Legislators Seek DOJ Answers on Swartz Prosecution

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) has asked Attorney General Eric Holder for full responses to questions about its aggressive prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz.

The letter came on the eve of Swartz' Jan. 11 death from an apparent suicide and while awaiting trial on multiple felony charges for allegedly using MIT computers to illegally download scientific journals.

In a letter to Holder, Cornyn, joined by more than a half-dozen other Senators and House members, said that the info DOJ has supplied so far has been insufficient. He also says the info that has been provided "painted a picture of prosecutors unwilling or unable to weigh what charges to pursue against a defendant, something which you have instructed federal prosecutors is ‘among [their] most fundamental duties.’"

The legislators pointed out that Holder had said Swartz's case was "a good use of prosecutorial discretion."

They disagree. They say that the DOJ account is inconsistent with a report about the prosecution prepared by MIT and that and other inconsistencies "require serious responses" to an original request for information from both Cornyn and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), although Franken was not listed among those signing on to the Cornyn letter.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.