WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — The hacker-activist group Anonymous said Saturday that it had hijacked the Web site of the U.S. Sentencing Commission so as to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide in his Brooklyn home.
The Web site of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday and replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago, “a line was crossed.”
The hackers said they have infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information that they now threaten to make public.
Swartz, 26,, who helped create Reddit and RSS, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment on Jan. 11.
Swartz was arrested in Boston in 2011 and charged with stealing millions of articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prosecutors said he broke into a computer wiring closet on campus and used his laptop for the downloads.
According to a federal indictment, Swartz stole the documents from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from academic journals. Prosecutors said he intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites.
He had pleaded not guilty, and his federal trial was to begin next month. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.
Swartz’s family in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park said in a statement: “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. 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,” continued the statement issued by Swartz’s parents – Robert and Susan Swartz; his brothers — Noah and Ben; and his partner – Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. “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. Meanwhile, unlike JSOTR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”
Swartz was pronounced dead Friday evening at home in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner.
He had fought to make online content free to the public and as a teenager helped create RSS, a family of Web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users.
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