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Re: petition to remove Aaron Swartz prosecutor
From: Jeffrey Walton <noloader () gmail com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2013 08:01:21 -0500
A good post by Dan Kaminsky surrounding the subject.
Reality is what refuses to go away when you stop believing in it.
The reality – the ground truth—is that Aaron Swartz is dead.
Brinksmanship is a terrible game, that all too many systems evolve
towards. The suicide of Aaron Swartz is an awful outcome, an unfair
outcome, a radically out of proportion outcome. As in all
negotiations to the brink, it represents a scenario in which all
Aaron Swartz lost. He paid with his life. This is no victory for
Carmen Ortiz, or Steve Heymann, or JSTOR, MIT, the United States
Government, or society in general. In brinksmanship, everybody loses.
Suicide is a horrendous act and an even worse threat. But let us not
pretend that a set of charges covering the majority of Aaron’s
productive years is not also fundamentally noxious, with ultimately a
deeply similar outcome. Carmen Ortiz (and, presumably, Steve Heymann)
are almost certainly telling the truth when they say – they had no
intention of demanding thirty years of imprisonment from Aaron. This
did not stop them from in fact, demanding thirty years of imprisonment
Brinksmanship. It’s just negotiation. Nothing personal.
Let’s return to ground truth. MIT was a mostly open network, and the
content “stolen” by Aaron was itself mostly open. You can make
whatever legalistic argument you like; the reality is there simply
wasn’t much offense taken to Aaron’s actions. He wasn’t stealing
credit card numbers, he wasn’t reading personal or professional
emails, he wasn’t extracting design documents or military secrets.
These were academic papers he was ‘liberating’.
What he was, was easy to find.
I have been saying, for some time now, that we have three problems in
computer security. First, we can’t authenticate. Second, we can’t
write secure code. Third, we can’t bust the bad guys. What we’ve
experienced here, is a failure of the third category. Computer crime
exists. Somebody caused a huge amount of damage – and made a lot of
money – with a Java exploit, and is going to get away with it. That’s
hard to accept. Some of our rage from this ground truth is sublimated
by blaming Oracle. But some of it turns into pressure on prosecutors,
to find somebody, anybody, who can be made an example of.
There are two arguments to be made now. Perhaps prosecution by
example is immoral – people should only be punished for their own
crimes. In that case, these crimes just weren’t offensive enough for
the resources proposed (prison isn’t free for society). Or perhaps
prosecution by example is how the system works, don’t be naïve – well
Aaron Swartz’s antics were absolutely annoying to somebody at MIT and
somebody at JSTOR. (Apparently someone at PACER as well.) That’s not
good, but that’s not enough. Nobody who we actually have significant
consensus for prosecuting, models himself after Aaron Swartz and
thinks “Man, if they go after him, they might go after me”.
The hard truth is that this should have gone away, quietly, ages ago.
Aaron should have received a restraining order to avoid MIT, or
perhaps some sort of fine. Instead, we have a death. There will be
consequences to that – should or should not doesn’t exist here, it is
simply a statement of fact. Reality is what refuses to go away, and
this is the path by which brinksmanship is disincentivized.
My take on the situation is that we need a higher class of computer
crime prosecution. We, the computer community in general, must engage
at a higher level – both in terms of legislation that captures our
mores (and funds actual investigations – those things ain’t free!),
and operational support that can provide a critical check on who is or
isn’t punished for their deeds. Aaron’s law is an excellent start,
and I support it strongly, but it excludes faux law rather than
including reasoned policy. We can do more. I will do more.
The status quo is not sustainable, and has cost us a good friend.
It’s so out of control, so desperate to find somebody – anybody! – to
take the fall for unpunished computer crime, that it’s almost entirely
become about the raw mechanics of being able to locate and arrest the
individual instead of about their actual actions.
Aaron Swartz should be alive today. Carmen Ortiz and Steve Heymann
should have been prosecuting somebody else. They certainly should not
have been applying a 60x multiple between the amount of time they
wanted, and the degree of threat they were issuing. The system, in
all of its brinksmanship, has failed. It falls on us, all of us, to
On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 12:15 PM, Jeffrey Walton <noloader () gmail com> wrote:
From the Full Disclosure mailing list.
Schwartz recently committed suicide over the incident.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <richajap () fastmail fm>
Date: Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Subject: [Full-disclosure] petition to remove Aaron Swartz prosecutor
To: full-disclosure () lists grok org uk
Above link to remove this prosecutor needs to have signatures by
Fun and Misc security discussion for OT posts.
Note: funsec is a public and open mailing list.
Re: petition to remove Aaron Swartz prosecutor Jeffrey Walton (Jan 18)