentrate on the trial, or that your business is circling the drain because your customers are deliberately being made VERY aware by the prosecution that you are an untrustworthy criminal scum. If you lose, you're in jail for life. No wonder fully 95% of cases are settled by plea bargain in the US. Think about that for a minute - 95%!!!

* Since 95% of cases are resolved by plea bargain, the prosecuters office can bring huge resources to bear on the 5% that DO go to trial

**unless, of course, you're mega-rich. Just another way in which, in teh good old 'land of opportunity' and equality, the rich are an uber-class to themselves.

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Flame

..The aggressive prosecution of computer crimes won't be changed in light of the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, a spokeswoman for Boston US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has said...

After all, why should it? It's having exactly the effect it is intended to have...

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Probably not having the intended result

The spotlight on U. S. Attorney Ortiz and her sidekicks Stephen Heymann and Scott Garland are unlikely to have advanced any of their careers either in the Department of Justice or electoral politics. Embarassing your boss and your boss's boss publicly is not often a good thing, particularly when the latter is the President of the U. S.

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If you can't do the time don't do the crime.

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Anonymous Coward

Could you specify the crime?

And why it deserves the death penalty?

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WTF

What crime?

Can anyone exactly describe what the crime was? To deserve 6 months to 30 years?

Copying files from a server using a script, from unprotected links inside a campus LAN?

Is that worth going to prison?

Oh I see this comes from the file-sharing is stealing camp.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WTF

And your view comes from the it's not stealing if it's not a physical object camp. Just because you can steal something doesn't make it right, you're just trying to justify your unethical behaviour by redefining theft so it doesn't apply to what you steal. Get over it, if it's not yours it's theft.

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Anonymous Coward

Fix that for you

After the HSBC deal, the bank bailout, the bank foreclosure deal;

If you don't have the money, don't do the crime.

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Devil

Re: WTF

To steal something (i.e. commit an act of theft), one has to deprive another of something. It's a pretty clear distinction. This is why crimes which involve copying cannot be regarded as theft as no-one is deprived, especially not JSTOR where articles could be obtained for free. In fact, he saved them some money on the bandwidth by keeping the traffic local.

I just wish that Carmen Ortiz could be subjected to absolute micro-scrutiny to see how she likes it. I wish for internet activists to pore over her past in detail unearthing everything they can about her and exposing any dubious activity in her past. Hopefully they'll identify an illegal act from her past and then she can be hauled through the criminal courts, face amplified charges and be hit with a bill for hundreds of thousands in legal fees out of nowhere. I wish.

Anyway, keep the pressure up, keep calling for her resignation. Schwartz had to put up with 2 years of pressure and uncertainty. It would be nice to apply similar pressure for a similar length of time to Ortiz.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WTF

"To steal something (i.e. commit an act of theft), one has to deprive another of something."

Remuneration. That's not the issue here though.

Swartz's crime was hacking and trespass. It didn't deserve 30 years, but that's what happens in a plea bargaining system. I'm glad we don't have it here in the UK. His suicide, by its very nature, was self inflicted.

Nice to see the Reddit brigade are spamming every news website with their indignation though. I was beginning to think you lot were only capable of sharing funny pictures of your cats.

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FAIL

Re: WTF

> This is why crimes which involve copying cannot be regarded as theft as no-one is deprived,

Bollocks.

If I copy a pre-release of the latest Dan Brown manuscript, print a million copies, and sell them before he gets his book out, then by your definition I haven't deprived him of anything. That is clearly nonsense, since I have deprived him of all the income from the million books he will not be able to sell.

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Re: WTF

The issue is interference with a property right. If I come around and dig up your garden I've not deprived you of anything as you still have your garden all be it strewn about the place.

And besides everyone knows that IP is property.

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FAIL

Re: WTF

"Swartz's crime was hacking and trespass."

Except it's not trespass if he had authorization/invitation, which he did. His "Crime" was violating the T&Cs by downloading many (very many) papers in quick succession. He did have authorization to download them, just not to suck up all of their bandwidth for a time.

I'm still unclear on how this constituted fraud, as (AFAIK) he used his own account or was authorized courtesy of his IP address on the LAN, and he did not re-distribute them. It's a bit like charging someone for fraud for posting on El Reg from work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WTF

He didn't have authorization to access the closet containing the network gear which is the trespass part. He repeatedly and deliberately worked around attempts to boot him off the network which is unauthorised use of a computer network. The T&Cs have nothing to do with it.

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PT

Re: WTF

Sooner or later, the last of these copyright maximalists will die, and then we can move on.

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Re: WTF

> our view comes from the it's not stealing if it's not a physical object camp

My view, in this case, is that it isn't stealing if he was explicitly permitted to download those articles. Which he was.

Vic.

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Re: WTF

> If I copy a pre-release of the latest Dan Brown manuscript, print a million copies

...Then you are not guilty of theft. You are (likely) guilty of copyright infringement.

It's still an offence - possibly a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances. But it is no more Theft than it is Bestiality[1] or Treason.

Vic.

[1] Used for effect; in law, this is actually deemed "Buggery"...

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing will really change till people spill blood on the streets - and it isn't anywhere near the point any reasonable number of otherwise reasonable people would pay that price. As such expect mission creep for the next half century till it is that bad or isn't that bad, depending on which direction small incremental change takes.

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Anonymous Coward

I concur

Like the fall of other regimes... Its happening all the time and isn't pretty (Syria?) nor are you guaranteed something better afterwards.

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WTF?

When all is said and done ...

The laptop Aaron Swartz used to download the files was no different than laptops sold by the millions every year.

The difference in sentence was not unlike "crack" cocaine posession by the lesser esteemed members of society versus cocaine hydrochloride (the hip sniff of choice) posession. Anybody with High School Chemistry can tell you the percent of cocaine (free) base in cocaine hydrochloride. That number never varies, and the "war on drugs" does not depend on it changing.

Here, you have a freely available man-made product (a laptop), and you commit crimes or not if you punch the right/wrong buttons on the thing, and are sentenced by the "severity" of the crime.

Where Ms. Ortiz goes monsterously wrong is in thinking the USA has an "official" Enemies of the State category of criminal. I am reminded that Josef Stalin first had to define "Kulaks" before he murdered them.

Massachuetts is not the Ukraine and Ms. Ortiz has not the policy making power of Stalin.

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Stop

The witch hunt

Does this at all remind you of the witch hunt and prosecution of the heretics by the church? History tends to repeat itself.

This is typical of humanity to hunt those with greater knowledge of things that average pleb is incapable of comprehending. Sentences driven by fear and not logic. There will come a day when we will look back and feel the shame of sheer ignorance and stupidity of our rulling class. The anger that we allowed to be ruled by such pathetic, power hungry and corrupt politicians.

I am in some ways ashamed to be part of this so called intelligent race...

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The Wizards' Revenge on Wicked Witch Hunters and Intellectually Challenged Intelligence Communities

Does this at all remind you of the witch hunt and prosecution of the heretics by the church? History tends to repeat itself.

This is typical of humanity to hunt those with greater knowledge of things that average pleb is incapable of comprehending. Sentences driven by fear and not logic. There will come a day when we will look back and feel the shame of sheer ignorance and stupidity of our rulling class. The anger that we allowed to be ruled by such pathetic, power hungry and corrupt politicians.

I am in some ways ashamed to be part of this so called intelligent race… ….. Serge 2 Posted Wednesday 23rd January 2013 00:38 GMT

Join anonymous ethereal underground parties which share everything they know with everyone they don't know for free …. to be free of the slavery, Serge 2, and use the Surreal Intelligence Services which your Global Operating Devices cannot fail to deliver. It is the route and root which AIMODified Special Forces in Cyber Command and Remote Control of Live Operational Virtual Environments have discovered is impregnable and unstoppable.

And think not Naff NOOb or Naive Newbie when considering NAAFIntelAIgent Expertise. IT does not grow old and weary at the going down of the sun and in the morning. Forget to remember and honour that with respect for the heroic undead and weep and reap the whirlwind.

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Re: I am in some ways ashamed to be part of this so called intelligent race..

Sadly it seems that intelligence is not the problem. We allow ourselves to be ruled by crooks because we're cowards. Say anything out of place and you're some kind of -ist. (shudder)

Better to tow the line, keep your head down and allow ANY twisted shit to go on unchallenged. This is the true face of humanity.

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FAIL

As far as I have understood

The six months is just a bluff so convenient now afterwards.

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Business as is becoming usual ...

It doesn't matter what you did. It doesn't even matter if you did it. The only thing that truly matters is when a prosecutor (or his/her boss) decides you need to be Gotten. Even if you finally make it to court and prevail, you will have wasted years, spent all your money, and probably become somebody your friends no longer recognize.

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Anonymous Coward

Nolo Cuntendere

I do not wish to be a cunt.

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Anonymous Coward

It was of his own choosing

Swartz took it upon himself to check out early. His choice, but a bad decision, just like hacking. If you can't do the time, then don't do the crime.

Hating on other people for Swartz's numerous bad decisions is ignorant and won't change a thing. People are forced to take responsibility for their decisions in life, good or bad.

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Re: It was of his own choosing

Suddenly his story is now on national news and everyone is talking about it. Seems to me like it was a good for his cause.

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Re: It was of his own choosing

*blink* Dead is dead. and you don't get to fight another day. As for 'national news' well in a months time it will be "Aaron who? Oh yeah him. Yeah sad, pour another beer will you."

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MAD, Bad and Rad Offices of Pathetic Pathological Disrepute?

The aggressive prosecution of computer crimes won't be changed in light of the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, a spokeswoman for Boston US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has said.

"Absolutely not," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're going to continue doing the work of the office and of following our mission."

Hmmm. Some folk, Ms Ortiz, are just no good at thinking and a real danger to themselves and everyone else around them ……

22 January 2013. In a telephone chat today with Andy Greenberg, Forbes technology reporter, we explained that we had no evidence Aaron Swartz downloaded these files which Cryptome obtained on December 16, 2010 from Torrent via unidentified sources. Aaron's name is credited to indicate support for his Open Access Manifesto, to join innumerable others who are answering the call to liberate information, above and below ground. We advised Andy to avoid dramatization of Aaron and to dig more deeply into the widely-based Open Access movement and the Creative Commons with whom Aaron closely worked. We offered the opinion that the US Attorney was likely applying the long-established prosecutorial tactic of squeezing Aaron by threatening a long sentence and promising a shorter one to implicate others and that he courageously refused. …. todays banner intro on Cryptome

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