First 100 pages of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files

After a long wrangle, and no thanks to MIT, the Secret Service has begun to honor the court order that requires it to release Aaron Swartz's files. The first 100 pages -- albeit heavily redacted -- were just released. Kevin Poulsen, the Wired reporter who filed the Freedom of Information Act request that liberated the files, has posted some preliminary analysis of them. The Feds were particularly interested in the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto," a document Aaron helped to write in 2008. The manifesto -- and subsequent statements by Aaron -- make the case that access to scientific and scholarly knowledge is a human right. The full Aaron Swartz files run 14,500 pages, according to the Secret Service's own estimate.

I was interested to note that much of the analysis of Swartz's materials was undertaken by SAIC, the mystery-shrouded, massive private military/government contractor that is often described as the largest privately held company in the world.

Update: Jake Appelbaum corrects me: "I've been reading what is released of one of the files for Aaron. I think that SAIC in these documents means 'Special Agent In Charge' and isn't actually the motherfuckers at SAIC. Reading this report makes my fucking blood boil, (b)(6), (b)(7)(c)"

The heavily redacted documents released today confirm earlier reports that the Secret Service was interested in a “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” that Swartz and others had penned in 2008. In May 2011, a Secret Service agent and a detective from the Cambridge police department interviewed a friend of Swartz and inquired specifically about the political statement. The friend noted that Swartz and his coauthors “believe that the open access movement is a human rights issue.”

The Secret Service documents also describe the February 11, 2011 search on Swartz’s home in Cambridge that came over a month after Swartz was first arrested and released by local police. “Swartz was home at the time the search was executed,” reads one report. “While the search was conducted, Swartz made statements to the effect of, what took you so long, and why didn’t you do this earlier?”

First 100 Pages of Aaron Swartz’s Secret Service File Released

Notable Replies

  1. It looks like it took them that long to figure out the photo copier. Is there some nefarious reason all the copies are crooked?

  2. Analysis from Kevin Poulsen? No, thank you.

  3. I assume that it's one of the less dramatic symptoms of "FOIA means we have to release; but not that we can't be assholes about it." syndrome.

  4. that's what i suspect.

  5. Spocko says:

    Here is another reason behind it. I might just be making this up, but.. If it was released straight it would make it easier to OCR the documents and then put them in a digital database for easier search. If they released the actual digital records (not a copy of them) it would be easier to index skim and read.

    Also, the people who are in charge of FOIA are probably not given the best, fastest and latest models of anything. FOIA grunt, "This shit has to be done by hand! It will take months to copy it all! It will cost a lot of money to do it this way!" FOIA Boss, "Exactly. Now you are beginning to understand how we can true the FOIA section into a Profit center!"

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