Lawmakers press DOJ for Aaron Swartz files

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is demanding answers from Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors First redistricting lawsuits filed by Democratic group On The Trail: Census data kicks off the biggest redistricting fight in American history MORE about the Justice Department’s treatment of the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz.

Eight lawmakers from both chambers wrote to Holder on Friday ahead of the anniversary of the programmer’s death and charged that the department has not been forthcoming about its treatment of Swartz.

They called the late programmer a “brilliant technologist and activist” and demanded that Holder explain how the department’s conduct toward Swartz was “appropriate,” as a U.S. attorney's office has described it.


The lawmakers said they asked for details about the department's treatment a year ago but have not gotten answers.

“We have received no such information, not even the sentencing memoranda that surely were prepared in a case such as this,” they wrote.

Swartz committed suicide a year ago Saturday, at the age of 26. At the time, the Justice Department had charged him with wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges for breaking into a computer network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloading about 4.8 million documents from the academic service JSTOR. He faced up to 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

His family blamed overzealous prosecutors for Swartz’s decision to take his own life. 

In their letter on Friday, the lawmakers said that they “respectfully disagree” with Holder's assertion that the case represented “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”

As a teenager, Swartz helped create RSS, a publishing technology that lets people subscribe to updates on blogs or news sites. He also founded a company that merged with the social media site Reddit and created the activist mobilization site Demand Progress.

The eight lawmakers signing Friday’s letter were Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).