This week we got another insight into the focus of the security agencies in the United States. Documents revealed that the U.S. Secret Service kept free-information activist Aaron Swartz under close watch until he killed himself following an abusive prosecution by the Administration. At the same time, the CIA reportedly zeroed in on famed MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky despite earlier denials. The prior investigation of Chomsky and the more recent investigation of Swartz shows little has changed in how civil libertarians are viewed by the government.
The CIA previously denied any records relevant to monitoring Chomsky’s movements or associations. However, a response by the CIA to Freedom of Information Act that suggests such monitoring by the CIA. Chomsky, 84, was voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll. The CIA inquiry appears to be from many years ago, but the denial of such records was relatively recent.
We have previously discussed the Swartz case and how the Obama Administration hounded Swartz in an abusive prosecution until he finally hanged himself at the age of 26. It now turns out that the Secret Service joined in this campaign against the free information activist, including securing documents and electronic devices seized during a search of Swartz’s home and research office at Harvard University.
The full-court press against Swartz appears to be due to his advocacy for free access to information and Internet freedoms. However, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz moved to shield the names of prosecutors who were responsible for this highly criticized prosecution. In the meantime, Ortiz has simply moved on without any professional repercussions for the hounding of Swartz. Ortiz has been admonished in prior cases for her abusive tactics. However, she remains a favorite of the Administration and was recently featured in a national television ad on elder fraud.
The effort directed against Swartz shows the level of hostility by this Administration for Internet advocates and its unrelenting efforts to carry out demands from lobbyists to criminalize copyright and trademark laws. The involvement of the Secret Service in the abusive campaign against Swartz is chilling. Swartz was an internationally respected voice for freedom, but our government clearly saw him as a threat. That alone says volumes about the current state of our political system.