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

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.