updated 04:59 pm EST, Mon February 4, 2013
Reveal part of 'operation last resort' Aaron Swartz activism
Hacker collective Anonymous, in an attempt to provoke computer crime law reform in the US, has published the personal information of over 4,000 bank executives on the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center's website. The leak is part of the group's "Operation Last Resort" developed in the wake of technology maven and hacker Aaron Swartz's death, believing that the lead prosecutor in the case was less interested in justice than career advancement; the group also holds that outdated computer crime laws contributed to Swartz's suicide.
Swartz was charged with a large number of crimes, including computer and wire fraud after breaking into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus and downloading thousands of academic journals from the academic document storage system JSTOR. JSTOR officials itself reached a settlement with Swartz avoiding a civil lawsuit, and just requiring the downloaded data be surrendered, calling the access a "significant misuse" but would not pursue civil litigation.
The New York Times described the incident as "a respected Harvard researcher who also is an Internet folk hero has been arrested in Boston on charges related to computer hacking, which are based on allegations that he downloaded articles that he was entitled to get free."
In January 2011 -- a month after returning the data -- the FBI charged Swartz with wire fraud, computer fraud, gathering information unlawfully from a protected computer, and reckless damage of a protected computer. Swartz surrendered to the FBI, pled not guilty to all charges, and was released on $100,000 bail. In September 2012, the US increased the charges from four to 13, with Swartz facing the possibility of 35 years in jail and a $1,000,000 fine. Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann was insisting on jail time, and turned down a plea deal on January 9. Swartz committed suicide on January 11, likely as a result of the amplified charges and an imminent jail sentence.
"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach," his family said in a statement. "Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death." Between the initial charges, and the piling on of additional charges, JSTOR made public domain content freely available. The free content released comprises six percent of the group's total content, with much of the content being what Swartz downloaded.
According to the "Operation Last Resort" Twitter feed, the information was made in anticipation of the deadline today set by the House to complete its investigation into the Department of Justice's handling of the Swartz case. The group threatens to unlock an 900MB encrypted file that it calls a "warhead" that may contain classified information if its demands for a meeting with federal officials are not met.