MIT: Hoax Caller Cited Revenge For Aaron Swartz Death

This article is more than 8 years old.

A person who called in a hoax about a gunman on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus over the weekend said the gunman was a staff member looking for revenge after the suicide of an Internet activist accused of illegally using MIT computers, the institute said.

MIT executive vice president Israel Ruiz wrote in a campus-wide email on Wednesday that the caller indicated the gunman "was retaliating against people involved in the suicide of Aaron Swartz." Ruiz wrote that MIT's president was identified as the target.

Swartz killed himself in New York last month while awaiting trial on charges he used MIT's computer network to illegally download nearly 5 million academic articles from an online clearinghouse for scholarly journals. Critics blame federal prosecutors for his suicide, saying they were too harsh. Prosecutors have defended the charges against him and said they acted appropriately.

MIT said investigators determined the staffer named in the Saturday call was "found not to be connected to the incident."

Ruiz also addressed criticism that it took the university too long, nearly 90 minutes, to alert students to the possible threat on campus.

"We should have alerted the community about the threat much more quickly and that the communication protocols we had in place did not meet the community’s reasonable expectations," Ruiz wrote. "We have already revised our procedures to make sure that we are now in a position to alert the community within minutes of such an incident."

Ruiz said the school will take this as an opportunity to  "refresh the community's understanding" of MIT's safety protocols.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom.

This program aired on February 28, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.