Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, gave an impassioned speech at the Aaron Swartz Memorial Service in D.C. committing to reforming the law and investigating the abuses of the Swartz case. But when will the hearings begin?
According to the Huffington Post, Justice Department officials have already disclosed to members of Congress that Swartz’s politics played a role in the prosecution, specifically a political manifesto Swartz wrote in favor of open access to information.
Swartz’s 2008 manifesto said sharing information was a “moral imperative” and advocated for “civil disobedience” against copyright laws pushed by corporations “blinded by greed” that led to the “privatization of knowledge.”…
The “Manifesto,” Justice Department representatives told congressional staffers, demonstrated Swartz’s malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale…
[Associate Deputy Attorney General Steve] Reich told congressional staffers that the Justice Department believed federal prosecutors acted in a reasonable manner, according to the sources. He also made clear that prosecutors were in part influenced by wanting to deter others from committing similar offenses.
To recap, the Justice Department has just confirmed that Aaron Swartz was prosecuted because of his political beliefs and to make an example out of him. That is precisely the conduct that critics, including Congressman Issa, pointed to as abusive at the memorial.
And of course there is a larger context to all of this. Swartz was under surveillance by the government well before the JSTOR case, well before he committed any crime – the extent of which is still unknown and only slowly being revealed. What is known is that currently there are no restraints on government surveillance of American citizens. No process, no oversight, just get the attention of someone who can make a phone call to a law enforcement or intelligence agency and there you have it, a file starts. Write a little something on the internet and here comes agents to your house, interviewing your employer, as well as monitoring all your online activity. This is America today, now.
I can only hope no other Americans have ever written anything political on the internet or plan to, then they should be fine (provided they don’t get confused with someone else).
Aaron’s Law is not about changing the police state, it is simply an effort to add a touch of rationality to a law written in 1986 – before any serious amount of Americans even used the internet – that is being used in 2013 to police online political activism. It’s not about Aaron, it’s about the next Aaron. It is an attempt to stop the mindless machinery of State power from destroying another life.
And it all begins with finding out exactly what happened and that requires an investigation. This is a fight that needs to be won or freedom is finished in America. So cry havoc and let slip the congressional hearings.