Obama administration won’t act on Aaron Swartz petition

The White House will not act on a petition filed to fire the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit and crusader for a free-and-open internet. Swartz died, of an apparent suicide, two years ago.

Swartz, 26 years old, was reportedly despondent over the government’s decision to pursue federal charges that he hacked into an academic database, downloading millions of research papers. He faced a maximum of 50 years in prison.

A petition filed on White House.gov, which received more than 61,000 signatures, asked the administration to remove Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney out of Boston, for overzealous prosecution for what critics call minor infractions. The petition cites a lack of a sense of “proportionality.”

In its response to the petition, the administration said it will continue to examine such thorny issues as “open access to information, privacy and intellectual property, free speech and security” But it will not fire Ortiz. The response noted that the petition process is not the appropriate for addressing personnel matters.

Both Ortiz and the MIT administration came under blistering criticism for their roles in Swartz’ prosecution. Swartz used MIT facilities to download the data in question from the school’s JSTOR library. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has defended Ortiz.

A documentary on Swartz, “The Internet’s Own Boy” was just nominated for an Writer’s Guild award for best documentary screenplay.

Aaron Swartz in memorium

MIT to release redacted Aaron Swartz documents

MIT will publish documents now under seal about the Aaron Swartz prosecution, but it will edit them to protect individuals’ privacy and the security of the school’s networks, according to MIT president Rafael Reif.