Days after online activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide, chair of the House Oversight Committe Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced that investigators would look into the federal case brought against the young technologist who downloaded millions of JSTOR articles. A heavy charge had been levied on the government by Swartz’s loved ones and supporters: The overreach of federal prosecutors had pushed Swartz to his death.
This week, Issa and top House Oversight Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder posing questions about Swartz’s prosecution. The letter was explicit in asking whether political motivations influenced the decision to pursue felony charges against the open-data activist, while JSTOR — the purported victim of his actions — had no interest in pressing charges.
The letter asked, among more general questions about reasons behind the decision to prosecute, “Was Mr. Swartz’s opposition to SOPA [Stop Online Piracy Act] or his association with any advocacy groups considered?”