Aaron Swartz files reveal how FBI tracked the Internet activist
February 19, 2013
A blogger has published once-classified FBI files that show how the agency tracked and collected information on internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Swartz, who killed himself in January aged 26, had previously requested his files and posted them on his blog, but some new documents and redactions are included in the files published by Firedoglake blogger Daniel Wright.
Wright was given 21 of 23 declassified documents, thanks to a rule that declassifies FBI files on the deceased. Wright said that he was told the other two pages of documents were not provided because of freedom of information subsections concerning privacy, “sources and methods,” and that can “put someone’s life in danger.”
The FBI’s files concern Swartz’s involvement in accessing the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (Pacer) documents. In pursuit of their investigation, the FBI had collected his personal information and was surveilling an Illinois address where he had his IP address registered.
One page reads: “Washington Field Office requests that the North RA attempt to locate Aaron Swartz, his vehicles, drivers license information and picture, and others. Since Swartz is the potential subject of an ongoing investigation, it is requested that Swartz not be approached by agents.”
The FBI also collected information from his social networking profiles, including Facebook and Linkedin. The latter proved to be a catalog of his many notable accomplishments, which include being a co-founder ofReddit, a founder of a website to improve the government, watchdog.net and as metadata adviser at Creative Commons.
Information from a New York Times article about his Pacer hack was also included in the files, though strangely, since the article can still be read online, the name of the article’s other subject, Carl Malamud, was blocked out.
Hacking collective Anonymous released a State Department database Monday in memory of Swartz. The files included employees’ personal information such as addresses, phone number and emails.