"The Revolution Will Be A/B Tested"

Reflections on Aaron Swartz's life and death, how to change the world, and making ourselves the people we want to be.

MIT On About The #AaronSwartz Evidence: Misleading and Insufficient

Below is the response from Aaron’s father and me to MIT President Rafael Reif’s statement this morning, along with newly released email exchanges between MIT and Aaron’s lawyers about the evidence.

Edit: Read/watch my speech last week at MIT about its investigation, evidence, and the protective order here. Many relevant points.

You should follow me on Twitter here.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Brett Abrams : 516-841-1105 : brett@fitzgibbonmedia.com

Aaron Swartz’s Lawyers File Motion to Lift Protective Order

As MIT Releases Redacted Documents, Activists Urge MIT to Support
Lifting the the Protective Order

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
announced they will release information on the case against Aaron
Swartz ,but will edit out names and other important information to the
case, in a letter released by MIT president Rafael Reif.

“I welcome President Reif’s commitment to transparency.  However, this
announcement is misleading. MIT does not get to decide in what form
the evidence is released publicly. The judge does. MIT has already
given this evidence to the courts, at which point it gave up
proprietary control over the evidence. President Reif’s decision
simply foreshadows the inevitability that the judge will release at
least this much of the evidence. It sets a low bar, but it does not
decide the matter,” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Aaron’s
partner.  “The redacted documents MIT is releasing only tell one part
of the story. Huge amounts of information would still be hidden
beneath the protective order — information that MIT’s investigators
themselves will not have access to unless the protective order is
lifted. If MIT is really committed to transparency and having a full,
complete investigation, they need to join the call with Aaron’s
lawyers to lift the protective order.”

“This is not a change in MIT’s position.  MIT could have no
expectation of privacy or security since this evidence was given to
the government with the understanding that it was evidence in a public
trial,” said Robert Swartz, Aaron’s father.  “They understood when
they gave these documents to the government that they had no rights to
privacy or security. MIT should release all internal communications
related to this case whether or not they were provided to the
government including all internal communications they had related to
how they handled it and decided not to ask the government to drop the

“I am also concerned that this announcement does not fully live up
Reif’s stated commitment to transparency. After all, the people cited
in this evidence could have been called as witnesses at a public
criminal trial, and if MIT wished to protect these people’s privacy,
MIT should not have become involved in the criminal trial to begin
with. They made a calculated decision not to nip this case in the bud.
They don’t get to avoid the consequences now, after Aaron’s death,”
continued Stinebrickner-Kauffman.  “Any redactions by MIT in the
version of the documents it releases, or ordered by the judge in the
version that the courts release, must be done in a way that leave the
documents understandable. For instance, names must be replaced with
consistent pseudonyms, not just blacked out in such a way that leaves
the evidence illegible in practice. Moreover, MIT must leave intact
the names of individuals at the senior management level, who are
public figures and who were responsible for the decision to take the
case to trial to begin with. Doing otherwise will make it impossible
for the MIT community and Aaron’s friends and family to determine what
actually happened.”

On Friday, March 15th, lawyers for Aaron Swartz filed a motion in
Federal Court to modify the protective order surrounding the Swartz
case and make the information from the hearing public.  Swartz’s
defense team reasons that in light of Aaron’s death, there is no
longer a case to prosecute and no risk that disclosure would impede a
fair trial.  Swartz’s lawyers argue that the protective order hinders
the public’s access to information without substantial justification.

View the Motion to Lift the Protective Order Here:

“The public has a right to know what happened in this case,” added
Stinebrickner-Kauffman.  “The public has a right know how weak the
evidence against Aaron was, and how frivolous his persecution was. I,
personally, have a right to see this evidence, and I won’t feel
closure until I do. The bulk of this evidence would have been made
public in the event of a trial, which all parties were expecting.
Anyone opposing the lifting of this protective order is engaged in a
cover-up. There’s no other word for it.”

Swartz’s defense team has long opposed the existence of a protective
order.  In October 2011, Swartz’s defense team filed an original
motion against the protective order.

View the Original Defendant Opposition to the Protective Order Here:

After Aaron’s death, the House Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform sent a letter to Swartz’s attorney’s requesting documents and
information currently sealed under the protective order.  In the
letter, Congress acknowledges important information currently limited
by the protective order is necessary to the public interest.

View Congress’ Request for Information in the Protective Order:

“Given the controversy surrounding this prosecution, and the ongoing
level of public and Congressional interest in learning the truth, the
only appropriate and responsible way to move forward is for there to
be complete transparency about what occurred in this case,” said
Elliot Peters, Swartz’s attorney.  “We need sunlight.  Anyone who
opposes that – MIT or the government, obviously fears having the truth
come out.  On behalf of Aaron, we have no such fears.”

Swartz’s defense team has long been urging the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology to cooperate with public interest in the case and not
oppose the release of information under the protective order. Thus
far, MIT has argued to keep the protective order in place.

While MIT claims it is currently investigating its role in Swartz’s
death, without the protective order being lifted, the investigation
will lack key testimony from Swartz’s lawyers. They have declined to
be interviewed by the investigation until the protective order is
lifted because many of the things they would contribute to the
investigation are currently under the protective order, meaning they
cannot discuss them with MIT’s investigatory committee.  You can view
email exchanges between MIT and Elliot Peters, Aaron Swartz’s
attorney, below:

Letter Exchanges between Swartz Defense Team and MIT:

Email Exchanges Between Swartz Dense Team and MIT:

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