The Pardu

The Pardu
Watchful eyes and ears feed the brain, thus nourishing the brain cells.
Showing posts with label MIT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MIT. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

House Oversight Committee Letters Holder on Aaron Swartz Prosecution

Representatives Cummings and Oversight Committee Chair Issa

Huff Post - Politics and other media are reporting Congressional Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa, and Ranking Member, Elijah Cummings have written and co-signed a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder. The letter, linked below, relates to prosecution of Aaron Swartz who was under investigation for intellectual property violations.

Aaron Swartz Case Draws Letter To Eric Holder From Darrell Issa, Elijah Cummings

Posted:   |  Updated: 01/28/2013 9:41 pm EST

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. 

Swartz violations of Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer systems:  Linked I,  Linked II  

We have read reports indicating a local prosecutor was not interested in pursuing criminals charges against Swartz.   As reported world-wide and included in the  screeds linked above, after the US Department of Justice entered the case Swartz's committed suicide. For brevity sake and to avoid redundancy, let's move beyond Aaron Swartz's untimely death earlier this month.  

Issa and Cummings's letter to Eric Holder opens a new chapter in the Swartz tragedy.  Questions about the severity and scope of the prosecution are critical, if the request for investigation are sincere and focused on avoiding future similar problems.  If Issa is again seeking opportunity to 'go after'  Eric Holder, the letter and its subsequent actions pale in significance.

Since, we have not yet formed an opinion of the letter's ultimate purpose and intent, we will withhold further comment.

As you know comment will ensue, once we get a handle on "where it all leads".

The House Oversight Committee Letter.

We will admit the letter includes questions that appear relevant and serious in purpose and scope.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz: The Chronology Of An Untimely and Unnecessary Suicicde

The following was a difficult piece for The Progressive Influence (TPI) to develop and publish. We did not know Aaron Swartz; we certainly know and use the tools (for lack of a more expedient word)  he helped to mastermind and promulgate   You use some those tools on a daily basis if you visit the internet "on the daily."  We use his tools throughout each and everyday as we strive to publish information people may wish to read.  We also may never know the extent to which the young genesis made our lives better via his commitment to advancing 'free and open" internet access and freedom of information.     

We worked to shorten this screed via linkage and via short excerpts. The topic, however, does not lend itself to a short information burst. 

Many serious internet users, bloggers, hackers, hackvist, and serious computer enthusiast are familiar with Aaron Swartz. The young programmer/technologist and data genius contributed significantly to the state of advance internet based communication we cherish and enjoy daily. Factually, speaking I have posted below a piece that thanks to Swartz's worked with Creative Commons Licensure, I can with regard for violating copyright laws.   

As you probably already know, Aaron Swartz took his life last Friday in his Brooklyn, NY., apartment.

The following excerpt is from a linked LA Times article about the young genius. 

Aaron Swartz dies at 26; Internet folk hero founded Reddit

Swartz, who was accused of stealing nearly 5 million articles from an MIT archive and was set to be tried in February, was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment.
Aaron Swartz obituary
Aaron Swartz, shown in 2009, had written on his blog about his history of depression. (Michael Francis McElroy, Associated Press / January 30, 2009)

By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times

January 12, 2013, 7:26 p.m.
Aaron Swartz, who co-founded Reddit and became an Internet folk hero for fighting to make online content free to the public, committed suicide Friday. He was 26. 
Swartz hanged himself in his Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment, said a statement released by his family and his girlfriend. 
"Aaron's commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life," the statement said. "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." 
On his blog, Swartz had written of his history of depression. 

He was a Harvard University fellow studying ethics when he was charged in 2011 with stealing nearly 5 million articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
He faced 13 felony charges, including wire fraud, computer fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer. Prosecutors said he intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites. 

Daniel Ellsberg testifies about the Pentagon
Papers at a Senate subcommittee
meeting on May 16, 1973. (AP)
Access to information is becoming a critical consideration of modern life. Quests for information can be illustrated no better than the Watergate break-in  via Richard Nixon's C.R.E.E.P. team (Committee to Re-Elect The President).  The C.R.E.E.P. Teams efforts to steal information from Daniel Ellsberg's  (A former Pentagon official turned anti-war activist) Pentagon Papers marked a seminal episode in US History.  The Pentagon Papers and efforts to secure illicit copies shaped American history and  the Executive Branch of the federal government throughout  the late 1960s to early 1970s due to inclusion of secret information regarding US involvement in Viet Nam. It can be said the the quest for the Papers contributed to the first resignation of an American President.

The Pentagon Papers

Radio Boston WBUR Dot Org (Pentagon Papers)
First leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971, when the New York Times published a series of reports based on the papers on June 13 of that year, Americans learned the truth behind the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. The Times’ articles triggered a constitutional crisis over freedom of the press and a series of legal battles with the Nixon administration that culminated in a Supreme Court victory for the Times.
The  Pentagon Papers and efforts to secure them contributed to revelations about the Nixon administration and led to Executive Branch malfeasance unmatched in US History until the Bush Administration years of 2000 - 2008. 

 Little did the world know our future included a thing called the Internet. An access and information media that would provide opportunity for securing, storing and retrieving information, access to millions who use the internet, and research potential never before afforded mankind. Complete understanding of the Internet and use of all things cyber  remains an object of incomprehension for most people. On the other hand, mastery of the tool, and associated media, is the world of the few who truly have the mental capacities, competence and interest as did Aaron Swartz. 

Swartz apparently was committed to "free and open" internet and information access.  "Free and open" access to information is a serious concern for some entities (and people). Such entities find "free and open" dangerous  and in some cases I can certainly see their point (e.g., National security and proprietary rights). Aaron Swartz found out the level of seriousness after he was charged for alleged illegal entry and access of computer systems at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT).  In July 2011, he was charged with wire fraud and computer fraud.  Judgments of his alleged infractions are subject to one's personal thoughts, values and opinions.  I may show a bit of naivety and a bias or two, but in some cultures skills as those posses by Swartz are used to advance technology for purpose of national security (Both offensively and defensively).  We can rest assured the US has competent professionals who work in areas of internet security and research of internet technology, but we feel there can never be too much or too many bases of technological competence as mankind moves farther into the Information Age. 

Cyber Warfare, Hot Coffee and How To Earn Millions By Making China Scary

It goes without saying that in some countries such talents and gifts could serve the nation based on conscription and in other cases as a privilege with associated rewards. Do we "eat" our young and talented?  Imagine a scenario where talent such as that of Swartz could be utilized to make the nation more secure or advance US technology wherewithal.  Why do such cases have to end in judicial systems that factually and regularly mishandle cases? Was the Swartz prosecution payback as alluded to be some? We do not know. 

Of course, the Swartz cases was not settled and could have resulted in a acquittal or sentencing that could have proved beneficial to all parties. As previously stated, my concern is how could our legal system contribute to a self inflicted terminal act by a citizen, when other countries find ways to channel such skills and energy into helpful causes.

The New York Times
...... in July 2011, he was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading 4.8 million articles and documents, nearly the entire library. 
Charges in the case, including wire fraud and computer fraud, were pending at the time of Mr. Swartz’s death, carrying potential penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.
Laws are laws and they must be enforced.  Government infiltration and sanctioned intrusion into our computing systems and phone systems is a reality. How can a similar intrusion lead to a prosecution that possibly contributed to mental depression that ended in suicide?

MIT responded to the Swartz suicide this past weekend as follows.

AllThignsD Dot Com


Two days after Internet activist Aaron Swartz took his own life, the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has issued a public response and will launch an internal investigation looking into the university’s role in the ordeal which first began in 2010.

“I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many,” wrote president L. Rafael Reif in a statement emailed to members of the press on Sunday. “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”

The university has come under widespread criticism in the wake of Swartz’s death. Swartz was first indicted on charges of computer fraud in 2011, after allegedly downloading approximately 5 million academic papers and files from the online service JSTOR, using MIT’s on-campus network.

While JSTOR eventually dropped the charges against Swartz after he handed over his hard drives, the U.S. attorney’s office continued prosecuting Swartz.

Read More

Used with permission from, a service of Dow Jones & Company, Inc.”

Full text of the L. Rafael Reif letter to the MIT community.transparent

On January 14, the MIT website experienced technical problems that Particl3  asserts could have been the result of hackivist activities. The website also posted a recognition and memorial document in tribute to

Aaron Swartz: Linked image (Click and click again for larger image), Linked Image with full alpha text.

Some sources and Aaron Swartz' family have claimed the young activist is no longer with us due to overzealous prosecution (some would say persecution) via the Justice Department.

On January 12, Mike Isaac of AllthingsD Dot Com published a piece regarding reactions from Aaron Swartz family members.

This morning the DOJ dropped charges against Swartz. The Hill first reported the DOJ action, and pointed out that dropping charges when the defendant is deceased is standard practice.

We can find no words in summary more fitting than the the screed from Voices Of The Square.