WASHINGTON -- The top Republican and top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee sent a joint letter late Monday to Attorney General Eric Holder posing pointed questions about the prosecution of Internet pioneer and political activist Aaron Swartz.
Swartz committed suicide this month after fighting federal hacking charges for two years. The letter from Issa and Cummings is the first clear bipartisan response to Swartz's prosecution, heavily criticized by computer and criminal justice experts as unwarranted and excessive. Swartz would have faced up to 35 years in prison if convicted of hacking charges stemming from mass downloads of academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR. Although Swartz had legal access to all of the articles, he was accused of violating the database terms of service by downloading so many at once. JSTOR had opposed his prosecution.
Issa has championed Internet freedom causes in recent years, and was one of the first Republican lawmakers to speak out against the Stop Online Piracy Act. Swartz was a leading opponent of SOPA.