Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz's Father Blasts MIT Report

Doesn't think college was neutral toward son's prosecution

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Aaron Swartz's father is sharply critical of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's new report on the school's role in the criminal investigation and subsequent death of his son. Aaron, a celebrated young computer programmer and Internet activist, committed suicide in January. He was facing a federal prison sentence on felony data-theft charges for downloading academic articles using MIT's network. Swartz's death triggered an outpouring of grief in the technology and Internet community, and prompted soul-searching questions among policy experts, lawmakers and MIT officials.

MIT has come under intense criticism for its handling of the Swartz affair. Two days after Swartz's death, MIT president L. Rafael Reif asked Hal Abelson, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, to conduct an investigation into MIT's actions leading up to Swartz's suicide. Abelson's 182-page report, which was released Tuesday, asserts that MIT remained neutral throughout the Swartz investigation, and did not publicly advocate on Swartz's behalf because to do so "might make circumstances worse" for Swartz.

In an interview with TIME on Tuesday after the report's release, Robert Swartz, Aaron's father, praised Abelson for assembling the facts, but said that a clear reading of those facts shows that MIT was not neutral in Aaron's case. "The report is a contradiction because it says that MIT was neutral, and yet it makes very clear that MIT was actually not neutral," Robert Swartz said. "MIT called in the police, acted at the police's direction, and then violated the law by providing the government with information and material from Aaron's computer without a court order. Then they lied to me about those facts."

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