Aaron Swartz, Tech Prodigy and Internet Activist, Is Dead at 26

By Sam Gustin
Jan. 13, 2013

http://business.time.com/2013/01/13/tech-prodigy-and-internet-activist-aaron-swartz-commits-suicide/

Aaron Swartz, the brilliant young software programmer and Internet activist who inspired awe and reverence from leading figures in the technology world, died in his Brooklyn apartment on Friday, his family said in a statement. New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled the death a suicide by hanging. Swartz was 26 years old.

A computer prodigy, Swartz co-authored an early version of the popular Internet tool RSS at age 14 and would later become an early leader of Reddit, the social website that has become a locus of Internet activism.

A passionate advocate for social justice, Swartz founded the group Demand Progress, which played a crucial role in persuading the U.S. Congress to back down from controversial antipiracy legislation last year.

“Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable — these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter,” his family said in a statement. “Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound and defined his life. 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.”

Swartz believed deeply that information — particularly that which might benefit society — should be made available for free to the public. In 2011, Swartz was indicted on federal data-theft charges for breaking into the MIT computer system and allegedly downloading 4.8 million documents from the subscription-based academic research database JSTOR.

Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. He pleaded not guilty. His trial was set to begin this April.

(MORE: Reddit Co-Founder Aaron Swartz Indicted for Data Theft, Could Face 35 Years in Prison)

In 2008, Swartz wrote a program to download some 20 million pages of legal documents from PACER, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, which charges 10 cents per page for access. Working with other activists, Swartz sought to make the documents available to the public at no charge. The government cracked down on this effort but did not file charges.

Swartz’s efforts to “liberate” information from JSTOR and PACER made him a hero — indeed a legend — among Internet activists. Swartz was an early leader at Reddit, the giant online activist hub that has become a potent force in Internet politics. Reddit was sold to publishing giant Condé Nast in 2006. He later founded the group Demand Progress, which would play a key role in the epic 2011–12 battle between Internet activists and the entertainment industry over controversial antipiracy legislation. (TIME Warner, parent company of TIME, supported the legislation, which was ultimately defeated.)

Swartz, who studied at Stanford University for one year before dropping out, would later become a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, where he worked with Lawrence Lessig, the renowned law professor and activist. Over the years, Swartz worked with Lessig on several major projects, including Creative Commons and Rootstrikers.

“He was brilliant and funny,” Lessig wrote in a blog post Saturday. “A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think?”

(MORE: SOPA Protests Gain Steam as Web Activists Flex Growing Clout)

Swartz wrote candidly and movingly about his struggles with depression and other illnesses. In a 2007 blog post, he described lying in bed for weeks at a time. “Go outside and get some fresh air or cuddle with a loved one and you don’t feel any better, only more upset at being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel,” Swartz wrote. “Everything gets colored by the sadness.”

In a statement, Swartz’s family criticized the way the federal government has handled the JSTOR case. “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” his family wrote. “It is the product of a criminal-justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

News of Swartz’s passing prompted an outpouring of grief from those who knew him well, as well as from the broader technology and Internet community. “Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill and intelligence about people and issues,” Cory Doctorow, co-founder of the technology site BoingBoing, wrote in a heartfelt tribute to Swartz. “I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so.”

Tim Berners-Lee, who is considered the founder of the World Wide Web, wrote on Twitter: “Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”

Swartz’s family and friends have set up a memorial page here.


About the Author


7 Responses to Tech Prodigy and Internet Activist Aaron Swartz found dead at 26, was he assassinated?

  1. Its highly likely that The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists have had this guy assassinated and veiled it with supposed depression which would have been very easy to do. They then get Tim Berners-Lee to flap his gums to aid the cover-up. Why? Tim Berners-Lee is a Mason within The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. The pirates of the Livery are masters of assassination like the Jesuit Order who now control them. Notice Swartz’s past connection to the Nazi (Deutsche Verteidigungs Dienst) Stanford University the home of the American branch of thought reform specialists tied to the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations mastered by the Livery.

    -= The Unhived Mind

    WAS LLYA ZHITOMIRSKIY THE CO-FOUNDER OF DIASPORA ASSASSINATED? [Video]
    http://theunhivedmind.com/wordpress/?p=11027

  2. Obama Regime Orders Computer Genius Aaron Swartz Suicided

    By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers
    January 13, 2013
    http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index1646.htm

    A new Foreign Military Intelligence Main Directorate (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today is saying that one of the United States top computer geniuses, named Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) [photo 2nd left], was, “in all probability,” suicided by forces loyal to the Obama regime seeking to “set an example” for other dissident forces opposed to the American governments continued crackdown on leakers of US secrets.

    According to this report, GRU intelligence analysts tracking the Obama “death squads,” that in the past fortnight have assassinated two prominent American gun support activists, indentified one of these VIPER teams “operating” in the Crown Heights, Brooklyn, section of New York City this past week where shortly afterwards Swartz was discovered dead of an apparent hanging.

    Swartz, this report continues, fits the profile of computer dissidents long targeted by the US; which include Gary McKinnon [photo bottom left], the Scottish systems administrator and hacker who was accused by the US, in 2002, of perpetrating the “biggest military computer hack of all time,” but whose extradition to America was blocked by the UK, and US Army Private Bradley Manning, who stands accused of being the whistle blower behind what is called the WikiLeaks Scandal and whose confinement by the Obama regime prompted Juan E. Mendez, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, to publish a report saying that Manning’s detention conditions had been “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”

    The “crimes” Swartz was being accused of committing by the Obama regime, this report says, were wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer, in relation to downloading roughly 4 million academic journal articles from JSTOR (short for Journal Storage) which is a digital library for American academics founded in 1995.

    The “reality,” however, behind the crimes Swartz was accused of by the Obama regime, and which the US Department of Justice (DOJ) was seeking a 50 year prison sentence and $4 million fine for, according to GRU analysts in this report, was nothing more than this young computer genius putting a computer in a broom closet he neither sought to hide, nor did the owner of the computers he accessed, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) wish to prosecute him for.

    To why Swartz was so feared by the Obama regime can be glimpsed in the writing about him by one of his closest mates, Cory Doctorow, the famous Canadian journalist and co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing, who wrote, “Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues. I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so.”

    Doctorow further noted in his article about Swartz, titled RIP, Aaron Swartz, that this young computer genius may have, also, been targeted by the Obama regime who have been furiously hunting for computer hackers linked in any way whatsoever to Manning.

    Seemingly unbeknownst to the community of American computer experts mourning Swartz today is that his death, should it have, indeed, been orchestrated by the Obama regime as this GRU report suggests, under US law it is completely legal as their President has the right to assassinate anyone he so chooses, in any manner he chooses, all without either charges or trial.

    In fact, in 2010, the Obama regime drafted a secret legal memorandum claiming that the President had the power to order the killing of an American citizen without a trial. Several US officials described this secret memo as a 50-page document drafted by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. This is the same government agency, the WSWS news service reports, that drafted the notorious “torture memos” during the Bush administration, justifying waterboarding and other abuses of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other US military and CIA-run prisons.

    So frightening has the Obama regime become that the Bloomberg news service reported this past October (2012) that, “Eric Holder, attorney general under President Barack Obama, has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.”

    Even worse, and as reported by the Examiner news service, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last month advocating giving Obama “dictatorial powers” and the highly influential American progressive political blog Daily Kos is now openly calling for a “benevolent” Obama dictatorship.

    Falling on deaf ears, however, were President Putin’s warnings to the American people in 2009 wherein he said the US should take a lesson from the pages of Russian history and not exercise “excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence”.

    “In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state’s role absolute,” Putin said during a speech at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.”

    The death of Aaron Swartz, however, shows that once again these Americans, who continually fail to remember the past, are doomed to repeat it.

    January 13, 2012 © EU and US all rights reserved. Permission to use this report in its entirety is granted under the condition it is linked back to its original source at WhatDoesItMean.Com. Freebase content licensed under CC-BY and GFDL.

    • The people behind this article above are based in the intelligence arena in Virginia and most likely the Office of Naval Intelligence. Eat the meat and spit out the bones because these types usually try to the lay the blame away from the real culprits. There is far more to the story of Gary McKinnon’s hacking than meets the eye and we have to ask who was it for? Notice how Privy Councilor, Theresa May has protected McKinnon and guess who this Mason belongs to? Yes she’s a Mason within The Worshipful Company of Marketers. Birds of a feather, flock together and all wearing white gloves and gowns.

      -= The Unhived Mind

  3. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/11/21/presidential-memorandum-national-insider-threat-policy-and-minimum-stand

    The White House

    Office of the Press Secretary
    For Immediate Release
    November 21, 2012
    Presidential Memorandum — National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs

    MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

    SUBJECT: National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs

    This Presidential Memorandum transmits the National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs (Minimum Standards) to provide direction and guidance to promote the development of effective insider threat programs within departments and agencies to deter, detect, and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national security. These threats encompass potential espionage, violent acts against the Government or the Nation, and unauthorized disclosure of classified information, including the vast amounts of classified data available on interconnected United States Government computer networks and systems.

    The Minimum Standards provide departments and agencies with the minimum elements necessary to establish effective insider threat programs. These elements include the capability to gather, integrate, and centrally analyze and respond to key threat-related information; monitor employee use of classified networks; provide the workforce with insider threat awareness training; and protect the civil liberties and privacy of all personnel.

    The resulting insider threat capabilities will strengthen the protection of classified information across the executive branch and reinforce our defenses against both adversaries and insiders who misuse their access and endanger our national security.

    BARACK OBAMA

  4. 14 January 2013 Last updated at 11:31
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21011663

    Aaron Swartz investigation ordered by MIT

    By Zoe Kleinman
    Technology reporter, BBC News

    The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has asked for an internal investigation into its role in Aaron Swartz’s prosecution.

    Web activist and developer Mr Swartz, who killed himself on Friday, was facing hacking charges in the US.

    He was accused of illegally downloading research documents from academic service JSTOR, using MIT networks.

    If found guilty, he could have faced up to 35 years in prison following his trial, scheduled to start next month.

    He could also have had to pay a fine of more than $1m for downloading material from the subscription-only research archive.

    Mr Swartz had intended to plead not guilty to charges of computer fraud and wire fraud.

    Mr Swartz’s family issued a statement stating the actions of both MIT and the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office had contributed to his death.

    “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” they said.

    When Mr Swartz was charged, Massachusetts US Attorney Carmen Ortiz had said: “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”

    On Monday, MIT president L Rafael Reif praised the “brilliant creativity and idealism” of Mr Swartz, 26, who had been an early developer of the Reddit community.

    “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy,” he said in a statement to staff.

    “Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT.”

    He said he had asked his colleague, Prof Hal Abelson, to analyse how MIT had behaved when it had first discovered “unusual activity” on its network in 2010, what decisions it had made and what its options had been at the time.

    “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,” he said.

    Many people have said that the penalties facing Mr Swartz were unfair.

    However, in a blog post, Orin Kerr, a professor of law at the George Washington University Law School, wrote the actions of the prosecutors had been “based on a fair reading of the law”.

    “None of the charges involved aggressive readings of the law or any apparent prosecutorial overreach,” he said.

    “All of the charges were based on established case law.”

    Academics have since taken to Twitter to release their research free in tribute to Mr Swartz, using the hashtag “PDFtribute”.

  5. ‘US justice system rife with intimidation’

    Mon, 14 Jan 2013 06:24:43 GMT
    http://edition.presstv.ir/TextOnly/detail.aspx?id=283435

    The US justice system is “rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” says the family of American activist Aaron Swartz, who was an outspoken critic of the US government and was recently found dead in his apartment.

    “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” said Swartz’s family in a statement.

    Since Friday, when the activist and computer prodigy was found dead in his New York apartment, internet activists have also blamed the US Attorney’s office.

    Before his death, Swartz openly criticized the US and the Israeli regime for launching joint cyber attacks against Iran.

    The blogger was also vocal in criticizing Obama’s “kill list,” a list of individuals who are suspected of terrorism by the US and are listed for targeted killing after final approval by the US president himself.

    Swartz was also critical of the monopoly of information and believed that information should be available to everyone for the benefit of the society.

    The US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts accused the 26-year-old of downloading millions of academic journal articles from the online service JSTOR by using Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s computer network in 2010, to make such articles available to the public.

    Even though, Swartz handed over his hard drives and the charges against him were dropped by the JSTOR, US Attorneys Carmen Ortiz and Steve Heymann, with the support of MIT, continued to pursue the activist’s prosecution.

    “According to the statement by the activist’s family, officials were demanding heavy penalties of more than 30 years in prison and up to USD 1.0 million in fines for Swartz, “to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.””
    The activist’s death comes weeks before he was due in court.

    A petition presented to the White House “for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz” has been set up to remove US Attorney Ortiz and it has already gained almost 10,000 signatures.

  6. Kevin Barrett: Is Obama killing ‘kill list’ critics?

    Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:46PM
    http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/283427.html

    Dr. Kevin Barrett, one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror, has raised questions about the death of Aaron Swartz, a prominent info-warrior and critic of President Obama’s “kill list.”

    “As with so many freemasonic assassinations, including that of ‘DC Madam’ Deborah Jean Palfrey, Swartz was hanged. Naturally the police are calling it suicide,” Dr. Barrett wrote in an article titled “Is Obama killing kill list critics?” published on Veterans Today.

    According to Barrett, “Swartz’s death raises the obvious question: Can you criticize Obama’s barbarian, unconstitutional ‘kill list’ without ending up on it yourself?”

    He wrote, “the problem with Obama’s kill list is that it is targeting good people (like Aaron Swartz) not bad people (like names deleted for reasons of National Security). The bad people are the ones running the kill list. They are the ones who should be (remainder of sentence deleted for reasons of National Security).”

    Barrett explained that “So let me hereby state that I am not only an inveterate opponent of Obama’s kill list, I am so angry about it that I would support putting an end to it by any means, including (remainder of sentence deleted for reasons of National Security). So shoot me.”

    “Please note that I’m a practicing Muslim, so suicide is out of the question,” he said.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    Swartz was openly critical of the White House’s policy of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Now it’s being reported that the founder of the message board site, Reddit, loudly voiced his disapproval of the White House’s “kill list”. Gather.com

    “Every week or so, more than 100 members of the U.S. national security team gather via secure video teleconference run by the Pentagon and go over the biographies of suspects in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, and “nominate” those who should be targeted in the attacks,” Swartz once wrote on his blog. The New York City medical examiner deemed the death suicide by hanging, but there are still so many questions about the mysterious tragedy. Gather.com

    Two days after Swartz killed himself in the face of charges he stole journal articles from MIT, university President L. Rafael Reif said the university will start an internal investigation into its role in Swartz’s prosecution. suntimes.com

    Swartz faced 35 years in prison for stealing 4.8 million scholarly journal articles and documents from subscription-only archive JSTOR. The articles were stored on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network. suntimes.com

    JSTOR later dropped charges against Swartz and chose to open the archives to the public for free on a limited basis. suntimes.com

    “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,” Reif said in the statement issued Sunday. “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.” suntimes.com

    In a statement Saturday, Swartz’s family in Chicago expressed bitterness toward federal prosecutors pursuing the case against him in Massachusetts. Newsday

    “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death,” they said. Newsday

Leave a Reply