Feds Asked Aaron Swartz's Friends About His 'Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,' A Call For Liberating Data From Private Hands

The U.S. Secret Service released
the first 104 pages of the federal government’s 14,500-page file on Aaron Swartz, the internet activist and MIT fellow who committed suicide after being charged in both federal and state court with hacking and fraud.

Swartz was the author of the “Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto,” which called for information to be freely available and not “locked up by a handful of corporations” behind copyright-enforced paywalls. He was accused of hacking MIT’s network — to which he had authorised access — so that it bulk-downloaded 4 million articles from JSTOR, the academic journal archive, in January 2011. Swartz had previously used a free access terminal in a federal courthouse to download 20 million pages of documents from PACER, the federal judiciary ‘s database of court records.

The newly released documents show that the feds asked questions about Swartz’s manifesto and its “human rights” applications.

They also describe the searches that officers made of Swartz’s home and office, and the property they took from Swartz. Most of the pages are procedural in nature, in that they deal with the docketing of the cases against Swartz and custody of the evidence seized from his home.

Here are a few highlights:

When the FBI searched Swartz’s home, he asked them, “What took you so long … why didn’t you do this earlier?”

But Swartz hinted to a colleague that while the cops took his Rock Band controller, he did not believe they found what they were looking for:

The most interesting part is that which describes the feds interviewing one of Swartz’s close friends in May 2011, who told them about the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto and its “human rights” consequences:

Evidence taken from Swartz included a “Black Notebook Journal” (later returned to his lawyer), a T-Mobile Sidekick, a Nokia, a T-Mobile HTC G2, an iMac and an Acer Aspire laptop.

Swartz was charged with various counts of computer fraud, theft of information, recklessly damaging a computer, and aiding an abetting. Here are his fingerprints:

Swartz killed himself on Jan. 13, 2013. His parents and friends believed he was hounded to death by prosecutors.

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