Prof. Hal Abelson's long-delayed and much-anticipated report on the Swartz case is finally out -- and perhaps hoping not to be noticed very much on the same day the verdict in the Bradley Manning case is mentioned -- or who knows, just the opposite, hoping to piggyback on the "national conversation" about all these, er, "agonizing issues" regarding unethical hacking.
The report appears to be swathed in miles of politically-correct cotton wadding and the Volokh Conspiracy coverage of it already lets us know how we're to view the precious little darlings who hack, through the lens of the "lessons learned" for the "communty":
The responsibility to help brilliant and innovative students navigate the ethical choices that accompany their technical empowerment
I'll have to read the whole thing before I blog more about it, but I want to single out one glaring problem which I was shocked to see.
How could Abelson accept Quinn Norton's lie abouty the Guerilla Manifesto?
Abelson may have first tried to diminish the significance of this anarchist call by dubbing it a "statement about free information". But he then does describe the incident as something the feds may have accepted as a motive for this hack that would have criminalized him for it, since Aaron Swartz openly calls for hackers to copy everything they have, legally or illegaly, and dissemiante it.
But here Abelson then decides that instead of saying "That's wrong" or "We ethical computer programmers and scientists teaching at MIT don't accept that as a premise in life" he dodges and ducks like Anonymous and then invokes Quinn Norton's utterly biased take on it.
In fact she lies, as I discovered.
When I researched the drafting of this Manifesto, I read about the conference in Italy where a number of activists discussed these issues.
Quinn pretends that there were "multiple authors" and takes responsibility on herself as editor of it.
Yet the organizers of the conference in Italy themselves, apparently unable to coordinate the script of "the movement" together with her, put something completely different on their website when they posted an announcement of his death.
They called him the author of the Manifesto.
That's because he was. I believe them, not Quinn Norton, quite frankly, because she has constantly manipulated the public's understanding of the case by her selective telling of her cooperation with authorities questioning her and she lets us know that her motive in her "nuanced" telling of the story was to help her old boyfriend.
Here is an excerpt:
While looking for news on Swartz's case, I found that the people at the monastery retreat in Italy where he wrote the Guerilla Manifesto posted a tribute to him right after he died, and said this:
Aaron penned the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto while at the Eremo.
So I wrote that on Twitter, and while I didn't approach Quinn Norton, she responded.
She had made it sound in her article published in The Atlantic that there were multiple authors and therefore you couldn't tell who the author was and therefore the feds couldn't use this document as evidence.
This is parallel to her -- and others' -- argument that even citing this document is prosecuting thoughtcrime.
I think it's cited merely to show motive. [...]
Norton felt awful about giving the feds the Guerilla manifesto when it seemed they didn't know about it:
So this is where I was profoundly foolish. I told them about the Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto. And in doing so, Aaron would explain to me later (and reporters would confirm), I made everything worse. This is what I must live with.
This is insane, of course, because they could find an open document on the Internet anyway, and sooner or later they would have found it. And it's precisely because the feds were not pursuing "thoughtcrime" that they didn't go trawling through all his blogs.
So after the feds got this and she felt it was now the smoking gun they lacked to prosecute her old boyfriend, she switched tactics:
Aaron was incredibly angry with me. I pointed out that any journalist worth a damn would have the manifesto in no time; he agreed, but said these guys weren't as smart as journalists. I said the press would uncover it when the case went public. He told me, as he had so many times before, that the press wouldn't be interested in the case. We were both wrong.
Is Mr. Demand Progress really telling the truth when he claims his case wouldn't be interesting to the press?!
So Quinn then tried to spin it with another constructed narrative based on part of a phone call she heard:
Later I listened to Aaron on the phone as he described to a journalist how he had downloaded 400,000 law journal articles to do text analysis, revealing what kind of legal research was being funded by what kind of companies in 2008, and publishing an academic paper at Stanford about it, all as explanation of why he might have downloaded the JSTOR articles. It was the best answer legally to the question I'd been asked in that small fluorescent room surrounded by big men. Listening to him say that I felt my insides collapse.
That is, it's ambiguous, as others have pointed out before me, whether he himself is ssaying this is his JSTOR hack motive, or whether she's interpolating that as his motive -- it seems the latter.
Of course, you could ask JSTOR for access to do a big data drill if you really needed to as a fellow of the "ethics" center at Harvard, you know?
Quinn then turns in this bit of very fancy footwork -- just too fancy:
They put the manifesto, the cause of so much grief, in front of me to read to the jury. I read what they directed me to and they asked me if Aaron was the author. I explained I didn't know, it had been authored by four people, not one. I'd edited it right after, still in Italy, but Aaron had brought it from the group and his name got attached to it. I told them there was no way to know if he'd written the part they were trying to use to prove his intent. Asked if it reflected his current thinking, I looked at the middle-aged audience and said, honestly, that he'd moderated many of his views in the last few years, I couldn't know. I referred to the drift of a young man's mind and said we shouldn't be held to everything we said in our early 20s. I caught one of the woman in the back nodding. The prosecutors were furious.
Too fancy, because the people who hosted the conference said, "Aaron penned the manifesto" in their tribute to him. Unwittingly. Because they didn't square the story with her -- how could they? And she must have failed to allign her story with what they had written -- she didn't see it or realize it. Well, she is under stress and on Vicodin, too.
But despite the obvious statement on the Italian site and her contradictory statements here, this is what Abelson ran:
Aaron Swartz was not the sole author of the memo, and it is unknown whether he authored the sentences that were quoted. Quinn Norton told the Review Panel that she did the final editing of the piece, and that she does not know who the other authors were, or who contributed which part.
14 Supra at 4 n.15; see also USAO Press Release July 19