Via Glenn Greenwald:
Massachusetts’ U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Heymann are under fire for their office’s abusive conduct in the two-year prosecution of Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old Internet activist who killed himself last Friday. Just before his death, prosecutors rejected a plea offer and threatened to take Swartz to trial on 15 trumped-up felony counts, carrying a maximum penalty of 50 years in federal prison. What did he do? He was accused of retrieving over four million academic journal articles from the JSTOR database (he was allowed to access JSTOR, but not to perform a bulk download). That doesn’t even meet the definition of computer hacking – it was a terms of service violation at most.
Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial. At Swartz’s funeral in Chicago on Tuesday, his father flatly stated that his son “was killed by the government.”
…A petition on the White House’s website to fire Ortiz quickly exceeded the 25,000 signatures needed to compel a reply, and a similar petition aimed at Heymann has also attracted thousands of signatures, and is likely to gather steam in the wake of revelations that another young hacker committed suicide in 2008 in response to Heymann’s pursuit of him (You can [and I hope will] sign both petitions by clicking on those links; the Heymann petition in particular needs more signatures).
…This is not just prosecutorial abuse. It’s broader than that. It’s all part and parcel of the exploitation of law and the justice system to entrench those in power and shield themselves from meaningful dissent and challenge by making everyone petrified of the consequences of doing anything other than meekly submitting to the status quo.
In a bill called “Aaron’s Law,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) aims to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which Massachusetts prosecutors used to charge Swartz… In a statement on Reddit, Rep. Lofgren said she wants to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) in order to “prevent what happened to Aaron from happening to other Internet users.” Lofgren, who represents Silicon Valley, is an outspoken voice on technology issues in the U.S. Congress.