Monday, January 14, 2013

The Truth About Aaron Swartz 'Crime' — Remove the Quotation Marks and It's Not So Hard

Alex Stamos, CTO of Artemis Internet, was an expert witness for Aaron Swartz. He wrote a post about Swartz's death, "The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime”." He also cross-posted it at i09, and was surprised that folks might have a different take on things:

And here's a sample of those "mean" comments:
Swartz is not at fault for sneaking into a supply closet to intentionally evade detection because the closet was unlocked?

What, so it's somehow normal and acceptable for anyone to just walk into an unlocked supply closet (with intent to evade detection) so they could access files in a manner that shouldn't be accessed?

If he were truly not breaking any laws or any of MIT's terms, then he wouldn't have gone to lengths (even minor lengths) to evade detection.

Not breaking any of MIT's or JSTOR's terms is irrelevant. Private companies' terms are not the same thing as the law. The subterfuge proves that, yes, he was committing fraud so he could access information in a manner he knew he shouldn't have, JSTOR and MIT's attempts to stop him prove that although they did not have any terms he was an unwelcome presence on their network. There was intent to commit a crime, there was subterfuge to avoid detection, and a crime was committed. Why is this so hard?
No, not hard.

It's only hard if your moral universe inhabits the same vicinity as Anonymous, WikiLeaks, or the New York Times.

PREVIOUSLY: "Can We Just Not Get All Sentimental About Aaron Swartz, to the Effect of Martyring the Dude, or Anything Like That?"

EXTRA: At the Times of Israel, "Activist’s death fuels debate over computer crime."

UPDATE: The Jawa Report links, "Thief, Terrorist Lover Lauded by MSM." Thanks!

Plus, the Wall Street Journal has a big piece, and it's not putting the wonder kid is a positive light, "Legal Case Strained Troubled Web Activist." (At Memeorandum.) Swartz was an extremely flawed activist, no MLK type whatsoever. He was a coward who refused to accept responsibility for his own criminal activity. Althouse has more on that:
He knew what he was doing was criminal, and he was a very intelligent man who chose to do it anyway and conceived of what he was doing as actively virtuous....

His crime was about making more information freely public, and yet he cringed at publicity about his own plight, even where his plight was something he invited into his life and believed in as an especially good thing to do. Why the shame? Why not expose yourself as a martyr to laws you oppose?

And William Jacobson is working the civil liberties angle, "Finding common ground in limited government — I am the NRA and EFF."

I am not indifferent to that angle, although Swartz's case isn't all that different to me than, say, Julian Assange's and WikiLeaks. I don't impute noble motives to these people. And pushing cyber-law reform can be accomplished without making martyrs of proven cowards.