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January 13, 2013

A question regarding the prosecution of Aaron Swartz
Posted by Patrick at 08:01 PM * 16 comments

Why was the Secret Service involved?

Comments on A question regarding the prosecution of Aaron Swartz:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 08:41 PM:

Emptywheel has just posted on this very subject. With the same question.

#2 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 09:08 PM:

P J Evans - That is Jim's link, no?

#3 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 09:08 PM:

Er, Patrick's link, that is.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 09:33 PM:

P J Evans -- You may not be aware of it, but if you move your Dimensional Internetworking Pointing Enabler over the purple boldfaced text in Making Light posts, and then depress the "Access Network Resource" button at eleven o'clock, the contents of your screen will be replaced with a different set of assets from a server far away from the original. I know! It's amazing! I can't wait to tell everyone on FidoNet about this.

#6 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 10:00 PM:

I saw this page first - and I do buzz over links, sometimes. (May I plead temporary brain rot?)

#7 ::: Alison ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 10:18 PM:

What Jim said. I know two people who work for the Secret Service. One does Presidential duty. The other does everything from child pornography cases to identity theft to Nigerian scams, the common denominator being that they're all computer crimes. His explanation was that a lot of people committing these sorts of crimes are also laundering money (the Secret Service is in charge of currency security) so the Secret Service has developed unique expertise in tracking down those responsible for crimes that use computers. Make what you will of that. I'd think such a thing would be the purview of the FBI, but apparently, it isn't. Washington bureaucracy doesn't make much sense.

#8 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 10:25 PM:

There's quite a lot about Secret Service investigation of computer misuse in Bruce Sterling's "The Hacker Crackdown" (which is available as a free ebook)

He says For the neophyte, one of the most puzzling aspects of the crackdown on hackers is why the United States Secret Service has anything at all to do with this matter.
and follows up with a discussion of 18 USC 1029 and 1030

#9 ::: Steven M. Bellovin ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 10:39 PM:

See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1030 "The United States Secret Service shall, in addition to any other agency having such authority, have the authority to investigate offenses under this section." (18 USC 1030 is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.)

#10 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 12:18 PM:

Because they learned nothing from Operation Sundevil?

#11 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 05:41 PM:

"May I plead temporary brain rot?"

No, you have done something even worse than being wrong on the internet, you have done a technical pratfall ON THE INTERNET!!!

You will never live it down.

#12 ::: attenuasis ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 12:36 AM:

To second thomas @ #8... I had the same thought instantly and automatically: Because the minds of those a government considers a "computer genius" are treated much like encryption software was during the Hacker Crackdown: They are dangerous and powerful tools that the state needs to control.

It's not a huge mystery, or an elaborate plot of the Illuminati. Ignorance, a desire for control, fear, and short-sightedness can explain an awful lot of human behavior. Something in the Sturgeon percentage range, I'd wager.

#13 ::: Phillip Hallam-Baker ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 12:52 AM:

I deal with the Secret Service and the FBI on and off. The problem with the FBI is that it is a weird hybrid of a domestic intelligence agency and a police force and those roles do not sit well together.

Operation Sundevil was twenty years ago, quite a lot has changed since.

The Secret Service does not seem to have done anything other than run a fairly normal investigation. The place where things are out of whack is the prosecutors plea bargain offer of plead guilty and accept six months in jail or risk 38 years if you go to trial.

That situation is not unique to this particular case in fact that is essentially the whole modus operandi for US prosecutors and it completely stinks. Nobody should risk a 7500% increase in sentence for going to trial. It is completely disproportionate and is bound to lead to innocent people going to jail rather than risk a trial. The death sentence presents an even bigger problem in that respect.

#14 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 07:25 PM:

The problem of plea bargains is a huge part of the massive problems in the US system of trials, and why it's hard to call it a system of justice.

#15 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 05:24 PM:

What I'd like to see (but likely nver will) is a requirement for any plea agreement to be approved by a judge, with the *judge* having to document the evidence and legal reasoning showing the overwhelming likelyhood that the prosecution would prevail at trial, and such approvals be subject to review. And appeal.

And *all* such be open to public srutiny

#16 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 12:39 PM:

Open to public scrutiny? What are you, some kind of socialist?

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