MIT Releases Report On How It Handled Aaron Swartz Case

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Aaron Swartz at the Boston Wiki Meetup (Flickr/ragesoss)
Aaron Swartz at the Boston Wiki Meetup in 2009. (Flickr/ragesoss)

Seven months after Aaron Swartz, who faced federal charges for computer hacking, took his own life, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released its own report today on the events that led up to his death. Swartz faced federal charges of hacking into a university computer network and down-loading millions of academic articles.

Many of Swartz's supporters faulted MIT for doing too little to protect the young internet activist from federal prosecutors. And some critics believed that the university helped federal prosecutors in its investigation of the 26-year old computer activist. But Tuesday, in a 180-page report, MIT concluded that it acted appropriately; that it did not target Swartz or "call in the feds" or even encourage them to prosecute him.

The report took six months and includes information from interviews with law enforcement, federal prosecutors, Swartz' lawyers and his friends. MIT computer science professor Hal Abelson is the author of the report which concluded that MIT remained appropriately neutral in the federal case against Swartz.

“It makes clear that MIT did not target Aaron Swartz, we did not seek federal prosecution, punishment or jail time, and we did not oppose a plea bargain," said MIT president L. Rafael Reif, in response to the report.

MIT officials did acknowledge that the federal government pursued "an overly aggressive prosecution." And it suggested that the university could have advocated more forcefully in this case for academic freedom and access to scholarly information.

Swartz' partner Taren Steinbrickner-Kauffman called the report a "Whitewash" by MIT and said the university should have acted to protect Aaron Swartz against federal prosecutors.


Curt Nickisch, WBUR business and technology reporter.

Harvey Silverglate, Boston-based civil rights litigator.

This segment aired on July 30, 2013.


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