A U.S. judge on Monday ordered the release of previously sealed
documents in the criminal hacking case against deceased Internet
activist Aaron Swartz.
Swartz committed suicide in January before
going to trial for allegedly stealing millions of academic articles from
a private database using a computer network at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
Swartz's estate asked for the documents
to be released to shed light on what they have termed an overzealous
prosecution of the 26-year-old.
The documents, which include
information about Swartz's purported hacking into the JSTOR database
using MIT's computer network, must be stripped of the names of witnesses
and law enforcement personnel, District Judge Nathaniel Gorton ordered.
Information about weaknesses in the two institution's computer networks
must also be redacted, Gorton said.
Since Swartz's death, "MIT
and JSTOR were subjected to a variety of threats and harassing incidents
by individuals purportedly retaliating in the name of Mr. Swartz,"
Gorton wrote to explain why the names should not be released. The
incidents included a hoax report in February that a gunman was on the
loose on MIT's campus.
Swartz founded the group Demand Progress
and led a successful campaign to block a bill introduced in 2011 in the
U.S. House of Representatives called the Stop Online Piracy Act, which
generated fierce opposition in the technological community. He also
helped create an early version of the Web feed system RSS and played a
role in building the popular news sharing web site Reddit.
case ignited a controversy over U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's reliance on
the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act law. Prosecutors working for Ortiz
used the law to charge Swartz with 13 felony counts that carried maximum
prison time of 35 years although he had not profited from the JSTOR
Ortiz's office, which had pressed to have the names
removed from the documents, praised the ruling. "We believe that the
Court's ruling strikes a reasonable balance between providing the public
access to relevant information and protecting the privacy and safety
interests of witnesses and victims in this matter," spokeswoman
Christina DiIorio-Sterling said in an email.
© Thomson Reuters 2013