MIT Censoring Swartz Documents To Stop 'Threats' Against Staff, Says Reif

In the two months since Aaron Swartz killed himself while facing federal felony fraud charges for downloading academic journal articles from JSTOR at MIT, his family and friends and supporters have followed his example, turning his premature death into a national debate on problems he wanted solved.

A part of their crusade took his lawyers back to court, asking that the records of the investigation against Swartz be released, including documents from MIT: requests that MIT President L. Rafael Reif addressed this morning, explaining the restricted response with which he plans to reply.

“[I]n the spirit of openness, balanced with responsibility – we will release the requested MIT documents, redacting employee names and identifying information as appropriate to protect their privacy, as well as redacting information about network vulnerabilities,” Reif said in a statement Tuesday morning. “We will release these documents at the same time that we release Professor Abelson's report. In this way, our own community and those outside can examine both these primary documents and Professor Abelson's analysis, which he is now forming through a careful process that includes a review of this written material as well as extensive in-person interviews.”

Reif explained that he was predominately concerned with the safety of the MIT staff who he felt may be threatened in having their names released, as has already been the case since Swartz killed himself in January.

“In the time since Aaron Swartz's suicide, we have seen a pattern of harassment and personal threats,” Reif said. “In this volatile atmosphere, I have the responsibility to protect the privacy and safety of those members of our community who have become involved in this matter in the course of doing their jobs for MIT, and to ensure a safe environment for all of us who call MIT home.”

On Feb. 27, a caller phoned in a false tip that a gunman was wandering the MIT campus, hunting Reif down in retaliation for Swartz’ suicide. Authorities are still looking for the person who started the hoax.

Reif’s decision does not completely fulfill the lawyer’s requests, as he explained in the statement.

“[T]he lawyers' request argues that those names cannot be excluded ("redacted") from the documents and urges that they be released in the public domain and delivered to Congress,” Reif said.

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