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Petition to fire Aaron Swartz prosecutor reaches threshold for White House response

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Swartz Memorial Program
Swartz Memorial Program

The White House must reply to an online petition requesting the removal of Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, who prosecuted Aaron Swartz before his death, after it reached the threshold of 25,000 signatures. The "We the People" online tool raised the number of responses needed to trigger a mandatory reply to 100,000 last month, but the move wasn't retroactive; the Steve Heymann petition was filed just a few days before the change went into place.

Petition filed just a few days before the threshold was raised

As such, the Obama administration may now wade into the controversial debate over Aaron Swartz's death and the heavy approach taken towards cybercrime prosecution in the US. It's worth noting, however, that this doesn't guarantee a swift response — the most popular petition on the site, demanding the classification of the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group, has yet to be addressed despite reaching the 25,000 goal back in December.

The White House has also refused to comment on certain thorny legal issues raised by petitions. One such call to free alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, for example, was met with a pointer to the We the People terms of service, stating that "the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government."