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Aaron Swartz comitted suicide on 11th January, 2013

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Most of you probably won't know who Aaron Swartz was. He was a a prodigal programmer, co-authoring the first RSS specification at the age of 14. He started developing software before he was a teenager and was instrumental in the creation and co-/founding of many sites, including reddit.com and demandprogress.org, to name a few. He was an internet activist and a liberator of knowledge. Unfortunately, he pissed off the powers that be and they were well on their way to imprisoning him for 35 years, for a victimless crime that didn't cost anyone a cent. He comitted suicide by hanging himself on the 11th January.

 

Here's an article from ArsTechnica. There are hundreds of tributes rolling in from all over the internet as well. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/weve-lost-a-fighter-hundreds-gather-to-mourn-aaron-swartz/

 

HIGHLAND PARK, ILLINOIS—On a cold but sunny January morning, the family and friends of Aaron Swartz gathered at Central Avenue Synagogue in suburban Chicago to mourn his passing and say their farewells. Not in attendance—or at least not anywhere that anyone would take notice of them—was hate group Westboro Baptist Church, which had threatened to picket his funeral. But the Highland Park Police Department was ready anyway should they have shown up, with squad cars set up to keep would-be protestors far away from the service.

But this morning was all about Swartz. Facing onerous federal charges for scraping 4.8 million documents from an academic archive at MIT, the young man took his own life on Friday, January 11 at the age of 26.

The crowd packed the sanctuary, numbering in the hundreds, with some mourners standing in the back. It was a diverse group, sprinkled with old men sporting foot-long beards and young men with pink mohawks. But such was the reach of Swartz.

The funeral service lasted over an hour-and-a-half, with remembrances delivered by friends and family bracketed by ancient prayers recited in Hebrew. There were moments of laughter spurred by memories of Swartz, but the atmosphere was one of incredible sadness befitting the tragic passing of one so young and bright.

Swartz was eulogized by his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, his defense attorney Elliot Peters, and a couple of his friends, as well as tech luminaries Tim Berners-Lee and Lawrence Lessig.

Berners-Lee recalled Swartz's precociousness, sharing his surprise at finding out that one of his conversation partners in a standards-setting group was just 14 years old. "We've lost an elder… a fighter," Berners-Lee remarked.

Struggling at times to compose himself, Lessig described his decade-long relationship with Swartz. "Aaron was the mentor and I the mentee," Lessig explained. He inveighed against the prosecution of the case, arguing that the prosecutor was incapable of recognizing the distinction between "stealing with a computer" and "stealing with a crowbar."

Swartz's lead defense attorney, Elliot Peters, also had harsh words for the US attorney managing the case. He mourned the fact that he would never be able to invoke Boston Harbor and the American Revolution during his closing arguments.

Since his death, the Swartz family has laid blame for his demise at the feet of overzealous federal prosecutors. Indeed, the prosecutors arguably lost all sense of perspective with this case, insisting during plea negotiations that Swartz admit guilt to all charges and serve a stint in prison.

During a heart-wrenching eulogy, Swartz's father Robert accused MIT of betraying "all of its basic principles" by pursuing the case. "Aaron was pushed to his death by his government and the most prominent technical institution in the world," he mourned.

The service concluded with the traditional Jewish funeral prayer, the El maley rakhamim:

O God, full of compassion, Thou who dwellest on high! Grant perfect rest beneath the sheltering wings of Thy presence, among the holy and pure who shine as the brightness of the firmament unto the soul of Aaron Swartz who has gone unto eternity. Lord of mercy, bring him under the cover of Thy wings, and let his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life. Be God's possession, and may his repose be peace. Amen.

Let it be so. Peace to the memory of Aaron Swartz.

Swartz's family invites those who knew him or whose lives were touched by his work in some way to visit his memorial website at rememberaaronsw.com and leave a remembrance or photo. Those desiring to make a memorial contribution in Aaron's name can do so via GiveWell. There's also anopen repository on GitHub. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

 

:(

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So let me get this right... he forcibly circumvented a government payment system to download public-domain data, got busted and the FBI were reasonable enough to let him off, instead of the crap they usually pull. Clearly failing to recognise that he isn't all that stealthy, he then went round two and forcibly and repeatedly circumvented a University security system to download copywritten data not exactly available to the general public, got busted again, and went to court for the obvious reason that the document owners were pissed.

 

Courts let him out on bail, and after staring down the barrel of a ridiculous 35 year gaol sentance that would almost certainly be lowered tremendously through an Appeal, he comitted suicide in preference to fleeing to Mexico/South America like a normal person, where he could still have offered IT services to grey organisations, enjoyed good weather, tasty food and boned hot Latin chicks....

 

... and I'm supposed to feel sympathy for him? No. What an idiot on every possible level. The only people who would get my sympathy are his parents.

 

Despite my general dislike of "The State", they simply aren't the ones at fault on this one. He is 100% at fault for all of his decisions, and the ultimate choice of ending his life, versus being on the run. I'd personally go on the run, but I guess that's just my nature. Of course the family say "the prosecution is at fault for pushing hard to prosecute him", ignoring the fact that being an asshole is their job. Furthermore, copying private info is quite different to copying music/DVDs, as one is not necesssarily intended for distribution, and the other is intended for distribution at a profit. I say this as an IT professional well-versed in security and business.

 

Edited to tone down my reply :), given someone will almost certainly get upset due to the taboo nature of suicide, my disagreement with the hipster notion that The State is to blame for every bad decision an individual makes, or my general lack of sensitivity towards people who have demonstrated great intelligence, but fail to apply it with any level of consistency.

Edited by pmod

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Iirc he didn't steal or even circumvent the government paywall. He legitimately downloaded it from libraries that were granted free access and re-hosted it elsewhere. Because the data was in the public domain, the FBI couldn't do anything about it being re-hosted, despite trying their best to implicate him. There was no intended stealth about this.

 

Regarding JSTORE, JSTORE didn't pursue him at all, they even asked the FBI not to pursue him, so the people who owned the data that he scraped, outwardly said, "No Harm Done." The FBI pursued it anyway, presumably still pissed from the first incident. He didn't circumvent anything to download the JSTORE files. MIT pays a license to access JSTORE and provides it to their students. All he did was download them until he got blocked, then he spoofed his mac address and continued downloading.

 

The general consensus is that because JSTORE said that there was no problem, the FBI should have stopped pursuing him.

 

Perhaps this will give you a better perspective :P

http://www.pbs.org/n...artz_01-14.html

Edited by pyro

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Fair enough; that version is different to what I had heard.

 

Based on past threads, we've both had enough exposure to the Police to know that once their crosshairs are on you, all reason goes out the window. Perhaps I'm just an asshole, but the term "tempting fate" still comes to mind when considering the two incidents. He didn't have to do it, but did it anyway, and the piano hovering above him fell.

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Don't worry mate, I'm with you. He tempted fate, but normally tempting fate isn't 35 years prison. Especially for something that's not caused anyone any loss.

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he started reddit, so thats enough to justify his death.

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He couldn't have fled to an embassy like the coward pictured above?

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He couldn't have fled to an embassy like the coward pictured above?

 

I gather he was in his own country at the time.

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This is a post from another hacker who is in similar circumstances. Pretty scary how hard the US government goes after hackers.

 

Rape, kill, steal, throw the global financial economy into ruin.... they don't seem to give a shit, access some information that you weren't suppose to through a public facing API and they'll throw the book at you.

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: Andrew Auernheimer, also known by his pseudonym weev, is an American grey hat hacker and self-described Internet troll. Follow him on Twitter @rabite.

In June of 2010 there was an AT&T webserver on the open Internet. There was an API on this server, a URL with a number at the end. If you incremented this number, you saw the next iPad 3G user email address. I thought it was egregiously negligent for AT&T to be publishing a complete target list of iPad 3G owners, and I took a sample of the API output to a journalist at Gawker.

I did this because I despised people I think are unjustly wealthy and wanted to embarass them. I thought this is the United States of America where we have the right to do basic arithmetic and query public webservers.

I was convicted of two consecutive five-year felonies, and am now awaiting sentencing.

I left the Aaron Swartz memorial tonight emotionally exhausted. Here is a guy who was beloved by many of my close friends, whose suffering and miseries I have shared in kind. I’ll never forget when the Secret Service started following me. My lover at the time and I treated it like a game, spending our days ditching surveillance in the best ways possible: speedboats, helicopters, club bouncers.

Over time, this has become less and less of a game. It soon became clear that I could not be both an activist and a capitalist. I quit my six figure job at the time because the former was more important to me. Then one day, everything changed. FBI agents tried to frame me for terrorism in 2008. Twice. They ruined my career, my relationship, my life. Nobody believed that I could be a terrorist so now they try to libel me as an identity thief.

Lawrence Lessig said of Aaron’s indictment that the prosecutor Ortiz was “either an idiot, or a liar.” I know this feeling all too well.

One of my prosecutors, Michael Martinez, claimed that our querying a public webserver was criminal because “it isn’t like going to ESPN and checking your sports team’s scores.”

The facts: AT&T admitted, at trial, that they “published” this data. Their words. Public-facing, programmatic accesses of APIs happen upwards of a trillion times per day. Twitter broke 13 billion on their API ages ago. This is something that happens more than the entire population of Earth, daily. The government has no problem with this up until you transform the output into something offensive to important people. People with “disruptive” startups, this is your fair warning: They are coming for you next.

The other one of my prosecutors, Zach Intrater, said that a comment I made about Goatse Security, my information security working group, starting a certification process to declare systems “goatse tight” was evidence of my intent to personally profit. For those not in on the joke: Goatse is an Internet memereferencing a man holding open his anus very widely. The mind reels.

I can’t survive like this. I am happy to be hitting a prison cell soon. They ruined my business. The feds get approval of who I can work for or with: they rejected one company because the CEO had a social network profile with an occupation listed as “hacker.” They prohibit me from touching any computer that isn’t federally monitored. I do my best to slang Perl code on an Android device to comply with my bail conditions. It isn’t pretty.

Ivy league educated and wealthy, Aaron dealt with his indictment so badly because he thought he was part of a special class of people that this didn’t happen to. I am from a rundown shack in Arkansas. I spent many years thinking people from families like his got better treatment than me. Now I realize the truth: The beast is so monstrous it will devour us all. None will be spared.

So now I stare at a form that the government wants me to fill out before sentencing labelled “acceptance of responsibility” and wonder what I can possibly fill in this slot. This letter is it.

I accept my responsibility, and hope you do too, of dismantling this terrible empire so that this can’t happen to anyone.

This is the difference between the prosecutors and FBI agents and I. They wish me utterly destroyed, and have been hounding me for years of my life. They have been surveilling me, by their own admission, since I was 15. You know what I wish for? A world where no man may abridge the liberty of another. Not me, not you, not the FBI, not federal prosecutors. I actually hope they have fulfilling lives, and come to realize the mistake of treating our Constitution like toilet paper.

This is a country where if you express ideas that federal agents don’t like you, you will be beaten, imprisoned, or killed. I accept my responsibility for offending seditious thugs, liars and tyrants. I say this is the duty of all decent citizens left.

God bless.

Andrew Auernheimer

(*Those who assert our right to access public web APIs can donate to the effort to overturn the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. More info at cfaadefensefund.com. - Andrew Auernheimer)

 

 

Tags: Andrew Auernheimer, weev

Edited by sweepa

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Well... yeah. The public won't see the Government's dirty laundry if people are just running around raping and flogging petrol from the local servo (usually in that order).

All about priorities.

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