There is a petition on the White House website to fire US Attorney General Carmen Ortiz.
Under her leadership, assistant US attorneys Stephen P. Heymann and Scott L. Garland threatened Aaron Swartz, internet freedom activist, folk hero and Highland Park native, with 35 years in prison, and a one million dollar fine.
Aaron took his own life on Jan. 11. He was 26 years old. He was being prosecuted by the Federal Government for violating a difficult to understand and selectively enforced federal law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA.
Aaron had previously downloaded scholarly articles at MIT, which subscribed to JSTOR. JSTOR was in the business of making information available online to those willing to pay a fee.
After JSTOR discovered Aaron's downloading activities, they dealt with him directly. In June of 2011, they reached a settlement, and Aaron returned the files. JSTOR then made a certain percentage of that material free. Maybe they were influenced by Aaron. Who knows? But they were satisfied, and everybody was happy.
Everybody but the government. They probably knew Aaron had spear-headed the successful defeat of SOPA and SISPA, which would have given the government draconian control over the flow of information on the internet. Aaron was an effective communicator. He knew about the power of the internet. He was a leader, and a threat to business as usual.
So maybe it's not so strange, that after Aaron and JSTOR settled, the government went after him. Not just a little, but big time. Here was a highly intelligent young guy who believed in free access to information...information every day people who found themselves increasingly financially disenfranchised might find helpful to their lives, or their understanding of the world. He wasn't in it for personal profit. He was a modern day Robin Hood, of sorts. A rare bird, and a thorn in the side of a power-hungry government.
Aaron is dead. However, Aaron's Law has been born. This law is being sponsored by House Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Jared Polis, and Darrell Issa. It would make it much harder for the CFAA to enable government bullying and prosecuting of activists working to keep the internet free. That's a good thing, because there will be many more following in Aaron's footsteps, as he has been martyred.
I might add, droves of activists, researchers and academics are now releasing their copyrighted work online for free, using #PDFtribute. The tribute, of course, is to Aaron Swartz.
Freedom, as we know, is not free. It requires sacrifice, attention, cultivating. We live in a time when the most powerful country in the world has allowed its government to be shackeled by corporations who have no interest in philosophies or high-minded ideas about individual rights or sovereignty.
The bottom line, control of resources, by way of foreign invasion if necessary, control of media, control of the monetary system through a tightly woven banking industry....these are the constructs under which we currently live.
Have you seen one banking executive indicted? Jon Corzine of MF Global? The executives at Barons, HSBC, Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan?
Why aren't more people aware of this?
Well, that's coming. I believe Aaron's death has brought us one step closer to the tipping point. When enough people understand that what has happened militarily, financially and socially is not going to suddenly correct because they went to the ballot box and voted for whoever...when enough people understand that voting is no longer enough...that it's going to take a lot more work than that to undo this mess, then maybe we'll have a chance. Don't know. But I do have hope.
I hope you sign the petition to fire Carmen Ortiz. I hope you contact your representive regarding Aaron's Law. I hope you turn off your TV and learn about non-corporate news sources that are available online. You might start with Chris Hedges, or Amber Lyon. They used to work for the coporate media, but they couldn't be bought. There are many more, and something tells me, soon, they'll be a lot more.