back to article MIT clears itself of responsibility for Aaron Swartz's prosecution

Six months after the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, MIT has released a 182-page report into the university's involvement in his arrest and prosecution, and has determined that it did nothing wrong. Swartz, who at 14 coauthored the RSS standard, subsequently cofounded Creative Commons and the Reddit online community …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Godwin's law be damned

    The Swiss probably said the same thing. Wonder what the world would look like now if the highest standard we could aspire to was to be 'neutral'.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Godwin's law be damned

      Possibly a lot better. If you go down that path, the European War of 1914 would have been over really quickly or grind to a halt, it would have stayed on the continent, there would not have a Russian revolution, the UK would not have been pauperized etc. etc.

      1. P Saunders

        Re: Godwin's law be damned

        nd billions would have died in natural disasters such as famine, plague, floods, fires, earthquakes and the world would be a whole lot more bankrupt thanks to the likes of Lehman Brothers et al. Ya gotta draw a line somewhere.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Godwin's law be damned

      If you lived in a landlocked country with a Fascist state on one side, an indescribably awful one on another side, and the lackey of the awful one on the other, I think you too would choose to be neutral. But I once visited the underground fort that faced one of the French border crossings during WW2, and "neutrality" very obviously meant "one step over that line and you're dead"

      Universities once had a philosophical objection to calling the police in if nobody was getting hurt or robbed. It was something to do with the concept of a university as a place where ideas about society were allowed to evolve and be experimented with. Suspected gay goings on, Mr. Policeman? Please come back with a warrant and I will then telephone the gentlemen you wish to interview and tell them you are coming, under escort. Strange burning grass smells? I am sure one of the gardeners is having a bonfire. Why don't you come back with a warrant? Someone is misusing the computer. The exercise today is to find out who it is, and then we will consider what to do about it.

      Of course, that was in the days when there weren't armed nutcases (with a legal right to bring arms onto your property) coming along to shoot people. That might have something to do with all this.

      1. Abot13

        Re: Godwin's law be damned

        if they cant differentiate between a laptop and a gun, they should close their doors asap

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    M.I.T. is guilty of just not caring about crimes committed on their campus, otherwise they would of stepped in and took some course in the legal action themselves (at least a tiny bit). However, he did kill himself! The person guilty of assisted or influential homicide is no longer living, due to suicide. The fathers grieving period is going to be quite long.

    People kill themselves. I'm not saying it's normal, but it happens :-/

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well quelle bloody surprise.

    I'm sure their time spend weaselling their way out of this was a great use of their time, they could have spent the time learning from their mistakes and helping the family.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Old Handle

      Or perhaps he wouldn't have killed himself if they hadn't been threatening to lock him up for longer than he'd been alive. That could have had something to do with it too, don't you think?

      1. Johan Bastiaansen
        Angel

        ", don't you think?"

        Yes, he doesn't think.

      2. Fibbles

        Plenty of people get charged with crimes (some of them even wrongfully,) and they don't top themselves. Swartz was responsible for his own death, nobody else.

      3. John Lilburne Silver badge

        But he wasn't threated with a long jail term

        The prosecution was offering a deal of a few weeks, and his lawyers said that they almost had a no-jail time deal.

        http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/01/15/humanity-deficit/bj8oThPDwzgxBSHQt3tyKI/story.html

        http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2013/01/14/mit-hacking-case-lawyer-says-aaron-swartz-was-offered-plea-deal-six-months-behind-bars/hQt8sQI64tnV6FAd7CLcTJ/story.html

        1. Dr Stephen Jones

          Re: But he wasn't threated with a long jail term

          "The prosecution was offering a deal of a few weeks, and his lawyers said that they almost had a no-jail time deal."

          This is correct.

          But the Swartz loonies want their martyr, and need to blame everybody but the misguided lad himself.

          Never trust an argument which rejects the facts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Let's have your name, AC

      @AC 22:01 - >"Memo to Robert Swarz: your son's suicide is your fault"

      Do yourself a favor little boy and go play in some freeway traffic.

      When will El Reg get rid of the coward posting option? I'm sick of the 4chan and slashdot and reddit losers freely trolling on here.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Let's have your name, AC

        Behave yourself, Andy!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Let's have your name, AC

          @Destroy - hard to do sometimes, hard to do.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Let's have your name, AC

            Yes I know...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let's have your name, AC

        "When will El Reg get rid of the coward posting option? I'm sick of the 4chan and slashdot and reddit losers freely trolling on here."

        The OP accurately points out where the responsibility lies.

        The Swartz family wants to blame EVERYBODY but Aaron for Aaron's suicide. Well, guess what: he didn't have to break the law, and if he wanted to break the law to prove a point, he had to take the consequences.

        It's you who needs to grow up Mr Prough.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Let's have your name, AC

          It's great being an AC*, but even greater having been born at the age of 60 wrapped in a copy of the Wall Street Journal.

          Kids aged 13-30 do stupid things. A well regulated society makes sure that they don't get hurt too badly for a bit of non-malicious stupidity. My university (Cambridge) back in the day was extremely good at doing this, and I and no doubt many others are duly appreciative.

          *I know, I don't use my real name either, but the Reg has it, and my real public email address.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: Kids aged 13-30 do stupid things.

            You stop being a kid at 12. Somewhere between 18 and 21 you become a full fledged adult. Schwartz was an adult under either standard. Given that, I have to say that his parents are more responsible for his suicide than MIT. They are the ones who were supposed to teach him right from wrong and to take responsibility for his actions. Given their response we see Schwartz modeled their behavior perfectly - shifting blame to someone else and admitting no fault of their own.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Kids aged 13-30 do stupid things.

              "Somewhere between 18 and 21 you become a fully fledged adult". I am afraid that you do not understand the difference between reality as revealed by experimental psychology and neurology, and the arbitrary rules of society.

              Ask any probation officer or experienced policeman what is the age at which people really start acting like grown ups. All the evidence is that it is more like 25-30.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Holmes

          Re: Let's have your name, AC

          @AC 08:28 - >"The Swartz family wants to blame EVERYBODY but Aaron for Aaron's suicide. Well, guess what: he didn't have to break the law, and if he wanted to break the law to prove a point, he had to take the consequences"

          There is recent precedent in American law for criminal homicide and manslaughter charges for causing the suicide of another: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/22/us/8-charged-in-death-of-fellow-soldier-us-army-says.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&sq=danny%20chen&st=cse&scp=1&

          That's not to mention potential civil liability of MIT to the family, which could result in monetary damages. This could still end up getting to be an expensive legal mess for MIT.

        3. sisk Silver badge

          Re: Let's have your name, AC

          Well, guess what: he didn't have to break the law, and if he wanted to break the law to prove a point, he had to take the consequences.

          Two problems with that thought. First, if sounds like maybe he was authorized to access MIT's network, which immediately means that half the charges against him (AT LEAST!!) shouldn't have ever been there.

          Second, this is America. If you can get through the day without breaking some obscure law that you don't know exists here you're lucky.

          1. Fibbles

            Re: Let's have your name, AC

            Whether he was authorized to access the network (which tbh I think there's only a very flimsy argument for,) doesn't change the fact that he broke into a networking closet and tampered with the equipment, which he certainly wasn't authorized to do.

            Is that worth 30+ years in prison? I don't think so and judging by what has been said by the legal teams on both sides, it was never a realistic possibility and Swartz had been made aware of this. The 30+ years figure was just part of stupid posturing inherent in a plea bargaining system.

            So the situation is that a guy did something pretty stupid in order to make a point, inevitably got in trouble with the authorities over it and then, instead of either taking a light punishment or going to court to argue his original point on a public stage, he killed himself.

            How you can try to say that his death is anyone's doing but his own is beyond me.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Let's have your name, AC

            This is the UK. It is probably impossible to get through a day here without breaking a law. And it is assumed that you know every law in the Common Law and the Statute Book, since ignorantia legis non excusat. So in many cases you are required to know what the law is, but the judge then has to have a think about it and consult books to find out.

            Kafka simply reported reality.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Institutions do their Institution thing, no surprises here.

    Net neutrality, MIT neutrality, Dog Neutrality.

    It's difficult, you can't judge!

  6. The Dude
    Flame

    shared responsibility

    Under the circumstances, it is nonsense to say that he is completely responsible for his own death, or (worse) to say that his grieving father is responsible. It is simply a fact that being attacked by agents of the government, with the huge imbalance of power and vastly smaller resources for defense, can (and frequently does) cause depression, anxiety, and for some people that will lead to suicide. In such circumstances, it is not possible to predict exactly who will and who won't, but it is quite possible to predict that some will.

  7. Homer 1 Silver badge

    Not neutral.

    I hate to point out the obvious, but calling the police to apprehend and charge someone with a "crime" is far from "neutral", especially when said party then disingenuously claims they had no intention of pursuing charges.

    That's more along the lines of "We don't like him, let's crucify the bugger, then pretend we had nothing to do with it."

    Inadvertently overloading a server, by harvesting a large number of otherwise legally obtained files, should be not be classified as a "crime" in any civilized society. At worst that's nothing more than a civil dispute.

    But then I've long since given up any realistic expectation of America being civilized.

    1. Don Jefe
      Unhappy

      Re: Not neutral.

      Prosecutors build their resumes and future political capital by throwing the biggest possible charges at people. If the prosecutors office had not tried to squash Swartz her current and future political opposition would have nailed her as being 'soft'. Collateral damage isn't an issue to prosecutors, as long as they look 'tough' on crime.

      The justice system in this country is terribly broken. I don't know how to improve it, but what we have now is insanely ineffective at everything except lining the pockets of a select few.

      1. asdf Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Not neutral.

        >The justice system in this country is terribly broken

        Not it isn't. It functions exactly as it is intended. Innocent until proven broke.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not neutral.

          Strange that this is downvoted. I guess some people have never had a free and frank discussion with any US lawyers on how the system works.

          Yes, there are some excellent lawyers in the US, but they tend to be the ones that drive beat up Honda Accords rather than Porsches.

      2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Not neutral. @Don

        I'm starting a new campaign, "Let's go soft on crime." Will you vote for me?

        Paris, because she's the closest thing the world has to an irony icon.

      3. Paul Smith

        Re: Not neutral.

        To fix the US judicial system, just replace politicians with professionals. You don't elect judges, juries or defence attorneys, why elect prosecuters?

    2. deadmonkey

      Re: Not neutral.

      "I hate to point out the obvious, but calling the police to apprehend and charge someone with a "crime" is far from "neutral""

      "MIT did not ask for charges to be brought"

      1. Don Jefe
        Unhappy

        Re: Not neutral.

        In many U.S. states the 'victim' is not required to press charges in order for the prosecution to charge someone.

        What's really odd/sad about all that is that domestic abuse cases generally aren't prosecuted if the victim doesn't press charges. An abused woman can get the shit beat out of her, over and over, and the prosecution just shrugs and moves on. Do something, basically harmless, that grabs headlines and they'll go to extreme lengths to prosecute you as hard as possible.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not neutral.

          In domestic abuse, the prosecution needs a witness. If that witness - the victim - is unwilling (scared or cowed) to speak (or will defend the abuser) then going ahead with the case makes little sense.

  8. asdf Silver badge

    Obama love

    Carmen Ortiz is yet another Obama lackey who much like Holder got where she is today by who she knows not what she knows. Obama's administration in this regard has been as bad as W Bush's. The worthless broken US political system claims another victim.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Obama love

      Heckuva job Brownie I mean Carmen.

  9. ecofeco Silver badge
    Big Brother

    >"Having now read Abelson's report, it is clear that MIT in fact played a central role in Aaron's suicide," Robert Swartz said. "MIT made numerous mistakes that warrant further examination and significant changes. MIT was not neutral in the legal case against Aaron. Whether MIT was neutral or not is a red herring: the university had a moral obligation to advocate on Aaron's behalf."

    If true, then this is a problem.

    But as one poster has put it, "what a bloody surprise they were cleared".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "the university had a moral obligation to advocate on Aaron's behalf."

      Rubbish.

      The university has a moral obligation to education its students. Swartz wasn't an MIT student, but someone abusing his guest network privileges as a political gesture. Swartz broke the law and did something pretty dumb.

      MIT has no obligation to defend people who break laws it doesn't like. If you think it does, you have the political maturity of a 7 year old.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Obviously you missed the chance to have someone 'education' yourself. I can see why you would have such low expectations.

  10. Grikath Silver badge

    If you need 182 pages...

    To prove you've had "really nothing to do with it" , you just know there's a graveyard of skeletons in the closet.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What goes around...

    ...eventually comes around. If you can't do the time then don't do the crime. Swartz was a candy ass who wasn't man enough to take his punishment for his crimes. Boo Hoo for him. He was just an arse wipe.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: What goes around...

      Over the top.

      0/10 would not troll with.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The MIT report reflects the intellectual confusion of its author, a strong supporter of the ideology that brainwashed Aaron from an early age (13).

    MIT does not have a moral obligation to defend some random student after they've broken the law. Swartz was not even an MIT student.

    Time for the family to accept what happened and move on. They are really beginning to sound deranged now. Let it go, Mr Swartz.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    responsibility

    This seems to fall on the definition of the relationship between Swartz and the Uni.

    if only a guest, then does the university have any more obligation than it would have under general health and safety - to keep the guest from harm? But if a hypothetical guest sets a fire but suffers injury as a result, are the hosts to blame?

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