Why did the White House just humiliate Loretta Lynch?

Loretta Lynch why

Why did the White House just humiliate Loretta Lynch?

Idiotic: That’s the only word for the Obama administration’s move to scrub references to Islam or ISIS from the transcripts of Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen’s calls.

Under an avalanche of ridicule, the Justice Department on Monday relented and released the full transcripts. But what was the point? Everyone already knew that he’d pledged allegiance to ISIS and its “caliph.”

Fine: President Obama wants to make this about gun control, not terrorism — but ham-handed editing only calls attention to what you’re deleting, and to Obama’s peevish rules against uttering terms like “radical Islam.”

Just look at the redactions:

Mateen: “I pledge of allegiance to [omitted]. “I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].”

All the omissions did was make Team Obama look determined to keep its head in the sand about the nature of the enemy.

Even the “explanations” sounded dumb. Here’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch on ABC’s “This Week”: “What we’re not going to do is further proclaim this man’s pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups, and further his propaganda.”

Further his propaganda? Seriously? The answer to Islamist jihad is to black out the words?

Lynch never did anything this absurd in all her years as US Attorney here in New York, so you know the order came down from above.

It’s also idiocy déjà vu: Four years ago, Team Obama made then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice tour all the Sunday shows to blame the deadly Benghazi attack on an Internet video, rather than on the terrorist plot they all knew it was. She looked a fool once the administration finally admitted the truth, just as Loretta Lynch does now.

It makes you wonder: Who at the White House feels compelled to send women of color out to humiliate themselves on national TV?

REPORT: LOIS LERNER EMAILS SHOW OBAMA’S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ASSISTED IRS TO TARGET CONSERVATIVE GROUPS

REPORT: LOIS LERNER EMAILS SHOW OBAMA’S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ASSISTED IRS TO TARGET CONSERVATIVE GROUPS

After a year and a half of investigating, Congress has finally gotten to see a large number of the “missing” emails form IRS administrator Lois Lerner. Some of these emails seem to show that Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, a Forbes report says.

Despite the government’s refusal to release over 800 pages of Lerner communications, some documents that have been released show that she was discussing the targeting of conservative groups with members of the DOJ two years before the IRS even admitted that its actions were improper.

“Ms. Lerner,” Forbes columnist Robert W. Wood wrote, “met with top officials from the DOJ’s Election Crimes Branch in October of 2010. Although Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the DOJ, the DOJ coughed up dirt only on court order. Even then, the DOJ handed over only two pages of heavily redacted emails.”

The documents show that Lerner worked with the DOJ on targeting conservative groups and even show that Lerner sent the DOJ a “1.1 million page database of information from 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations” that contained confidential tax records.

On November 22 it was announced that some 30,000 IRS emails that had previously been deemed “unrecoverable” had been “found” by the IRS Inspector General. The emails extend from 2009 to 2011, when Lerner headed the IRS’s exempt-organizations division.

While investigators have yet to comb through this mountain of information, other key documents were finally revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by government watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said that the documents show that Obama’s DOJ was “up to its neck in the IRS scandal” and remarked in outrage that the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, which is supposed to be investigating such abuse of authority, is “now implicated in the IRS crimes.”

“It is shameful how Establishment Washington has let slide by Obama’s abuse of the IRS and the Justice Department,” Fitton said. “Only as a result of Judicial Watch’s independent investigations did the American people learn about the IRS-DOJ prosecution discussions of Obama’s political enemies and how the IRS sent, in violation of law, confidential taxpayer information to the FBI and DOJ in 2010. Richard Nixon was impeached for less.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com

GOP: Justice Department pushed Lois Lerner to help build criminal case against nonprofits

GOP: Justice Department pushed Lois Lerner to help build criminal case against nonprofits

BY SUSAN FERRECHIO MAY 22, 2014 | 6:10 PM

 

Republicans on a House oversight panel say the Justice Department asked former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in 2010 to help them build criminal cases against nonprofit groups conducting political activity.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and subcommittee chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, have requested an interview with Jack Smith, who heads the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Unit, after a subordinate revealed the department meetings with Lerner in a closed-door interview.

“The Justice Department convened a meeting with former IRS official Lois Lerner in October 2010 to discuss how the IRS could assist in the criminal enforcement of campaign-finance laws against politically active nonprofits,” Jordan and Issa said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. “This meeting was arranged at the direction of Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith.”

The GOP-led House recently found Lerner, who headed the IRS Exempt Organizations department, in contempt for refusing to testify before the Oversight panel about her role targeting conservative and Tea Party groupsseeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.

 

In October 2010, Lerner delivered an address at Duke University in which she told the audience, “everyone is screaming at us” to fix campaign finance before the 2012 election.

Issa and Jordan said they believe the Justice Department, “contributed to this pressure” on Lerner and other IRS officials to stop right-leaning organizations from achieving tax-exempt status, following a Supreme Court ruling lifting restrictions on their activity.

officials copy

Democrats were particularly angered by the ruling because they believe it created a surge in social welfare groups who were engaged in blatant political activity, many of them conservative.

“By encouraging the IRS to be vigilant in possible campaign-finance crimes by 501(c)(4) groups, the [Justice] Department was certainly among the entities ‘screaming’ at the IRS to do something in the wake of Citizens United before the 2010 election,” Jordan and Issa said to Holder in the Letter.

Issa and Jordan said they learned of the Justice Department’s involvement from Richard Pilger, the Director of the Department of Justice’s Election Crimes Branch. Issa has subpoenaed Pilger because he would not fully answer the questions asked recently in a closed-door meeting with House oversight investigators, although he did answer some questions and provided a lengthy statement.

In the letter to Holder, Issa and Jordan said they learned the Justice Department contacted Lerner again in 2013 after Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., suggested the Justice Department “prosecute nonprofits for false statements made on the groups’ application forms about whether they intended to engage in political speech.”

According to Pilger, the directive came from Smith, but “he was unsure, whether the instruction came from more senior Department leaders.”

The top Oversight panel Democrat said the testimony showed the Department of Justice was simply looking for illegal activity.

“Based on the witnesses and documents before the Committee, the Department of Justice’s request to the IRS was about how to prosecute groups that engaged in criminal activity — not based on their political beliefs,” said panel ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

pic_giant_052113_Darrell-Issa-Warns-Hillary

The full text of the letter is below:

May 22, 2014

The Honorable Eric H. Holder Jr.

Attorney General

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform continues to examine the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants. On May 6, 2014, the Committee conducted a transcribed interview of Richard Pilger, the Director of the Department of Justice’s Election Crimes Branch. While we knew that the Justice Department engaged with the IRS in May 2013 to consider prosecution of political active nonprofits,[1] we were shocked to learn that this engagement started in October 2010. According to Mr. Pilger, the Justice Department convened a meeting with former IRS official Lois Lerner in October 2010 to discuss how the IRS could assist in the criminal enforcement of campaign-finance laws against politically active nonprofits. This meeting was arranged at the direction of Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith. We therefore respectfully request that you make Mr. Smith available for a transcribed interview.

According to Mr. Pilger, Mr. Smith asked him to arrange a meeting in early October 2010 with the IRS about the “evolving legal landscape” of campaign-finance law following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.[2] Mr. Pilger testified that the Department’s agenda for the meeting was to engage with Ms. Lerner and the IRS on being “more vigilant to the opportunities from more crime in the . . . 501(c)(4) area.”[3] Mr. Pilger testified that he was interested in the “practicalities” of criminal enforcement by the IRS, such as whether the IRS could review donor lists of 501(c)(4) organizations for potential violations of campaign-finance law.[4] Mr. Pilger stated that Ms. Lerner, however, expressed skepticism about the practicality of using criminal law to address political speech by 501(c)(4) organizations.[5]

Mr. Pilger’s testimony reveals that the Justice Department contributed to the political pressure on the IRS to “fix the problem” posed by the Citizens United decision. On October 19, 2010 – only days after Ms. Lerner’s meeting with the Public Integrity Section – she spoke at a Duke University event about political speech by nonprofit organizations in wake of Citizens United.[6] Ms. Lerner stated:

What happened last year was the Supreme Court – the law kept getting chipped away, chipped away in the federal election arena. The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns. And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it.

They want the IRS to fix the problem. The IRS laws are not set up to fix the problem: (c)(4)s can do straight political activity. They can go out and pay for an ad that says, “Vote for Joe Blow.” That’s something they can do as long as their primary activity is their (c)(4) activity, which is social welfare.

So everybody is screaming at us right now: ‘Fix it now before the election. Can’t you see how much these people are spending?’ I won’t know until I look at their 990s next year whether they have done more than their primary activity as political or not. So I can’t do anything right now.[7]

We now know from Mr. Pilger that the Justice Department contributed to this pressure. By encouraging the IRS to be vigilant in possible campaign-finance crimes by 501(c)(4) groups, the Department was certainly among the entities “screaming” at the IRS to do something in the wake of Citizens United before the 2010 election.

Mr. Pilger’s testimony further confirmed that the Justice Department reengaged with the IRS in 2013 as a result of pressure from United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.[8] Senator Whitehouse convened a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in April 2013 to address the IRS’s enforcement of campaign-finance laws, featuring testimony from Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman.[9] According to Mr. Pilger, Senator Whitehouse’s hearing led to the Justice Department reengaging with the IRS on possible criminal enforcement relating to political speech by nonprofits. Mr. Pilger testified that Ms. Lerner even helped the Justice Department and Ms. Raman prepare for Senator Whitehouse’s hearing.[10] Mr. Pilger further testified that following the hearing, he contacted Ms. Lerner to follow up on Senator Whitehouse’s proposal that the Department prosecute nonprofits for false statements made on the groups’ application forms about whether they intended to engage in political speech.[11] Although Mr. Pilger stated that Mr. Smith directed him to contact Ms. Lerner, Mr. Pilger was uncertain whether the instruction came from more senior Department leaders.[12]

The Committee’s transcribed interview of Richard Pilger presents further troubling information about the Department’s contemplated prosecution of nonprofit groups for false statements. It is apparent that the Department’s leadership, including Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith, was closely involved in engaging with the IRS in wake of Citizens United and political pressure from prominent Democrats to address perceived problems with the decision. We therefore ask that you make Jack Smith available for a transcribed interview with Committee staff on May 29, 2014. Please have your staff contact the Committee staff as soon as possible, but no later than May 27, 2014, to confirm this interview.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may at “any time” investigate “any matter” as set forth in House Rule X. Please contact David Brewer or Tyler Grimm with the Committee staff at 202-225-5074 if you have any questions. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Darrell Issa Jim Jordan

Holder ‘Beginning to Feel a Creeping Sense of Personal Remorse’

Holder

Claim: Holder ‘Beginning to Feel a Creeping Sense of Personal Remorse’

9:14 AM, MAY 28, 2013 • BY DANIEL HALPER
 President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, is “beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse.” The feelings of “remorse” began for Holder after he read an article in theWashington Post about how the Justice Department, which he heads, investigated Fox News reporter James Rosen.

At least, this is the story unnamed aides are telling the Daily Beast.

“[F]or Attorney General Eric Holder, the gravity of the situation didn’t fully sink in until Monday morning when he read the Post’s front-page story, sitting at his kitchen table. Quoting from the affidavit, the story detailed how agents had tracked Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department, perused his private emails, and traced the timing of his calls to the State Department security adviser suspected of leaking to him. Then the story, quoting the stark, clinical language of the affidavit, described Rosen as ‘at the very least … an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator’ in the crime,” reports the Daily Beast.

“Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by the twin leak probes; but, according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse.”

But while Holder could deny knowing about the Justice Department looking into the Associated Press’s records, he had signed off on the Rosen case. “In the Fox case, however, Holder knew he bore a direct measure of responsibility. He had approved a search-warrant application that equated a reporter’s newsgathering activities with criminal conduct. That put Holder at the center of the brewing controversy, all while the Obama administration was being buffeted over allegations that the IRS had targeted conservative groups and by the continuing Benghazi tempest.”

The Department of Justice drives a 26 year old freedom fighter to suicide.

Reddit

The Department of Justice drives a 26 year old freedom fighter to suicide:  Now the Parents respond.

Web Activist’s Family Blames MIT, Prosecutors in His Death.

By Aaron Ricadela & Dan Hart – Jan 13, 2013 2:16 PM PT

The family of Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer, entrepreneur and activist who died last week, blamed his suicide on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. prosecutors who accused him of crimes including wire and computer fraud.

Swartz, 26, died from suicide by hanging, according to the New York Medical Examiner’s Office.

As a teenager, Swartz helped create a technology called Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, which lets Web users gain access to online information. He was indicted in July 2011 for allegedly gaining access to and downloading more than 4 million articles and documents from a subscription-onlyservice.

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” his family wrote in a statement. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

Swartz was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading most of the library.

“The U.S. Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims,” Swartz’s family wrote. “Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”

‘Tragic Loss’

Representatives from the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts declined to comment, citing respect for the family’s privacy.

Leo Rafael Reif, president of MIT, expressed his condolences in a letter e-mailed to the university community and said that he asked professor Hal Abelson to make a “thorough analysis” of the institute’s involvement with Swartz’s use of its computer network.

“Even for those of us who did not know Aaron, the trail of his brief life shines with his brilliant creativity and idealism,” Reif wrote.

JSTOR, in a statement, said it had settled its own claims against Swartz in June 2011 and that he had returned the data.

“We join those who are mourning this tragic loss,” JSTOR said in the statement, calling Swartz a “truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the Internet and the web from which we all benefit.”

JSTOR said that while it regretted being brought into the federal case, it had a responsibility to protect the owners and creators of its content.

Widely Mourned

He was mourned widely by academics, executives and fellow activists. The Internet was inundated with tributes to Swartz.

“His stunts were breathtaking,” wrote Canadian author Cory Doctorow, who knew Swartz.

Swartz struggled with depression and wrote about it publicly, Doctorow wrote. He may also have taken his life because he feared imprisonment, according to Doctorow.

“Swartz was a strong and effective advocate of the untrammeled flow of information and knowledge in all directions, and vigilance against control or de-facto censorship efforts by corporate or governmental interests,” author James Fallows wrote in a statement published by Swartz’s family.

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and Internet activist wrote in a blog post that the criminal case against Swartz was misguided. Swartz “consulted me as a friend and lawyer” in the MIT case, and he didn’t seek to profit from downloading academic papers, Lessig wrote.

‘Blown Away’

“From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way,” Lessig said. “The outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior.”

Other academics took to the micro-blogging service Twitter to honor Swartz by posting free versions of their publications online, using the identifying hashtag #pdftribute.

Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer at Yahoo! Inc., said on Twitter that she’d met Swartz 11 years ago when she was an executive at Google Inc. “We had found his blog and were blown away by his age (16) and insights,” she said.

Swartz was charged in 2011 with multiple counts of wire fraud and violations of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Upon conviction, wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years and a top fine of $1 million. Swartz’s alleged violations of the computer law carried a maximum penalty of 5 to 10 years, depending on the conduct, and may have also warranted a fine. Actual sentences typically run less than the maximums, and judges often set sentences to run concurrently rather than consecutively.

Suicide Rates

He co-founded the news and information site Reddit, as well as Demand Progress, a group that advocated against Internet piracy bills, according to his website. He also contributed to Internet projects including Watchdog.net, Open Library, and Jottit, and helped launch Creative Commons — an online publishing and copyright project that Lessig was also involved with — according to his biography on the Demand Progress website.

The vast majority of people who commit suicide have depression, or another type of mental health disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2007, accounting for 34,598 fatalities. Almost four times as many men as women die of suicide.

A funeral will be held Jan 15. at a synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois, near Chicago, according to the Swartz family statement. He is survived by his parents, Robert and Susan Swartz, younger brothers Noah and Ben, and his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the statement said. Memorial services may happen in other cities in the coming weeks.

Elliot Peters of San Francisco-based Keker & Van Nest, reported by The Tech to be Swartz’s attorney, didn’t respond to a voicemail and e-mail sent by Bloomberg News seeking comment.

The case against Swartz was U.S. v. Swartz, 11 CR 10260, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston)

Glenn Greenwald

Saturday 12 January 2013

guardian.co.uk

Aaron Swartz, the computer programmer and internet freedom activist, committed suicide on Friday in New York at the age of 26. As the incredibly moving remembrances from his friends such as Cory Doctorow and Larry Lessig attest, he was unquestionably brilliant but also – like most everyone – a complex human being plagued by demons and flaws. For many reasons, I don’t believe in whitewashing someone’s life or beatifying them upon death. But, to me, much of Swartz’s tragically short life was filled with acts that are genuinely and, in the most literal and noble sense, heroic. I think that’s really worth thinking about today.

At the age of 14, Swartz played a key role in developing the RSS software that is still widely used to enable people to manage what they read on the internet. As a teenager, he also played a vital role in the creation of Reddit, the wildly popular social networking news site. When Conde Nast purchased Reddit, Swartz received a substantial sum of money at a very young age. He became something of a legend in the internet and programming world before he was 18. His path to internet mogul status and the great riches it entails was clear, easy and virtually guaranteed: a path which so many other young internet entrepreneurs have found irresistible, monomaniacally devoting themselves to making more and more money long after they have more than they could ever hope to spend.

But rather obviously, Swartz had little interest in devoting his life to his own material enrichment, despite how easy it would have been for him. As Lessig wrote: “Aaron had literally done nothing in his life ‘to make money’ . . . Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good.”

Specifically, he committed himself to the causes in which he so passionately believed: internet freedom, civil liberties, making information and knowledge as available as possible. Here he is in his May, 2012 keynote address at the Freedom To Connect conference discussing the role he played in stopping SOPA, the movie-industry-demanded legislation that would have vested the government with dangerous censorship powers over the internet.

Critically, Swartz didn’t commit himself to these causes merely by talking about them or advocating for them. He repeatedly sacrificed his own interests, even his liberty, in order to defend these values and challenge and subvert the most powerful factions that were their enemies. That’s what makes him, in my view, so consummately heroic.

In 2008, Swartz targeted Pacer, the online service that provides access to court documents for a per-page fee. What offended Swartz and others was that people were forced to pay for access to public court documents that were created at public expense. Along with a friend, Swartz created a program to download millions of those documents and then, as Doctorow wrote, “spent a small fortune fetching a titanic amount of data and putting it into the public domain.” For that act of civil disobedience, he was investigated and harassed by the FBI, but never charged.

But in July 2011, Swartz was arrested for allegedly targeting JSTOR, the online publishing company that digitizes and distributes scholarly articles written by academics and then sells them, often at a high price, to subscribers. As Maria Bustillos detailed, none of the money goes to the actual writers (usually professors) who wrote the scholarly articles – they are usually not paid for writing them – but instead goes to the publishers.

This system offended Swartz (and many other free-data activists) for two reasons: it charged large fees for access to these articles but did not compensate the authors, and worse, it ensured that huge numbers of people are denied access to the scholarship produced by America’s colleges and universities. The indictment filed against Swartz alleged that he used his access as a Harvard fellow to the JSTOR system to download millions of articles with the intent to distribute them online for free; when he was detected and his access was cut off, the indictment claims he then trespassed into an MIT computer-wiring closet in order to physically download the data directly onto his laptop.

Swartz never distributed any of these downloaded articles. He never intended to profit even a single penny from anything he did, and never did profit in any way. He had every right to download the articles as an authorized JSTOR user; at worst, he intended to violate the company’s “terms of service” by making the articles available to the public. Once arrested, he returned all copies of everything he downloaded and vowed not to use them. JSTOR told federal prosecutors that it had no intent to see him prosecuted, though MIT remained ambiguous about its wishes.

But federal prosecutors ignored the wishes of the alleged “victims”. Led by a federal prosecutor in Boston notorious for her overzealous prosecutions, the DOJ threw the book at him, charging Swartz with multiple felonies which carried a total sentence of several decades in prison and $1 million in fines.

Swartz’s trial on these criminal charges was scheduled to begin in two months. He adamantly refused to plead guilty to a felony because he did not want to spend the rest of his life as a convicted felon with all the stigma and rights-denials that entails. The criminal proceedings, as Lessig put it, already put him in a predicament where “his wealth [was] bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge.”

To say that the DOJ’s treatment of Swartz was excessive and vindictive is an extreme understatement. When I wrote about Swartz’s plight last August, I wrote that he was “being prosecuted by the DOJ with obscene over-zealousness”. Timothy Lee wrote the definitive article in 2011 explaining why, even if all the allegations in the indictment are true, the only real crime committed by Swartz was basic trespassing, for which people are punished, at most, with 30 days in jail and a $100 fine, about which Lee wrote: “That seems about right: if he’s going to serve prison time, it should be measured in days rather than years.”

Nobody knows for sure why federal prosecutors decided to pursue Swartz so vindictively, as though he had committed some sort of major crime that deserved many years in prison and financial ruin. Some theorized that the DOJ hated him for his serial activism and civil disobedience. Others speculated that, as Doctorow put it, “the feds were chasing down all the Cambridge hackers who had any connection to Bradley Manning in the hopes of turning one of them.”

I believe it has more to do with what I told the New York Times’ Noam Cohen for an article he wrote on Swartz’s case. Swartz’s activism, I argued, was waged as part of one of the most vigorously contested battles – namely, the war over how the internet is used and who controls the information that flows on it – and that was his real crime in the eyes of the US government: challenging its authority and those of corporate factions to maintain a stranglehold on that information. In that above-referenced speech on SOPA, Swartz discussed the grave dangers to internet freedom and free expression and assembly posed by the government’s efforts to control the internet with expansive interpretations of copyright law and other weapons to limit access to information.

That’s a major part of why I consider him heroic. He wasn’t merely sacrificing himself for a cause. It was a cause of supreme importance to people and movements around the world – internet freedom – and he did it by knowingly confronting the most powerful state and corporate factions because he concluded that was the only way to achieve these ends.

Suicide is an incredibly complicated phenomenon. I didn’t know Swartz nearly well enough even to form an opinion about what drove him to do this; I had a handful of exchanges with him online in which we said nice things about each other’s work and I truly admired him. I’m sure even his closest friends and family are struggling to understand exactly what caused him to defy his will to live by taking his own life.

But, despite his public and very sad writings about battling depression, it only stands to reason that a looming criminal trial that could send him to prison for decades played some role in this; even if it didn’t, this persecution by the DOJ is an outrage and an offense against all things decent, for the reasons Lessig wrote today:

“Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The ‘property’ Aaron had ‘stolen’, we were told, was worth ‘millions of dollars’ — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

“A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

“For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to ‘justice’ never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled ‘felons’.”

Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a “justice” system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation’s most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power.

Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and comfort. He chose instead to fight – selflessly, with conviction and purpose, and at great risk to himself – for noble causes to which he was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn’t an example of heroism; it’s the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It’s the attribute our country has been most lacking.

I always found it genuinely inspiring to watch Swartz exude this courage and commitment at such a young age. His death had better prompt some serious examination of the DOJ’s behavior – both in his case and its warped administration of justice generally. But his death will also hopefully strengthen the inspirational effects of thinking about and understanding the extraordinary acts he undertook in his short life.