A group of hacker-activists known as Anonymous took over the U.S. Justice Department’s Sentencing Commission’s website Saturday, threatening to release private Justice Department data to “avenge” the suicide of Reddit co-founder, RSS developer and Internet activist, Aaron Swartz.
Swartz’s family said his suicide was “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” CBS News reported. Swartz was charged with computer fraud, accused of illegally downloading academic articles he felt should be “free and open” to citizens from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011. Swartz was facing “$4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison if convicted,” a case many believed was prosecutorial overkill, the article said.
Anonymous said it targeted the Sentencing Commission’s website because it is the agency responsible for sentencing guidelines. The site’s home page has a video message from the group, saying that with Swartz’s death, “a line was crossed.” The video also said:
Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the discretion of prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain.
The FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch issued a statement, saying it is treating the investigation as a criminal matter. The commission’s website was taken offline as soon as officials discovered the breach.
Below is a YouTube video of the Anonymous message: