The Justice of the BlindedBy
I really didn’t follow the career of Aaron Swartz, but his apparent suicide made news and brought details to light that had fallen down my memory hole (if they were ever in memory). Including his passion for making public information public … and accessible. That got him in trouble with the law in 2011. The New York Times explains:
In an effort to provide free public access to JSTOR, he broke into computer networks at M.I.T. by means that included gaining entry to a utility closet on campus and leaving a laptop that signed into the university network under a false account, federal officials said.
Mr. Swartz turned over his hard drives with 4.8 million documents, and JSTOR declined to pursue the case. But Carmen M. Ortiz, a United States attorney, pressed on, saying that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”
Except stealing isn’t stealing in this country. And torture isn’t torture. That is, if you’re powerful enough to be above the law, as Swartz clearly was not. The same U.S. Department of Justice Ms. Ortiz works for has decided that if criminals are well-connected and powerful, bank fraud, massive fraud, shift the Earth on its axis fraud is not something this country prosecutes. Instead it negotiates. It holds meetings, like this recent one.
Bank of America was there, as it has been so many times before. So were the other too-big-to-fail banks. Representatives from the Attorney General’s office were undoubtedly there, too. The Attorney General was a high-priced Wall Street attorney.
The banks’ “independent” reviewers were there, too, or at least their reports were. Those reports said that there were very few problems with the banks’ transactions. That should’ve have raised some red flags around the negotiating table: An audit in San Francisco found that 84 percent of foreclosures were performed illegally, while another in North Carolina found “singular irregularities” in roughly three-quarters of the mortgages reviewed.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has attended many such meetings – meetings in which senior bankers bind their shareholders to billions in fines and restitution, sometimes as penalty for fraud against those very same shareholders.(The banks also have a knack for covering their obligations with money from investors they’ve already defrauded, including working people’s pension funds) The SEC’s senior attorney always has a seat at the table, either literally or figuratively, whenever a big bank settlement is negotiated.
He is there to be sure his client’s interest — that is to say, the bank’s — is protected, shielded and given a legal soft landing. Blinded Justice won’t even investigate Bush administration torture enablers. They walk free, without worry of hearing an ominous knock on their doors in the middle of the night. Blinded Justice knows without peeking who’s predator and who’s peasant, who gets a pass and who must pay for their transgressions. Though you’ll notice the Bushies aren’t making overseas junkets lately. Justice’s sword may not be long enough to defend them over there.
The most biting word on the subject of Aaron Swartz comes from Georgia blogger, Anibal [Emhasis mine.]:
Aaron, Manning, Assange, Kyriakoy, Occupy, all persecuted, hounded, some tortured. For what? For speaking truth to power, for revealing corruption, war crimes. For liberating information.
Meanwhile, Yoo, Addington, Libby, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales go around signing book covers and giving lectures about national security. The murderers, torturers and torture apologists are celebrated. The whistleblowers crushed.
Blankfein, Greenberg, Pandit, Mozilo, Geithner, go around lecturing us about financial responsibility, instead of rotting in jail for fraud, theft, embezzlement, corruption, bribery and multiple criminal conspiracies.
This is the disgusting injustice the underlies Aaron Swartz’s death. A Department of Justice that makes a mockery of the word “justice”, where the rule of law has become a joke, where the greatest criminals of our day wear ties and suits and are *absolutely beyond prosecution*, while the poorest get relentless, unforgiving, zero tolerance prosecution for the tiniest of misdeamenors.
Aaron was cursed with the ability to open his mind wide enough to see the world in all its ugly injustice and reality. His idealism, passion and honesty made him speak truth to power, so he was crushed.
There are only two crimes that are punished in this country now: being poor or challenging the powerful.