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WikiLeaks reveals association with Aaron Swartz

Published time: January 21, 2013 19:27
Edited time: December 24, 2013 12:46
Aaron Swartz (Reuters / Noah Berger) and Julian Assange (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

Aaron Swartz (Reuters / Noah Berger) and Julian Assange (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

In a series of tweets, WikiLeaks disclosed that deceased Internet activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz may have contributed to the organization and had even been in contact with Julian Assange.

­WikiLeaks said it was divulging this information “due to the investigation into the Secret Service involvement with #AaronSwartz.”


Swartz, who committed a suicide on Jan. 11, was arrested two years ago for breaking and entering into an MIT storage closet and accessing an Acer laptop that he programmed to download millions of scholarly articles from the JSTOR database. The Secret Service took charge of the Swartz investigation two days before his arrest and provided the prosecution with information that led to its harsh pursuit of the 26-year-old.

While it is unclear why WikiLeaks decided to disclose Swartz’s involvement with the document archive organization, some have suggested that the alliance may have prompted the US Attorney’s Office and the Secret Service to pursue Swartz more harshly.

WikiLeaks confirmed that Swartz was in contact with its founder, Julian Assange, and indicated that he might have been one of their sources.

“Aaron Swartz assisted WikiLeaks #aaronwartz,” read the first tweet.

“Aaron Swartz was in communication with Julian Assange, including during 2010 and 2011,” the second one said.

“We have strong reasons to believe, but cannot prove, that Aaron Swartz was a WikiLeaks source. #aaronswartz”

The Verge’s Tim Carmody published an article in which he suggested that Swartz may have killed himself while defending WikiLeaks, but the organization called that position “a little far-fetched.”

“The aim of these tweets could be to imply that the US Attorney’s Office and the Secret Service targeted Swartz in order to get at WikiLeaks, and that Swartz died still defending his contacts’ anonymity,” wrote Carmody.

But because WikiLeaks has an anonymous user base, the organization only suspects that Swartz was a source, but does not know for certain. The reasons behind WikiLeaks’ disclosure of a possible source are still unclear. The organization does not usually reveal any of its sources, but when questioned by a CNET reporter, WikiLeaks representative Kristinn Hrafnsson confirmed that the tweets were authentic.

The disclosure of Swartz’s potential involvement might have been the first time that the organization revealed one of its sources.

“We can not provide details about the security of our media organisation or its anonymous drop box for sources because to do so would help those who would like to compromise the security of our organisation and its sources,” the organization states on its website. “What we can say is that we operate a number of servers across multiple international jurisdictions and we we do not keep logs. Hence these logs can not be seized. Anonymization occurs early in the WikiLeaks network, long before information passes to our web servers. Without specialized global internet traffic analysis, multiple parts of our organisation must conspire with each other to strip submitters of their anonymity.”

Hrafnsson said he could not elaborate on the meaning of the tweets at the current time, but said CNET could contact him again later with further questions.

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