For the first 104 pages of the file on activist Aaron Swartz click here.
After half-a-year of delays and roadblocks, the U.S Secret Service today released the first 104 pages of agency documents about the late coder and activist Aaron Swartz, including a brief report on Swartz’s suicide less than three months before his scheduled trial.
“On 1/11/13, Aaron Swartz was found dead in his apartment in Brooklyn, as a result of an apparent suicide,” reads a January 17, 2013 Secret Service memo. “A suppression hearing in this had been scheduled for 1/25/13 with a trial date of 4/1/13, in U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts.”
In January 2011, Swartz was caught using MIT’s public network to bulk-download 4 million academic articles from the JSTOR archive. MIT had a subscription to the archive that made it free to use from MIT’s campus. The Secret Service was brought into the case early on, and federal prosecutors ultimately charged Swartz with wire fraud and computer hacking.
The heavily redacted documents released today confirm earlier reports that the Secret Service was interested in a “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” that Swartz and others had penned in 2008. In May 2011, a Secret Service agent and a detective from the Cambridge police department interviewed a friend of Swartz and inquired specifically about the political statement. The friend noted that Swartz and his coauthors “believe that the open access movement is a human rights issue.”
The Secret Service documents also describe the February 11, 2011 search on Swartz’s home in Cambridge that came over a month after Swartz was first arrested and released by local police. “Swartz was home at the time the search was executed,” reads one report. “While the search was conducted, Swartz made statements to the effect of, what took you so long, and why didn’t you do this earlier?”
The documents were released through my ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service’s parent agency.
I am the plaintiff in the lawsuit. In February, the Secret Service denied in full my request for any files it held on Swartz. When the agency failed to respond to my administrative appeal, I recruited DC-based attorney David Sobel, and we filed suit.
Last month U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the government to begin releasing the Swartz files on a rolling basis, but then stayed that order to hear arguments from MIT and JSTOR, who are seeking advance review of any documents released. (My lawyer is now talking to their lawyers.) Last week Kollar-Kotelly directed the government to promptly release the 104 pages that have already been reviewed, and which do not reference MIT or JSTOR employees.
The government says it’s identified 14,500 pages of documents for release on a rolling basis. It estimates it will take six months to process them.
Disclosure: I knew Swartz and worked with him on a project.