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How do we go about getting this message across to her and other key people (legally)? I'm interested in helping.

My suggestion, start a whitehouse petition. If that gets to 25k people, the whitehouse will respond. If Reddit gets involved, 25k people is quite doable.

The wording of the petition should be as strong as possible. I'm off with my children now, but if I get back tonight and I see a decent petition on this, I will definitely sign it.

Edit: D'oh, the petition has already been written. I just had to sign it.

pardon my ignorance, should one be a US citizen to sign this petition or is it open to anybody?

The second petition will never be granted. I can say this with certainty because it is legally impossible to grant a pardon when someone has not been convicted (or plead guilty to) a crime to finality (i.e., the exhaustion of appeals).

As with the Enron fellow who died during his appeals, Aaron will never legally be guilty of whatever it was he was specifically charged with because his case was never adjudicated to finality.

it is legally impossible to grant a pardon when someone has not been convicted (or plead guilty to) a crime to finality (i.e., the exhaustion of appeals).

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Proclamation_4311 is a famous example disproving that.

All Obama has to say is that Massachusetts law enforcement acted stupidly. It'd have the same effect, as they've done so before, and he's said so before.


It's obviously very important to stay on the bright white side of legal here, as we are dealing with a prosecutorial bully. Emailing her directly is unlikely to produce results and likely to get your name on some kind of terrorist watch list. But going to her superiors and the Boston media to call for her resignation in disgrace over an overzealous prosecution is the right tactic.

0) Start with background: http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/meetattorney.html

Looks pretty senior. Runs the federal government's DOJ office in Massachussetts, with an office of 200 people. By no means the SecDef or anything, but senior enough that serious pressure will need to be brought to bear.

How to do this?

1) Research her past cases and start blogging them/analyzing them. Almost certainly she has a history of extremely aggressive prosecutions. Find any statements from her on this or past cases that are factually inaccurate; highly likely as we are talking about a technical matter where "series of tubes" comments are likely. By the end of this you will have a profile. Perhaps you can show that she disproportionately pursues excessive sentences, or perhaps you can show that she makes technical mistakes about the internet. There are few records that will stand up to deep critical scrutiny. Maybe a bit of statistics to see if she is an outlier relative to other US Attorneys or to her immediate predecessor.

2) Go to LinkedIn. Find your closest contact at the Boston Globe. Work with them to write a story on Ortiz. Tell them they are the only ones that can do it. It is important to actually get a reporter to get Youtube video of Ortiz either answering questions or running from them, as they have much more license to get in the face of a US Attorney. A guy on the street who tries Michael Moore-ing Ortiz with an ambush interview on her way to work is likely to get cuffed for harassing a peace officer or something.

3) Repeat the above step for anyone in Boston with a media credential. A good step is to find anyone who has gotten Ortiz on the record before, e.g. Elizabeth Murphy from the Boston Herald (http://www.mainjustice.com/2013/01/07/mass-u-s-attorney-carm...). Tell them the truth, which is that only the press can hold a prosecutor like this accountable. They need to push for quotes on the record and press conferences, and ask over and over whether she believes her actions were right and her conduct was justified.

4) Determine who her technical superiors are. These are the people in DOJ who are above her on the org chart:


Looks like US Attorneys report to the Deputy Attorney General (James Cole), who reports to the Attorney General (Holder), who reports to Obama. A direct top-down attack is going to be tough as these are national figures.

5) Determine who her political superiors are. This is a much broader list. Everyone from the mayor of Boston to the governor of Massachusetts to both MA Senators to the chair of the MA Democratic party can take a swing here. Those are all players within the MA political establishment that she needs to listen to. Might be obvious, but it's critical (and easy) to make the case to other Democrats, as Swartz was a Democratic activist and this was truly blue-on-blue violence (though Ortiz is hardly a "Democrat" in the sense of mercy and fairness). Undercutting her political support and making her realize she has no more political friends in the world will cause her big problems.

6) Relatedly, go through the press and make a list of everyone who has ever endorsed her in public for anything, from the local Latino/a groups to the people who got her on Obama's shortlist to the local Democratic politicians. Call them up, explain that her overzealous prosecution led to the suicide of a 26 year old computer wizard (and Obama activist!), and ask them on the record whether they will support her for higher office. Ask them whether Ortiz shoudl resign. Blog this, with SEO for the headline: "X declines to support Carmen M. Ortiz for further office." or "Y calls on Carmen M. Ortiz to resign for spurious prosecution of Aaron Swartz."

7) Asymmetric warfare. This one is not illegal, but you would want one of your law school friends who worked in the US Attorney's office or in the press to do it (especially the latter as they will have some immunity). The concept is to interview as many of the 200 people in the MA Attorney's office as possible to determine how many of them feel good about these events, think Ortiz was in the right, or feel like Ortiz has been a good leader. It is quite possible that someone will describe a political or even personal scandal known only to subordinates or immediate associates. An Eliot-Spitzer-Client-9 level scandal uncovered in this fashion would absolutely knock her out of the ring, though it wouldn't be as satisfying as seeing her forced to step down for pursuing this case. But getting Capone for tax evasion is still getting Capone.

8) Swartz's friends. Anyone who has blogged or written about this case is someone who can likely be counted on to amplify the messages above and keep the pressure on.

EDIT: Aha. Looks like this same person went after online gambling under UIGEA to "send a message".


I do like these tactics and... I am in favor of naming and shaming. I think she should be made the poster child for overzealous prosecution of a outdated law.

However, it is a story that could serve a larger purpose than just ruining this woman's career. I would like to this effort put into something more constructive like the decriminalization of copyright infringement. It could be relegated to a civil issue, especially online (versus manufactured goods).

There will be other overzealous prosecutors to replace her, but if the law is changed. It could serve a greater purpose.

You need to understand that US Attorney is a stepping-stone job, especially if she is very vocal in her role. Ego-maniacs like Rudy Giuliani use it to bypass the normal political machinery to get a mayorship, congressional post or cabinet/justice appointment. Others use it as a path to the ultimate job -- lifetime prestige and employment as a Federal judge.

"Naming and shaming" gives her name recognition and boosts her credentials as "tough". Any publicity is good publicity for a politician.

Instead, you and your friends should be asking the Senators and Governor of Massachusetts (aka the gatekeepers to this person's career path) why someone who demonstrates such contempt for the concept of justice is representing the United States government. You should ask President Obama and the Attorney General why their administration tolerates that contempt.

If you want the law changed, you need to attack those who are perpetrating injustice.

Even if there are other overzealous prosecutors in general, getting rid of this one would be an important message. So this is an important step, even in the absence of practically impossible outcomes like decriminalizing copyright infringement.

Overzealous prosecutors hurt people accused of every kind of crime, making them accountable is a pretty far reaching cause.

Very much agree. Getting her out of office is the beginning of that conversation.

Excellent comment. Thanks.

I think we need to start lobbying for a bill that decriminalizes copyright infringement and makes it purely a civil matter.

I don't think that would really do it here. The problem is not (just, or even primarily) the laws against criminal copyright infringement. The problem is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Wire Act, RICO and the complete set of federal laws passed during the heyday of organized crime that are so broad and with such disproportionately insane penalties that they can be used to put just about any arbitrary subject of Her Majesty the Queen Prosecutor in prison for the rest of their natural lives.

Fixing one statute isn't going to cut it; they'll just keep on at it with the ones remaining. The fix has to be systemic or it's nothing but a band aid on a gunshot wound.

Changing the law is the aim, no doubt, but as with anything, progress is much easier when you're seen as having strength and being on the side of the angels. Having legally and properly dispensed with a conspicuously abusive US Attorney does a tremendous amount to discredit the opposition. And it puts other attorneys on notice that their preferred tactic—hitting people with a raft of charges the freezing or exhausting their assets before a trial—is on the public radar as a deeply illigitimate and almost certainly unconstitutional approach to handling what are, increasingly, political crimes.

I completely agree that we should make every legitimate effort to have this prosecutor removed from her position, along with anyone who uses similar tactics. You have to start somewhere.

My point is simply that this is a systemic problem. We can't have one prosecutor removed and then stop. We have to make this entire model of prosecution illegitimate. It's going to take a sustained, organized movement to make real change.

Which isn't to say it can't be done. It damn well has to be done. But it isn't going to be easy.

That's not how politics works. It's never been how politics works. This is why most people simply ignore Silicon Valley and the Internet when it comes to political issues.

If the likes of 4chan or reddit attack a federal prosecutor personally, all they will do is spur political action against reddit and 4chan. The underlying cause of their action will be ignored and forgotten.

(Note: SOPA is not an exception; major Silicon Valley companies spent serious amounts on lobbying to get that bill dropped. The internet opposition had exactly zero impact on its political fate.)

Key words: "legally" and "properly". In other words, the opposite of what Anon or 4chan could be expected to do.

Identifying the tactics used to effectively strip people of their rights to open trials is the object here. Juries exist specifically to guard against abuses like this. If the DOJ has found a way to make getting in front of one exceedingly risky and certainly ruinous, then they should be called to account for what is a clear subversion of basic Constitutional protections.

We can't get Aaron back. But we can make sure that everyone understands why he found himself in such a desperate situation in spite of having done nothing to warrant the insane penalties he was facing.

I hear you complaining but I don't hear your solution.

That's a good point... "The charges filed against Mr. Swartz include wire fraud, computer fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer and criminal forfeiture."


I still like the idea of doing something bigger to help keep this situation from happening again.

But the people who want that don't contribute millions of dollars of campaign donations.

Make an infographic that attracts attention.

I unfortuantley do not know how I would even start doing one, but some comments have data like "97% of all people plead guilty" we could see what the average number of time in Jail is, pull out some quotes.

I posted abt it here http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5048729 and the types of question we would need to figure out relating to court costs and things like that.

How much would it cost to run a full-page ad near the front of The New York Times and Boston Globe, and some local tv ads in Boston? A targeted media campaign and the resulting echoes could easily put a stop to any political aspirations (I'm thinking 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper, and the like).

This is the number two story on Google New's "Top Stories" for me right now so it seems like this has a far chance of getting a lot of coverage is people are loud enough for long enough.

I have a feeling Anonymous will get on this case. Sadly enough this is not one of those cases where a few messages is going to "send the message."

If her career ends in a clean and legal way, that will send the important message. So if individuals are in the position to send messages which will contribute to that, it would be a good thing.

Unless Anon pursues the course of action outlined above, I strongly suspect they will do more harm than good. Even a hint of illegitimacy on the part of Ortiz's opponents will be exploited ruthlessly. Keeping one's own hands clean is a vitally important part of bringing attention to the dirt that others have on theirs.

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