Senate aides will learn more this week about the prosecution that supporters blame for causing the death of Internet “hacktivist” Aaron Swartz.
Justice Department officials will brief Senate Judiciary Committee staff members Thursday about the prosecution of Swartz for hacking and other computer crimes related to his downloading of scholarly articles from the subscription service JSTOR. Swartz had reportedly been threatened with a lengthy prison term by prosecutors before committing suicide in January.
Since his death, Swartz’s supporters have led a campaign to amend the law used to prosecute him, and to punish the prosecutors involved for their perceived overreach. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — including Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas — have criticized the Justice Department’s handling of the case, arguing that the government unjustly sought to make an example of Swartz over an innocuous violation of an antiquated statute.
David Segal, executive director of the Internet freedom group Demand Progress, who was a friend and ally of Swartz, said he expects Senate questions about the Justice Department’s motives in the prosecution, particularly related to Swartz’s previous activism.