MIT and Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files: what has MIT got to hide?

Ed Felten comments on the news that MIT has moved to delay the release of the Secret Service files on Aaron Swartz:

It seems unlikely that MIT will find information redactable under FOIA that hasn’t already been redacted by the Secret Service.

But there are two things that MIT’s filing will more likely achieve. First, it will delay the disclosure of facts about MIT’s role in the Swartz investigation. Second, it will help MIT prepare its public-relations response to whatever is in the documents.

MIT is acting like it has something to hide. This is deeply worrying for people like me who think of MIT and American universities more generally as unique and valuable institutions.

What made MIT great is the way it made itself a mecca for the Aaron Swartzes of the world. Over the years, MIT was willing to make investments and take a few risks to build a community devoted to the creation and dissemination of knowledge. If someone broke the rules in a way that didn’t strike at the institution’s core values, they faced consequences that were proportionate and aimed to educate—not a relentless Federal prosecutor threatening decades in prison.

What I fear most of all is that we will learn that MIT encouraged the U.S. Attorney to behave the way she did.

MIT asks to intervene in Swartz FOIA suit

Notable Replies

  1. Since when is the right to not be embarrassed by the revelation of your own actions part of the US Constitution?

  2. that would be the 28th amendment section b:
    "whosoever contributes substantially, or pledges to contribute substantially, to the reelection or one(1) or more congressmen shall have veto power over articles released under the Freedom of Information Act(FOIA)"

    it's right below the section preventing major corporations with strong lobbies from being prosecuted under any law.

  3. miasm says:

    It's difficult to imagine the pyroclastic shit-storm the administration thinks they are avoiding by pursuing this course of action.

  4. miasm says:

    Barbara Streisand?

  5. Maybe the pressure came from the Three-Letter Agencies, which are major research funders. "Nice Lincoln Labs you have there. Shame if anything happened to them." Just maybe.

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