They demurred on prosecuting war criminals (hey, they’re all government buddies and what’s a few prisoners tortured to death among friends?), but they sure as hell hounded Aaron Swartz to his death. It really speaks to how justice is so often these days a weapon of the powerful, not a defense for the powerless. The petition to hold Carmen Ortiz accountable for her bullying has now reached 38,000. Pleasesign it – and let the Obama administration know that this attack on dissemination of academic information is not acceptable. The best piece I’ve read so far on this isClive Crook’s at the Atlantic. Money quote:
As a foreigner, I’m surprised that Americans aren’t more alarmed by the workings of their criminal justice system. I don’t know what ought to scare me more about living in the United States–that I might be the victim of a crime (which happens), or that this ferocious prosecutorial system might one day turn its wrath on me. I’d rather be mugged than threatened with years in jail for something I didn’t even know was a crime. Is this justice system actually on my side? I’m by no means sure–an astounding state of affairs.
At a conference I attended recently, I vented my preoccupation with rogue prosecutors, an ever-proliferating criminal law and the vanishing rights of the accused on a fellow attendee–a lawyer and former prosecutor. When I’d said my piece she said, “But you have to remember that nearly all of the people who are prosecuted are guilty.” For half a second I thought she was joking and I started to laugh. But she wasn’t joking.
Neither was Carmen Ortiz. But she got her victim in the end, hanging from a ceiling. We cannot bring Swartz back to life, but a California legislator plans to introduce a bill in the next Congress:
In a bill called “Aaron’s Law,” Zoe Lofgren aims to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which Massachusetts prosecutors used to charge Swartz with over 30 years in prison. Swartz’s family has accused the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office with hounding the young activist over what they call a “victimless crime.” Specifically, Lofrgen’s bill would amend the existing law to distinguish between a terms of service violation and a federal data theft crime. “Lofgren’s bill is a good start,” Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig told TIME in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
Lessig eulogized Swartz at the funeral Tuesday. Like many of Swartz’s friends, Lessig hopes that something positive will come out of the young programmer’s passing, he said. “The CFAA was the hook for the government’s bullying,” Lessig wrote on Reddit, the hugely popular Internet activist hub that Swartz helped launch. “This law would remove that hook. In a single line: no longer would it be a felony to breach a contract. Let’s get this done for Aaron — now.” (Read Lofgren’s billhere.)
And let your representative and Senator know how you feel. You’re one of the more powerful collective voices on the web. Let them hear from you – for Aaron, his loved ones, his Reddit followers, and all who can and will follow his example.
(Photo: Family and friends watch as the casket of Aaron Swartz, the Reddit co-founder and Internet activist, is moved into a waiting hearse during his funeral Tuesday, January 15, 2013, at North Suburban Lubavitch Chabad Central Avenue Synagogue in Chicago, Illinois. By Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images.)