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First Secret Service documents on Aaron Swartz investigation released

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aaron swartz (quinn norton flickr)
aaron swartz (quinn norton flickr)

The public is seeing the first fruits of a Freedom of Information Act request for the Secret Service’s files on the late hacker and activist Aaron Swartz with the release of 104 pages of agency documents. Swartz committed suicide at the age of 26 while facing the possibility of up to 35 years in prison for the bulk downloading of some 70 gigabytes of academic papers from the JSTOR repository on the MIT campus.

"Why didn't you do this earlier?"

The request was filed by Wired’s Kevin Poulsen, who reports that the documents describe a February, 2011 search on Swartz’s home — effected over a month after he was first arrested by campus police. According to the Secret Service report, Swartz "made statements to the effect of, what took you so long, and why didn’t you do this earlier?"

The release of the documents comes after Poulsen’s Freedom of Information Act request was initially denied by the Secret Service, a decision that was later overruled in US District Court. And even though JSTOR and MIT have been fighting for the right to review any documents related to the Secret Service investigation and redact information that could potentially out individuals who contributed to Swartz’s prosecution, the court ruled to promptly release these first 104 pages as neither party is mentioned. But this release is just the tip of the iceberg — Poulsen notes that some 14,500 pages have been marked for release over the next six months.