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House Committee asks Attorney General for briefing on Aaron Swartz prosecution concerns

House Committee asks Attorney General for briefing on Aaron Swartz prosecution concerns

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US Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) already let it be known that he would be looking into whether federal prosecutors had gone overboard in their prosecution of Aaron Swartz, and now he's following through on that promise. In a letter today from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, both Issa and fellow Representative Elijah Cummings asked US Attorney General Eric Holder for a briefing about the decision by federal prosecutors to bring charges against Swartz. "Many questions have been raised about the appropriate level of punishment sought by prosecutors for Mr. Swartz's alleged offenses," the letter reads, "and how the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, cited in 11 of 13 counts against Mr. Swartz, should apply under similar circumstances."

The letter goes on to ask for further information on seven different points, including what spurred the decision to prosecute Swartz, what plea offers had been made to him, and if any evidence had even been uncovered that Swartz had committed "hacking violations" beyond the downloading of articles from JSTOR.

Issa isn't the only politician to use the Swartz situation to call for action — and garner political attention — but his letter is notable in that he has gained the support of fellow committee member Cummings. If the pair can convince the rest of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, it could lead to formal hearings on the matter. Given that one of the seven questions asked in the letter is whether Swartz's opposition to SOPA (or his online advocacy efforts in general) played a part in the decision of federal prosecutors to go after him, it doesn't appear Issa and his colleagues will be letting up anytime soon. The letter requests the briefing happen by Monday, February 4th at the latest.