After Long Delay, Obama Declines To Rule On Petition Calling For Firing Of DOJ Officials Over Aaron Swartz’s Suicide

Brian Fung and Andrea Peterson | The Washington Post | January 8, 2015

The White House has declined to rule on a petition that called for the firing of two Justice Department officials over the handling of a controversial court case involving Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide in 2013 after being accused of hacking into a university network.  The decision comes nearly two years after Swartz’s death, which sparked separate We the People petitions demanding the dismissal of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz, who oversaw the prosecution, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann, another attorney on the case.

The White House said personnel matters can’t be handled in such a forum. “We will not address agency personnel matters in a petition response, because we do not believe this is the appropriate forum in which to do so,” the agency said in a statement.  Some Swartz supporters believe that the government was overly aggressive in pursuing the charges against him. His alleged crime, which involved systematically downloading massive amounts of data from scholastic database JSTOR, was compared by some to checking out too many library books.

The White House was quick to add that it works with technology advocates “to ensure the Internet remains a free and open platform.” On Wednesday, President Obama’s top telecom regulator signaled that he would seek to apply aggressive rules on Internet providers to be sure they can’t speed up or slow down some Web sites over others...