Justice Department Disgrace In Boston Suicide Not Unique

The suicide of Justice Department defendant Aaron Swartz underscores the vast and often unfair power that prosecutors often wield in cases across the nation.

Swartz, 26, a web innovator and social activist, was found dead by hanging at his Brooklyn apartment after federal prosecutors in Boston made clear they would require him to face 13 felony charges for excessive downloads of free scholarly journals from a library.

The circumstances of his case may be unique. But the excessive zeal of prosecutors is all too common, as indicated by the clips below and our three years of research at the Justice Integrity Project.

In fact, the top federal judge in Massachusetts even warned the state's U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, left, at her swearing-in against zealotry. Attorney General Eric Holder looked on during the 2010 ceremony presided over by Chief U.S. Judge Mark Wolf, a former Justice Department official who has complained for years to Holder and other Justice officials that they must do a better job overseeing their staff. Wolf, undertaking his own investigation of the Justice Department following a major Mafia case, found serious wrongdoing in the mid-1990s by more than a score of prosecutors and FBI agents. 

Carmen Ortiz

But Ortiz, Holder and their subordinates, like so many of their predecessors, apparently pursued in the Swartz case a familiar pattern of hardball tactics and victory at all costs. At the defendant's funeral Jan. 15 in Chicago, father Robert Swartz told the assemblage his son "was killed by the government."

Justice Department prosecutors reportedly played hardball in plea negotiations with the defendant, a researcher at Harvard University, in requiring him to plead guilty to 13 felony charges for downloading some 4 million publications at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) library in late 2010 and early 2011. Credentialed students are able to download limited numbers for free. Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, an expert on computer law and an occasional mentor at Harvard to Swartz, said the prospective punishment was vastly out of proportion to the defendant's actions. Swartz is shown at right in a photo on Wikipedia.

Updates: See The Swartz suicide and the sick culture of the DOJ by Harvey Silverglate; and Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet by Russ Baker.

Legal commentator Glenn Greenwald summarized recent developments this way in a Jan. 16 column in the Guardian: Ortiz's office escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which "carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony," meaning "the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million." That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced "a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers."  Swartz's girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the Wall Street Journal that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial.

New reporting by Truthout suggests a potential motive for the prosecution team, aside from the common incentive of crushing a defendant to win career advancement: Swartz had been seeking separately to obtain federal court documents as a public service in ways not authorized by the Justice Department in its plan to make them available for free at 19 libraries. The documents are normally available for free inspection at courthouses. But litigants and interested members of the public must pay copying costs and, of course, have the ability to travel to courthouses for inspection. The documents are available also for a fee via the federal electronic PACER system. . 

The Boston prosecution team appears to be headed for deserved disgrace. But any shame for them is most valuable if it deters other injustices. Greenwald aptly argued that theme in his Jan. 16 column in the Guardian, Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann: accountability for prosecutorial abuse. His subtitle was, "Imposing real consequences on these federal prosecutors in the Aaron Swartz case is vital for both justice and reform." Greenwald continued:

Clippings below illustrate a tragic pattern whereby authorities exercise zeal far out of proportion to the offense or legitimate correction goals of punishment and deterrence.

Authorities indicted Swartz two years ago on wire and computer fraud charges for downloading more than 4 million journal articles and documents from JSTOR, a subscription database of journal articles. He allegedly broke into a wiring closet at MIT, and then connected his laptop to the university's network. He then uploaded the articles to Amazon's cloud server, authorities said, with a plan to share the the articles with the public. Swartz turned over hard drives containing the articles. JSTOR said it did not seek civil or criminal prosecution. MIT, which employed the defendant's father on occasion as a consultant, had no made clear its position on the prosecution.

Greenwald continued:

Just three months ago, Ortiz's office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which "carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony", meaning "the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million." That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced "a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers".

It is urgent that this opportunity not be squandered, that this interest be sustained. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that -- two days before the 26-year-old activist killed himself on Friday -- federal prosecutors again rejected a plea bargain offer from Swartz's lawyers that would have kept him out of prison. They instead demanded that he "would need to plead guilty to every count" and made clear that "the government would insist on prison time." That made a trial on all 15 felony counts - with the threat of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted -- a virtual inevitability.

House Government Affairs Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) wants to investigate to investigate the case. However, Issa's recent investigations of the Justice Department "Fast and Furious" gun-walking program have been highly partisan. Issa's work has failed to underscore that the failings or misconduct his staff has identified under the Democratic administration had parallels or roots in the Bush administration. Scant real reform will occur so long as oversight is primarily to score narrow partisan points instead of addressing such major problems as a federal and state system with more than 2 million prisoners, scant funding, and outrageously aggressive prosecutions, as in the Swartz case.

Jason Leopold at Truthout published on Jan. 15, Aaron Swartz's FOIA Requests Shed Light on His Struggle, which introduced Swartz this way:

Swartz hanged himself with his belt in his Brooklyn, New York home on Friday. He was 26. He had battled depression and in years past had publicly written about thoughts of suicide. He did not leave a suicide note, according to police. While his supporters, family and friends come to grips with the tragic loss of such a gifted young computer programmer, who at 14, developed an early version of Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, which allowed blogs and news web sites to easily share their content, a peek at the FOIA requests Swartz filed over the past two years sheds a little light on his struggles.

Leopold described a major initiative by Swartz that may well have enraged Justice personnel, although not necessarily for good reason: 

Although a majority of his FOIA requests were self-serving, it is also clear that the information he sought, particularly in areas of government surveillance, would have greatly benefited the public. However, his efforts to pry loose materials from a highly secretive administration were mostly unsuccessful. Swartz filed his first FOIA request in December 2010, more than two years after he landed on the government's radar. He was seeking information about himself. In 2008, Swartz's friend and fellow open government activist Carl Malamud, the founder of the nonprofit public.resource.org, wanted to make federal court documents housed on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER) available to the public for free. Using $600,000 he raised from supporters, Malamud purchased 50 years worth of appellate court documents and posted them on his website.

Then, the government started a pilot program in which access to federal court documents on PACER would be made available to users at no cost at 17 libraries around the country. Malamud urged activists like Swartz to visit the libraries, download the documents and send it over to him so he could make it available to the public via his website. "So Aaron went to one of them and installed a small PERL script he had written that cycled sequentially through case numbers, requesting a new document from Pacer every three seconds, and uploading it to" Amazon's Elastic Compute (EC2) Cloud server, Wired reported. "Aaron pulled nearly 20 million pages of public court documents, which are now available for free on the Internet Archive." The court documents Swartz legally accessed were worth $1.5 million. The government shut down the PACER pilot program and the FBI launched an investigation.

We find the PACER initiative particularly interested because one of our major research topics, the federal frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, involves missing federal documents in two key areas, as we have often reported. First, the impeachment documents filed in Alabama's federal court against U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller were not listed in PACER, and were thus unavailable to future litigants who might wonder why a federal judge was subject to uninvestigated corruption allegations. Attorneys for Siegelman and his co-defendant did not learn that the federal government was enriching their trial judge until long after the trial. Courts then ruled, in conflict with a Supreme Court decision, that it was up to litigants to learn of a judge's conflict of interest, not for the judge (o court files) to disclose such matters.

A second major federal irregularity in the frame-up is that Siegelman has never been able to obtain Justice Department paperwork, which he has sought since 2006, sowing whether U.S. Attorney Leura Canary actually recused from the case, as she claimed.  My information, based on a well-placed source, is that the relevant files were removed from the Justice Department at White House suggestion as a courtesy to prosecutors rather than let them be implicated in wrongdoing. Siegelman is now serving a seven-year term on corruption charges imposed by Fuller, as a victim of, among  other things,inability to access basic records.l

For such reasons, the Leopold article about Swartz's effort to make federal records more accessible is worth reading in full. So. are other background materials on this case. Among the strands in the case and its parallels:

  • Huffington Post quoted a Swartz attorney as claiming the lead trial prosecutor, Stephen Heymann, Wanted 'Juicy' Case For Publicity.
  • Tom Dolan, the husband of the Massachusetts U.S. attorney Ortiz, took to Twitter to defend his wife and attack the defendant's family.

It's relevant to the comments in 2010 by Wolf that his experience had encompassed working in the 1970s with then-Attorney General Edward Levy to create the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, and that his experiences then have prompted him to describe such procedures as inadequate in a number of high-profile instances. One major series of such cases, in his view, was the Justice Department's prosecution of Mafia cases, in which it coddle some dangerous government informants. One was "Whitey Bulger, who fled Boston for years but is now facing federal charges involving 19 murders, among other crimes. Due in significant part to Wolf, for whom I served as law clerk from 1990 to 1991, the Justice Department a decade ago indicted two former supervisors of its FBI Boston office on murder charges. That history is among the clips excerpted below.

Today, I'd like to give Greenwald, a prolific writer on these themes, the last word in an excerpt from his column:

Whenever an avoidable tragedy occurs, it's common for there to be an intense spate of anger in its immediate aftermath which quickly dissipates as people move on to the next outrage," Greenwald wrote in the Guardian. "That's a key dynamic that enables people in positions of authority to evade consequences for their bad acts. But as more facts emerge regarding the conduct of the federal prosecutors in the case of Aaron Swartz -- Massachusetts' US attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann -- the opposite seems to be taking place: there is greater and greater momentum for real investigations, accountability and reform.



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FireDogLake, Attorney General Holder Claims Aaron Swartz Prosecution Was ‘Good Use of Prosecutorial Discretion,’ DS Wright, March 7, 2013. Well it seems we got our White House response to the 50,000+ signed remove Carmen Ortiz petition. Attorney General Eric Holder of MERS and Fast and Furious fame, told the Senate yesterday that the Aaron Swartz prosecution was a good idea. The Texas lawmaker [Senator Cornyn] asked: “Does it strike you as odd that the government would indict someone for crimes that would carry penalties of up to 35 years in prison and million dollar fines and then offer him a 3- or 4-month prison sentence?” Holder responded: “I think that’s a good use of prosecutorial discretion to look at the conduct, regardless of what the statutory maximums were and to fashion a sentence that was consistent with what the nature of the conduct was. And I think what those prosecutors did in offering 3, 4, zero to 6 was consistent with, with that conduct.” The whole process bore a striking resemblance to what the mafia does when they extort money from small businesspeople. 

Democracy Now! "An Incredible Soul": Larry Lessig Remembers Aaron Swartz After Cyberactivist’s Suicide Before Trial; Parents Blame Prosecutor, Amy Goodman & Juan González, Jan. 14, 2013. Today we remember the pioneering computer programmer and cyber activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life Friday at the age of 26. As a teenager, Swartz helped develop RSS, revolutionizing how people use the Internet, going on to co-own Reddit, now one of the world’s most popular sites. He was also a key architect of Creative Commons and an organizer of the grassroots movement to defeat the controversial House Internet censorship bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Swartz hanged himself just weeks before the start of a controversial trial. He was facing up to 35 years in prison for sneaking into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloading millions of articles provided by the subscription-based academic research service JSTOR. We hear Swartz in his own words and speak to Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, a longtime mentor and friend. "There are a thousand things we could have done, a thousand things we could have done, and we have to do, because Aaron Swartz is now an icon, an ideal," Lessig says. "He is what we will be fighting for, all of us, for the rest of our lives." Lessig also echoes the claims of Swartz’s parents that decisions made by prosecutors and MIT contributed to his death, saying: "This was somebody who was pushed to the edge by what I think of as a kind of bullying by our government." Guest: Lawrence Lessig, left, professor of law and leadership at Harvard Law School. He was a longtime mentor and friend of Aaron Swartz, whom he knew for 12 years.

FireDogLake, Ortiz Abuses Authority Again, Slapped Down By Judge, DSWright, Jan. 29, 2013. United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz, infamous for being the overzealous prosecutor in the Aaron Swarz case, was slapped down in court this week for overreach. It appears to be a pattern: "A judge this week struck down a US government scheme to seize a Tewksbury, Mass., motel because it had become a haven for drug dealers, bolstering concerns about whether US prosecutors in some cases have too much power. The decision in the long-running forfeiture case comes as the US attorney in Boston, Carmen Ortiz, is already under fire for her role in the death of Internet hacker Aaron Swartz, who killed himself on Jan. 11 as he faced a potentially long prison term for what many in the technology field have noted was nothing more than a breach of a contract involving Internet documents." In this case, the judge rebuked Ortiz for playing drug warrior with a small motel owner whose only crime appeared to be doing business in a poorly policed community:

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, The Swartz suicide and the sick culture of the DOJ, Harvey A. Silverglate, Jan. 23, 2013 (Subscription required.) The ill-considered prosecution leading to the suicide of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz is the most recent in a long line of abusive prosecutions coming out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, representing a disastrous culture shift. It sadly reflects what’s happened to the federal criminal courts, not only in Massachusetts but across the country. It’s difficult for lawyers to step back and view the larger picture of the unflattering system from which we derive our status and our living. But we have an ethical obligation to criticize the legal system when warranted. Who else, after all, knows as much about where the proverbial bodies are buried and is in as good a position to tell truth to power as members of the independent bar? Yet the palpable injustices flowing regularly out of the federal criminal courts have by and large escaped the critical scrutiny of the lawyers who are in the best position to say something. And judges tend not to recognize what to outsiders are serious flaws, because the system touts itself as the best and fairest in the world. Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights.

WhoWhatWhy, Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet, Russ Baker, Jan. 22, 2013. Carmen Ortiz has garnered much attention following the suicide of information activist Aaron Swartz, not surprising given that her office threw the book at him for a very minor offense. But what other skeletons hang in her closet, and what does it tell us about federal prosecutions these days?

CBS News, Aaron Swartz Death: US Attorney Carmen Ortiz defends handling of case that ended with activist's suicide, Julia Dahl, Jan. 17, 2013. The U.S. Attorney who led the prosecution of Reddit co-founder and online activist Aaron Swartz issued a statement Thursday on Swartz's suicide, defending the justice department's conduct. "As a parent and a sister, I can only imagine the pain felt by the family and friends of Aaron Swartz, and I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who knew and loved this young man," wrote Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. At the time of his death on Jan. 12, the 26-year-old Swartz was facing prison time for allegedly hacking into the online database JSTOR and downloading millions of scholarly articles he believed should be freely available to the public. Ortiz continues: "I must, however, make clear that this office's conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case."

Atlantic, The Death of Aaron Swartz, Clive Crook, Jan. 17, 2013. As a foreigner, I'm surprised that Americans aren't more alarmed by the workings of their criminal justice system. I don't know what ought to scare me more about living in the United States--that I might be the victim of a crime (which happens), or that this ferocious prosecutorial system might one day turn its wrath on me. I'd rather be mugged than threatened with years in jail for something I didn't even know was a crime. Is this justice system actually on my side? I'm by no means sure--an astounding state of affairs.  At a conference I attended recently, I vented my preoccupation with rogue prosecutors, an ever-proliferating criminal law and the vanishing rights of the accused on a fellow attendee--a lawyer and former prosecutor. When I'd said my piece she said, "But you have to remember that nearly all of the people who are prosecuted are guilty." For half a second I thought she was joking and I started to laugh. But she wasn't joking.

The Hill, Lawmakers slam DOJ prosecution of Swartz as 'ridiculous, absurd,' Brendan Sasso and Jennifer Martinez, Jan. 15, 2013. House lawmakers blasted federal prosecutors on Tuesday for pushing aggressive hacking charges against Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who killed himself on Friday. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says his Oversight panel will look into whether federal prosecutors acted inappropriately. Meanwhile, two other members of the House Judiciary Committee said prosecutors acted too aggressively.

Talk Left, Husband of MA AUSA Criticizes Swartz Family Obit on Twitter, Jeralyn, Jan. 16, 2013. A petition to the White House to remove Mass. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for her office's handling of the Aaron Swartz case has gathered 37,000 signatures. 25,000 signatures are necessary for a response from the White House. Ortiz' husband, Tom Dolan, took to Twitter and criticized the Swartz family for its obituary, claiming it left out the 6 month offer to Aaron. Then Dolan deleted his Twitter account. But you can see it here. Eric Holder foe and Fast and Furious attacker, Republican Darryl Issa, has demanded an investigation into the case. Issa said the Swartz case was important to reevaluate. “We certainly do want to second-guess their other misconduct, not just Fast and Furious.” Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, criticized the prosecution today.  “The charges were ridiculous and trumped-up,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) told The Hill. “It's absurd that he was made a scapegoat. I would hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else.” Polis called Swartz — a co-creator of Reddit who was accused of stealing articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a "martyr" for why Congress should limit the discretion of prosecutors. Polis urged AG Holder to set new guidelines. Polis said he is willing to consider changes to the law, and urged Attorney General Eric Holder to set guidelines curtailing the ability of prosecutors to seek overly harsh punishments. “Prosecutors shouldn't have the kind of discretion to seek absurd penalties for minor crimes,” Polis said.

Guardian, Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann: accountability for prosecutorial abuse. Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 16, 2012. Imposing real consequences on these federal prosecutors in the Aaron Swartz case is vital for both justice and reform.

Truthout, Aaron Swartz's FOIA Requests Shed Light on His Struggle, Jason Leopold, Jan. 15, 2013.  It looked like Aaron Swartz was up to something. Two months before his death, the high-profile Internet activist filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the US Mint and asked for copies of its 2005 survey results which claimed, "147 million adults continued to collect the 50 State Quarters ... the most successful coin program in the nation's history."

FireDogLake, Pardon John Kiriakou, CIA Whistleblower Convicted of Classified Leak, Kevin Gosztola, January 15, 2013. Days before John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer convicted of a classified leak, is scheduled to be sentenced to thirty months in jail, support for him is growing. Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, Joan Claybrook, a lawyer who once served as president of Public Citizen and Bruce Fein, lawyer active on civil liberties issues, have signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to pardon Kiriakou. The letter explains Kiriakou pled “guilty to the crime of providing the name of a former colleague to an author who was writing a book and searching for former CIA officers to interview.” They find this is “an act which seems much less censorable than Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s disclosure” of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity “to reporter Robert Novak with impunity.”

Huffington Post, Darrell Issa Probing Prosecution Of Aaron Swartz, Internet Pioneer Who Killed Himself, Ryan J. Reilly, Ryan Grim and Zach Carter, Jan. 15, 2013. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is investigating the Justice Department's prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide on Friday after fighting felony hacking charges for two years. Issa's inquiry comes amid bipartisan expressions of sympathy for Swartz on Capitol Hill, including a statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Praising Swartz’s work toward “open government and free access to the people,” Issa told HuffPost that the government's case against Swartz is problematic enough to warrant further investigation. I’m not condoning his hacking, but he’s certainly someone who worked very hard,” Issa said. “Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it. It would have been like the Pentagon Papers.” Issa said he didn't have enough information to say whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts overprosecuted Swartz. He said he had dispatched an investigator to gather more facts. Also on Tuesday, Warren praised Swartz's character and life's work.

Huffington Post, Aaron Swartz's Lawyer: Prosecutor Stephen Heymann Wanted 'Juicy' Case For Publicity, Ryan J. Reilly, Gerry Smith, Zack Carter, Jan. 14, 2013. The federal prosecutor who reportedly insisted on jail time for the late Aaron Swartz was "very, very difficult to deal with," Swartz's lawyer told The Huffington Post. In a phone interview Monday, Swartz's attorney Elliot Peters accused Massachusetts assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Heymann of pursuing federal charges against Swartz to gain publicity. Heymann was looking for "some juicy looking computer crime cases and Aaron's case, sadly for Aaron, fit the bill," Peters said. Heymann, Peters believes, thought the Swartz case "was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper." Heymann, the deputy chief of the criminal division in the Boston-based U.S. Attorney's office, also headed the computer crimes task force there, a position Peters said "doesn't carry much prestige and respect unless you have computer crimes cases."

Justice Integrity Project, Feds Demand Names of Newspaper Critics, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 4, 2013. The Justice Department has demanded that a New Orleans newspaper hand over the names of a dozen readers who sought anonymity as they made comments about law enforcement. By the request, authorities continue to attack historic legal protections for the public. In this case, authorities seek to overturn the case law and Justice Department procedures developed over many years to protect freedom of the press under the First Amendment to the Constitution. WWL AM/FM radio host Tommy Tucker in New Orleans, shown at right, asked for my comment on his show.

Eric HolderMain Justice, Judge Uses U.S. Attorney Installation Ceremony To Send Message, Andrew Ramonas, Jan. 13, 2010. The chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts used the investiture ceremony of Boston-based U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Monday to press prosecutors about their priorities, The National Law Journal reported today. With Attorney General Eric Holder, right, in attendance, Chief Judge Mark Wolf asked Ortiz whether her staff is “being put to their highest and best use when two-thirds of the defendants in this federal district court are indigent and must have Criminal Justice Act counsel,” according to the NLJ.  Wolf has been vocal about what he sees prosecutorial misconduct in the district, and the gun and drug cases that Bush U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan tried in district court, The NLJ said. “I hope as you develop the priorities for the performance of your office you will consider questions like” those, Wolf said at the ceremony, according to The NLJ. Ortiz, the state’s first Hispanic and female U.S. Attorney, downplayed the judge’s remarks in a statement to the NLJ. Though the U.S. Attorney said at the ceremony that fighting terrorism is her “first priority,” she also said her office will focus its attention on crimes ranging from human trafficking to environmental crimes, The NLJ said.  "I believe our Assistant United States Atto

Boston Background: Justice Integrity Project, FBI Confronts Its Demons By Busting Mobster Whitey Bulger, Andrew Kreig, June 28, 2011. The FBI’s capture of Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger in California last week on 19 murder charges shows impressive commitment. Agents used a $2 million reward and an innovative publicity campaign to locate the former FBI informant even though his prosecution could bring the FBI new embarrassment. Two top FBI agents have already been accused of murder in the shocking tale of Bulger’s reign as a stone-cold killer protected both by law enforcement and his brother, William “Billy” Bulger, the longtime president of the Massachusetts senate and a powerbroker with national-level clout.xxxrneys will be put to their highest and best use regardless of who represents the defendants,” Ortiz said in the statement. “We will bring cases based on where the evidence takes us, not based on who is paying the bill."

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

FireDoglake, Obama Administration Won’t Show Secret Legal Opinions for Targeted Killings to US Senator, Kevin Gosztola, Jan. 14, 2013. Ahead of the confirmation of Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan to the position of CIA director, US Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has sent a letter to Brennan asking him to provide Congress access to “secret legal opinions outlining the government’s ability to target and kill Americans believed to be involved in terrorism.” Wyden, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, by law is supposed to provide oversight and have access to classified legal opinions, but, as he shares, the Obama administration has refused to provide him access to a copy of secret legal opinions for targeted killings. Wyden, right, explained that the decision by the Obama administration to claim intelligence agencies may kill American citizens while at the same time refusing to provide Congress with access to all legal opinions explaining the administration’s understanding of the authority is “alarming and indefensible.”

Palm Beach Post, Boca Raton database pioneer Hank Asher dead at 61, Jeff Ostrowski, Jan. 11, 2013. Hank Asher, an entrepreneur who pioneered the use of databases and spent millions of his fortune fighting child pornography, died this week. He was 61. Officials at TLO, Asher’s Boca Raton company, said he “died peacefully in his home” Friday. “He was a wonderful human being who, through his philanthropy, saved thousands of children,” said former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who worked for Asher for a time. Asher’s database work also led to the arrests of the Beltway snipers who killed 10 people in the Washington area in 2002.

Rightwing Watch, Klayman: 'Revolution' Needed to Bring Down 'Black-Muslim' Obama, Brian Tashman, Jan. 7, 2013. In his latest WorldNetDaily column, Larry Klayman calls for a literal revolution to overthrow President Obama that mirrors the American Revolution against King George III. Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch, claims in his column “Revolution!” that the recent fiscal cliff deal, the “moral decay that has swept the nation” and the unsuccessful birther legal challenges to Obama’s eligibility (among other reasons) provide a rationale to topple the “black-Muslim, anti-white, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian ‘Manchurian candidate’ fraudster socialist tyrant in the Oval Office.” “I am currently in a deep contemplative mood on how to try to do this peacefully without resort to violence,” Klayman writes, “The Founding Fathers, however, ultimately concluded that peaceful means were not possible.”

Truthout, How to Stop the Next Pandemic: End Factory Farming, Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, Jan.  16, 2013. Is our national habit of eating dead animals dragging us closer and closer to a flu pandemic that could kill tens of millions of Americans? Dr. Michael Greger believes so. He's the author of the new book, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, and he recently came on our show, The Big Picture, to ring the alarm bell. "Up to sixty million Americans get the flu every year," he said before asking, "What if it turned deadly?" The question wasn't exactly rhetorical. We do know that the flu is already deadly. Hundreds, sometime thousands, of Americans do die every year from the regular seasonal flu, which according to the Center for Disease Control has a mortality rate of about two-tenths of one percent. A particularly severe and infectious form of influenza struck the world in 1918 infecting a third of the global population and killing as many as 100 million people. In the United States, that flu took the lives of more than a half-million Americans. Unlike the average seasonal flu that we're confronting today with a mortality rate of .2%, the 1918 strand of influenza had a mortality rate of 2.5%. It was the worst plague in history. But what if a strand of influenza swept across the nation that was twenty-five times deadlier than the 1918 strand? What if we were dealing with a flu pandemic that had a 60% mortality rate?

FireDogLake, Defense Will Not Be Allowed to Discuss Bradley Manning’s Good Faith During Trial, Kevin Gosztola, January 17, 2013.  A military judge granted a government motion and ruled the defense could not argue motive during the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier being prosecuted by the military for releasing classified information to WikiLeaks.

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