Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:55AM
It's been a week since American internet activist Aaron Swartz ended his life -- caving in to the pressure from a relentless U-S Justice Department hell-bent on making an example of him. A memorial service has been held for him in New York -- and while family and friends shared fond memories -- they also blasted the mindless bureaucracy that hounded him.
Aaron Swartz' friends accuse prosecutors of contributing to his death. Friends, professors, internet leaders and others looked back on the life of computer visionary Aaron Swartz on Saturday telling stories of his exploits. Yale computer science professor Edward Tufte remembered chiding the Aaron who downloaded four million files from online academic document library JSTOR -- but not for the reasons one might think. The US Justice Department didn't find Swartz's antics quite so funny -- pressing federal wire and computer fraud charges against him that carried decades in prison and a million dollars in fines -- despite the fact that JSTOR itself settled its problems with Swartz -- and didn't want him prosecuted. Swartz's computer innovations began as a teenager -- and he was an accomplished fighter for free access to knowledge and for an open internet -- leading several defeats of draconian internet bills on Capitol Hill. He was tired of fighting the charges against him -- however -- and last weekend he was found hanging by a belt in his Brooklyn apartment. Friends and admirers like Roy Singham said today that the wearing-down of Swartz by the US Justice Department is an unconventional form of murder. Singham -- who had worked closely with Swartz -- added a demand that Swartz's legacy be a useful one to enact change so that other such pioneers might not be abused at the hands of such a flawed Justice system. And the last speaker of the night was Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman -- courageous in her words as she was Aaron's partner. She called for free and open access to all academic research -- and she blasted the criminal justice system that ultimately drove Aaron to his death. She called for accountability from the Massachesetts Attorney's office -- which was prosecuting the case -- and for those in attendance to not be lazy in making the world a better place. Others like Aaron are out there -- however -- such as Jeremy Hammond -- who is accused of hacking into Strategic Forecasting -- incorporated -- or Stratfor -- which is a kind of privatized corporate Central Intelligence Agency in the US. Hammond is threatened with life in prison -- and is being held without bail.