Talk:United States v. Swartz

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Please consider[edit]

Taking this out of mainspace and moving it to a subpage of your userspace. It's not really ready for main space yet. I'll keep coming back to effect minor fixes, but I think this may be too WP:BOLD as it stands right now. David in DC (talk) 10:48, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

Normally, I'd cite WP:NODEADLINE, but I can see your concerns. I've asked at the Aaron Swartz page if anyone share your views-- if they do, I'm comfy with moving this back to some communal workspace where we can finish it. --HectorMoffet (talk) 09:05, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
It's not the deadline aspect I'm concerned about. It's the very basic MOS stuff. Like the request for date tag that's essentially part of the prose and all the .pdf's as inline links rather than refs. Once it's even minimally in shape on that stuff, I think WP:DEADLINE is completely reasonable. David in DC (talk) 12:02, 11 April 2013 (UTC)

Clarify the crime[edit]

It is not clear to me what was illegal about his actions (talk) 16:59, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

I agree. From both this and his main page there is nothing to clarify what was illegal about his actions. All it says is that he downloaded articles from JSTOR at his university. "According to state and federal authorities, over the course of a few weeks in late 2010 and early 2011 Swartz downloaded a large number of academic journal articles from JSTOR through MIT’s computer network."
- Well so does every other university student and lecturer - they are regularly used in university lectures and seminars and for students in their essays and dissertations. So what was illegal about his actions? The quantity he downloaded? Was it what he intended to do with these downloads that was illegal? The article doesn't say anything and so I, and obviously the user above, are left in the dark as to where the crime actually occurred. If someone could clarify this in the article please.
Rushton2010 (talk) 00:31, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
The two indictments are the only official statements of what actions Swartz was said to have undertaken, and what crimes the prosecution believes those actions constitute. Swartz and his defense team made no public statements about what he actually did, the case never went to trial, and very little else has come out posthumously, so the indictments are really all we have to go on.
The indictments are fairly clear when talking about what evidence points to Swartz as the person behind the various instances of downloading, setting up a laptop in the networking closet, and so on. For the most part, we can just repeat these claims, saying at least that this is what he is said to have done. However, we avoid repeating some details, such as the changes to his networking hardware ID; the prosecution considers this to be deliberate "spoofing", a beyond-the-norm, hacker-ish activity involving custom configuration, whereas it can also be an automatic, normal side-effect of switching from a wireless to wired connection, which is among the things Swartz is said to have done.
On the other hand, the indictments are rather fuzzy when connecting those alleged actions to the crimes with which he was charged. This is probably normal for relatively untested waters like the boundaries of the CFAA. The prosecution wants to avoid a trial, but also doesn't want to tip too much of their hand beforehand. So it is reasonable to wonder, based on the indictments, how anything he's said to have done really is a crime. Opinions vary, but negative public reaction to the case is fueled, in part, by this fuzziness and perceived overreach. Ostensibly the reasoning would've become more clear in the prosecution's statements at trial, but the case didn't get that far.
Anyway, because the indictments don't really make a strong argument as to exactly how and why his alleged actions are the crimes with which he was charged, we can't really say a whole lot about it, other than just that the indictments say he did certain things and that he was charged with certain crimes. If there's some good external analysis along those lines that we could summarize, quote, or otherwise point to, then it's worth considering for inclusion, but I wouldn't hold out too much hope, because we're obligated to stick to the facts and not provide a platform for pundits who want to speculate about what might've been argued at trial. —mjb (talk) 03:59, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
“He was arrested for two counts of Breaking and Entering ..., Chapter 266 Section 18.” Officer Report. --Dervorguilla (talk) 04:53, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Although the question was implicitly in regard to only the federal charges, my response applies to the state charges as well. There was no finding and no plea. We can write about the alleged actions & supporting evidence, and we can write about the charges. But in response to what Rushton2010 seems to be asking, we can't guess at the prosecution's reasoning in tying those things together. —mjb (talk) 11:17, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Not to worry, Rushton2010. As pointed out in the refs, we have other official statements to go on. For instance, the D.A. issued a press release implying that Swartz, a known Wikipedia editor, had broken and entered with intent to sock:

In order to obtain an IP address that would not be blocked, Swartz allegedly entered a restricted network-interface closet.... A newly installed security camera captured Swartz entering the restricted server room....

--Dervorguilla (talk) 08:06, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

I'd like to say that I agree that I don't understand any of this. Did Harvard provide him with a JSTOR account or not? Did this mean that he was supposed to be able to get articles from JSTOR for free? If those are "yes"es, then this isn't "hacking". He was simply using a Harvard JSTOR account to get articles that Harvard had, on his behalf, paid subscription-fees to JSTOR for him to get, no? I can't see any hacking in that. I see where it says he "downloaded articles" but I can't see in what sense the statement "he wasn't supposed to download articles" might be true. (talk) 20:40, 28 February 2016 (UTC)Christopher L. Simpson

United States v. Swartz, not United States v. Aaron Swartz[edit]

The case name is United States v. Swartz, not United States v. Aaron Swartz. See, e.g., The Bluebook (19th ed. 2010). --Dervorguilla (talk) 17:36, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

I'm looking at the 603-page complete(?) docket PDF. I'm just skimming, but it seems the case name is consistently written "USA v. Swartz" on court emails and electronic filing notices, and "United States of America v. Aaron Swartz" on the actual filings.
A Google search reveals Wikipedia apparently has at least 3 articles whose names start with "United States of America v.", while at least 26 articles, including this one, have names starting with "United States v."
I'm not advocating any particular format. I suggest taking this up at a higher level, perhaps at Wikipedia:WikiProject Law, so that a federal criminal case title standard would apply to all the articles, not just this one, as it's likely there will eventually be hundreds of cases written about in Wikipedia. It's possible it has already been discussed. —mjb (talk) 18:36, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
I've taken two steps, and would be amenable to correction by the wikipedia law project.
A) I've styled the title of the case in the way the case name appears on the actual indictments. I.e., I've followed the sources.
B) I've replaced the versions of the two indictments, with the ones posted by reliable sources (i.e the July 2011 indictment as posted by the New York Times and the September 2012 indictment as posted by This is preferable to the prior versions that were being used.
For July 2011, we were using a .pdf posted by a hobbyist organization. For the September 2012 Indictment, we were using a .pdf posted by the Internet Archive.
The New York Times is a better source for a wikipedia reference than the MIT Crime Club for reasons that should be obvious to all wiki-editors, (although they don't appear to be obvious to the club's former advisor.)
The Internet Archive is perfectly fine for a wikipedia reference, but it is very closely associated with Mr. Swartz. Indeed one of the memorial events was held at its offices, acoording to the Aaron Swartz article. Given that fact, and given that also posted a version, it seemed more sensible to use the version posted by David in DC (talk) 19:36, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
See generally MOSLAW.
Legal case names are always italicized (Plessy v. Ferguson).
Citations and referencing
Cite to legal materials according to the generally accepted citation style for the relevant jurisdictions.
Case citations
Case names are italicised, as in the Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation article.
--Dervorguilla (talk) 22:15, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

Add more details about charged offenses?[edit]

As requested by two users (at Clarify the crime and at Talk:Aaron Swartz), here are some edits that could help make it clearer what, specifically, the state prosecutors were charging Swartz with having done. See Arrest, charges and indictments. (We could also mention that he denied the charged offenses.)

1. “On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by two MIT police officers and a U.S. Secret Service agent.” –>

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by two MIT police officers and a U.S. Secret Service agent. A senior network engineer at MIT's information-systems department said that Swartz's laptop had been "illegally downloading" periodicals and that the downloaded information was worth about $50,000.

2. “He was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on two state charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony.” –>

He was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on two state charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony. Swartz denied he had committed the charged offenses.

3. “On November 17, 2011, Swartz was indicted by a Middlesex County Superior Court grand jury on state charges of breaking and entering with intent, grand larceny and unauthorized access to a computer network.” –>

On November 17, 2011, Swartz was indicted by a Middlesex County Superior Court grand jury. He was arraigned on charges of breaking and entering a restricted room, obtaining unauthorized access to a computer network, breaking into a depository with intent to take data, and illicitly downloading data worth more than $250.

4. At the Commonwealth v. Swartz, 11-52CR73 & 11-52CR75 ref, add quote= "[An MIT detective] responded to ... room 004T for a report of a past break.... Its access is controlled by MIT's IS&T Department.... IS&T explained that they were able to determine that this laptop was illegally downloading scientific periodicals from JSTOR.... IS&T had put an approximate value on the downloaded information at $50,000."

5. At the MIT also pressing charges against hacking suspect ref, add quote= "Swartz['s] alleged use of MIT facilities and Web connections to access the JSTOR database ... resulted in two state felony charges for breaking into a 'depository' and breaking & entering in the daytime, according to local prosecutors."

6. Add a new ref, Cambridge man arraigned on breaking & entering, larceny charges in connection with data theft, quote= "[Swartz was] arraigned on charges of breaking and entering, larceny of electronic data, and unauthorized access to a computer network in connection with the illicit downloading.... [He] was arraigned ... on charges of Breaking and Entering with Intent to Commit a Felony, Larceny over $250, and Unauthorized Access to a Computer Network.... Swartz had no affiliation with MIT."

7. At the Swartz indicted for breaking and entering ref, add quote= "In Middlesex Superior Court, a grand jury handed up indictments ... for breaking and entering, larceny over $250, and unauthorized access to a computer network."

8. Add a new ref, Court filings, Commonwealth v. Swartz, No. 1:11-CR-10260-NMG.

--Dervorguilla (talk) 08:03, 2 June 2013 (UTC) 18:27, 3 June 2013 (UTC)

Constructive edits[edit]

Recent edits to the first five grafs under "arrests, charges ..." have been constructive. Grafs six and below, under this heading, have been a magnet for contentious editing in the past. In my view, the Silverglate and Blagdon material need no substantive edits. They have remained stable and unedited for quite some time now. Substantive edits to those grafs would, in my view, require that a new consensus be reached on this talk page. David in DC (talk) 11:16, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

== Arguments to avoid in edit wars: Prior discussion ==

It has been discussed already.
There is a longstanding consensus about how to treat this issue.

Yes, certain conclusions may have been reached some time back via a discussion. But consensus can change. The surrounding world constantly changes, thereby affecting the standing of material on Wikipedia. A prior agreement or decision may have worked back then. But things are different now. Nothing is ever in stone.

Discussions are never standing policy. They address immediate situations and do not make permanent decisions. Any discussions that have been held a significant amount of time ago may be out of date, based on changes that have taken place either on Wikipedia or in the outside world. The more time that has passed since that discussion, the less likely it is to be applicable.

--Dervorguilla (talk) 06:32, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
Not that much time has passed and I'm not saying the article shouldn't continue to be edited. What I am saying is that, if one knows a change will be controversial, one should seek consensus first. I'll add that this should be especially true if the change is being made by an editor who has been blocked for edit-warring over the selfsame edits in the recent past.
Per WP:CRYSTAL, sorta, I do not know that anyone is considering editing the Silverglate and Blagdon material. But with constructive edits having been made to the grafs before it, by the recently-blocked editor, the likelihood seems less than remote. For that reason I have acted prophylactically, starting a talk page thread before the material, as is, tempts her into falling back into old, unconstructive and ultimately self-defeating patterns. See Leviticus 19:14. David in DC (talk) 16:39, 9 June 2013 (UTC)

[…] 2. I shall abstain from editing the Swartz page for ten days.… Silence now reigns there; and it may be maintained for some time. On 21 May 2013 22:23, a regrettable incident occurred at my alternate account Talk. I accordingly believe that there will be no need for the contributing editor or me to make any further unsolicited remarks to or about each other on mainspace, Talk, User Talk, or elsewhere, in perpetuity.… --Dervorguilla(talk) 08:46, 28 May 2013 (UTC) | I shall unblock you based on the above promises and acknowledgments.… --Bbb23 (talk) 00:24, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

--Dervorguilla (talk) 01:56, 10 June 2013 (UTC) 08:40, 10 June 2013 (UTC)


"After Swartz committed suicide, prosecutors dismissed the charges." I think a dead person cannot be judged for such charges in the US, so this phrasing seem silly. Correct me if I'm wrong. Someone not using his real name (talk) 15:48, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

The rule in the U.S. federal system is that when the defendant in a criminal case dies before all trial and appellate proceedings are concluded, the proceeding is abated by reason of death. In recognition of this, and also for the obvious reason that Someone... points out, the U.S. Attorney filed a document captioned "Dismissal." The text of the document, available on the ECF/PACER system, reads in its entirety, "Pursuant to FRCP 48(a), the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, hereby dismisses the case pending against Defendant Aaron Swartz. In support of this dismissal, the government states that Mr. Swartz died on January 11, 2013." The judge formally approved the dismissal the same day. So, technically the government dismissed the charges, but I agree with Someone... that it's misleading to phrase this in a way that makes it sound like the prosecutors made a decision or had a choice in doing so. Newyorkbrad (talk) 01:16, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

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