Like many others, the news of Aaron Scwartz’s suicide, struck me to the core. Although I didn’t know him personally, I figured I owe it to him to as least put down my thoughts, like he did so many times.
As you traverse the many projects that Aaron was a part of, you quickly see a pattern
“web.py is a web framework for Python that is as simple as it is powerful. web.py is in the public domain; you can use it for whatever purpose with absolutely no restrictions.”
That was his theme: “Its public, use it for whatever you like, no restrictions.” Some might argue a little simple and idealistic, but you know where he stood.
After reading the statement from aaron’s family, combined with Lawrence Lessig’s piece and Alex Stamos, I wanted to see what Carmen Ortiz and the Massachusetts Federal District Attorneys Office had been up to that they have the time to prosecute someone like Aaron. As the DA’s office site says, “U.S. Attorney Ortiz’s top priorities include terrorism and national security, civil rights, and violent and white collar crime reduction – encompassing public corruption, financial and healthcare fraud.”
Foolishly I then assumed we would have publicly available court records that I could see to show that our Justice Department was hard at work busting the public corruption that their site talks about, but I was greeted with this message:
To locate information on a case, please log on to PACER, the U.S. Courts electronic records database. If you do not have a log on ID to PACER, you may register for one. Please note that there is a charge to access the system.
I started to think that the charges brought against Aaron were less about justice, and more about retaliation. Didn’t Aaron try to liberate the PACER information before, for us?
In regard to Aaron’s current charges, Ortiz had previously been quoted as saying, “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars”. At the very least, it shows she has a very archaic way of viewing digital information. It also does not distinguish between someone stealing credit cards to enrich themselves and someone who is trying to distribute information data. Neither JSTOR or MIT were victimized to the tune of 35 years in jail and $1million dollar fine (which is what Aaron was facing). In fact, JSTOR is now starting to liberate some of the same information that Aaron allegedly stole.
What makes more sense is that Carmen Ortiz, Stephen P. Heymann and the US D.A.’s office were out send a message. They dont want government to be open and transparent, and if you try to free public records, or help to keep the internet more open, they are gonna throw the book at you.
No one will know Aaron’s final thoughts. I don’t see how 35 years didn’t play some sort of a role. It was also no secret that Aaron dealt with depression. I hope he is no longer tortured.
Carmen Ortiz and Stephen P. Heymann dont represent me, and I think they should be haunted by his death.
It is a testament to Aaron to see the outpouring of grief the past few days.
Its pretty obvious we all lost someone special.
Marcia Hofmann breaks down the way in which the government was using the CFAA to charge Aaron and how “hacking” laws should be changed.