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MIT intervenes in FOIA release of Aaron Swartz documents, seeks 'pre-release review'

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aaron swartz lead
aaron swartz lead

Earlier this month, it was revealed that documents relating to the Secret Service's investigation into hacker and activist Aaron Swartz would be released under a freedom of information act (FOIA) request from Wired reporter Kevin Poulsen — but now Poulsen has indicated that their release has been delayed thanks to a motion filed by MIT. According to Poulsen's report in Wired and corroborated by court documents, MIT today filed a motion to intervene to review the documents prior to their release to Poulsen, with a request for an expedited hearing to take place on or before July 25th.

The court documents also indicate that MIT wants to delay the release of the Secret Services files by five business days so it can review them for any information describing MIT's employees or networks. Apparently, MIT wants to redact any information that might out MIT employees who assisted with the Aaron Swartz prosecution to protect the privacy of its employees and the security of its network — it sounds like the university is concerned with possible retribution from those who strongly disagreed with the government's prosecution of Swartz.

Poulsen notes in Wired that he's never heard of a "non-governmental party" arguing to interfere with a FOIA request, and his lawyer apparently hasn't seen this happen before either. It's an unprecedented move, and Poulsen confirmed that he'll be in court soon to fight MIT's request and "any further delay in filling this seven-month-old FOIA request."

Update 7/19: JSTOR has asked for the same delay, for the same reasons.