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Aaron Swartz Vs. The Justice Department

federal courthouse The Providence Journal has weighed in on the Aaron Swartz tragedy. In recent columns, both the editorial board and columnist Froma Harrop focused their attention on the “stealing is stealing” issue.

Harrop (1.20.13) asks us to compare the outcry at the excessive prosecution of Aaron Swartz to the lonely plight of a “street kid ripping off copper pipes,” writing,

What we hear is the voice of privilege: Sensitive Ivy Leaguers are to be treated more gently than thugs caught prying radios out of cars. (Anyone interested in the mental state of the drug-addled dropout?)

(Short answer: Yes. For years the members of LEAP have been very interested.)

But this is comparing apples to oranges; let’s stick with violations enforced by the federal authorities.

Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors across the country are constantly forced to prioritize their cases, allocate resources, and focus their efforts on crimes posing the greatest threat to the citizenry. So how is it that the Justice Department landed with both feet on Aaron Swartz ( he faced a potential 35 years in prison) while giving the Wall Street bankers who nearly destroyed our economy a complete pass?

The Providence Journal editorial (1.18.13) concluded,

What he is accused of was definitely a crime. And as the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office no doubt understood, to let cybercrimes go unpunished threatens the nation’s economy by removing incentives for creative work.

Threats to the nation’s economy? Matt Taibbi’s piece in the latest Rolling Stone“Secrets and Lies of the Bailout” — details a much greater threat to our economy. The megabanks are now bigger than ever and jam-packed with risk. And could there be a greater threat to our economy than having the Justice Department — when several banks admitted to years of laundering money for drug cartels and terroristsofficially declaring that these banks are now “too big to prosecute.”

Tomorrow night (Tuesday at 10pm) PBS Frontline will air “The Untouchables.” Learn how more than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Compare their wrongdoing and special treatment to what was thrown at Aaron Swartz and ask yourself, “Who was the vulnerable ‘street kid’ in this scenario?”