Two Days Before MIT and Cambridge Cops Arrested Aaron Swartz, Secret Service Took Over the Investigation

The public story of Aaron Swartz’ now-tragic two year fight with the Federal government usually starts with his July 19, 2011 arrest.

But that’s not when he was first arrested for accessing a closet at MIT in which he had a netbook downloading huge quantities of scholarly journals. He was first arrested on January 6, 2011 by MIT and Cambrige, MA cops.

According to a suppression motion in his case, however two days before Aaron was arrested, the Secret Service took over the investigation.

On the morning of January 4, 2011, at approximately 8:00 am, MIT personnel located the netbook being used for the downloads and decided to leave it in place and institute a packet capture of the network traffic to and from the netbook.4 Timeline at 6. This was accomplished using the laptop of Dave Newman, MIT Senior Network Engineer, which was connected to the netbook and intercepted the communications coming to and from it. Id. Later that day, beginning at 11:00 am, the Secret Service assumed control of the investigation. [my emphasis]

In fact, in one of the most recent developments in discovery in Aaron’s case, the government belatedly turned over an email showing Secret Service agent Michael Pickett offering to take possession of the hardware seized from Aaron “anytime after it has been processed for prints or whenever you [Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann] feel it is appropriate.” Another newly disclosed document shows the Pickett accompanied the local cops as they moved the hardware they had seized from Aaron around.

According to the Secret Service, they get involved in investigations with:

  • Significant economic or community impact
  • Participation of organized criminal groups involving multiple districts or transnational organizations
  • Use of schemes involving new technology

Downloading scholarly articles is none of those things.

A lot of people are justifiably furious with US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and AUSA Heymann’s conduct on this case.

But the involvement of the Secret Service just as it evolved from a local breaking and entry case into the excessive charges ultimately charged makes it clear that this was a nationally directed effort to take down Swartz.

MIT’s President Rafael Reif has expressed sadness about Aaron’s death and promised an investigation into the university’s treatment of Aaron. I want to know whether MIT–which is dependent on federal grants for much of its funding–brought in the Secret Service.

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Wait, Clair Williams is "under investigation" because she cannot attend Bernie Ecclestone's crappy press conference? http://t.co/9Cw2UUFL1g
2mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @Gaius_Publius @nakedcapitalism @mattkbh Yeah, sorry, you lost me when you stab at First Look yet take the bleatings of Pando credibly.
6mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV I assume libertarians will be taking candy from the kids who come to their doors tonight expecting handouts. Just to teach them a lesson...
28mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @billmon1 Nah, He's saying, "we've figured out how to extend this hot war for a year longer than the Cold War lasted."
33mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @ZFTWARNING: Secretive Mexican police unit questioned over 3 murdered Americans | Fox News Latino http://t.co/uCWrXsxSM9 via @foxnewslat
35mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @ChrisInParis A little early, I guess. They say we're gonna have another Polar Vortex year.
41mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @bmaz Gonna tell Ol' Noodle Arm your commitment is waning. Gonna replace Peyton for the local 6-1 team, are you?
45mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Okay, nobody tell @emptywheel but I haz to go to the Angry Crab Shack+BBQ before I can even think about trashing her.
55mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @AZBobLord @noprezzie2012 @ArizonaLuke They got smart and distanced themselves from an ignorant destructive idiot?
59mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @michaelbkiefer: Media seek transcript of shuttered Jodi Arias hearing http://t.co/vXVQJVhaFt via @azcentral
1hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV It IS airborne! RT @MarkusJ: it was right there in front of us all along #obama #ebola #tcot #benghazi #illuminati http://t.co/PnceDWW6mu
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @GregoryMcNeal Cool. Look forward to it.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
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