On January 12, it headlined "Farewell to Aaron Swartz, an extraordinary hacker and activist." It called him "a close friend and collaborator." Tragedy ended his life.
Vital questions remain unanswered. Supporters demand answers. So do family members.They blame prosecutors for what happened. Their statement following his death said the following:
"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death."
Swartz did as much or more than anyone to make the Internet a thriving open knowledge ecosystem. He strove to keep it that way. He challenged repressive Internet laws.
He founded Demand Progress. It "works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing and grassroots lobbying," he said.
It prioritizes "civil liberties, civil rights, and government reform." It ran online campaigns for justice. It advocated in the public interest. It challenged policies harming it.
He mobilized over a million online activists. His other projects included RSS specification, web.py, tor2web, the Open Library, and the Chrome port of HTTPS Everywhere.
He launched Creative Commons. He co-founded Reddit. He and others made it successful. His Raw Thought blog discussed "politics and parody." He had much to say worth hearing.
In 2011, he used the MIT campus network. He downloaded millions of journal articles. He used the JSTOR database. Authorities claimed he changed his laptop's IP and Mac addresses. They said he did it to circumvent JSTOR/MIT blocks.
He was charged with "unauthorized (computer) access" under the Computer and Abuse Act. He did the equivalent of checking out too many library books at the same time.
Obama prosecutors claim doing so is criminal. They've waged war on Internet freedom. They want Net Neutrality and free expression abolished. They want fascist laws replacing them.
They usurped diktat power. They spurn rule of law principles and other democratic values. They enforce police state authority. They prioritize what no civil society should tolerate.
They claimed Aaron intended to distribute material on peer-to-peer networks. He never did. It hardly mattered. Documents he secured were returned. No harm. No foul. Federal authorities charged him anyway.
In July 2011, a Massachusetts grand jury indicted him. He was arraigned in Boston US District Court. He pled not guilty to all charges. He was freed on a $100,000 unsecured bond.
If convicted, he faced up to 35 years imprisonment and a $1 million dollar fine. He wanted scientific/scholarly articles liberated. They belong in the public domain. He wanted everyone given access. It's their right, he believed.
He wanted a single giant dataset established. He did it before. He wasn't charged. Why now?