Stephen Lendman is a writer, syndicated columnist, activist, News TV personality, and radio show host. He currently writes for and and hosts, since 2007, a progressive radio show at The Progressive Radio News Hour on The Progressive Radio Network.

Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA, raised in a modest middle income family, attended public schools, received a Harvard BA in 1956 and a Wharton MBA in 1960. After six years as a marketing research analyst, Lendman became part of a new small family business in 1967, remaining there until retiring in 1999.

Since then, he has devoted his time to progressive causes, extensive reading, and since summer 2005 writing on vital world and national topics, including war and peace, American imperialism, corporate dominance, political persecutions, and a range of other social, economic and political issues.

He is also author of the celebrated books "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity" and "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War".

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Aaron Swartz’s Suspicious Death

by Stephen Lendman


Media scoundrels stopped short of truth and full disclosure. The Wall Street Journal headlined “An Internet Activist Commits Suicide.”

New York’s medical examiner announced death by “hang(ing) himself in his Brooklyn apartment.”

Lingering suspicions remain. Why would someone with so much to give end it all this way? He was one of the Internet generation’s best and brightest.

He advocated online freedom. Selflessly he sought a better open world. Information should be freely available, he believed. A legion of followers supported him globally.

Alive he symbolized a vital struggle to pursue. Death may elevate him to martyr status but removes a key figure important to keep alive.

The New York Times headlined “Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide.”

He was an Internet folk hero. He supported online freedom and copyright reform. He advocated free and open web files. He championed a vital cause. He worked tirelessly for what’s right.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle called him “steadfast in his dedication to building a better and open world. He is among the best spirits of the Internet generation.”

Who’ll replace him now that he’s gone? He called locking up the public domain sinful. He selflessly strove to prevent it.

In July 2011, he was arrested. At the time, he was downloading old scholarly articles. He was charged with violating federal hacking laws. MIT gave him a guest account to do it.

He developed RSS and co-founded Reddit. It’s a social news site.

He was found dead weeks before he was scheduled to stand trial. He was targeted for doing the right thing. He didn’t steal or profit. He shared. His activism was more than words.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) defends online freedom, free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights. It “champion(s) the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.”

On January 12, it headlined “Farewell to Aaron Swartz, an extraordinary hacker and activist.” It called him “a close friend and collaborator.” Tragedy ended his life.

Vital questions remain unanswered. Supporters demand answers. So do family members.They blame prosecutors for what happened. Their statement following his death said the following:

“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 US Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

Swartz did as much or more than anyone to make the Internet a thriving open knowledge ecosystem. He strove to keep it that way. He challenged repressive Internet laws.

He founded Demand Progress. It “works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing and grassroots lobbying,” he said.

It prioritizes “civil liberties, civil rights, and government reform.” It ran online campaigns for justice. It advocated in the public interest. It challenged policies harming it.

He mobilized over a million online activists. His other projects included RSS specification,, tor2web, the Open Library, and the Chrome port of HTTPS Everywhere.

He launched Creative Commons. He co-founded Reddit. He and others made it successful. His Raw Thought blog discussed “politics and parody.” He had much to say worth hearing.

In 2011, he used the MIT campus network. He downloaded millions of journal articles. He used the JSTOR database. Authorities claimed he changed his laptop’s IP and Mac addresses. They said he did it to circumvent JSTOR/MIT blocks.

He was charged with “unauthorized (computer) access” under the Computer and Abuse Act. He did the equivalent of checking out too many library books at the same time.

Obama prosecutors claim doing so is criminal. They’ve waged war on Internet freedom. They want Net Neutrality and free expression abolished. They want fascist laws replacing them.

They usurped diktat power. They spurn rule of law principles and other democratic values. They enforce police state authority. They prioritize what no civil society should tolerate.

They claimed Aaron intended to distribute material on peer-to-peer networks. He never did. It hardly mattered. Documents he secured were returned. No harm. No foul. Federal authorities charged him anyway.

In July 2011, a Massachusetts grand jury indicted him. He was arraigned in Boston US District Court. He pled not guilty to all charges. He was freed on a $100,000 unsecured bond.

If convicted, he faced up to 35 years imprisonment and a $1 million dollar fine. He wanted scientific/scholarly articles liberated. They belong in the public domain. He wanted everyone given access. It’s their right, he believed.

He wanted a single giant dataset established. He did it before. He wasn’t charged. Why now?

“While his methods were provocative,” said EFF, his goal was “freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it.”

EFF calls it a cause everyone should support. Aaron was politically active. He fought for what’s right. Followers supported him globally.

In the “physical world,” at worst he’d have faced minor charges, said EFF. They’re “akin to trespassing as part of political protests.”

Doing it online changed things. He faced possible long-term incarceration. For years, EFF fought this type injustice.

Academic/political activist Lawrence Lessig called Aaron’s death just cause for reforming computer crime laws. Overzealous prosecutors are bullies. They overreach and cause harm.

EFF mourned his passing, saying:

“Aaron, we will sorely miss your friendship, and your help in building a better world.” Many others feel the same way.

Did Aaron take his own life or was he killed? Moti Nissani is Wayne State University Department of Biology Professor Emeritus. “Who Killed Aaron Swartz,” he asked?

He quoted Bob Marley saying: “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” He listed reasons why Obama administration scoundrels wanted him dead.

His death “was preceded by a vicious, totally unjustified, campaign of surveillance, harassment, vilification, and intimidation.”

CIA/FBI/Mossad/MI5 assassins expertly “mak(e) murder look like suicide.” Numerous “enemies of the state” die under suspicious circumstances. Media scoundrels don’t explain.

US authorities “had excellent reasons to kill” Aaron. He was legendary in his own right like John Lennon, MLK, Malcolm X and others. He threatened status quo dominance. He denounced Obama’s kill list and anti-Iranian cyber attacks.

Powerful government and business figures deplored him. In 2009, FBI elements investigated him. Charges didn’t follow.

Despite extreme pressure, he pressed on. He defied prosecutorial authority. In October 2009, he posted his FBI file online. Doing do “probably signed his own lynch warrant,” said Nissani.

Two days before his death, JSTOR, his alleged victim, declined to press charges. It went further. It “announced that the archives of more than 1,200 of its journals would be available to the public free.”

Aaron had just cause to celebrate. “Are we to believe” he hanged himself instead?

Government officials and corporate bosses “had plenty of reasons” to want him dead. He challenged their totalitarian agenda. “He was creative, idealistic and unbendable.”

“He was young and admired by many.” Did “invisible government” elements kill him?

“They did so either indirectly through constant harassment….or, most likely, directly by hanging him and” blaming him for their crime.

“All this raises a dilemma for those of us possessing both conscience and a functioning brain.” How much longer will we stand by and do nothing?

How long will we tolerate what demands condemnation? When will we defend our own interests?

Freedom is too precious to lose. Preserving it depends on us. No one will do it for us. It’s not possible any other way. It never was. It never will be.

Aaron’s Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto

His own words say it best.

“Information is power,” he said. “But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.”

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.”

“Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.”

“There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it.”

“But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.”

“That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them?”

“Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.”

” ‘I agree,’ many say, but what can we do?’ The companies hold the copyrights. They make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal – there’s nothing we can do to stop them. But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.”

“Those with access to these resources – students, librarians, scientists – you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out.”

“But you need not – indeed, morally, you cannot – keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.”

“Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.”

“But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.”

“Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it – their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.”

“There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.”

“We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive.”

“We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerrilla Open Access.”

“With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge – we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?”

Does Aaron’s manifesto sound like someone planning suicide?

About the Author: Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


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19 Responses to "Aaron Swartz’s Suspicious Death"

  1. MK  January 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Where are those petitions? I want to sign. Here’s some very touching thoughts on this amazing young man…

  2. duay khwaam nap theuu  January 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    It became public that Stephen Heyman oversaw TWO excessive prosecutions of hacker-defendants who committed suicide, Aaron Swartz and Jonathan James.

    There are multiple petitions circulating on the Internet to remove U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and fire Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann. While I agree with the sentiment behind these petitions, and have signed them, it is unlikely that they will work, especially on Heymann who enjoys immunity and the protection of civil service laws. I think our energies might be better directed at demanding serious Congressional oversight and accounting for the selective, vindictive and overzealous prosecutions of hackers and whistleblowers.

    U.S. Attorneys are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the President. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, so it will be easier to get rid of Ortiz. Moreover, the petition for her ouster has more than 25,000 signatures–the threshold required to warrant a response from the White House. Perhaps most importantly, getting rid of her is also timely because when a President is re-elected (or a new President comes into office), it is their prerogative to re-consider the current U.S. attorneys (unlike the U.S. Attorney Massacre in 2007, where years after Bush’s reelection in 2004, a number of the U.S. Attorneys who stayed on were summarily forced out in one fell swoop under very dubious circumstances and no evidence of malfeasance.)

    Heymann is another issue. Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) can’t be ousted for political reasons. They are insulate by civil service protections. Nor can he be sued for damages because of any constitutional tort violations because he has immunity, and while his conduct has been reckless, there is no violation of a clearly-established law that I can find.

    What might be more realistic is for citizens to demand that the Senate Judiciary Committee exercise meaningful oversight over the out-of-control Justice Department, which has waged an unprecedented, unaccountable, brutal war on whistleblowers and hackers, and to create something akin to the Church Committee to investigate the improper monitoring and targeting of hackers, whistleblowers, Occupy participants, journalists, and a numerous other groups of non-violent “offenders” who’ve done nothing to harm anyone or the country, and have been acting purely in the public interest.

    – by Jesselyn Radack

    There is one action Obama could take today that would both address some of the problems with his dysfunctional DOJ and attest he means to change things systematically: Fire DOJ’s Criminal Division head, Lanny Breuer.

    Lanny Breuer is not the only reason Obama’s DOJ has been so aggressive (though he has been instrumental in ensuring it ignores bank crimes). Breuer runs this system. Moreover, as the head of this system of prosecutorial overreach, he has actually explicitly rewarded abuse.

    If we want to fix the injustice that was done to Aaron Swartz, we need to fix the aspects of the system that rewarded such behavior. We need to fix the law that empowered the prosecutors gunning for him. We need to put some breaks on DOJ’s power. And we should start by getting rid of the guy who has fostered this culture of abuse for the last four years.

    – emptywheel

    • Ann  January 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      All these DC screwballs need their wings clipped. And their asses kicked. They have way too much free and unaccountable time, money, power, benefits, priveliges, and all they do is abuse us. Even the normal criminals from the old days were never this bad. They took the loot and retired somewhere. These morons remind me of the 5th century hoards of wild, savage Vandals who rode across Europe torching libraries and palaces because they didn’t understand what they were. Idiots with weapons then and idiots with weapons now.

  3. mbl  January 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I’d just like to add one more thing, if I may. Many psychologists have found evidence that people who commit suicide often don’t really want to die–they are hoping they’ll be rescued at the last minute, survive, and, finally, get some help. Contrary to what Big Pharma wants us to think, most suicidal ppl aren’t “mentally ill,” but have real problems in their lives: are being abused, are in debt, are seriously ill, etc. Most don’t commit suicide because they’re ‘depressed’ and have a ‘chemical imbalance’ but because of a serious problem they’re experiencing that they think is hopeless. It’s the hopelessness, the sense that their problems are unsolvable, that convinces them to do themselves in.

    Knowing this, it’s hard to believe that a political activist would commit suicide. Activists by nature are not hopeless. They see problems but work toward solving them. This is different from the psychology of the suicide victim who sees problems but becomes overwhelmed by them and doesn’t believe there are solutions.

    • OrdinarySerf  January 16, 2013 at 4:41 am

      …….”Contrary to what Big Pharma wants us to think, most suicidal ppl aren’t “mentally ill,” but have real problems in their lives: are being abused, are in debt, are seriously ill, etc. Most don’t commit suicide because they’re ‘depressed’……..”

      Absolutely correct in my experience mbl – great observation.

  4. mbl  January 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Sorry, I meant “2013” next to Aaron Swartz.

  5. mbl  January 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    If we look at US history, activists who become popular and make major changes in our society tend to either commit “suicide” or are shot by crazed, “lone” gunmen.This is not all-inclusive, but here’s a short list:

    –Phil Ochs, 1976
    –Abbie Hoffman, 1989
    –Steve Kangas, 1999
    –Hunter S. Thompson, 2005
    –Col. Ted Westhusing, 2005 (committed suicide just b4 returning to the US when he planned on exposing govt corruption he witnessed while stationed in Iraq.)
    –Aaron Swartz, 2012

    And despite having been popular and well-loved throughout the world, certain activists are shot to death by lone, crazed gunman who hate them for no logical reason: John Lennon, JFK, MLK, etc., while much despised politicians, who are hated throughout the world, mysteriously are not assassinated and often lead long and prosperous lives. Coincidence?

    What’s interesting is that Paul Robeson who is from roughly the same era as Ochs and Hoffman (but who did not commit suicide) mysteriously became suicidal toward the end of his life–just as did Ochs and Hoffman. Westhusing and now Swartz. All were very successful and well-loved. To my knowledge, none had a history of mental illness until their political activism became effective. Honestly, how do productive, hardworking, popular, well-educated people who thrive on solving problems as opposed to wallowing in misery suddenly just change their personalities and become suicidal? Doesn’t make sense, from the point of view of typical human psychology.

    What the creeps in our government don’t get is that the more they assassinate our prophets the more obvious it becomes to us that it’s our government and/or the wealthy elitists running our government who are behind their deaths.
    BTW, I came across an interesting article that suggests Robeson’s suicidal tendencies may have come from a drug:

  6. Ann  January 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Requiescat in Pace, Aaron. You were wise and brave far beyond your years. One day when we rid ourselves of the pestilence that torments our country and perverts the technology that you and your peers struggle to share with all of us for betterment and benevolence, your loyal strike for freedom will be remembered.

    Aaron did not commit suicide. He valiantly took on the Beast and dealt it a deep, painful, and most unexpected wound, so it sent its flying monkeys after him with a vengeance. And isn’t it interesting how the multitudes of Congress cowards supported this slave document? Is there a list of before/ during/after/ names? Aaron made a comment about monetary support of the bill–is there any information about that?

    And just who is it that is so terrified of the internet anyway? And just what could they be so scared of? My goodness–all those bigwigs in Washington turning out to be nothing but a pack of pissy panty scaredy cats? And after all those big fancy bodyguards and guns and swanky cars and they’re still chicken? What more do they want?

    • duay khwaam nap theuu  January 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Perhaps an indication of why the oligarchy and their agents are scared of the internet:

      “The Sandy Hook Shooting – Fully Exposed”
      by ThinkOutsideTheTV 1 week ago
      It has been re-uploaded by five other youtube channels
      = 7,513,501 views total. (You have to search the title at youtube to see these numbers.)

      Something is happening.

      Research continues at a number of web venues. It’s far from sorted, but more and more people are not buying the nonsense and lies.

  7. ronaldhoy  January 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Is this why Aaron Swartz is dead ?

  8. The Rahnameh  January 15, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Aaron Swartz isn’t the first one to pirate intellectual property and create mediums to do so. He didn’t seek reform, he sought annihilation of intellectual property rights across a broad medium. That’s no death sentence.

    And neither was it for the creator of Napster, Shawn Fanning, who did not commit suicide, or as intrigue would have it, wasn’t “suicided”.

    Andrew Adler’s article in the Atlanta Jewish Journal seeking to kill Obama with “Mossad Sleeper Cells” only forced him to resign from his own journal and to issue an apology. He didn’t even go to jail. And this is under circumstances where a man with an “Israel” tattoo on his neck actually shot at the White House residential level one week after Obama was “caught” off-mic telling Sarkozy what a pain in the ass, liar Netanyahu really was.

    But interesting it is how much hype Swartz is receiving post-mortem, especially when we all know WHO controls the wheels of justice in this country.

    After all, when Mossad agents taped and danced over the deaths of 3,000 Americans, they were let go to HQ Israel. The bankers with their Talmudic plans, who looted and sucked dry the vibrant American corpus and threw it to the side like a dried raisin, and then altered the zombie into something more recognizable to them: a Zionist occupied territory, are handing each other bonuses by the billions. Key politicians who use the privileges of their US citizenship to subvert the US Constitution and advance the agenda of a foreign country here (now so far out in the open that politicians are supposed to live or die by their allegiance to Israel) are not charged with treason, sedition and subversion. And 360 degrees of information pathways dealing with the total American cognitive experience will inform you that this is perfectly normal.

    Anyone who protests this, whether they are truthers or OWS’ers, are branded anti-Semites first, then ridiculed by the fifth column private media, owned by 6 corporations now and completely TalmudicoZionist. If that doesn’t work, misrepresented by the likes of shills like Alex Jones. Or, perhaps, the answer is to deliver subtext after subtext: pay attention to Swartz because he was a “positive influence” for advancing plagiarism, the theft of labor (advancements of the Talmudic agenda), critiqued Obama who stands against Israel and his kill list likely filled with Talmudic targets”, but pay no attention to those who stood against the OBVIOUSLY JEWISH movement to rid Americans of their last layer of protection against the zioNWO.

    Oh, was it wrong for me to say that gun-grabbing was Jewish? Well, take your complaint to the popular, mainstream Jewish rag, “The Forward”, who is free to openly brag that it is (and not subject to the same complaints miraculously): *** Forward: “After Newtown, Jews lead renewed push on guns”

    But, it’s okay, because these Jews were the ones who were “helping us” by pushing through the Patriot Act post 9/11. They are “helping us” by having the NSA outsource all of its wiretapping to shady Israeli companies: ***

    Thank you, Aaron Swartz, for being the mashiach. You have given the Talmudic bunch a reason to stand over your grave and proclaim it is “justice”, the existing rule of law that protects innovation from theft and corruption, that is the problem. You have given them reason to distract over any lament that might be caused from two Americans dying that stood in the way of the gun-grabbing agenda. You died for their sins, and now they can disguise it all by writing endlessly about you.

    Bad, Mr. Lendman… bad.

    • The Rahnameh  January 15, 2013 at 8:13 am

      Oh, and by the way, note everyone how the “Conspiracy Theory” label is only reserved for those speculating about the deaths of those outside the tribe.

    • DaveE  January 15, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Of course, they can always use the “conspiracy theorists” who think Schwartz was murdered as evidence of “anti-Semitism”.

      “See, that wonderful, noble Jew was killed, just because he was a Jew. They want to kill us ALL!”

      A brilliant Psy-Op, on so many levels.

    • The Rahnameh  January 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      Brilliant as in one side gets voice to register complaints from A-Z and drive the narrative while the other side gets no rebuttal and no say over the veracity of the claims made.

      Brilliant as in fascist.

    • DaveE  January 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      ….. or Bolshevik Communist……. Democrat, Republican, whatever. The Jews love big, tyrannical, centralized “government” as long as they can infiltrate and control it. They don’t really care what’s on the label.

  9. stephanaugust  January 15, 2013 at 1:50 am

    “He mobilized over a million online activists.”

    Well, if he had something he should have shared it with two or three dozen friends, just in case.

    • mcfadden  January 16, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Stephan, other VT’ers:

      Yoichi Shimatsu has an excellent article on Aaron posted on Rense, who you may have noticed is on the VT Editorial Board. He (Yoichi) disses the JSTOR propaganda, and posits Aaron’s terminal threat as exposing pedophiles. Anyone heard of Nicolas Negroponte, the Zionist brother of John and developer of “One Laptop per Child”?
      What if One Laptop was found to be an instrument of access by pedos?
      Please folks, read Yoichi. This is right in line with Gordo’s recent postings on the Satanists.
      Peace (LockedandLoaded).

    • Enbe  January 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Thank you, mcfadden, for providing the direction. Reading Yoichi’s article, also aangirfan’s article which provides a synopsis with additional expose, it finally makes sense:

      1. No one really cared about the federal court documents he downloaded and made available to the public.

      2. No one really cared about the relatively old scholarly articles he downloaded, research supported by taxes and without patents or patents expired.

      3. The charges with disproportionately harsh punishment were fabricated on downloads of no consequence because the lid had to be sealed on elite pedophile ring information downloaded directly from an MIT server.

      4. He was murdered by hanging for the threat the direct download presented to the elite pedophile ring, which involves “the highest echelon of the State Department, major corporations, intelligence agencies, the military brass, and the White House.”

      Aaron is not the only one who has been murdered for threatening this pedophile ring, but hopefully it will be the final impetus to get this revolution moving with the hive.

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