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.

Twitter369Reddit111Facebook324Google+38Email

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

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • 31
  • 32
  • 33
  • 34
  • 35
  • 36
  • 37
  • 38
  • 39
  • 40
  • 41
  • 42
  • 43
  • 44
  • 45
  • 46
  • 47
  • 48
  • 49
  • 50
  • 51
  • 52
  • 53
  • 54
  • 55
  • 56
  • 57
  • 58
  • 59
  • 60
  • 61
  • 62
  • 63
  • 64
  • 65
  • 66
  • 67
  • 68
  • 69
  • 70
  • 71
  • 72
  • 73
  • 74
  • 75
  • 76
  • 77
  • 78
  • 79
  • 80
  • 81
  • 82
  • 83

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz It is pretty hard to imagine Sebastian Vettel being a more selfish loathsome prick. #F1
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Team orders against Sebastian Vettel? Whoa, but Vettel is, once again, like last year, a fucking selfish dickhead. What a punk jerk.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @AskZelda_ Well, other than that it was during NFL Playoffs (Ronnie LOVES the Packers), it is awfully attractive, no? http://t.co/m7aEAMMTig
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz NICO! Whoa, what a ballsy move on Vettel. #F1
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz So, what in the world did the Williams crew do to Massa's car?? Man, that was brutal.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @AskZelda_ I have a Ronald Reagan mask from a Halloween in the 80's, do you think that would work? http://t.co/ksltCAaG4w
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @misterdevans just after the turn of the hour.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Obama White House Sponsors Young and Rich Narcissistic 1% Fucktards That Will Ruin the World One Day http://t.co/XhEZdHp3yO Seriously
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @dceiver @ryangrim @HuffPostLive Lotta repetitive emphasis there. Is this like "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" from The Shining?
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Now plattered: Ten Years After Undead (a new copy cause my old one was totally dead).
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @FrancisJeffrey7 @MarkSZaidEsq @Thomas_Drake1 @TimmyTokyo1 Not quite sure what to make of that, can you rephrase?
3hreplyretweetfavorite
January 2013
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031