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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Big Brother

You're going to prison ... the only question is, for how long?

It's fairly common knowledge that approx. 95% of the felony convictions in the U.S. are obtained through "plea bargains," wherein the prosecution holds a huge club over the head of the accused. Plea bargaining has several times been praised as an "efficient response" to a jammed-up criminal court system. (It's even descended to the level of defending oneself in traffic court; I was once threatened with a plea bargain while fighting a wrongful charge of reckless driving. The case was dismissed when the complaining party was sent back to state prison for parole violation, and they wouldn't release him for a traffic court appearance.)

It is easy to visualize Ms. Ortiz saying, "Make it easy on yourself ... plead guilty, and take the 6 months sentence in a medium-security lockup; or go to trial. Be advised, however ... that if you insist on taking this to trial, we will press the Court for maximum sentence, which could be 50 years and $1,000,000 in fines."

Somehow everyone glosses over the fact that accepting the plea bargain also has the consequence of 1.) becoming a felon and losing most civil rights of citizenship for life, and 2.) guaranteeing that you will never be able to hope for a retrial or submit an appeal (after all, you willingly pleaded 'guilty,' right?

Isn't that extreme pressure of a sort that could push a depressive personality over the edge? Have you ever laid awake at night, all night long, night after night, with the prospect of a felony conviction and most of your life in prison, which in America means being repeatedly sodomized and brutalized, foremost in your mind? That is a type of mental torture that will unhinge most people ... especially if they believe themselves to be innocent.

Most Americans now live in silent fear of the U.S. justice system. We all know that no middle-class American (the few that are left in this shrinking class) can possibly afford to defend themselves in a court trial of any consequence. Better to run one's car into a bridge abutment at 90 mph and let the surviving spouse and kidlets collect the life insurance, than go bankrupt and homeless trying to defend against an over-zealous prosecutor.

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Facepalm

The Immutable Stars And The Fawltless American Justice System

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793

This law put fugitive slaves at risk for recapture all their lives. It also classified children born to fugitive slave mothers as slaves and the property of the mother's master, for all their lives. So in 1850 Congress passed The second Fugitive Slave Act. This law mandated that states to which escaped slaves fled were obligated to return them to their masters upon their discovery and subjected persons who helped runaway slaves to criminal sanctions. It imposed a duty on all citizens to assist federal marshals to enforce the law or be prosecuted for their failure to do so. Persons convicted of violating the act were often heavily fined, imprisoned, or both.

If Obama's great, great grandpappy helped a fugitive slave escape, Carmen Ortiz would have thrown his felonious ass in jail.

And if Eric Holder's great, great grandpappy fled to Boston and was captured, Carmen Ortiz would have shipped his criminal butt back to Georgia on the midnight train.

The CFAA did not come down from Sinai, Carmen. It was made by the Congress of the US which doesn't even have an approval rating of 20% and is bought and paid for by large American corporations.

The first Fugitive Slave Law was signed by George Washington and the states fought a war over it. Some laws are just shitty from the get go. It helps to know which ones they are. A sense of morality, ethics and justice is essential to your work. You should take a refresher course in them.

A draft bill to exclude terms of service violations from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Some one should introduce a draft bill excluding the clueless lawyers like you from holding the office of US Attorney.

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Pint

Re: The Immutable Stars And The Fawltless American Justice System

Well said! I wish I could give you more upvotes. Have a pint instead!!

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Innocent until proven guilty?

Hello, anyone out there in the land-of-the-free(c) heard of this? Anyone? Doesn't seem so.

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Re: Innocent until proven guilty?

I always thought it was: Innocent unless proven guilty ?

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: Innocent until proven guilty?

> I always thought it was: Innocent unless proven guilty ?

Used to be, Citizen. Used to be...

Vic.

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Megaphone

Guantanamo. Bay.

That is all.

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I wouldn't dare visit America!

As a retired Englishman I would love to visit America but I dare not. My perception is that in America a person can be charged with almost any "crime" and even if innocent, is faced with an almost impossible choice; to admit guilt or, even if proved innocent, to have there life ruined, if only financially. It does not appear to be a justice system at all. Pehaps some American citizen can put me straight on any misconception I might have?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I wouldn't dare visit America!

Overreact much?

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Silver badge

Re: I wouldn't dare visit America!

"Overreact much?"

OOh! Are you one of the Popular Girls?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I wouldn't dare visit America!

America is best thought of as 50 separate legal systems, with an overarching federal legal system. You find extremely liberal legal systems in some states and very conservative in others.

For instance in Washington and Colorado Cannabis is legal, in California it may as well be, but in Georgia you're going down for a five year stretch if you get caught with even a little baggie. Having said that, my experience of Georgia is that when a friend of mine got pulled over for speeding and presented a UK driving licence the copper just waived him on having clearly mentally worked out the extra paperwork involved. New York is full of Coppers, but they all seemed rather nice, Boston likewise. Now, having said that the customs guys in Boston and New York were complete arseholes and the guys in Atlanta were really nice.

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Silver badge

Right Down to the Nitty Gritty and an Inconvenient Truth, Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

The following asks a valid enough question, and until answered properly will remain forever as the elephant in the room, which extraordinarily renders the law and justice an ass, and the preserve of crooks, in the USA?

More than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Are Wall Street executives "too big to jail"? In The Untouchables, premiering Jan. 22, 2013, at 10 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE producer and correspondent Martin Smith investigates why the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to act on credible evidence that Wall Street knowingly packaged and sold toxic mortgage loans to investors, loans that brought the U.S. and world economies to the brink of collapse. Through interviews with top prosecutors, government officials and industry whistleblowers, FRONTLINE reports allegations that Wall Street bankers ignored pervasive fraud when buying pools of mortgage loans. Tom Leonard, a supervisor who examined the quality of loans for major investment banks like Bear Stearns, said bankers instructed him to disregard clear evidence of fraud. "Fraud was the F-word, or the F-bomb. You didn't use that word," says Leonard. "By your terms and my terms, yes, it was fraud. By the [industry's] terms, it was something else." – PBS .... http://www.thedailybell.com/28606/Root-For-Wall-Street-to-Go-to-Jail

Do you agree or is the reality and perception different?

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Re: Right Down to the Nitty Gritty and an Inconvenient Truth, Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

Dangerously coherent, amfM1.

I dare say everyone who pays attention knows that prosecution is selective. That's another effect of the adversarial system and the payoff matrix that results from it - prosecutors don't want to take cases that have a high probability of a poor ROI (where the investment is in the prosecutor's time and reputation, and the office's resources, and the return is in reputation and prospects for promotion). That's why the State pursues a great many low-profile cases that don't individually count for much (except to the defendants) but can be settled quickly and almost always in the State's favor, and only the occasional high-profile case where there seems to be a good chance of success or the promise of a career-making reward.

I find it worrisome that this would come as a surprise to anyone with sufficient education and leisure time to read the Reg, aside from those with no interest whatsoever in the US justice system (and if you're reading this article, that doesn't include you).

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Lack of specialist knowledge?

Isn't part of the problem that the law, the people who make the law and the people enforce the law, somewhat behind the curve when it comes to technology? I think sometimes they fear what they don't understand and therefore do what the fearful normally do, break out the big guns to ward off danger.

There needs to be a group that specialises not only in law but also who have access and understand the world in which they operate. What Swartz did wasn't bright. That data, no matter how he objected to it's use (and there is a strong argument against how it was being used, but that's a septate argument), was not his to take in the way he did. However the 'victim' understood his argument and declined to press charges once the data was returned. That should have been the end of it. However the state fears people with skills they cannot understand, so they feel the need to control them. It's this fear that needs to be conquered. Once it is understood then maybe the over-reactions will stop.

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Mushroom

Re: Lack of specialist knowledge?

Quite so, The FunkeyGibbon, a distinct and paralysing lack of specialist knowledge indeed.

And here is another take on the problem and its possible solution ......

Posted by amanfromMars on 01/24/13 02:28 AM …. on Elite Depression at Davos

Nice succinct post, bob [Posted on 01/23/13 11:46 PM] which renders the current present reality/virtual reality in all of its faded glory.

With regard to your parting question and answer, "Is there a peaceful and 'civilized' way out of the situation we find ourselves in? I don't think so." is not ….. "Solutions are always much better engineered and distributed down from the top to the people so that they do not think about raising their voices over concerns which have not been but need to be addressed, for invariably at the top are there the more intelligent folk with control of all of the necessary assets to bring about change. Whenever it is not so, is it intelligence which is missing at the top ….. but that is easily bought and brought in, isn't it, in order to retain and maintain continuing power.

One certain thing which you can be sure of, is that intelligence needed and available will always seek out those who need it for IT Command and Control of the masses, so that they are helped in their endeavours which shape the future." …. a peaceful and 'civilized' way out of the situation we find ourselves in?

And quite perfect, methinks, for the likes of a Davos/Bilderberger/Jekyll Island Club meeting/Highlander Gathering :-) ……. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortal_%28Highlander%29

And I invoke Poe's Law on this post :-) ……. which is common enough means of maintaining a measure of security in these expanding and ever more tactically important and strategically vital virtual spaces which are increasingly being trawled for that which is required on Earth for the future.

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Linux

Expect more of this...

We in the US can only expect more of this for the foreseeable future. The Obama administration has expressed the desire to continue to continue the transformation of the US into a Stalinist Worker's Paradise. A completely unnecessary TSA is expanding its reach to train stations and the highway system. Drones, on the order of 30k of them, will soon be over our skies. Selective prosecution of anything the regime doesn't like is our future here.

Our indoctrination continues, we will be taught to obey. We must not question Beloved Leader, for he alone knows what is good for us. Heil Obama!

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Silver badge

Re: Expect more of this...

Are you completely bonkers?

Swartz was into collectivising works, he has a manifesto out that calls for the collectivisation of all culture, which was pretty much a Soviet ideology.

http://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt

Perhaps he could have got off due to lack of maturity.

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Re: Expect more of this...

It wasn't Obama who put you into Iraq or oversaw the biggest financial crash since 1926, or who introduced PATRIOT.

While I agree that the US' growing paranoia about everything being a threat that needs to be answered with overwhelming force, whether it be invasions, guns or judicial over-reach is "a bad thing", the suggestion that Obama is responsible for it is just peurile bollocks.

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From here: http://harpers.org/blog/2013/01/carmen-ortiz-strikes-out/

"The question remains why the DOJ targeted Swartz to such an extent. The DOJ insists that the case grew entirely out of his prank at MIT, and the timeline supports this claim. However, those facts supply no meaningful rationale for their prosecutorial vendetta. On the other hand, Swartz aggressively opposed theories, pioneered by prosecutors like Heymann and Ortiz, that were designed to make the DOJ into a cyberspace police force with power to act against anyone who provoked their concern. He provided articulate, effective opposition, and regularly trumped DOJ initiatives in forums that offered fair debate. His vision of cyberspace placed a premium on the empowerment of individuals and their free access to information — offering an essential updating of the Enlightenment values of the American founders that was sharply at odds with the Justice Department’s schemes. The DOJ values secrecy over publicity, the property rights of corporations over the rights of authors and inventors, and puts a premium on the power of the state to silence voices on the Internet that it views as a threat. Their objective was clearly not to kill Swartz, but they did want to silence him by stigmatizing him and locking him away in prison."

That sounds about right. If you agree, then you can put your name to this petition. You'd think that the author of such a petition might at least proof read and edit the thing, but no, apparently. Any petition with a sufficient number of signatures has to be answered by the Whitehouse, so even if the petition itself doesn't get her fired, it will provide political support for the Congressmen calling for an investigation and a slap-down of the Department of Justice.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck

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Anonymous Coward

Sign this confession...

"Sign this confession or else we put you on the rack and torture you to death"

"Sign this confession or else we put you in maximum security to be sodomized and brutalized for 50 years"

One was in the middleages, the other today. I don't see any difference in these two statements whatsoever.

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Gimp

Jesus H Christ

I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition...

'Monty Python'

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Anonymous Coward

his choice to commit a crime. whether i think the crime he commited should have been a crime or not is fairly irrelevant, it still was.

and i equally dont care that the victim declined to press charges. afterall, once you stop prosecutions because the victim doesnt want to (or can't) continue to press charges, you open the way to people just buying off victims (or intimidating them) to call them off. which actually, i suspect has happened here. not directly by swartz, but you can't say that JSTOR wernt being threatened by all the angry internet folk on his behalf.

he chose to commit a crime. he was offered a plea bargain. he chose to commit suicide to get out of jail time.

you can't deliberately commit an act of civil disobedience and then cry when people treat you as though you have. sorry.

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I'll say it again; Innocent until proven guilty

He was never convicted of a crime. so he is not guilty. That is the law.

If you don't like that law then you are free to campaign against it. Oh no wait... you can't can you because the state would accuse you of commuting a crime and you would, by default, be guilty.

Arse.

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Anonymous Coward

funny isnt it - Swartz is innocent until proven guilty.

but Ortiz is, apparently, guilty already of having driven Swartz to commit suicide. by daring to TRY and prove him guity.

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"daring to TRY and prove him guilty."

Guilt is proven in a court of law. If there was any kind of impetus towards a court of law I would agree.

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Pirate

This is why some prosecutors like having the death penalty on the books

It expedites things.

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Anonymous Coward

JSTOR material was returned?

"Both JSTOR and MIT, whose network was allegedly used in the download, declined to press charges after the material was returned"

I was under the impression this was a technology site, but do please explain how someone can return records stored as electronic media.

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Anonymous Coward

Not a savior

Swartz was a problem child and we see how his life ended. He created his own problems, no one else. Idolizing this guy is ignorant and a waste.

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Holmes

Hm. This could be interesting.

"Aaron Swartz case prompts letter to US attorney general from congressmen

Republican Darrell Issa and Democrat Elijah Cummings ask whether level of Swartz's prosecution was 'appropriate'" The Guardian Jan 29

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