Firedoglake Obtains FBI’s File On Aaron Swartz

Ian Becker

Firedoglake blogger Daniel Wright has published newly-released FBI files that detail the bureau's investigation into Aaron Swartz, the internet activist who committed suicide last month in the midst of an unabating legal battle with federal prosecutors. Aware of the fact that every American's FBI file becomes declassified upon their death, Wright requested Swartz' file, but did not expect to find what he did: I was fully prepared to get a letter saying no such file existed, after all Swartz was not really a criminal. Instead I received 21 pages out of a 23 page file the FBI had put together on one Aaron H. Swartz.   Two of the 23 pages were not released, according to the FBI, due to; privacy (U.S.C Section 552 (b)(7)(C)), sources and methods (U.S.C Section 552 (b)(7)(E)) and, curiously, putting someone’s life in danger (U.S.C Section 552 (b)(7)(F)). Putting someone’s life in danger? Typically that refers to informants. Did someone close to Swartz provide information to the FBI on him or is the FBI just being really dramatic? Or is this standard justification for not releasing the Special Agent on the case’s name? I am honestly still confused by that box being checked off. Swartz was aware that the FBI had opened a file on him for downloading PACER files. After submitting a request using the Freedom of Information Act, he posted the results on his blog. Wright explains that the newly released files are rife with the mundane, and reveal more about the manner of FBI investigations than substantive details about Swartz' life or activism. Overall the files tell you more about the FBI than they do Swartz. They collected information from Linked In, followed his blog posts, and even thought his membership in the “Long-term Planning Committee for the Human Race” was worthy of note. There is also a Kafkaesque entry concerning Swartz’s blog post NYT Personals which includes the question “Want to have the F.B.I. open up a file on you as well?” – which I read for the first time in Swartz’s FBI file. One can only wonder what is in the two classified pages of Swartz’s FBI file. For more on Swartz, see Lawrence Lessig's lecture, “Aaron’s Laws: Law and Justice in a Digital Age." And stay tuned for an In These Times column by Chris Lehmann taking MIT to task over the investigation of Swartz.

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