Attorney Carmen Ortiz at her swearing-in ceremony as prosecutor in the state of Massachusetts. "The Internet' has been outrageously harassing her, but she was just doing her job -- and doing it rightly and justly. Office of Governor Patrick. Photo credit: Eugena Ossi/Governor's Office
"The Internet" -- that motley crew made up of Anonymous persecutors, cunning professors and Big IT moguls who know how to dog whistle to the mob -- have been harassing Carmen Ortiz, the prosecutor of the case against Aaron Swartz, the hacker who committed suicide rather than face trial on charges of hacking 4 million documents from JSTOR.
Let's be clear -- suicides always bear the primary responsibility for their deaths and are accountable for them. Sometimes there are grey areas if a drug overdose or alcoholism are involved, but that doesn't seem to be the case for Swartz. Yes, he was often depressed, perhaps bi-polar or on the autism spectrum, and there is a concerted lobby of "helping professionals" who want no one to ever discuss any political underpinnings to any death (especially if it doesn't fit their own liberal sensibilities) and want depression to be seen in a vacuum, without valid or invalid reasons.
But I reject that kind of suppression of speech of a public figure's death with public policy implications and I submit that when a life is devoted to a cause as Swartz's was, we even owe it to the decased to debate his cause seriously. Certainly Lawrence Lessig and the other fathers and grandfathers of the copyleftist movement like Mitch Kapor, John Perry Barlow and Cory Doctorow think they can make political hay for their cause over this tragedy. They blame the prosecutors, so when they do that, I'm pushing right back and blaming them. I blame Lessig most of all because he was a clear mentor and enabler and also didn't go to the mat for his protege because he felt he "crossed a line". I don't share their cause, but I find it the depth of despicable behaviour to cunningly nod and wink and incite people to hacking and then back off when they have "crossed a line" -- that in fact Lessing and others are only too happy to have them cross. Shame on them. But then, we knew they were immoral when they first tried to pretend that "sharing" wasn't stealing and that phreakers and hackers weren't criminals.
And yes, immoral. Because they -- and of course the family and friends -- have set the tone of horrendous vigilantism by saying "let's get 'em" about the prosecutors in this case. These people have undergone an extraordinary assault on their private lives and their professional positions. They've been bullied, harrassed, insulted, intimidated and subjected to the most outrageous accusations and slurs in social media and even in mainstream media.
When Tom Dolan, the husband of Carmen Ortiz, the prosecutor in the case, a former IBM CFO, finally went to his wife's defense on Twitter the other day, he was treated to a deluge of the vicious hatred that only Anonymous knows how to give to people who fall in its sites and he was basically run off the Internet -- his account is now closed (I hope not due to the Twitter management's actions).
He stood up to Mitch Kapor -- God bless him -- and pointed out that Mitch wasn't mentioning the 6 months plea bargain. Absolutely!
You would think that mentioning THE TRUTH of this case and how the "50 years" or "35 years" was a huge mispresentation and even lie at the point of his death that that would shut these little fuckers up -- along with the big money and power from Silicon Valley who use them as foot soldiers in the California business model.
Not at all. The Anon gang are masters at manipulating and bending the truth endlessly in their ceaseless Fisking and word-salading. Why, six months was in fact not the case, and it would be more like 7 years, they claimed -- with no basis. Why, even six months was a travesty, although MIT certainly recognized a hack of their system and theft of 4 million files was a criminal offense, regardless of all your hippie views of this.
What's particularly disingenuous from this gang is that Swartz's lawyer knew about the six month offer, and he didn't say anything about it, nor did Lessig who must have known. They let Declan McCullough of CNET and all the other tech press copyleftist mouthpieces blather on about "50 years" to create that climate of insanity that "the Internet" loves. In fact, you could argue that they created more of a climate of intimidation that could have acted on Swartz's psyche than the criminal justice system itself!
The prosecutors have waited prudently until the furor has subsided and until at least the tragic Swartz was buried and his family could have a grieving period. They are that much the professional -- unlike the professors whom I have accused of "professorial overreach", in objection to their claim of "prosecutorial overreach".
As a parent and a sister, I can only imagine the pain felt by the family and friends of Aaron Swartz, and I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who knew and loved this young man. I know that there is little I can say to abate the anger felt by those who believe that this office’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz was unwarranted and somehow led to the tragic result of him taking his own life.
I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case. The career prosecutors handling this matter took on the difficult task of enforcing a law they had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably. The prosecutors recognized that there was no evidence against Mr. Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain, and they recognized that his conduct – while a violation of the law – did not warrant the severe punishments authorized by Congress and called for by the Sentencing Guidelines in appropriate cases. That is why in the discussions with his counsel about a resolution of the case this office sought an appropriate sentence that matched the alleged conduct – a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting. While at the same time, his defense counsel would have been free to recommend a sentence of probation. Ultimately, any sentence imposed would have been up to the judge. At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to seek – maximum penalties under the law.
As federal prosecutors, our mission includes protecting the use of computers and the Internet by enforcing the law as fairly and responsibly as possible. We strive to do our best to fulfill this mission every day.
Note that the prosecutor -- the prosecutor! -- from the get-go acknowledged that this was not for commercial gain. This was one of the mainstays of the Anonymous and copyleftist gang that somehow they believed that these "draconian" prosecutors hadn't taken into account. It's absurd. Of course they did. And the lawyer knew that. But he preferred to let a whole bizarre hysteria grow up around this as a weapon in defending his case. I find that despicable.
If his client "feared" prosecution, then why did he defiantly and repeatedly hack this system using all kinds of methods of subterfuge? The specious and duplicitious argumentation of Anonymous that he was "only accessing open files" is easily refuted, because if that were true, he wouldn't have to make an alias, make a fake account, log in from a closet, hide his face with a bicycle helmet, and then run away from police on campus physically. Oh, and this: use a circumvention script, "keepgrabbing.pv" (!) to steal 4 million files. These are not the actions of someone taking from an open cookie jar, you know; they are the actions of a thief. An ideological thief trying to make a point, and "propaganda of the deed".
If he was in such agitation/depression over the consequences of his action or they could arguably have been shown to be related to depression/mental illness, his lawyer could have easily played those cards and might have won, as other lawyers have who have played those cards with hacker cases. He didn't.
Certainly it's wrong to harass prosecutors doing their jobs by exposing their privacy and bombarding them with calls or emails at home or even work just to annoy and try to silence them. Perhaps even Lessig would agree with that. If you want to change laws, you can petition and write your congress people. Oh, geeks don't believe in Congress; they think Congress is "stupid" and "not technological" and that they should just "circumvent" them. That's why I'm all for circumventing geeks: they are a threat to our rights and our democracy.
But will they cease and desist now from their false claim of "prosecutorial overreach" now that we have seen Ortiz' statement confirming that the offer was six months and that his counsel was "free to recommend a probation" and that it would be up to the judge?
I often think that the script kiddies, who are raised and weaned on the Internet in the harsh code-as-law tradition of "benevolent dictators" and executions at dawn (mutes, bans, hacks, DDOS, etc. ) simply don't understand at all how organic justice does work -- and work fairly -- in a liberal society (they don't teach civics in school and there is no place for these ignoramuses to learn how justice works and no motivation for them to learn). They simply have no clue about separation of powers and checks and balances -- these are alien concepts to the binary thinkers of 0/1, yes/no.
Faced with the reality of the perfectly just and even lenient facts of this case, the script kiddies and their copyleftist grandfathers who know better are reduced to screaming that this is all "bought politics" or "corporate sell-outs' blah blah. Tom Dolan is called a "corporate whore" (!) merely for having worked for IBM in the past -- the same IBM that sustains the lives of many of these 30- and 40-something Anonymous assholes who work IBM jobs by day and sit on IRC or 4chan by night -- or not even, as we've seen from one enterprising young out-sourcer lately.
I'm hoping that what Ortiz said two years ago will hold:
“Stealing is stealing,” Ortiz announced on the day two years ago that Swartz was indicted. “Whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars, it is equally harmful to the victim whether you have stolen or give it away.”