MIT blocking release of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files


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It must be a high-level MIT figure to matter that much, otherwise they’d just cut and run, leaving some stooge out to hang alone.


If they haven’t done anything wrong, why do they have to worry about retaliation? And if they have done something wrong, wouldn’t John Law want to know about it?

Good luck getting that donation out of me next year, anonymous freshman that calls as part of work-study from the bowels of Building 7.


This is a good point. But I also think that MIT now realizes it lives in a world where information isn’t just given out to sane people, but people who are unbalanced and angry.

This is one of the things that we see when it comes to big corporations doing terrible things, they work hard to hide the people who make decisions that take people homes or they make it clear that some low level employee did it. They purposely defuse responsibility because people take losing their house personally.

Some companies have changed the law to make formerly illegal acts legal, so their employees can say, “We were just following the law.”

The MIT people behind this action clearly wanted to “send a message” to people that these kind of actions will not be tolerated, and they never thought that there would be blowback for their actions. Once it looked like some of the blowback would go to individuals at MIT (vs. the nameless institution) they worked to block access of that information.

MIT will use the “safety of the individual” as the reason, but it is also to protect the institution and defuse responsibility. Also, for all we know the people who were doing the actual pushing represented a committee that told him to “send a message” to “hackers.” Just because I’m carrying out my bosses orders doesn’t mean I agree with them, but if my signature is on the foreclosure notice that makes me the focus of someone’s rage.

After Redditt took it upon themselves to find the Boston Bomber and got it wrong, I worry about the unleashing of data to everyone.

What I think should happen is that MIT needs to “send a message” back to the people that the people who pushed for these horrible penalties are not just getting off scott free. That policies have changed, people have been reprimanded. Some might not think that is good enough, but it is a start…


False logic is false.

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This is exactly what I try to explain to people about my time in WW2.


Cory implies that since the retaliation faced by implicated MIT staff is less than the threat faced by Schwartz, it is therefore trivial and shouldn’t be taken into account before releasing their names.

Are we happy with that stance? And with encouraging cyber-vigilantism.

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We seem to need to clarify to what degree the failure was institutional and to what degree a matter of individual responsibility. I still don’t understand why it made sense to harshly punish someone for ‘violating’ one of the most open networks imaginable - never mind blocking an investigation into the extreme over-reaction. It strikes me the most obvious conclusion is someone pushed against policy as a matter of individual belief, and continues to try avoid responsibility. It’s not really MIT - it’s some person(s) at MIT. If this is the case, the story amounts to saying, “No one can investigate because we’re guilty.”

Isn’t it all moot if names are redacted from the files anyway? Unless it one of the top echelon people, like the Dean or whatever.

Institutions and people, using and abusing the law to crush the small and protect the powerful. Sigh.


Identifying information about individuals will be redacted, it always is in Freedom of Information requests in every jurisdiction I’ve ever heard of. This is a pointless smokescreen. I’m familiar with freedom of information laws from another jurisdiction, and I can imagine they would vary, but I really doubt the law gives MIT any actual power to block the request anyway. Most likely all they are doing is delaying and calling attention to themselves.

Once you’ve eliminated the impossible (i.e. that MIT would go to these lengths to protect a random minion), whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. And it fits: whoever wanted Aaron so badly, s/he managed to get the Secret Service on the case, so he can’t be a small fish. My guess is: high-profile scholar with political connections, probably more on the business end of MIT rather than hackerdom (i.e. more likely to freak out – university sysadmins see this sort of ‘crimes’ day-in day-out). I’m sure they have their fair share of them.

Considering there has already been a gun threat on MIT campus from people claiming to be Swartz supporters, I’m going to give the MIT brass the benefit of the doubt a little bit longer. The files need to come out eventually, but when there are people out there who will happily send police running through the halls with guns drawn, it’s understandable that the files are released carefully. The names in these files will receive death threats, and for now that seems like a more likely reason for slowing their release than some inferred conspiracy that looks great in blog posts.

Somebody at MIT made the insanely mistaken assumption that a continued prosecution against Swartz was in MIT’s interest. That person, probably at MIT Legal, might not need to be named publically, but he does need to be fired.

Because following the letter of the law is just like running an extermination camp.


Protecting the individuals is the smokescreen. MIT wants to protect the reputation of MIT by avoiding more exposure. Of course, at this point that may be a moot point as well.

Just as somebody at MIT has now decided that hiding behind legal smokescreens is worthwhile. Also, that continuing to embarrass MIT in front of the tech-savvy world is a worthwhile choice to protect said asshole who pushed the prosecution.

I’d bet it’s the same person making both decisions.

Looking over the statute, there is a provision for redacting the names of actual informants, but the case law seems to require informants be person who actually give elicited testimony.

I really doubt the law gives MIT any actual power to block the request anyway.

Indeed, nothing in the statute seems to give them explicit statutory power to block the request, but it looks like third parties have successfully used Rule 24(a)(2) from the Rules of Federal Civil Procedure to block FOIA requests

where they can claim:

an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action

The (slim) case law seems to revolve around whether it would violate MIT and MIT’s employees right to privacy.

That’s what my 20 minutes of research pulled up, anyway.

MIT is claiming a Zimmerman.

Forgive me, I completely forgot that concentration camps were illegal in Nazi Germany.

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