We might be about to learn a lot more about the Secret Service investigation into Aaron Swartz, the political and internet activist who committed suicide earlier this year. That's because a federal judge, in response to a FOIA lawsuit, has ordered the Department of Homeland Security (the parent organization of the Secret Service) to start releasing thousands of pages of documents, ASAP.
That request comes from Wired's Kevin Poulsen, who sought documents relating to the Secret Service's 2011 investigation into the activist's downloading of JSTOR articles in bulk. Those downloads were central to the mounting legal troubles the Swartz faced just before his death, after Massachusetts Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann refused to offer Swartz a plea deal without jail time. Here's what Poulsen says about the request:
That criminal case was formally dismissed after Swartz’s death. Yet in February, the Secret Service denied in full my request for any files it held on Swartz, citing a FOIA exemption that covers sensitive law enforcement records that are part of an ongoing proceeding. Other requestors reported receiving the same response.
After enlisting the help of FOIA litigator David Sobel, who helped him file suit, it looks like Poulsen may get even more than what he asked for. It turns out that the government has "several thousand" additional pages of documents related to Sobel's request than they initially thought. Of course, the last-minute revelation allowed the U.S. to request even more time in delivering them, indicating that the new trove may also help to drag out the process even further. On the other hand, Judge Kollar-Kotelly's order requires the immediate release of all documents already processed by the government, and sets a deadline for their release timetable for August 5.
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