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. Maybe the gov’t wants to have in Noam Chomsky what the Soviets had in Leon Trotsky

  2. 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.

  3. “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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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…

  6. “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.”

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. This is disturbing information. Fox News should not be quoted when considering facts.

  13. Industry said, “Jump!”

    Obama said, “How high?”

    And landed on Aaron Swartz.

    Might as well have hung him personally.

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