MIT to release evidence in Aaron Swartz case

Internet activist Aaron Swartz, seen here at a conference in May 2012, committed suicide in January. (peretzp/flickr)
Internet activist Aaron Swartz, seen here at a conference in May 2012, committed suicide in January. (Credit: peretzp/flickr)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology plans to release documents requested by lawyers for Aaron Swartz, the Reddit co-founder and Internet activist who was charged with hacking into the MIT network.

Swartz was arrested in 2011 for allegedly using the MIT computer system to download millions of articles from JSTOR, an archive of academic journals. If convicted, Swartz faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The trial was set to begin in April.

Swartz committed suicide in January, prompting questions about how the case was handled. His family blamed MIT and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for Swartz’s death, although Ortiz defended the investigation.

On Friday, lawyers for his estate filed a federal court motion in Boston, seeking to have documents in the case made public, including information about vulnerabilities in the MIT network. Currently, the documents are under a protective order. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is investigating the Swartz matter, asked for the information last month.

“Both Congress and the public at large have an important role to play in determining what conduct is considered criminal, particularly in the relatively new and rapidly evolving context of so-called ‘computer crimes,’” attorneys Elliot R. Peters, Daniel Purcell and Michael J. Pineault wrote in the motion. They asked that the documents be released in their entirety, including the names of MIT personnel.

In a letter to the MIT community Tuesday, President L. Rafael Reif said the university will make the documents available, with some exceptions.

“Therefore — in the spirit of openness, balanced with responsibility — we will release the requested MIT documents, redacting employee names and identifying information as appropriate to protect their privacy, as well as redacting information about network vulnerabilities,” Reif wrote.

Reif said the documents would be made public at the same time that Professor Hal Abelson delivers a final report on the university’s involvement in the Swartz case. Abelson, an electrical engineering and computer science professor who directs Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation, launched a probe at Reif’s request after Swartz’s death. His conclusions are expected this spring, according to the MIT student newspaper, the Tech.

Reif said MIT and people associated with it have been subjected to “a pattern of harassment and personal threats” since Swartz’s death.

“In this volatile atmosphere, I have the responsibility to protect the privacy and safety of those members of our community who have become involved in this matter in the course of doing their jobs for MIT, and to ensure a safe environment for all of us who call MIT home,” Reif said.

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBos



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.