Aaron Swartz died on Friday
Aaron Swartz died on Friday. On Saturday the medical examiner ruled that it was suicide. But this was murder by the legal system on behalf of the political system.
Aaron was dangerous. He was intelligent, articulate, and idealistic. Those three things are a dangerous combination to the authorities. Add to this, successful and charismatic – and you can see why he could not be allowed to continue. He was already credited with being a major actor in the defeat of SOPA.
His idealism led him to download four million academic files from JSTOR via MIT. He had already said he would, in one of the most literate political manifestos you will find: “Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” Neither JSTOR nor MIT wanted him prosecuted. But a month later he was arrested and charged on four counts. Now, if a man comes home and punches his wife, he is unlikely to be prosecuted if the victim doesn’t want the prosecution. Clearly, hacking is a more serious crime than physical violence, because despite the reluctance of the victims, arrested and charged he was.
Since the hack, JSTOR has started to speed up the process of making its content freely available, partly it says, because of Swartz. But instead of dropping the charges, the authorities increased them from four to 13 counts. They also took an increasingly firm stance against any possible plea bargain. In short, they were determined to get him.
Swartz was a depressive. This is well documented, and was known to the authorities. It beggars belief that the authorities were not perfectly clear on the likely effect of increasing the pressure. Consider this. Last week in the UK, two hackers who stole unpublished Michael Jackson music from Sony were sentenced to 100 hours community service. In the US, Aaron Swartz was facing 35 years in jail with a $1 million fine – for downloading academic papers.
This is absurdly out of proportion, and it should be the prosecutors in the dock.
Swartz left no suicide note. Over the next few days and weeks, new theories will emerge that he was ‘suicided’ in the same way as Dr David Kelly was suicided in the UK. The mere fact that this can be considered a possibility is a further indictment against a political and legal system that has lost all credibility with the people. Whether the authorities physically executed Aaron Swartz or simply drove him to take his own life, the simple fact remains: the US legal system murdered him.