- A person is being prescribed 35 years in prison or $1,000,000 as fine. What are your 3 guesses to his crime?
- If a person was found guilty of pouring acid on another helpless man and dragging other helpless naked men around on a leash and repeatedly (sexually) abusing helpless men & beating them up continuously till they are near death & then letting them heal to be beaten up again, how will you, based on your answer to the previous question, punish this person?
He has also developed the site theinfo.org. His landmark analysis of Wikipedia, Who Writes Wikipedia?, has been widely cited. Working with Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee at MIT, he helped develop and popularize standards for sharing data on the Web. He also coauthored the RSS 1.0 specification, now widely used for publishing news stories at the age of 14 and there is much more to his list of achievements.
Then, why? Victimisation.
- Swartz registered his computer under a fictitious name. This is not an offence. Very few people will register under their full name (unavailability is one reason). If I were in MIT, I would register as Eroteme. MITnet's Rules of Use do not prohibit one from using a pseudonym.
- He used a program to download content from JSTOR. Using a software program to download & manage downloads is not an offence. Most computer savvy people use one to accelerate downloads or thread them. Bots are not allowed by JSTOR as per their T&C.
- The rapid & massive download of articles impaired JSTOR's computers & threatened to misappropriate its archive. Threatened, not established. No, I am not talking legalese (while I could), but this has to be established else any download of tens of articles could be deemed as "threatening". Notional or perceived offence is not an offence. It is equivalent to my considering you a criminal because you come from a neighbourhood with a high crime rate (and the American judicial system has successfully created many such ghettos already. Do read the content on The Sentencing Project's site) & demanding that you be thrown behind bars with no further evidence required. Impairment of computers can happen for a variety of reasons. If the servers were designed poorly to only manage 10 concurrent requests, then anyone firing 11 might bring them down & can potentially be charged with downloading "massive" amounts of data. If the same 1000s of requests had come from across the globe, we would still find JSTOR servers buckling. Tonnes of sites go through this problem (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Aaron's intention, nowhere, has been proven to bring down JSTOR.
- The indictment charges claim that (point 18) Aaron stole those articles. This is baseless. By any definition of thievery, downloading of articles via a legal account does not amount to stealing! JSTOR still had those articles with them. That MIT & JSTOR resorted to means of preventing Aaron access is not equatable to recognising his activity as theft. If it were so, all they had to do was file a complaint with the police & verify each person whose computer was connected to the network using that IP. Neither of them did either of these options. They just rolled their eyes & decided to make it difficult for people to do this in future. And how? Read on.
- JSTOR blocked the IP, 220.127.116.11. Who grants IPs? MIT. So what did Aaron do? Request and obtain a new IP. Who granted it? Yes, MIT again. So if getting a new IP was illegal, who performed the illegal act?
- JSTOR blocks MIT. Not because MIT was bad but because JSTOR didn't have the brains to secure their contents & prevent unmanageable downloads of their content. If they knew how to stop & later prevent a device from downloading "unacceptable" amounts of legally available data (which is why David Segal's statements make sense) they wouldn't have to make all MIT suffer. Is Aaron responsible for this? No. He wasn't stealing or illegally using any loopholes in JSTOR's systems. Frankly, he would have preferred more robust systems which would have let him complete his task without them buckling.
- MIT decides to not give that Acer laptop an IP. Note that MIT did not contact Aaron & warn him or physically remove him from the campus. What Aaron was doing was inconvenient & not illegal. So what does Aaron do in response to MIT's move? He changed his MAC address. MAC address spoofing is not illegal. Anyone with the right know-how can do it. If I changed my network card, the MAC address would change automatically. Had Aaron simply bought another network card & installed it, he would essentially be taking the expensive route to MAC spoofing.
- So far, nothing illegal in any of Aaron's activities.
- Point 19 tries to cry foul on Aaron's actions. It amuses me to see the bickering childishness of the claim. If all the users of MIT were to simultaneously download several thousand articles from JSTOR, it would have brought the system down & JSTOR would have blocked MIT. I have already cited the MITnet's rules of usage above. Refer to that & compare with the stupid childish claims made in Point 19. None of them hold water as we have already seen.
- Aaron obtains another guest account. To obtain another guest connection doesn't appear to be illegal else MIT (with all its remarkable brains) would have prevented it from happening.
- All the claims in point 21 have already been proven to be weak & desperate of the United States of America (the only plaintiff in this case).
- Aaron uses another computer to carry out his tasks. What is legal for the 1st computer is legal for the 2nd. Hence, nothing to add here. Together they brought down JSTOR's system. Nothing new there. JSTOR blocks MIT. Nothing new there too.
- Note the intensity of the "crime". In point 25, the United States of America shamelessly admits to the "horrific" nature of the "crime" committed by Aaron Swartz - he downloaded 2 million articles of which nearly half were research papers & remaining being reviews, news, editorials, and misc. documents. If I could download BBC's public content & in the sheer rapidity of my task, bring down BBC servers, am I a criminal?
- Points 26-28 talk about how Aaron plugged his machines directly into the switch without registering with MITnet's guest access services.
- Points 29-31 talk about his repeating all of that at another MIT building before being caught with the USB drive containing a program with "distinct similarities" to "keepgrabbing.py".
- Point 32 summarises the volume of Aaron's act & Point 33 is the United States of America whining about why they are in the right for filing this case. Note the phrase "intended to" and not actually having done anything as claimed.
and show your support. Please spread word about this trial. Please educate friends & family about the nature of this trial & what its implication are on individual freedom. What happens today in the USA could happen elsewhere tomorrow. If you care about the best in the human race (and there is very little to be proud of), then please demand that Aaron be freed or receive commensurate punishment only if demanded by MIT and/or JSTOR.
Now allow me to ramble a bit about the elements in the legal system that make me roll my eyes!
While many prisons are indeed shutting down, the judiciary's mentality has not changed much. All you need to search for is crazy sentences (of up to 624 years) that have been slapped on wrong-doers. That doesn't even make sense.
What doesn't make further sense is the idiocy of the ex-President Bush. No, he is not an exception because he was elected twice by the people (which would mean that the current population of USA is an exception to the norm of generations that have populated that country). When Bush granted Toussie pardon, it did get many people angry. He did rescind it, but the entire act raised eyebrows. How can pardon be granted to scheming white-collar crimes? They are plotted & well thought out and not acts of frenzy or misguidance!
- The treatment of its own people, segregated based on race, affluence & alignment to its paranoid policies.
- The treatment of people who are not American via war crimes & interference in local governance.
While I have provided some evidence to the 1st, evidence to the 2nd point are best provided as references that the avid reader can go through. Allow me to summarise a statistic, though. Stalin's Gulag & Hitler's camps caused the death of several million Ukrainians & Jews, US war crimes (and it is fine to go back in history as Stalin's acts were of the 1930s) are nearly of equal number (counting Hiroshima Nagasaki, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Japanese war crimes, Gulf war, the Al Qaeda drama & the drone attacks amongst the many others) & mounting.
- The role the US had to play in Unit 731: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731
- Indirect damages: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Shifa_pharmaceutical_factory
How many of these crimes go punished? Virtually none! When a country is unable to be fair to its citizens as well as in its treatment of people of other countries, such a country needs to introspect & listen to the bitter yet vital advice of the wise people within & without. If the USA refuses this opportunity to tone down & introspect, it will be lost for good.