back to article Swartz suicide won't change computer crime policy, says prosecutor

The aggressive prosecution of computer crimes won't be changed in light of the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, a spokeswoman for Boston US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has said. "Absolutely not," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pressing further

    When pressed further on the issue, Ortiz said

    "I mean come ON - we were able to hound somebody until they KILLED themselves. Not only is that a real example of judicial economy - we don't have to bother with a trial now! - but we can now use that when we lean on anybody else! Think of how many 'confessions' we'll get! Think of how many people we can turn on their friends! 'Are you now, or have you ever been, a computer hacker? Do you know any computer hackers? and if so, why did you not notify authorities?' - it positively gives me goosesteps (or is that goosepimples?)!

    And think of all the people who will 'self-censor' - we can cut down on this 'crime' (we really need a new name for it: it takes thinking, maybe thought crime?) just by making everybody fear what happens if we look at them.

    And it's not like this guy was clean - after all, if he had nothing to hide, if he had done nothing wrong, then he had nothing to fear, amirite?"

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Pressing further

      In fact Oritz' behaviour, regardless of whether it is the department's culture or not, could easily come under the FBI's definition of "domestic terrorism" - if it wasn't for the fact that it doesn't apply to themselves.

    2. Grave

      Re: Pressing further

      this is really starting to sound like those cliched movie plots, where "they suicided him"

      [tinfoil hat] i wonder how much investigation went into the supposed "suicides"[/tinfoil hat]

    3. W.O.Frobozz

      Re: Pressing further

      Hounding someone to death...hey they were just following the great example set by that other paragon of US organizations, the IRS...

    4. LarsG


      They finally admit their aggressive stance!

      So this is justice American Style.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: They

        They finally admit their aggressive stance!


        Anyone with even a passing acquaintance of the US judicial system knows that it is adversarial, and that the State[1] explicitly and openly seeks conviction or capitulation. That's how the system is designed. I'm not saying it's a good design, but it is hardly a fucking secret.

        Ortiz's comments here boil down to "yes, I'm going to continue doing the job I am employed to do". We may deplore that job, and condemn Ortiz for performing it or not seeking to change its nature. But she's not announcing some personal vendetta here. And while this is hardly an excuse, if she declined to do it, the US DOJ would lose no time in replacing her with someone who would.

        [1] In the political sense - this applies equally to the Federal government and those of the several states.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They

          < if she declined to do it, the US DOJ would lose no time in replacing her with someone who would.>

          Why should she decline? She's got two suicides under her belt and is getting a reputation from the press for her big pair of balls.

          "Absolutely not," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're going to continue doing the work of the office and of following our mission."

          Remember, if plea bargains cost less than trials, suicides are even cheaper than plea bargains.

          Ortiz is so confident she's in tight with DOJ, she ordered a new strap-on dildo for her next crop of young male hackers.

    5. BillG

      Re: Pressing further

      Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're going to continue doing the work of the office and of following our mission."


      Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "Hey, you think I'm going to admit I did anything wrong? Look, I cruelly hounded this guy to his death. You think I want to make myself look more guilty than I already am? I have political ambitions, bitch!"

  2. Turtle

    4 Simple Points.

    1) What kind of moron thinks that it's a good idea to undermine a non-profit academic archive?

    2) Offering Swartz a 6-month sentence is hardly "bullying".

    3) The blame for any consequences suffered by Swartz as a result of hacking JSTOR belong to the person who hacked JSTOR: Swartz himself.

    4) The people responsible for Swartz' suicide are his family and friends for not intervening in the life of this chronically-depressed individual who has been threatening suicide for years. I am sure that they find comfort in blaming Ortiz but the blame is theirs alone.

    1. Francis Irving

      Re: 4 Simple Points.

      1) One who believes that academic articles funded by the taxpayer, and that are in the public domain, are most effectively used by society as a whole if they are freely available.

      2) Yes it is - he had to plead guilty without trial to the charges to get that much reduced sentence. As far as we can tell, he both wasn't guilty (see 3 below), nor thought he was guilty. You also have to account for the cost of US federal court cases - unlike in the UK, the loser doesn't have to pay costs, and they cost millions.

      3) It's not clear he committed any crime at all - see this account by an expert witness for the trial:

      4) How do you know what intervention they took, or what worked or didn't? Depression is a disease, and by no means a simple one for those suffering or their friends/family. We don't know exactly why Aaron died, however it seems likely to be a combination of clinical depression, along with the circumstances of his prosecution.

      1. Chris007

        Re: 4 Simple Points.@Turtle

        You're an idiot.

        that is all

      2. Tom 13

        Re: point #3

        Any time you take special actions to access a service, YOU KNOW you are breaking the law or at least policy. So do the police. He was guilty and needed to deal with it.

        The theory of civil disobedience to correct perceived wrongs in the law does not absolve one from serving the time for the crime. In fact it rather depends upon it.

        And yes, he alone is responsible for his suicide.

        1. Captain Underpants
          Thumb Down

          Re: point #3

          @Tom 13

          Any time you take special actions to access a service, YOU KNOW you are breaking the law or at least policy. So do the police. He was guilty and needed to deal with it.

          I agree this far.

          The problem is, the providers of the services which he misused didn't want to pursue this. Carmen Ortiz did, and in doing so exercised the same (lack of) thinking that US prosecutions of computer misuse have seen since it's been possible to mount such prosecutions; if anything her idiotic pronouncements about how "stealing is stealing" suggest that she fails utterly to understand either the nature of the issue at hand - that tax-funded research is being moved behind a for-profit paywall without any oversight mechanism or explicit approval of the tax-paying public as a whole - or Swartz's actions - becauseretrieving millions of articles via an automated system to which he had legitimate access via Harvard University is a policy issue, and does not become "theft" until he's actually deprived someone else of access to something, or actively attempted to redistribute all those files in a manner that deprives the rightful owner of the ability to profit from them. Which would likely trigger an awkward discussion about whether research groups allocated funding sourced from taxpayer contributions are assigned the ability to transfer all intellectual property rights to their research barring acknowledgement of authorship to privately-owned journals who charge for access.

          As a sysadmin anyone attempting to misuse systems for naughtyness deserves a slap. I disagree that copyright infringement constitutes a serious computer crime simply because it's done with a computer - that's kind of like saying that hitting someone with a laptop is a computer crime, IMO.

          I would argue that sustained efforts at coercion towards a known sufferer of depression would put at least some responsibility on the shoulders of Ortiz and her office. Ultimately, I doubt we'll get an answer either way. The best we might get out of this is more attention for the case of reforming academic publishing strategies (and ideally a subsequent review of the publication strategy for privately-funded research, since the current method is exceptionally wasteful) and a bit more consideration prior to action on the part of US Attorneys pursuing crimes involving computer misuse.

    2. Captain Underpants

      Re: 4 Simple Points.


      You missed the bit where JSTOR was a repository of research funded by the taxpayer but which, as part of the convoluted mess that is academic publishing & peer review, had seen the IP relating to publication handed over to for-profit journals, with the authors being expected to pay a charge if they want to make their research available through Open Access channels.

      Threatening a 5-decade sentence and then offering a 6-month plea bargain only if he cops to the crimes in such a way that he never gets a trial (which is more accurate than your description), would probably be constituted as bullying by most people - using the threat of an undesirable outcome to force someone into doing something.

      1. Cipher

        Re: 4 Simple Points.

        Agree. The taxpayer funds most of these articles and then has to pay a private party AGAIN to read them. The authors must pay AGAIN for their own work. The entire university publishing system needs to go in the ash can...

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: 4 Simple Points.

        JSTOR was a repository of research funded by the taxpayer

        Many of the journals included in JSTOR are not funded by public revenues (I'll ignore the "by the taxpayer" nonsense), and the same is true of much of the research documented therein. And JSTOR itself is not publicly funded, so while your argument might hold water if Swartz had reproduced articles from the original publications, it fails when applied to JSTOR itself.

        The law in question (USCFAA) is certainly hugely disproportionate, and prosecutions like this are a tremendous waste of public resources. But the provenance of the JSTOR materials, even if you were correct in the source of the funding that led to them, is not a mitigating circumstance.

        This should have been a civil case, not a criminal one, with JSTOR filing suit for violation of terms & conditions, and possibly for tortful loss of income (though that'd be hard to prove). In a fantasy world where a Swartz criminal case went to trial and I was on the jury, I'd vote to nullify,[1] because screw you, Congress, and your idiotic legislation. But I don't pretend that the public-ownership argument (even if it wasn't highly dubious) overturns JSTOR's rights or the law.

        [1] By voting to acquit, since explicit nullification is rarely allowed under jury instructions in the US.

    3. BillG

      Re: 4 Simple Points.

      2) Offering Swartz a 6-month sentence is hardly "bullying".

      Repeat after me:

      Swartz was never offered a 6-month sentence.


      He was never offered a six-month sentence.

      Swartz was never offered a 6-month sentence.

  3. asdf

    Obama administraton

    Ortiz is another life long bureaucrat who played the affirmative action card to get where she is much like Holder himself who is simply the African America Alberto Gonzalez. I sure there are plenty of other very qualified minority candidates out there but they weren't Obama's Chicago buddy going back years or one of his early political supporters. Patronage at it worse. Another heckva job Brownie. Both parties suck.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Obama administraton

      After "life long bureaucrat" this wanders off into the inappropriate. We should not, and hopefully try not to, judge people by ethnicity or race or religion. In a case like this, it draws attention from what should be the real points. The first is that prosecutors generally have a great deal of power and unless they have the internal controls necessary to use it wisely (and sometimes to resist their superiors' demands) risk doing great damage. In this, they are enabled by sometimes crude and overly broad laws such as the CFAA, RICO, and hate crime specifications that allowor even encourage them to elevate relatively minor offenses into major felonies with potential for large fines and lengthy imprisonment. In the short run, the damage is to the individuals who, like Aaron Swartz, are pressured, perhaps, beyond their ability to cope; in the long run the damage is to the legitimacy of the regime, as greater numbers of citizens come to believe the government is unworthy of their trust.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: Obama administraton

        "prosecutors generally have a great deal of power "

        In the US, the criminal code is so complex that one law professor recently estimated that every single US resident is unknowingly breaking 3 criinal laws every day. There are so many statutes on the books that the prosecuters can choose to prosecute the same (presumed) offence under multiple different statutes, hence they can threaten you with many years in jail if a case is ever brought to trial. If a US citizen happens to cross a US attorney, whether they are innocent or not, their choices are (a) confess to something they haven't done and take the 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, whatever of jail time + criminal record (b) Go to a very expensive trial up against practically unlimited resources*, you still have 6 months, 1year, 2 years of hell during the trial. Even if you DO win, you're broke** because the loser does not pay your legal expenses as another poster pointed out, not to mention that you'll have had to give up your job to concentrate on the trial, or that your business is circling the drain because your customers are deliberately being made VERY aware by the prosecution that you are an untrustworthy criminal scum. If you lose, you're in jail for life. No wonder fully 95% of cases are settled by plea bargain in the US. Think about that for a minute - 95%!!!

        * Since 95% of cases are resolved by plea bargain, the prosecuters office can bring huge resources to bear on the 5% that DO go to trial

        **unless, of course, you're mega-rich. Just another way in which, in teh good old 'land of opportunity' and equality, the rich are an uber-class to themselves.

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    ..The aggressive prosecution of computer crimes won't be changed in light of the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, a spokeswoman for Boston US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has said...

    After all, why should it? It's having exactly the effect it is intended to have...

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Probably not having the intended result

      The spotlight on U. S. Attorney Ortiz and her sidekicks Stephen Heymann and Scott Garland are unlikely to have advanced any of their careers either in the Department of Justice or electoral politics. Embarassing your boss and your boss's boss publicly is not often a good thing, particularly when the latter is the President of the U. S.

  5. John Lilburne

    If you can't do the time don't do the crime.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Could you specify the crime?

      And why it deserves the death penalty?

    2. John Sanders
      Thumb Down


      What crime?

      Can anyone exactly describe what the crime was? To deserve 6 months to 30 years?

      Copying files from a server using a script, from unprotected links inside a campus LAN?

      Is that worth going to prison?

      Oh I see this comes from the file-sharing is stealing camp.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WTF

        And your view comes from the it's not stealing if it's not a physical object camp. Just because you can steal something doesn't make it right, you're just trying to justify your unethical behaviour by redefining theft so it doesn't apply to what you steal. Get over it, if it's not yours it's theft.

        1. Dredd

          Re: WTF

          To steal something (i.e. commit an act of theft), one has to deprive another of something. It's a pretty clear distinction. This is why crimes which involve copying cannot be regarded as theft as no-one is deprived, especially not JSTOR where articles could be obtained for free. In fact, he saved them some money on the bandwidth by keeping the traffic local.

          I just wish that Carmen Ortiz could be subjected to absolute micro-scrutiny to see how she likes it. I wish for internet activists to pore over her past in detail unearthing everything they can about her and exposing any dubious activity in her past. Hopefully they'll identify an illegal act from her past and then she can be hauled through the criminal courts, face amplified charges and be hit with a bill for hundreds of thousands in legal fees out of nowhere. I wish.

          Anyway, keep the pressure up, keep calling for her resignation. Schwartz had to put up with 2 years of pressure and uncertainty. It would be nice to apply similar pressure for a similar length of time to Ortiz.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: WTF

            "To steal something (i.e. commit an act of theft), one has to deprive another of something."

            Remuneration. That's not the issue here though.

            Swartz's crime was hacking and trespass. It didn't deserve 30 years, but that's what happens in a plea bargaining system. I'm glad we don't have it here in the UK. His suicide, by its very nature, was self inflicted.

            Nice to see the Reddit brigade are spamming every news website with their indignation though. I was beginning to think you lot were only capable of sharing funny pictures of your cats.

            1. Swarthy

              Re: WTF

              "Swartz's crime was hacking and trespass."

              Except it's not trespass if he had authorization/invitation, which he did. His "Crime" was violating the T&Cs by downloading many (very many) papers in quick succession. He did have authorization to download them, just not to suck up all of their bandwidth for a time.

              I'm still unclear on how this constituted fraud, as (AFAIK) he used his own account or was authorized courtesy of his IP address on the LAN, and he did not re-distribute them. It's a bit like charging someone for fraud for posting on El Reg from work.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: WTF

                He didn't have authorization to access the closet containing the network gear which is the trespass part. He repeatedly and deliberately worked around attempts to boot him off the network which is unauthorised use of a computer network. The T&Cs have nothing to do with it.

                1. PT

                  Re: WTF

                  Sooner or later, the last of these copyright maximalists will die, and then we can move on.

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: WTF

            > This is why crimes which involve copying cannot be regarded as theft as no-one is deprived,


            If I copy a pre-release of the latest Dan Brown manuscript, print a million copies, and sell them before he gets his book out, then by your definition I haven't deprived him of anything. That is clearly nonsense, since I have deprived him of all the income from the million books he will not be able to sell.

            1. Vic

              Re: WTF

              > If I copy a pre-release of the latest Dan Brown manuscript, print a million copies

              ...Then you are not guilty of theft. You are (likely) guilty of copyright infringement.

              It's still an offence - possibly a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances. But it is no more Theft than it is Bestiality[1] or Treason.


              [1] Used for effect; in law, this is actually deemed "Buggery"...

          3. John Lilburne

            Re: WTF

            The issue is interference with a property right. If I come around and dig up your garden I've not deprived you of anything as you still have your garden all be it strewn about the place.

            And besides everyone knows that IP is property.

        2. Vic

          Re: WTF

          > our view comes from the it's not stealing if it's not a physical object camp

          My view, in this case, is that it isn't stealing if he was explicitly permitted to download those articles. Which he was.


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fix that for you

      After the HSBC deal, the bank bailout, the bank foreclosure deal;

      If you don't have the money, don't do the crime.

  6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing will really change till people spill blood on the streets - and it isn't anywhere near the point any reasonable number of otherwise reasonable people would pay that price. As such expect mission creep for the next half century till it is that bad or isn't that bad, depending on which direction small incremental change takes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I concur

      Like the fall of other regimes... Its happening all the time and isn't pretty (Syria?) nor are you guaranteed something better afterwards.

  8. Gannon (J.) Dick

    When all is said and done ...

    The laptop Aaron Swartz used to download the files was no different than laptops sold by the millions every year.

    The difference in sentence was not unlike "crack" cocaine posession by the lesser esteemed members of society versus cocaine hydrochloride (the hip sniff of choice) posession. Anybody with High School Chemistry can tell you the percent of cocaine (free) base in cocaine hydrochloride. That number never varies, and the "war on drugs" does not depend on it changing.

    Here, you have a freely available man-made product (a laptop), and you commit crimes or not if you punch the right/wrong buttons on the thing, and are sentenced by the "severity" of the crime.

    Where Ms. Ortiz goes monsterously wrong is in thinking the USA has an "official" Enemies of the State category of criminal. I am reminded that Josef Stalin first had to define "Kulaks" before he murdered them.

    Massachuetts is not the Ukraine and Ms. Ortiz has not the policy making power of Stalin.

  9. Serge 2

    The witch hunt

    Does this at all remind you of the witch hunt and prosecution of the heretics by the church? History tends to repeat itself.

    This is typical of humanity to hunt those with greater knowledge of things that average pleb is incapable of comprehending. Sentences driven by fear and not logic. There will come a day when we will look back and feel the shame of sheer ignorance and stupidity of our rulling class. The anger that we allowed to be ruled by such pathetic, power hungry and corrupt politicians.

    I am in some ways ashamed to be part of this so called intelligent race...

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      The Wizards' Revenge on Wicked Witch Hunters and Intellectually Challenged Intelligence Communities

      Does this at all remind you of the witch hunt and prosecution of the heretics by the church? History tends to repeat itself.

      This is typical of humanity to hunt those with greater knowledge of things that average pleb is incapable of comprehending. Sentences driven by fear and not logic. There will come a day when we will look back and feel the shame of sheer ignorance and stupidity of our rulling class. The anger that we allowed to be ruled by such pathetic, power hungry and corrupt politicians.

      I am in some ways ashamed to be part of this so called intelligent race… ….. Serge 2 Posted Wednesday 23rd January 2013 00:38 GMT

      Join anonymous ethereal underground parties which share everything they know with everyone they don't know for free …. to be free of the slavery, Serge 2, and use the Surreal Intelligence Services which your Global Operating Devices cannot fail to deliver. It is the route and root which AIMODified Special Forces in Cyber Command and Remote Control of Live Operational Virtual Environments have discovered is impregnable and unstoppable.

      And think not Naff NOOb or Naive Newbie when considering NAAFIntelAIgent Expertise. IT does not grow old and weary at the going down of the sun and in the morning. Forget to remember and honour that with respect for the heroic undead and weep and reap the whirlwind.

    2. nexsphil

      Re: I am in some ways ashamed to be part of this so called intelligent race..

      Sadly it seems that intelligence is not the problem. We allow ourselves to be ruled by crooks because we're cowards. Say anything out of place and you're some kind of -ist. (shudder)

      Better to tow the line, keep your head down and allow ANY twisted shit to go on unchallenged. This is the true face of humanity.

  10. Lars Silver badge

    As far as I have understood

    The six months is just a bluff so convenient now afterwards.

  11. Dr. Ellen

    Business as is becoming usual ...

    It doesn't matter what you did. It doesn't even matter if you did it. The only thing that truly matters is when a prosecutor (or his/her boss) decides you need to be Gotten. Even if you finally make it to court and prevail, you will have wasted years, spent all your money, and probably become somebody your friends no longer recognize.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nolo Cuntendere

    I do not wish to be a cunt.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was of his own choosing

    Swartz took it upon himself to check out early. His choice, but a bad decision, just like hacking. If you can't do the time, then don't do the crime.

    Hating on other people for Swartz's numerous bad decisions is ignorant and won't change a thing. People are forced to take responsibility for their decisions in life, good or bad.

    1. ManxPower

      Re: It was of his own choosing

      Suddenly his story is now on national news and everyone is talking about it. Seems to me like it was a good for his cause.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: It was of his own choosing

        *blink* Dead is dead. and you don't get to fight another day. As for 'national news' well in a months time it will be "Aaron who? Oh yeah him. Yeah sad, pour another beer will you."

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    MAD, Bad and Rad Offices of Pathetic Pathological Disrepute?

    The aggressive prosecution of computer crimes won't be changed in light of the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, a spokeswoman for Boston US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has said.

    "Absolutely not," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "We thought the case was reasonably handled and we would not have done things differently. We're going to continue doing the work of the office and of following our mission."

    Hmmm. Some folk, Ms Ortiz, are just no good at thinking and a real danger to themselves and everyone else around them ……

    22 January 2013. In a telephone chat today with Andy Greenberg, Forbes technology reporter, we explained that we had no evidence Aaron Swartz downloaded these files which Cryptome obtained on December 16, 2010 from Torrent via unidentified sources. Aaron's name is credited to indicate support for his Open Access Manifesto, to join innumerable others who are answering the call to liberate information, above and below ground. We advised Andy to avoid dramatization of Aaron and to dig more deeply into the widely-based Open Access movement and the Creative Commons with whom Aaron closely worked. We offered the opinion that the US Attorney was likely applying the long-established prosecutorial tactic of squeezing Aaron by threatening a long sentence and promising a shorter one to implicate others and that he courageously refused. …. todays banner intro on Cryptome

  15. Gray
    Big Brother

    You're going to prison ... the only question is, for how long?

    It's fairly common knowledge that approx. 95% of the felony convictions in the U.S. are obtained through "plea bargains," wherein the prosecution holds a huge club over the head of the accused. Plea bargaining has several times been praised as an "efficient response" to a jammed-up criminal court system. (It's even descended to the level of defending oneself in traffic court; I was once threatened with a plea bargain while fighting a wrongful charge of reckless driving. The case was dismissed when the complaining party was sent back to state prison for parole violation, and they wouldn't release him for a traffic court appearance.)

    It is easy to visualize Ms. Ortiz saying, "Make it easy on yourself ... plead guilty, and take the 6 months sentence in a medium-security lockup; or go to trial. Be advised, however ... that if you insist on taking this to trial, we will press the Court for maximum sentence, which could be 50 years and $1,000,000 in fines."

    Somehow everyone glosses over the fact that accepting the plea bargain also has the consequence of 1.) becoming a felon and losing most civil rights of citizenship for life, and 2.) guaranteeing that you will never be able to hope for a retrial or submit an appeal (after all, you willingly pleaded 'guilty,' right?

    Isn't that extreme pressure of a sort that could push a depressive personality over the edge? Have you ever laid awake at night, all night long, night after night, with the prospect of a felony conviction and most of your life in prison, which in America means being repeatedly sodomized and brutalized, foremost in your mind? That is a type of mental torture that will unhinge most people ... especially if they believe themselves to be innocent.

    Most Americans now live in silent fear of the U.S. justice system. We all know that no middle-class American (the few that are left in this shrinking class) can possibly afford to defend themselves in a court trial of any consequence. Better to run one's car into a bridge abutment at 90 mph and let the surviving spouse and kidlets collect the life insurance, than go bankrupt and homeless trying to defend against an over-zealous prosecutor.

  16. Local G

    The Immutable Stars And The Fawltless American Justice System

    The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793

    This law put fugitive slaves at risk for recapture all their lives. It also classified children born to fugitive slave mothers as slaves and the property of the mother's master, for all their lives. So in 1850 Congress passed The second Fugitive Slave Act. This law mandated that states to which escaped slaves fled were obligated to return them to their masters upon their discovery and subjected persons who helped runaway slaves to criminal sanctions. It imposed a duty on all citizens to assist federal marshals to enforce the law or be prosecuted for their failure to do so. Persons convicted of violating the act were often heavily fined, imprisoned, or both.

    If Obama's great, great grandpappy helped a fugitive slave escape, Carmen Ortiz would have thrown his felonious ass in jail.

    And if Eric Holder's great, great grandpappy fled to Boston and was captured, Carmen Ortiz would have shipped his criminal butt back to Georgia on the midnight train.

    The CFAA did not come down from Sinai, Carmen. It was made by the Congress of the US which doesn't even have an approval rating of 20% and is bought and paid for by large American corporations.

    The first Fugitive Slave Law was signed by George Washington and the states fought a war over it. Some laws are just shitty from the get go. It helps to know which ones they are. A sense of morality, ethics and justice is essential to your work. You should take a refresher course in them.

    A draft bill to exclude terms of service violations from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Some one should introduce a draft bill excluding the clueless lawyers like you from holding the office of US Attorney.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: The Immutable Stars And The Fawltless American Justice System

      Well said! I wish I could give you more upvotes. Have a pint instead!!

  17. Magnus_Pym

    Innocent until proven guilty?

    Hello, anyone out there in the land-of-the-free(c) heard of this? Anyone? Doesn't seem so.

    1. ShadowedOne

      Re: Innocent until proven guilty?

      I always thought it was: Innocent unless proven guilty ?

      1. Vic

        Re: Innocent until proven guilty?

        > I always thought it was: Innocent unless proven guilty ?

        Used to be, Citizen. Used to be...


  18. Andrew 73

    Guantanamo. Bay.

    That is all.

  19. arborlinden

    I wouldn't dare visit America!

    As a retired Englishman I would love to visit America but I dare not. My perception is that in America a person can be charged with almost any "crime" and even if innocent, is faced with an almost impossible choice; to admit guilt or, even if proved innocent, to have there life ruined, if only financially. It does not appear to be a justice system at all. Pehaps some American citizen can put me straight on any misconception I might have?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wouldn't dare visit America!

      Overreact much?

      1. hplasm

        Re: I wouldn't dare visit America!

        "Overreact much?"

        OOh! Are you one of the Popular Girls?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wouldn't dare visit America!

      America is best thought of as 50 separate legal systems, with an overarching federal legal system. You find extremely liberal legal systems in some states and very conservative in others.

      For instance in Washington and Colorado Cannabis is legal, in California it may as well be, but in Georgia you're going down for a five year stretch if you get caught with even a little baggie. Having said that, my experience of Georgia is that when a friend of mine got pulled over for speeding and presented a UK driving licence the copper just waived him on having clearly mentally worked out the extra paperwork involved. New York is full of Coppers, but they all seemed rather nice, Boston likewise. Now, having said that the customs guys in Boston and New York were complete arseholes and the guys in Atlanta were really nice.

  20. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Right Down to the Nitty Gritty and an Inconvenient Truth, Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

    The following asks a valid enough question, and until answered properly will remain forever as the elephant in the room, which extraordinarily renders the law and justice an ass, and the preserve of crooks, in the USA?

    More than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Are Wall Street executives "too big to jail"? In The Untouchables, premiering Jan. 22, 2013, at 10 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE producer and correspondent Martin Smith investigates why the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to act on credible evidence that Wall Street knowingly packaged and sold toxic mortgage loans to investors, loans that brought the U.S. and world economies to the brink of collapse. Through interviews with top prosecutors, government officials and industry whistleblowers, FRONTLINE reports allegations that Wall Street bankers ignored pervasive fraud when buying pools of mortgage loans. Tom Leonard, a supervisor who examined the quality of loans for major investment banks like Bear Stearns, said bankers instructed him to disregard clear evidence of fraud. "Fraud was the F-word, or the F-bomb. You didn't use that word," says Leonard. "By your terms and my terms, yes, it was fraud. By the [industry's] terms, it was something else." – PBS ....

    Do you agree or is the reality and perception different?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Right Down to the Nitty Gritty and an Inconvenient Truth, Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

      Dangerously coherent, amfM1.

      I dare say everyone who pays attention knows that prosecution is selective. That's another effect of the adversarial system and the payoff matrix that results from it - prosecutors don't want to take cases that have a high probability of a poor ROI (where the investment is in the prosecutor's time and reputation, and the office's resources, and the return is in reputation and prospects for promotion). That's why the State pursues a great many low-profile cases that don't individually count for much (except to the defendants) but can be settled quickly and almost always in the State's favor, and only the occasional high-profile case where there seems to be a good chance of success or the promise of a career-making reward.

      I find it worrisome that this would come as a surprise to anyone with sufficient education and leisure time to read the Reg, aside from those with no interest whatsoever in the US justice system (and if you're reading this article, that doesn't include you).

  21. The FunkeyGibbon

    Lack of specialist knowledge?

    Isn't part of the problem that the law, the people who make the law and the people enforce the law, somewhat behind the curve when it comes to technology? I think sometimes they fear what they don't understand and therefore do what the fearful normally do, break out the big guns to ward off danger.

    There needs to be a group that specialises not only in law but also who have access and understand the world in which they operate. What Swartz did wasn't bright. That data, no matter how he objected to it's use (and there is a strong argument against how it was being used, but that's a septate argument), was not his to take in the way he did. However the 'victim' understood his argument and declined to press charges once the data was returned. That should have been the end of it. However the state fears people with skills they cannot understand, so they feel the need to control them. It's this fear that needs to be conquered. Once it is understood then maybe the over-reactions will stop.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Lack of specialist knowledge?

      Quite so, The FunkeyGibbon, a distinct and paralysing lack of specialist knowledge indeed.

      And here is another take on the problem and its possible solution ......

      Posted by amanfromMars on 01/24/13 02:28 AM …. on Elite Depression at Davos

      Nice succinct post, bob [Posted on 01/23/13 11:46 PM] which renders the current present reality/virtual reality in all of its faded glory.

      With regard to your parting question and answer, "Is there a peaceful and 'civilized' way out of the situation we find ourselves in? I don't think so." is not ….. "Solutions are always much better engineered and distributed down from the top to the people so that they do not think about raising their voices over concerns which have not been but need to be addressed, for invariably at the top are there the more intelligent folk with control of all of the necessary assets to bring about change. Whenever it is not so, is it intelligence which is missing at the top ….. but that is easily bought and brought in, isn't it, in order to retain and maintain continuing power.

      One certain thing which you can be sure of, is that intelligence needed and available will always seek out those who need it for IT Command and Control of the masses, so that they are helped in their endeavours which shape the future." …. a peaceful and 'civilized' way out of the situation we find ourselves in?

      And quite perfect, methinks, for the likes of a Davos/Bilderberger/Jekyll Island Club meeting/Highlander Gathering :-) …….

      And I invoke Poe's Law on this post :-) ……. which is common enough means of maintaining a measure of security in these expanding and ever more tactically important and strategically vital virtual spaces which are increasingly being trawled for that which is required on Earth for the future.

  22. Cipher

    Expect more of this...

    We in the US can only expect more of this for the foreseeable future. The Obama administration has expressed the desire to continue to continue the transformation of the US into a Stalinist Worker's Paradise. A completely unnecessary TSA is expanding its reach to train stations and the highway system. Drones, on the order of 30k of them, will soon be over our skies. Selective prosecution of anything the regime doesn't like is our future here.

    Our indoctrination continues, we will be taught to obey. We must not question Beloved Leader, for he alone knows what is good for us. Heil Obama!

    1. John Lilburne

      Re: Expect more of this...

      Are you completely bonkers?

      Swartz was into collectivising works, he has a manifesto out that calls for the collectivisation of all culture, which was pretty much a Soviet ideology.

      Perhaps he could have got off due to lack of maturity.

    2. Carl

      Re: Expect more of this...

      It wasn't Obama who put you into Iraq or oversaw the biggest financial crash since 1926, or who introduced PATRIOT.

      While I agree that the US' growing paranoia about everything being a threat that needs to be answered with overwhelming force, whether it be invasions, guns or judicial over-reach is "a bad thing", the suggestion that Obama is responsible for it is just peurile bollocks.

  23. Scott Pedigo

    From here:

    "The question remains why the DOJ targeted Swartz to such an extent. The DOJ insists that the case grew entirely out of his prank at MIT, and the timeline supports this claim. However, those facts supply no meaningful rationale for their prosecutorial vendetta. On the other hand, Swartz aggressively opposed theories, pioneered by prosecutors like Heymann and Ortiz, that were designed to make the DOJ into a cyberspace police force with power to act against anyone who provoked their concern. He provided articulate, effective opposition, and regularly trumped DOJ initiatives in forums that offered fair debate. His vision of cyberspace placed a premium on the empowerment of individuals and their free access to information — offering an essential updating of the Enlightenment values of the American founders that was sharply at odds with the Justice Department’s schemes. The DOJ values secrecy over publicity, the property rights of corporations over the rights of authors and inventors, and puts a premium on the power of the state to silence voices on the Internet that it views as a threat. Their objective was clearly not to kill Swartz, but they did want to silence him by stigmatizing him and locking him away in prison."

    That sounds about right. If you agree, then you can put your name to this petition. You'd think that the author of such a petition might at least proof read and edit the thing, but no, apparently. Any petition with a sufficient number of signatures has to be answered by the Whitehouse, so even if the petition itself doesn't get her fired, it will provide political support for the Congressmen calling for an investigation and a slap-down of the Department of Justice.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sign this confession...

    "Sign this confession or else we put you on the rack and torture you to death"

    "Sign this confession or else we put you in maximum security to be sodomized and brutalized for 50 years"

    One was in the middleages, the other today. I don't see any difference in these two statements whatsoever.

  25. Tony Paulazzo

    Jesus H Christ

    I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition...

    'Monty Python'

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    his choice to commit a crime. whether i think the crime he commited should have been a crime or not is fairly irrelevant, it still was.

    and i equally dont care that the victim declined to press charges. afterall, once you stop prosecutions because the victim doesnt want to (or can't) continue to press charges, you open the way to people just buying off victims (or intimidating them) to call them off. which actually, i suspect has happened here. not directly by swartz, but you can't say that JSTOR wernt being threatened by all the angry internet folk on his behalf.

    he chose to commit a crime. he was offered a plea bargain. he chose to commit suicide to get out of jail time.

    you can't deliberately commit an act of civil disobedience and then cry when people treat you as though you have. sorry.

    1. Magnus_Pym

      I'll say it again; Innocent until proven guilty

      He was never convicted of a crime. so he is not guilty. That is the law.

      If you don't like that law then you are free to campaign against it. Oh no wait... you can't can you because the state would accuse you of commuting a crime and you would, by default, be guilty.


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    funny isnt it - Swartz is innocent until proven guilty.

    but Ortiz is, apparently, guilty already of having driven Swartz to commit suicide. by daring to TRY and prove him guity.

    1. Magnus_Pym

      "daring to TRY and prove him guilty."

      Guilt is proven in a court of law. If there was any kind of impetus towards a court of law I would agree.

  28. Bill Michaelson

    This is why some prosecutors like having the death penalty on the books

    It expedites things.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    JSTOR material was returned?

    "Both JSTOR and MIT, whose network was allegedly used in the download, declined to press charges after the material was returned"

    I was under the impression this was a technology site, but do please explain how someone can return records stored as electronic media.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a savior

    Swartz was a problem child and we see how his life ended. He created his own problems, no one else. Idolizing this guy is ignorant and a waste.

  31. Local G

    Hm. This could be interesting.

    "Aaron Swartz case prompts letter to US attorney general from congressmen

    Republican Darrell Issa and Democrat Elijah Cummings ask whether level of Swartz's prosecution was 'appropriate'" The Guardian Jan 29

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