So yes - he did do something that was against some terms of service. But jail time? For breaking a clickthrough "license" and computer hacking at MIT in the service of public knowledge? This sucks unutterably.
MIT: Playful physical hacks okay, but don't try to mass harvest the knowledge of the world or the DOJ will come down on you like a sledgehammer.
JSTOR: All the world's knowledge, as long as you don't try to access all of it.
DOJ: We'll break you just because we can (or for other reasons that we are not stating).
Hacker News: Well, they do have a point - he did access semi-public data in a non-approved way, and he had to plug into the network in a strange way to do it.
And as has been pointed out elsewhere on this thread, the likelihood of him spending a single night in custody is very low.
I refer you to Max Kennerly's analysis, under the section "Did Aaron Swartz Really Commit Any Crimes?"
I like the article you cited, but it seems predicated on a lot of assumptions about the evidence the DoJ has. Like I've said elsewhere: if the only thing Swartz was doing was taking a shortcut to getting bulk documents to analyze, then this is clearly a misstep on the DoJ's part; an extreme overreaction. But if they have evidence that his plan was to dump them onto BitTorrent, they have a case. I hope they lose the case!
Even if the DOJ has evidence that he planned on dumping the JSTOR archives on BitTorrent, until he actually would have pushed that data, (IANAL) but I believe that they can't necessarily persecute based on actions never undertaken.
First: to prevail in a criminal proceeding, the prosecution has the burden of proving two things: actus reus (an actual act that causes social harm) and mens rea (criminal intent). The prosecution's failure to establish mens rea will in a wire fraud case lead to acquittal. So, his intentions are very valid.
Second, even if Swartz fails to actually publish documents on BitTorrent, if the prosecution can muster evidence showing that he would have, were he not thwarted in his attempt by MIT, JSTOR, or the DoJ, then he's culpable for the attempt. To prove the attempt it needs to be shown that Swartz intended to commit the offense (maybe he emailed his friends about it) and that he took "substantial steps" towards committing the offense.
Criminal law is fun. I want a law degree.
There is no generalised "intent to" law, there would need
to be an actual seperate crime of posession with intent to distribute academic articles.
So "mens rea" is not enough to convict without action unless there is a specific exception. And in general even the police try not to rely on the intent laws - which is why bank robbers get nicked after robbing the bank, and why we have such convoluted anti terrorist laws.
Similarly, there is a huge body of law around what it takes to convict for an attempt as opposed to the actual crime. Attempts also require actus reus, but of a different sort (for instance, "an attempt occurs when the defendant has obtained control of an indispensable feature of the criminal plan").
The only question of "intent" is whether he intended to bypass security, and download the documents.
I think it's a stupid law. Wire fraud should only matter if he used social engineering, forged cookies, or some other measure that was intentionally deceiving (see the definition of "fraud"):
Common law fraud has nine elements:
1. a representation of an existing fact;
2. its materiality;
3. its falsity;
4. the speaker's knowledge of its falsity;
5. the speaker's intent that it shall be acted upon by the
6. plaintiff's ignorance of its falsity;
7. plaintiff's reliance on the truth of the representation;
8. plaintiff's right to rely upon it; and
consequent damages suffered by plaintiff.
Now, he did "lie" - he listed his name as "Gary Host". But were the damages consequential to the plaintiff's reliance on the dummy name? I doubt it.
Robbing a bank while wearing a Mickey Mouse mask isn't fraud. It's robbery, and it might bring down the wrath of the Disney corporation, but the disguise isn't conning anyone, so it's not fraud. Robbing a bank by disguising yourself as a security guard would be fraud, as the disguise isn't just to mask your identity, but to deceive the victim.
Robbing an archive while using phony credentials (but NOT the credentials of a person who is allowed to access the archive) shouldn't be wire fraud.
You say it like the state can't just do whatever it damn well pleases, such as imprison Aaron if he's being a pain in its ass.
It's obvious that the US is quite a police state already. If we assume that Aaron's indictment is political - which seems highly likely to me at least - it makes you look like some kind of weird police state apologist.
When you boil it down it doesn't exactly sound like he should be receiving 10 hours of commuter service because he ran wget a few times. MIT and DoJ are just supposed to -assume- that he has nothing but perfectly angelic intentions with $1.5 millions dollars of an asset that he secretly obtained? I don't make that logical leap with you guys. The facts will come out. He will present his case with his defense team, and hopefully justice will be done.
2) If Schwartz is smart, he will not comment on his intentions no matter what. Simply maintain his denial that he intended to upload them anonymously to BitTorrent. Make the case entirely about the facts on hand. "Is it hacking to violate a site's TOS"?
3. MIT and DOJ could assume that there are other ways to stop whatever illegal actions they're assuming besides criminal prosecution. Already someone has leaked 30 million scientific papers from JSTOR simply because they assumed this is what MIT and DOJ were trying to stop.
Yes, by the way: it is "hacking" (computer fraud and abuse) to violate a site's ToS knowingly, recklessly, or purposefully. To preempt a recurring stupid message board article: it is tremendously difficult to prove that a blog commenter or a site visitor knowingly violated some random clause in your ToS, which is why tiny little ToS violations on blog sites don't get prosecuted.
> scrub photos
If Google can do it, why can't the little guy?
I telecommute. Most people today do most of their personal communication over the internet. A charge of wire fraud carries hefty penalties and would tax the finances of most people to be able to defend against such charges.
If the scope of wire fraud isn't reduced, then if I even do something like tell a lie on news.ycombinator.com, I could potentially be charged with it.
If you've read the news lately you'll see 100 counts of X and 24 counts of Y. They are trying to intimidate you into a plea. They know that a conviction would be hard to get on the charges as presented so they are trying to trip you up just once. Chances are you've done something illegal and don't know it yet. So, while you are burning through savings and equity the DOJ has unlimited resources and time to come to pin something on you.
With all that pressure most people would just cop to something to have it be done with.
Yes. That's known as "innocent until proven guilty".
http://www.litigationandtrial.com/2011/07/articles/series/sp... examines in some detail why they probably don't.
Unfortunately, this is the same kind of zombie-like mentality that became increasingly prevalent on Digg.com late 2007 (and to this day).
I don't think anyone is denying that Swartz committed a (possible series of) minor crimes. Claiming that "information should be free" doesn't stop them from being crimes. What's shocking is the response from the government, which appears to be using this incident for its own purposes rather than to preserve the rule of law. No one seems to really be asking why this is happening, and I think that is by far the more interesting question. Is the justice department trying to expand its reach, as the article suggests? Is this a deterrent for future "hackers"? Has one of Swartz's numerous hornet nest-kickings pissed off someone high up, who wants him removed from the playing field?
I think I share Swartz's politics, but I'd like to believe that law enforcement would at least take a plan like that seriously.
On the other hand, it's equally possible that there is no evidence Swartz was going to publish what he took from JSTOR, and that instead the DoJ is upset about the PACER incident, which it couldn't prosecute, and jumped on this case, which it clearly can prosecute.
Swartz is lucky to have such well connected and influential friends.
Or from the article:
> Attorney Jerry Cohen, a Boston IP lawyer, suggests this aggressive use of criminal charges rather than civil charges is part of a trend in government prosecution of such cases, like taking “a sledgehammer to drive a thumb tack… It’s intended to terrorize the person who’s indicted and others who might be thinking of the same thing.“
Is it even legally okay to publicly make an example of someone like that?
Let me add something else that I think some other HN people may be familiar with:
My Confirmation sponsor is/was a criminal court judge (friend of the family). Very nice guy. Spectacularly nice guy. I babysat his kids once. I've seen him maybe twice in the past ten years, but I'd be surprised if he didn't remember the names of my kids. When I was younger, we saw him all the time. Every weekend. My dad played in the church folk group with him.
I can't remember the particulars, it may have been 4th of July firecrackers (illegal in Chicago) or it may have been shaving cream on Halloween, but either way he caught me and some friends doing something technically illegal. It was NOT. OK. I remember the legality of the incident being taken VERY. SERIOUSLY. Entirely different demeanor. I've seen the same thing with friends' cop dads.
I think people on HN don't fully appreciate the extent to which prosecutors and judges take the law seriously. They've dedicated their life to it. Our country is ruled by laws.
There are definitely times when the law is wrong, or when its diligent enforcement doesn't ultimately serve the social good. This may very well be one of them. But I think it's a very bad idea to build a worldview around the notion that the criminal justice system is going to casually look past the law. The law is a big deal.
† I don't know Aaron Swartz personally and am not asserting any of this to be true.
†† To your later edit: there's no statute against "public example making". If you don't want to be an example, avoid felonies. That's going to get me downvoted, so can we assume good faith and accept this new emoticon I just made up: :#> as shorthand for "I don't really think the person we're talking about is culpable for a felony based on the information we currently have"? :#>! :#>! :#>!
On the other hand, a relative is a DA. She has explained how around the holidays, she collaborates with the prosecutor to ram cases through the system or slap people on the wrist and send them home. This way all the noble guardians of the law can take an extra few weeks off between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It's good of you to point out the limitations of that worldview. I don't mean to criticize you. I'm just saying, be careful if you think that a charge of "hypocrisy" is going to help here. The real world is not an Internet message board argument. Lots of prosecutors, all of them riven with human frailties, nonetheless believe passionately in the law. You're not going to talk them out of it.
I am for the most part happy about this. Unlike a lot of HN people, I think that the law by and large serves the common good, and protects the weak far more than the powerful.
(My uncle was/is? an ADA. I didn't hear any stories like this, but didn't ask. Totally believe it though.)
That doesn't make them granite monuments to justice. But it might mitigate the concern that they're being petty. There is a reasonable narrative here in which Swartz is purposefully causing harm to the social good. I don't really agree with that narrative (based on what we know now), but I can see it.
If it helps, think about pro-life people (I'm pro-choice) and their attitude towards abortion. They are not kidding around about that issue. Do they have a lot of gravitas to you? Maybe not! But they believe human beings are being killed. So I can see where they're coming from, even though I disagree with them.
If he was just some nobody kid in Schaumburg stealing PDFs from Motorola, he'd either be in jail already or slapped on the wrist and sent home. Nobody would have heard about it, and there'd be no internet dialectic about it.
It's very possible that he just intended to analyze the documents and publish aggregated results. If that's the case, I think this prosecution is a mistake; an extreme overreaction. Scholarly analysis of JSTOR documents is not a criminal intent. His actions may leave him culpable to a variety of minor crimes, but his impact on the social good is minimal at worst.
On the other hand, it's possible (though less likely, I think) that the intent here was to mirror JSTOR onto BitTorrent. I might sympathize with this goal, but I don't think its prosecution as wire fraud is an overreaction. I'll root for Aaron at trial, though.
It's a little like someone broke into a library every night for a few months and scanned a bunch of public domain books.
The only actual crimes are breaking and entering, and using the scanning equipment without authorization. What he intended to do with the scans is irrelevant.
Let's say I come into possession of a trove of public domain documents from the 1800s, and I take the time to scan every one of them painstakingly and from those scans to assemble an academically useful database, for which I charge $100/person/year for access. Your contention is that because the underlying documents are public domain, you are entitled to unfettered access to my work product, despite the fact that I took steps to gate access to my work product.
The law isn't going to see it that way, I don't think. But maybe you're right. I'm not a lawyer.
Like everyone else on HN, I wish all these documents were freely available too.
Look for links in the phrase "such scans are often considered uncopyrightable" in the original article for more on this topic.
We've discussed this on HN before. Reproductions of public domain works are not protected by copyright.
Edit: Of course a significant portion of JSTOR's archive does consist of copyrighted works.
So I think you are correct.
>You are free to copy and use individual images but copying and distributing the complete collection may infringe what is known as the “collective works” copyright. Collections of public domain material will be protected if the person who created it has used creativity in the choices and organization of the public domain material. This usually involves some unique selection process, for example, a poetry scholar compiling a book -- The Greatest Poems of e.e. cummings.
I don't think JSTOR is using what could be described as a unique selection process.
Our country is ruled by people. Laws are one way in which we communicate what is right and wrong, but they are imperfect and inconsistently enforced. Laws can also be changed, turning what is legal upside down for better or worse.
We are ruled by people, and we should never forget this. Laws are a convenient means of justifying the power of certain people over others; one which without substantial insight appears more fair than it actually is.
[ http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythWeb.htm ]
To be vocally unhappy about something immoral is to be lauded. To defend action based on legality is trite.
Am I surprised that the Feds are seeking a criminal indictment? No. Am I unhappy at the expansion of Federal power both at the expense of State power as well as an independent authority? Yes. Do I think that the justice system takes its job seriously? Yes. Do I think they do this selflessly? No. Do I think their position will lead to a better future? No.
Do I think their prosecution of this case stems from a desire to assert the will of the people? No. I think it comes from their own selfish desires, and should not be defended.
This is the point where, on reddit, someone would post the image captioned "civil disobedience is still disobedience". And they'd be right -- activists who campaign for big changes often end up in jail (multiple times, or for a long time, or both) along the way. It's not nice and it's not pretty, but it's reality.
True, but I hope your position isn't that "the rest of us should sit on our hands and shut up while it happens." If it is... well, sorry, but I don't accept that. My chance of having any meaningful impact in terms of "changing the world" before I die might be small, but I'll never stop arguing and fighting for what I believe in. I mean, what would be the point in living if we did that?
Another habit that I really don't like (that prosecutors have no qualms with) is when people are suspected of a crime but there is not enough evidence, sometimes they'll be taken in for a lesser "orange juice" crime until the prosecution can come up with something substantial.
But I guess you're right, even though they are dedicated to the law, prosecutors and judges are only human, and most of the time things do turn out well. I just wish they weren't so overt about it, as if it were completely okay.
I mostly agree with everything else you are saying.
Here's how seriously your judges take your laws: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/matt-taibbi-courts...
"the DoJ sees someone bent on forcibly publishing every
closed database pertaining to the public interest, laws
...longwinded rather tangental story about your
† I don't know Aaron Swartz personally and am not
asserting any of this to be true."
Anyway, the primary issue with your little story here is you are taking a single encounter with a single person and making a generalization about an entire profession with it. A positive generalization sure, but still a generalization (and as someone who on occasion reads the news, one that does not jive with my perception of reality).
If you read the comment more carefully --- I apologize for making that harder for you by being long-winded --- you'll see that I'm not even defending the prosecution; just offering a theory for it other than pettiness.
That is what I object to. Your story is not evidence of that assertion.
The law is a form of social technology... and yes it's a big deal.
However, we get into trouble when we leave too much about the enforcement of laws up to the whims and discretion of the law enforcement officer... for very obvious reasons. If we simply want to let armed thugs wearing badges decide who gets punished and how much, there is no need for laws.
Don't be a dick. You yourself have undoubtedly committed dozens of felonies this year alone. The sheer quantity of criminal legislation makes it almost unavoidable, and nobody is in a position to hurl stones at the unfortunate who get caught in the crossfire.
legal != right
You've commented repeatedly on this thread about how it's THE LAW and how certain people's brains essentially shut off when evaluating ethics vs legality. Furthermore the tone of your comments make it clear that you have some respect for this sort of non-thinking.
Bringing public stoning into the discussion is a ridiculous straw-man. Isn't the fact that over two million Americans are in prison, and over half of them on non-violent offenses staggering enough already?
Yes, it's entirely up to the prosecuting attorney to prosecute with vigor. Again, if you up-jump the charges you often lower the odds of conviction because the burden of proof is raised, but so is the penalty. This also gives the prosecuting attorney grounds for a settlement (plea to lesser, civil charges, but with stiffer terms).
So it could all be posturing that a judge will throw out... what is good to know is that Schwartz can likely attract the best defense attorneys to fight this.
Welcome to thought-crime, folks.
1984? Yeah right, man. That's a typo. Orwell is here now. He's livin' large. We have no names, man. No names. We are nameless! ~~ Cereal Killer
There are two issues of intent here:
(1) There is the question of whether Swartz's repeated accesses of JSTOR were done knowing that access was wrong, or recklessly, or purposefully to accomplish an illegal end. This question, of "mens rea", is I think reasonably established in the charging documents by things like MAC address spoofing.
(2) There is the entirely speculative question of whether Swartz had the intention of "liberating" all of JSTOR onto BitTorrent. Nobody knows whether this is true except Swartz and possibly the DoJ. My suggestion here is only that we don't know all the evidence, and perhaps some of the severity of the DoJ's response is based on evidence they have but have not yet disclosed to the public.
The confusion here is my fault. Sorry.
I certainly don't believe that Swartz should be prosecuted for thinking JSTOR should be liberated, or that the DoJ should be building a case based on what they think he was going to do next.
The question that this hinges on is whether there is hard evidence of his intent; either there exists a clear statement from Swartz of his intention (e.g., say, a chat log from an informant where he expressed his intent, or an actual upload) and they didn't feel the need to share this info to get the indictment, or they're just trying to make up some circumstantial case (oooh, look, he had a BitTorrent client on a laptop we seized) to justify the harassment.
I would guess that it must be something very weak, ambiguous and circumstantial which is why they didn't feel the need to substantiate the claim. But then again, given the long time frame (many months) and the rashness of some of the behavior Swartz displayed, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that someone got him to say something via electronic means that could be construed as an intent to P2P the documents.
On this point specifically I hope that, if it would be beneficial and accurate, Swartz's attorneys bring up the point that:
1. Programmers routinely work around various limitations to do their jobs.
2. Those limitations may originate in the laws of physics, limitations of current technology, or excessively strict corporate IT policies.
3. Those workarounds may include changing MAC addresses, connecting to a different switch port, etc.
4. Therefore, a programmer such as Swartz would have considered his actions in an engineering context. Overcoming any blocking or access rate limitations imposed automatically by JSTOR's systems would be seen by Swartz in the same light as bypassing a faulty router or otherwise routing around network damage, rather than as a specifically legal affront.
5. Thus, at first glance, mens rea is not present.
My point above is that if Aaron did not actually distribute the files to bittorrent, then making any relevance of his intent to do so, is "thought crime." And as you can no doubt gather, I would consider such a thing to be total bullshit. That is, bullshit vis-a-vis my personal view of a sort of universal ethics... not necessarily with with regards to US government statutes.
We are just talking here. I have absolutely no reason to believe that there is evidence that Swartz was going to liberate JSTOR. It's just, people seem to want a "why is the DoJ going so nuts about this", and I'm just saying, "here's a what-if".
What's the difference between the scenario you described and forgetting to pick up a basket by the door then using your pockets to hold what you intend to buy?
There's a reason why security normally waits until the person leaves the store to nab them.
A man brings a gun to a political demonstration where a VIP with whom he violently disagrees will be arriving. He reaches the front of the crowd and as the VIP draws near, the gun slips from his pocket and he is arrested. Are you meaning to tell me he shouldn't be charged with attempted murder just because he hasn't yet pulled the gun out and engaged the trigger?
Just so you know, people have already been convicted under these circumstances, so the case law is already pretty clear.
Attempted murder is a crime with a specific definition in specific laws. It's harder to make this charge stick than murder, for obvious reasons, but police are rather more likely to arrest someone they think is attempting murder than arrest someone they think is considering shoplifting, for equally obvious reasons.
...What does any of this have to do with planning to distribute files by bittorrent? These are not useful analogies.
If you read through the charges, it isn't cut and dry clear that he did actually commit any federal crimes.
He didn't do anything special to get into JSTOR. Essentially he was web scraping with a bunch of different user-names and passwords. There is nothing specifically illegal about that.
It isn't clear that it cost JSTOR anything or actually damaged JSTOR. It may have caused a disruption to the service, but it isn't clear the disruption was intentional. He didn't wake up one day and decide to DDOS JSTOR.
Although he has a history of distributing documents, it isn't clear that he intended to distribute these particular documents.
What I'm surprised about is that he did this so badly. There are a number of colleges around Boston and Cambridge all with libraries that have access to JSTOR. He had to have known that JSTOR and MIT wouldn't like this. Couldn't he have scraped the database slowly and from multiple points so that it blended in with the normal traffic?
He didn't do anything special to get into JSTOR. Essentially he was
web scraping with a bunch of different user-names and passwords.
If they just found him randomly wandering the halls where he should not be, obviously the FBI would not be involved. If they see him entering the network cages in order to mirror an asset worth $1.5 million dollars to his personal storage devices... I think they take the trespassing a bit more seriously and in a different context :p
To you point about the government using the incident to its own purposes, this is not new. There is a tremendous amount of heat (we'll call it campaign dollars ;-) being put on representatives to 'protect' copyrights. Jason's case is convenient in that there seems to be a lot of evidence that he did in fact work around the existing licensing schemes, and those schemes are based on copyright. Perhaps the government is hoping to get a published decision to establish some case law here, or perhaps folks can point to it and tell their deep pocket contributors that they 'really took it to this guy.'
Now that its out there and providing a nexus, it seems a good place to elevate the scientific research monopoly discussion.
In an era when digital security is such a hot topic, I'm not really surprised that someone in the Justice Department would be attempting to prosecute Aaron for as much as they can line up against him.
I think that ascribing some larger legal agenda behind this is a reach, or even a political agenda targeted at "silencing" Swartz is a reach. Does the DoJ likely want to crack down on anything that smells of security issues? Sure. And I'm Not saying that the idea that legal and political agendas are pursued is ludicrous. I'm just not so sure this case is anything remarkable. He (allegedly) did what he did, the DoJ thinks they can make a case against him. So they will.
I am not 100% sure of this, but I think this is probably true: similar to the case of Eliot Spitzer who as governor of NY was investigating Wall Street. So, I think that Wall Street had their lackey the US Government (via the FBI) dig up something on Spitzer to bring him down. I believe that this situation is called a plutarchy.
I think that Spitzer's mess-up should have stayed between him and his wife - she is the appropriate authority to dish out punishment in this case :-)
If Spitzer had not been getting close to blowing the cover of dubious dealings on Wall Street (that affected the values of our stock portfolios during the crash a year later) I personally don't believe that the episodes with a prostitute being made public would have happened.
In his post-liquidity-event career as an activist, a felony conviction will serve nicely as a bona-fide.
So the only real downside for Swartz in this is that he spends time in jail, which as you say is quite unlikely.
"...he also worked with Shireen Barday at Stanford Law School to assess “problems with remunerated research” in law review articles (i.e., articles funded by corporations, sometimes to help them in ongoing legal battles), by downloading and analyzing over 400,000 law review articles to determine the source of their funding. The results were published in the Stanford Law Review."
One possible narrative inside the DoJ: we can't launch public trials of open access to databases, because this Aaron Swartz guy has decided that his Python code will have the final say in any policy decisions we make. But that's not for him to decide! And here he is again, taking the same approach, this time to a commercial database that produces 7 figure annual recurring revenues.
I don't agree with this mindset (:#>! :#>!) but I'd understand it.
> Under Norwegian law, Mr Breivik faces a maximum of 21 years in jail if convicted...
This is why you're being downvoted so heavily, in case you were wondering. Such flamebait is not appropriate.
In this particular case, the death penalty is relatively commonplace. As in, using OECD as a benchmark, the US executes more people than the average OECD member. I wanted to illustrate the contrast between the American and Norwegian legal systems, not make a statement about the use or validity of the death penalty.
Car crashes are commonplace here. Drunk driving accidents are. Executions occur less often than once a week in the US, mostly in a few select states, and the US has a population of over 300 million people. We (I'm from the US) even have a disproportionately large prison population and the death penalty is still extremely, extremely rare.
(Perhaps because "systematic downloading" isn't actually a crime?)
And to compare that to specifically circumventing physical and virtual restrictions after warning the user against a set of actions? Where the target data was not worthless, as in Google's case, but worth over $1 million dollars?
I don't see the comparison.
Many years ago, when writing web crawlers was the cool thing to do, I wrote one (like an idiot, I wanted to see how deep the web was). Unfortunately, I didn't have a good synchronization scheme, so it ended up beating on a poor website for too long. The operator of that site sent a stern email to our DNS contacts, complaining. And we shut the crawler down. Today, I fear I'd be indicted for "wire fraud"!
Kindly do not misread that as support for the legal status quo, JSTOR, or anything else.
They are not. You're thinking of the the torrent of public domain works released by Greg Maxwell, which isn't directly related.
Aaron Swartz downloaded much, much, more, and according to JSTOR's statement: "We secured from Mr. Swartz the content that was taken, and received confirmation that the content was not and would not be used, copied, transferred, or distributed."
This reminds of back in the 90's when there wasn't any laws in place to address hacking. But man, the Feds did not like kids making them look like fools. Once they got the laws of the books, it was open season on hackers.
I'm pretty sure the next few years are going to see a major crackdown on hacking again. Just like the recent arrests of supposed Lulsec and Anon members.
This guy will be lucky to get out of federal prison in 15 years.
Is the position tenured?
Way to ignore the physical break-in to install a computer directly on a network switch. I, for one, hope that he gets a criminal record at the very least (plea deal). This really puts the crime in a different league.
Unless I have my facts wrong, in which I'm willing to be corrected.
This is only at the federal level because the "unauthorized access" crossed state lines. (Aaron was at MIT when he was knocking over JSTOR servers, probably in NYC.) So the prosecutor is only going to worry about that part.
All of this is pure conjecture and speculation of course. But I would be lying if I said I wouldn't be more comfortable about the situation if Aaron was being tried by the MA government.
The state criminal justice systems are deluged by drug violence and domestic violence and are largely reactive (I write while missing the court date for my mugger's prosecution, due to a sick daughter).
The federal system is more deliberate (word chosen carefully) and somewhat less reactive. It has more discretion about what cases to chase down. It's probably more inclined to keep its teeth sunk into anything it starts too.
The same political environment that appointed this prosecutor also appointed the prosecutor that took down Scooter Libby.
Edit (appending as reply chain is too deep):
Thomas, I see you that your focus is computer security, so I can understand how you are focusing on the breach of security and not the end goal. Perhaps I'm naive, but from the posting this thread is discussing it appears that his intentions clearly are honorable.
In either case, I don't have to agree with the prosecution to point out one obvious way it could be structured.
Wait, wait, that isn't the right groupthink response for this situation.. Give me a second....
This is not a bubble this time, this is a real new new economy, the old rules (nor the old new rules) don't apply.
Wait, that's not right either... nm, I'm not sure how to think about this one so I'm just going to downvote you.