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Freedom Rider: The State Killing of Aaron Swartz

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    by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

    A brilliant young practitioner of human interconnectedness, Aaron Swartz “played a key role in defeating the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which used the phony threat of online piracy to make the internet less open.” He was hounded to death by venal prosecutors of “the worst judicial system on the face of the earth.”


    Freedom Rider: The State Killing of Aaron Swartz

    by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

    The true cause of Swartz’s demise was government overreach.”

    Our government is using its power to destroy and to crush, by any and all means necessary, anyone who runs afoul of the loosest interpretations of the law. Some are persecuted because of information they gain, others because they won’t give the government the information it wants. The end result is sickening, cruel and a destroyer of lives.

    Aaron Swartz was the most recent person who paid the price because of a great injustice being carried out against him. The 26 year-old Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013 after two years of a relentless effort by the federal government to prevent him from doing what he loved best, insuring that the public had open and free access to the internet.

    Swartz was by all accounts a brilliant young man. He was co-owner of Reddit and played a significant role in the development of RSS feed while still a teenager. Most importantly, Swartz was an advocate for open access on the internet and he very publicly campaigned to reach that goal. He played a key role in defeating the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which used the phony threat of online piracy to make the internet less open.

    While suicide may have been the official cause of death, the true cause of Swartz’s demise was government overreach. The worst criminals in our judicial system, prosecutors, asked for and got their pound of flesh.

    He is incorrectly described as a hacker when in fact he did little more than use a loophole to access JSTOR for free.”

    In 2011, Swartz used the library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to download 4 million scholarly articles from the JSTOR system. These articles which ought to be free to the public are not, and while Swartz didn’t pay for them, he also didn’t sell them to anyone either. He is incorrectly described as a hacker when in fact he did little more than use a loophole to access JSTOR for free. Despite the highly questionable nature of his “crime” the United States Attorney in Massachusetts, Obama appointee Carmen Ortiz, and prosecutor Stephen Heymann insisted on throwing the book at Swartz.

    He was charged with 13 different felonies which totaled a sentence of more than 30 years. While JSTOR considered the case closed and publicly stated that it would not participate in the effort to prosecute Swartz, MIT stood firm in obeying state authority. A spokesperson gave a curious explanation. “When the federal government chooses to prosecute, you don’t get to say no.”

    Of course a prosecutor ought to be told no the same way anyone else is, but it isn’t surprising that an institution which is an integral part of the national security state would refuse to live up to the principles of academic freedom and civic discourse that it purports to defend.

    MIT stood firm in obeying state authority.”

    After Swartz death, the prosecutors were quick to reveal that he was offered a six-month sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, forcing him to choose between falsely pleading guilty when he was innocent, or risk decades behind bars. Swartz was just one of many to be caught in the worst judicial system on the face of the earth. It isn’t overly harsh to characterize it that way, but how else can the world’s imprisonment capital be described? There are untold numbers of innocent people who plead guilty rather than trust their fate to the power of the state and the vagaries of the jury system. Our court system gives liars and bullies, prosecutors, unlimited power to use against the people they are supposed to represent.

    In this, the Bush/Obama era of the Patriot Act, NDAA and presidential kill lists, the prosecutor’s power is absolute and terrifying and Swartz was not the only victim of the United States Attorney’s office in Boston. In 2012, Tarek Mehanna was prosecuted by the same individuals because he wouldn’t do what the government wanted. Mehanna was asked to be an informant so that the feds might be able to brag about their terror-fighting credentials when in fact all they do is instigate crimes for intimidated or unstable people to commit. Mehanna had committed what can only be described as “thought crimes,” expressing anger over the United States’ many occupations and wars against Muslim people. He allegedly had the first amendment right to criticize the government, but it turns out that neither he nor the rest of us really have the rights we think we do. Mehanna is now serving a 17-year sentence for providing material support to terrorists.

    It is possible that the feds decided to make an example of Swartz.”

    It isn’t clear if prosecutors went after Swartz because of the usual desire for self-promotion and career aggrandizement or something more sinister. In December 2010 Swartz made a Freedom of Information Act request for information on the treatment of Bradley Manning. After the M.I.T. incident, it is possible that the feds decided to make an example of Swartz, just as they had made of Manning when he decided to tell the world about the horrors America had visited upon Iraq.

    Had Swartz taken his chances with law enforcement he would not have gotten the attention he deserved. It is quite awful that only in death was he able to reveal the depth of corruption among people sworn to uphold the law and the constitution.

    Aaron Swartz’s death is a terrible loss to the world and the people who caused it ought to be punished with the same zeal that they meted out to others. Of course we know that will not happen. Ortiz, Heymann and company may be temporarily inconvenienced, but the system is built to protect those criminals and allow them to do the dirty work of the powerful for as long as they like.

    Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

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    It isn’t clear if prosecutors went after Swartz because of the usual desire for self-promotion and career aggrandizement or something more sinister.

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    Great article, Ms. K, and to add the historical perspective ...

    Aaron Swartz versus the Phantom Giant
    When Aaron took on SOPA, he took on AT&T and as he was later to find out, Chris Dodd, whose family has been on retainer to the Rockefeller family for generations, dating back to their ancestor, Samuel Calvin Tate Dodd, the attorney to John D. Rockefeller, who created a holding company each time Rockefeller’s Standard Oil supposedly sold off a business unit (during the court-ordered breakup), moving the stock ownership to the holding company, then in turn establishing ownership of said holding company at one of Rockefeller’s foundations and/or trusts.
    Chris Dodd’s father, Thomas Dodd, had no less than at least three Acts of Congress passed in futile attempts to curb the famous Dodd corruption (most notably F.A.R.A., or the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and amendments to it).
    Are the Dodds still working for the Rockefeller family?  Well, that depends on the mystery ownership of AT&T.  Going back to the early 1900s, John Moody, the original founder of the infamous Moody’s rating service, said that AT&T was part of the Rockefeller Trust, originally financed by Morgan, but either sold, traded or shifted over to Rockefeller.
    We do know that AT&T loves Senator Jay Rockefeller, and that Jay Rockefeller loves AT&T, as witnessed by the manner in which he led the way in the Senate to grant them retroactive immunity regarding the warrantless wiretapping during the Bush Administration (which continues on, BTW).
    From the site link below. . . .

    Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on January 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm
    Chairman Rockefeller has long made public safety and national security a top priority for this country.  We applaud his commitment to the public safety community and his tireless efforts to ensure that first responders have the resources they need to support a nationwide wireless broadband network.  This legislation will result in a truly interoperable public safety network and will free up new spectrum and establish funding mechanisms to support the operation and maintenance of this critical network.”
    Many people don’t realize that the old AT&T has been reconstituted back to its original, albeit even more powerful and richer self, thanks in part to Bill Clinton’s signing of that Telecommunications Act of 1996  --- all except Verizon, but in tracking the circuitous ownership of Verizon it appears to lead back to the same ownership as AT&T!
    Why would AT&T target Aaron Swartz, through their federal prosecutor proxies?
    We used to marvel, back in the late 1970s, how AT&T set out to destroy the telecom upstart, MCI, which would have shortly gone out of business, had not AT&T pulled their access to long distance lines, thereby allowing MCI legal recourse, eventually netting MCI enough monies (from the legal settlement with AT&T) to continue on with their precarious business existence for a few more years.
    AT&T --- and the Rockefeller family --- has only one strategy:  the scorched earth policy!

    Now, former IMF stooge and presently an economics prof at MIT, Simon Johnson, would have us believe that the Rockefellers, led by the crafty David Rockefeller, gave away their billions to “charity” --- they morphed from murderous robber barons to “philanthropists”?
    So the Rockefeller family, worth an estimated $30 billion in 1960 (when one billion was an unimaginable sum), are now only worth $2 billion?
    Puuuhlease --- repositioning the Rockefeller fortune to various foundations, trusts and unregistered trusts to hide their wealth and ownership was, and still is, the standard tax dodge; nothing particularly surprising there.  (The norm today is to create an LLC, or Limited Liability Corporation, owned by a holding company, in turn owned by an offshore trust.)

    One can only imagine what their true net worth is today?
    So who owns AT&T today?  Look for a Dodd underneath a rock(efeller) and you’ll know the answer.
    The Rockefeller Hit Parade:
    From the bloody Ludlow Massacre, and the Rockefeller chain gangs, to their secret oil shipments to the Nazis during World War II, to the murders of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy and the recent death of Aaron Swartz, the bloody prints of the Rockefeller family are evident!
    Special Links:

    The Ballad of Aaron Swartz


    Moody, John.  The Truth about the Trusts. 1904

    Moody, John. The Masters of Capital. 1919

    (Please pay close attention to pp. 152-153 and 167-169)
    Myers, Gustavus.  History of the Great American Fortunes, Vols. I, II & III.  1910
    Nace, Ted.  Gangs of America.  2003
    Wu, Tim.  The Master Switch.  2010

    Yes, M. Kimberley. Fine piece. Just to add a bit

    (Sigh.  I am only a techie in spirit...I just deleted my comment with a klutzy swipe of my arthritic right pinkie..)

    I think this is a fine piece, Ms. Margaret Kimberley.  Just to add a couple of details about Aaron Swartz, who I did not know, just his work was known to me before his death, which upset me very much. 

       Last night, on "Off The Hook" the hacker show, for several decades on WBAI, Emmanuel Goldstein pointed out that even if Aaron Swartz had taken the plea deal offered by the prosecutor, he would have been forbidden to use a computer/the internet for an unspecified number of years, thus cutting Swartz off from his world, his people, his life.  The radio show is produced by and archived on their website or at WBAI.  (I support

        Somewhere else (I don't remember where) I heard the  point made that if Aaron Swartz was such a felon, criminal, who was faced with 35 years in prison, why would 6 months of plea deal be sufficient for such an alleged criminal?  There's a good interview with Prof. Larry Lessig, friend of, mentor, since Aaron Swartz was 14 years old and lawyer for Aaron Swartz against the feds, on Jan. 14, 2013 Dem.Now, video and transcript, .  

     I have followed the "cases" of Tarek Mehanna and the other similar cases, although I do not remember the names.  I have also followed the "case" of Bradley Manning.  One thread going thru all the cases is mental disability aspects: whether depression in Aaron Swartz suicide (which Lessig puts to rest in a way that I strongly support, as I am an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, because the media tagging along the gov't lead, would like to portray it as depression, but like Aaron Swartz' father (1), and Ms.Kimberley, I think it was a case of hounded to death.  The young men who the FBI have enticed (entrapment) into "thought crimes", sometimes supplying fake weapons as well as the idea/plans for cockamamie attacks or the travesty done to Mehanna and others who would not be "spies" for the gov't might also be thought to have some mental states/ expoited vulnerability (but not always).  At the same time, I observe that people who are different are vulnerable as "different" as "other" and made my new birthday art "Warning: People who are different beware!"  "They....we  are considered 'suspect' ".  I had begun the xerographic planning, but completed it after learning of Swartz' death. And his name.  The e-edition of the piece is dedicated to my friend, Joseph Crivy, who died in 2012, in a "lock up" for old people with mental disabilities, an artist who had been enticed into participating in a pharma drug trial (I had urged him not to), by a visiting shrink, at the hospital clinic where he'd been for years as a successful outpatient, treated for manic depression.  He was an artist and friend.  About ten years ago, he was talked into the drug trial (it was for a drug for schizophrenia, to extend the market to manic depression patients). He appealed to me to get him off the trial at 8 weeks, from the hospital where he'd been incarcerated and removed from his successful meds for the trial.  I got the ombudsman and she got him off the trial, which was not working, making him worse.  The hospital clinic then refused to see him again as an outpatient and he went into his local Brooklyn privatized agency care, where the shrink had an enormous case load and the social worker heard my pleas when Joseph would alert me that the meds were not working to contact the social worker, but the shrink was too busy and Joseph just got neglected, finally institutionalized, where he died at the end of the decade.)  So the art was in memory of Joseph Crivy, casualty of U.S. medical "care" and  Aaron Swartz, casualty of U.S. "justice". (1)Aaron Swartz father, at the funeral, at Central Avenue Synagogue, Highland Park, IL near Chicago.  I was surprised  when I read of the funeral, to learn that Swartz was Jewish, since the name spelling was not the same as my Jewish relatives. 

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