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Prosecutors, others involved in Swartz case express safety, privacy concerns

Ask that names of those involved in the case not be disclosed

April 3, 2013 07:10 AM ET

Computerworld - The U.S government and two other entities involved in investigations leading to the indictment of the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz have asked a federal court in Boston to redact the names of people involved in the case from documents being sought by Swartz's estate and by some lawmakers.

In separate affidavits filed with the court last week, the Department of Justice, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ithaka Harbors, a nonprofit organization that operates JSTOR, a large database of academic journals, cited privacy and security concerns as reasons for their redaction requests.

Swartz, 26, hanged himself in January apparently over concerns stemming from the prospect of spending up to 35 years in prison on hacking-related charges.

Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts had alleged that Swartz violated the provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) when he misused his guest access privileges on MIT's network to systematically access and download 4 million documents from JSTOR. He was indicted on 13 counts of felony hacking and wire fraud related to the alleged theft.

Swartz claimed he had downloaded the scholarly documents in JSTOR solely to make them available for free to everyone on the Internet.

His death galvanized calls for a review of the use of the CFAA by federal authorities. Many blamed prosecutors for harassing Swartz and for trying to scare him into making a plea deal by hitting him with charges that carried long prison sentences. S

Swartz's family accused prosecutors of intimidation and overreach and asked for an investigation into the government's handling of the case. They have demanded to know the names of all those who were involved in the investigation in order to understand the role that "institutional players" had in Swartz's death.

Several lawmakers have asked the Department of Justice for more information on the Swartz prosecution.

In an affidavit filed last week, Jack Pirozzolo, first assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said the government agreed in principle to the unsealing of certain documents related to the case in accordance with the demands of Swartz's attorneys and Congress.

However, he argued that the documents be stripped of the names and other identifying information of individuals involved in the case for the sake of their privacy and security.

Pirozzolo claimed that U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who oversaw the prosecution of the case, and assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann both received harassing and potentially threatening emails in the weeks and months following Swartz's suicide.

"One such email I have seen states, among other things: ROFLMAO just saw you were totally dox'd over the weekend by Anonymous," Pirozzolo wrote referring to an email allegedly sent to Heymann. "How does it feel to become an enemy of the state? FYI, you might want to move out of the country and change your name."

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