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.