Target: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
Goal: Release all pertinent information to the Department of Justice’s prosecution of Aaron Swartz
About one year ago a young online activist and website co-founder named Aaron Swartz committed suicide because, according to those close to him, he was being relentlessly persecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Swartz was attempting to break into MIT servers in order to disseminate academic journals around the internet for free. This was a non-violent crime committed in order to serve others, yet Swartz was hounded like a terrorist by the U.S. government until he felt like he couldn’t go on living.
Several Congresspeople have repeatedly demanded that the Department of Justice open its files on Aaron Swartz, to determine if the department went too far with its prosecution. The Department of Justice has not released any substantive information yet, and although statements from Attorney General Eric Holder claim that the department’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz had nothing to do with his exercise of free speech, a new statement from Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann purports that it was actually the support Mr. Swartz drew from activism websites that triggered the department’s reaction.
The point is that although Mr. Swartz broke the law, he was pursued like a traitor or a terrorist for something that didn’t cause any harm to anybody. In fact, what Mr. Swartz wanted to do was increase public access to scientific information; he wasn’t after personal wealth and he certainly didn’t try to harm anyone. The complete overreaction by the Department of Justice is just part of the same panic that surrounds internet freedom: our government is terrified of individuals using the full power of the internet, when we should actually be celebrating that power. Sign the petition to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder finally explain the ridiculous persecution of Aaron Swartz.
Dear Mr. Holder,
About one year ago a young internet activist named Aaron Swartz killed himself because, according to those close to him, he was being relentlessly persecuted by the Department of Justice for a relatively minor crime. There is no denying that his attempt to release academic files from a private server was illegal, however it wasn’t done out of maliciousness or for personal gain, and yet he was pursued like a violent terrorist.
Numerous Congresspeople have demanded the release of information about this case, and so far the Department of Justice has not followed through. If your pursuit of Mr. Swartz was entirely legal and appropriate then there should be no issue with releasing this information. If for whatever reason this case implicates wrongdoing on the part of the Department of Justice, then those responsible must be held accountable. Please open the files on Aaron Swartz and release the information to Congress, if not the public at large.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: quinnums via Flickr