MIT has filed court documents to intervene in an ongoing Freedom Of Information lawsuit over access to the Secret Service files about dead Internet activist Aaron Swartz. But it’s not what you may expect from a forward-thinking academic body: MIT apparently wants to prevent certain documents from being released because they reveal which MIT staff collaborated with the government in Swartz’s prosecution.
This is a strange development in the FOIA case, which is being pressed by a Wired journalist seeking access to Swartz’s files. A judge recently ruled in favor of the case and instructed the Secret Service to stop dilly-dallying and blocking the release of the documents. The judgment was that the government should comply immediately, and on a rolling basis as documents are unearthed.
How MIT’s new action may influence this case is unknown. But we can guess it’s likely MIT is worried about its reputation: Swartz, who also cofounded Reddit, was seen by many as the victim of an unfairly harsh prosecution effort that may have contributed to his suicide. Swartz downloaded and shared in bulk academic papers that MIT was keeping inside its publicly accessible JSTOR database.