Report: Secret Service Targeted Aaron Swartz

220px-Aaron_Swartz_at_Boston_Wikipedia_Meetup,_2009-08-18_Noam_chomsky_croppedThis 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.

37 thoughts on “Report: Secret Service Targeted Aaron Swartz

  1. Industry said, “Jump!”

    Obama said, “How high?”

    And landed on Aaron Swartz.

    Might as well have hung him personally.

  2. There’s a key phrase in the CBS report on the Freedom of Information records obtained from the Secret Service. Having gotten records from probably more than a thousand agencies, Federal records obtained via FOI are always “heavily redacted.” Virtually always they are “heavily redacted” so as to be almost useless. That’s why, if you want usable records from Feds, you need a source.

    There are reasons to redact and most local and state, police, govt. agencies have specific and reasonable guidelines. Names of juveniles, social security #’s, etc. are reasonable reasons to redact. The Feds redact like they get a bonus for using the most Sharpee’s in the office.

  3. Mornin’ Malisha, and thanks for the smile you brought to my face this morning.

    My daughter just friended The Bad Piper on Facebook a few days ago. She laughs uncontrollably at the flamethowing drones. She says she doesn’t think he practices indoors at his house.

  4. Malisha,
    It is good to hear from you. How do you know that the Bad Piper isn’t OS??:)
    I am confused under what authority(I know silly question) the Secret Service was involved in the Swartz case? No presidential threat involved and no counterfeiting activities. Could there be a criminal prosecution over their involvement?

  5. If you read Hayden’s rant, he made it clear that the enemy of USGinc. is any person or group who does not accept USGinc.’s right to lawless rule over the people. That is why Hayden equated being a member of Al Qaeda attacking the “homeland” on 9/11 with being in a group which does not approve of unconstitutional surveillance (such as the ACLU).

    What is the SS doing monitoring and harassing Swartz? Why is the CIA following Chomsky? This fits neither agencies’ mandate. It is not lawful on that ground alone.

    The tools in the govt.’s toolbox are many. They go all the way up to murder and torture. Psychological torture is nothing to these people, nothing (see Bradley Manning).

    As Greenwald points out, people who don’t care or who actively support leader worship and national “security” never experience what it is like to oppose USGinc. They readily brush aside the harm that comes to others, continuing to vote and support with all their might, the oppressors of us all. They never imagine that such obsequious persons as themselves will receive other than praise for their obedience. But the problem is, even if for now, you’re swimming in that ocean of love and belonging to dear leader and the police state, even the most fawning believer might fall from grace.

    I know this seems to never occur to the obsequious until its far too late, but I hope that something like what was done to Swartz might get through to a few and that you will join in finally condemning and working to end such lawlessness that brings about the death of people and the destruction of your own society. There’s no paycheck in it, but there is intrinsic dignity and worth in standing up for others who have been treated unjustly.

  6. The incursions into the privacy of individuals as codified in the Patriot Act are based on the premise of detecting terrorist threats. Investigating Swartz and Chomsky gives lie to this and clesrly indicates these spying programs are really about stifling dissent against the ever growing encroachments of the Corporate State.

  7. “I am confused under what authority(I know silly question) the Secret Service was involved in the Swartz case? No presidential threat involved and no counterfeiting activities. Could there be a criminal prosecution over their involvement?” (raff)

    I decided to look that up … you’ll never believe it but this was taken from their web page:

    “The United States Secret Service is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems. As a part of this mission, the Secret Service constantly implements and evaluates prevention and response measures to guard against electronic crimes as well as other computer related fraud. The Secret Service derives its authority to investigate specified criminal violations from Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 3056.”

  8. but our government clearly saw him as a threat. That alone says volumes about the current state of our political system.

    When I read Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago I was young, and so it hit me with power force reading the chapter on “the 58’s” I think it was in vol2.
    He described how the 58’s were the political prisoners. They were routinely sentenced to 25’s (years). And he described the relative position of the pol’s to the “common” criminals who were in for murders, thefts, rape and the like. The criminals were accorded something akin to stature and power within the system. The Pol’s/58’s were at the very bottom of the hierarchy.
    The state hated, and was most afraid of these 58’s : the ones with thoughts, opinions, ability to think and to resist the power of the state. Not even overtly… just being able to have an opposite thought was enough.

    It was there I was first confronted with this notion: How much the state hates and cannot bear any contradiction. For some time America has been able to function more or less with some adherence to its fundamental principles : esp the Bill of Rights, especially the 1st Amendment.

    But since 9/11 those inimical forces – that have always being around, just not w the power to fully implement their dark arts – got the upper hand/momentum and slowly they have been changing the deep foundation of our nation from one of liberty into one of fear, with all the power and control shifted to the state that comes with that. (This blog is a fine catalog of the many examples of this process and its consequences…Like this story for ex.)

    The authoritarian structures are not complete of course, we still can have this blog for example. But the story told in this post is just another huge mile marker on the pathway that we are on.
    The (thinking/political) citizen is become the enemy. Common criminals, like – oh, maybe the cabal that nearly destroyed the entire economic system to the tune of trillions of $$… without consequence… They are allowed to move freely and even to continue their work. Bechtel is allowed to build housing for our soldiers that literally electrocutes our soldiers in the shower… and … oh well… collateral damage (or was it murder?)

    Something about the harmony of the State and those criminals: their interests align. The one thing that cannot be borne is anyone who might shine the light on the dirt and corruption of the system.

    Thus Manning goes down (or will) for his life? Snowden. Same thing, if they get their hands on him. Wikileaks? Public enemy #1. Aaron S. a threat that needed to be taken out. A larger list could be and perhaps should be compiled.
    Eventually people on this list will be on the list if this trend of criminalizing the citizen continues.

    How strange to live in these “interesting” times.

    Just to close with a reference to a door we do not often go thru: 9/11. Instantiated all of these horrors that are now coming to fruition. The wars, the dismantling of the middle class, the reification of the NSA spying / citizen as enemy of the state , Patriot Act, a department of “Homeland”(?) security, and etc.
    I think we need another look at all that history.
    I think we have missed something in the public story(myth) about what happened on that day, and how it happened to happen. Or at least how poised those “who own everything ” (ref George Carlin) were so ready with all these things when the opportunity presented itself…

  9. Blouise, That was I assumed was their purview. I’ve worked cases where the SS worked credit card fraud. Not even huge cases. They are in the Treasury Dept.

  10. “They are in the Treasury Dept.”

    They *were* in the Treasury Dept.

    More Than a Century of Service Worthy of Trust and Confidence

    The United States Secret Service began as an agency dedicated to the investigation of crimes related to the Treasury, and then evolved into the United States’ most recognized protection agency.

    The Secret Service was a part of the Department of the Treasury until March 1, 2003, when it became a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

  11. ap and nick,

    All those agencies have found a way to police computer activities … that’s where the budget money is being directed so they all want to grab their share. I remember just a few years ago, shortly before 9/11, FBI friends of mine didn’t even have email on their computers and the few computers that were in their offices were pure junk.

  12. Jill 1, August 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

    If you read Hayden’s rant, he made it clear that the enemy of USGinc. is any person or group who does not accept USGinc.’s right to lawless rule over the people.


    I did not get the lyrics to the following song until 10 or so tries:

  13. Losing Aaron Swartz is awful. Losing him in the way we did is criminal. Will the fascists ever be prosecuted for this obscenity?

  14. The Scots played the wicked bagpipes during aggressor’s invasions. Imagine reaching the Highlands to conquer the natives, and far off in the deep mist wailing, the approaching threats of the “pipes.” I guess it so terrorized the Romans that they built Hadrian’s Wall.

  15. We wonlt have to worry about the younger generations having concerns over any of this since they being spied on will be second nature to them and seem like the norm.
    For example, in May 2013, Polk County School District in Florida foisted an iris scanning program on its students without parental consent. Parents were sent a letter explaining they could opt their children out of the program, but by the time the letter had reached parents, 750 children had already had their eyes scanned and their biometric data collected.
    (In reading the articke this may have been posted earlier. If so sorry for the repeat.)

  16. Why does anyone think that Aaron committed suicide? If they can get away with making LHO appear in history to be the lone assassin of JFK why would anyone think that Aaron or Micheal Hastings were not taken out by the US Intelligence Services?

  17. “The involvement of the Secret Service in the abusive campaign against Swartz is chilling.”
    No, it should be completely expected with prosecutions involving the CFAA that the USSS would be involved. 18 USC 1030(d)(1): “The United States Secret Service shall, in addition to any other agency having such authority, have the authority to investigate offenses under this section.”
    “Computer Fraud – Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1030, authorizes the Secret Service to investigate computer crimes. Violations enforced under this statute include unauthorized access to protected computers, theft of data such as personal identification used to commit identity theft, denial of service attacks used for extortion or disruption of e-commerce and malware (malicious software) distribution to include viruses intended for financial gain.”

    “[T]he Secret Service [secured] documents and electronic devices seized”? That’s what the USSS does!
    “Agents assigned to ECSAP are computer investigative specialists, qualified to conduct examinations on many types of electronic evidence, including computers, personal data assistants, telecommunications devices, electronic organizers and other electronic media. ECSAP is the only program of its kind in the country with the level of expertise and culture of partnership-building with stakeholders across the spectrum of critical infrastructure.”

    The issue is not the involvement of the USSS, unless there is some portion of their investigation that went beyond customary or reasonable, of which I have seen no evidence. The issue is the CFAA, the DOJ/prosecutor, and then, if you have a problem with the USSS being involved in CFAA investigations, the authority mandated under the CFAA by Congress to the USSS.

  18. I’m amazed at how much the government wants to dominate and control. One could legitimately ask if it is in fact the purview of the government (no matter what excuse) to want and to try to justify so much control and surveillance of our lives. It seems like a waste of tax dollars, and a corruption of our social structure. It requires much of the population to be in lock step and support either tacitly or overtly these intrusions into our lives.

    How long those working at the NSA, CIA, FBI, and the Military-Industrial-Espionage Complex, continue to cut their own throats? Sooner or later, these people who depend on that government pay check will realize their freedom is much more important than being subservient to a system they no longer believe in. What happens when a society starts to devour itself? The desire to get up each morning and go into work seems much harder for someone when they realize that they are undermining the very foundation of why they go on living in this country.

    I would not want to live under a totalitarian fascist system similar to Orwell’s 1984, and yet if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck! Therefore for all practical definitions, it does appear that is exactly what we are inheriting in this country.

    It is a very depressing situation to say the least, and unless you enjoy wearing a swastika on your sleeve, you are in for a lot of heart ache. It does seem that even with a black president, this is a white establishment thing that is taking place, as evidenced by the Wall Street bailout. Sure there may be a few more people of color near the top, but the majority of that upper 1% that are in control and pushing their agenda are rich white folks. Obama is nothing more than an Uncle Tom to his puppet handlers, and is in fact following much of the Neo-Con agenda first established by Bush. One could even go further and state that in many respects he has expanded upon it, and made it more palatable to more people (especially his Democratic base).

    What is sad is that many on the Left (and Right) are still playing this Left/Right (Democrat/Republican) game, whether its MSNBC, FOX, FSTV, LINKTV, Democracy Now, RT, or Thom Hartmann, they still seem to believe there is a difference.


  19. The FBI was the lead agency in investigating the case. From the FBI website:

    “Cyber Task Forces
    Building Alliances to Improve the Nation’s Cybersecurity”

    “National coordination of cyber threat investigations…

    The 2008 Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) created the foundation for a whole-of-government approach to protecting the nation from cybersecurity threats. As part of the CNCI, the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF) was established under Presidential Directive as one of the country’s national cybersecurity centers. Located in the Washington, D.C. area, the FBI-led NCIJTF serves as the national focal point for coordinating cyber threat investigations. In its role as a headquarters-level task force environment, the NCIJTF enhances collaboration and integrates operations among the represented U.S. Intelligence Community and federal law enforcement partners against:

    Cyber terrorists exploiting vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure control systems;
    Nation-state theft of intellectual property and trade secrets;
    Financially-motivated criminals stealing money or identities or committing cyber extortion;
    Hactivists illegally targeting businesses and government services;
    Insiders conducting theft and sabotage.

    …comes to your community.

    While national-level coordination is important to securing the nation, teamwork at the local level is also essential. After more than a decade of combating cyber crime through a nationwide network of interagency task forces, the FBI has evolved its Cyber Task Forces (CTFs) in all 56 field offices to focus exclusively on cybersecurity threats. In addition to key law enforcement and homeland security agencies at the state and local level, each CTF partners many of the federal agencies that participate in the NCIJTF at the headquarters level. This promotes effective collaboration and deconfliction of efforts at both the local and national level. The CTF role within the field office territory includes:” continues


    The Cyber Task Forces are part of the new and expanded role of the FBI after 911 as are the Fusion Centers and Field Intelligence Groups. The info goes up, sideways and down from the highest level government agencies to the lowest level municipal police forces. I got about 2000 words into a posting on the FBI/OWS connection and the nature of the new FBI a while ago before I had even covered the more insidious points that needed to be made. LOL, It made me crazy so I just gave up on it, it got out of hand.

    The new FBI is the gateway for much of the domestic involvement for agencies that would normally be barred from such activities. In this case there are overarching missions and a law that provides entree’ but the FBI is hip deep in some things that are pretty scary. The resources they now have available for cyber-security monitoring and investigations are massive.

  20. For so long it has been the mantra the CIA and FBI need to work together because they duplicate each other/one side doesn’t know what the other is doing and clues about things are missed, etc. Maybe it is a better idea to keep them separate, the bigger they are the more power and access they have

  21. @Ron

    Sooner or later, these people who depend on that government pay check will realize their freedom is much more important than being subservient to a system they no longer believe in. What happens when a society starts to devour itself? The desire to get up each morning and go into work seems much harder for someone when they realize that they are undermining the very foundation of why they go on living in this country.

    Good post.

    I’ll point out re yours above that I don’t think it works like that. In general anyway. Snowden by way of counter-example is something of a outlier for expressly citing this reason you have here as key to his actions.

    As long as there is a distinction between classes of people and those who are in the Power group are safe from the consequences of those who are not this little niggle of conscious doesn’t seem to have much effect on changing ones behaviour, even if they would happen to think the thought.
    I actually think in the normal case the moral conundrum you are aware of wouldn’t even occur to those in that position.

    I am thinking historically, in terms of the Russian experience noted in my earlier post, Nazi SS, virtually all literature on the subject, for example(1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, as well as

    I haven’t heard any reports about old FBI agents under Hoover being especially tinged with conscious.

    Anyway, it is a profound and deep psychological study you are alluding to. I suspect most people who are in that position would simply subordinate themselves into the system

  22. What if you fill out a petition to your member of Congress, WH or state legislator? Do we need to scrutinize additional agencies? Are we missing some?

    Does filling out a petititon (protected under the First Amendment) equate to probable cause or reasonable suspicion for a constitutional search?

    What about the Capitol Police, Secret Service or the State Police of any given state? What is the response if you email a politician? If searches are allowed, are there boundaries or watchdog agencies to police the police?

    My computer has been hacked and tampered with after filling out such petitions, can’t prove it but there would seem to be “probable cause” of a color of law crime.

  23. “Chomsky: The U.S. Behaves Nothing Like a Democracy, But You’ll Never Hear About It in Our ‘Free Press'”

    “In a powerful speech, Chomsky lays out how the majority of US policies are practically opposite of what wide swathes of the public wants.”

    August 15, 2013 |

    “The following is a transcript of a recent speech delivered Noam Chomsky in Bonn, Germany, at DW Global Media Forum, Bonn, Germany. ”

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