Senator and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) has written to Attorney General Eric Holder about the case against activist Aaron Swartz, suggesting that the Department of Justice was attempting to "make an example" of him. In an open letter, Cornyn said the case raised several questions about how US Attorney Carmen Ortiz prosecuted Swartz for downloading articles from JSTOR, despite JSTOR's lack of interest in pressing charges. Two US Representatives have raised questions about the Justice Department's conduct — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has sponsored legislation and Darrell Issa (R-CA) is investigating the case — but this marks the first time a Senator has taken up the cause.
Cornyn suggests that the case against Swartz was motivated by a previous tangle with the Justice Department, likely in 2009, when he was investigated for downloading and sharing millions of PACER legal documents. Swartz would later file a Freedom of Information Act request for his own FBI file. "Was the prosecution of Aaron Swartz in any way retaliation for for his exercise of his rights as a citizen under the Freedom of Information Act?" Cornyn asked. "What role, if any, did the Department's prior investigations of Mr. Swartz play in the decision of with which crimes to charge him?"
"Was the prosecution of Aaron Swartz in any way retaliation for for his exercise of his rights as a citizen?"
Like Issa, Cornyn has clashed before with Obama's Justice Department, and he's a longtime opponent of Holder. Cornyn voted against Holder's appointment, and he called for his resignation in mid-2012 after the Fast and Furious gun scandal. In his letter, Cornyn expressed admiration for Swartz, who he calls a "brilliant technologist and a committed activist," but it's likely that he's also using the opportunity to attack an old enemy.