Hiding from the light

MIT is trying to conceal its involvement in the Aaron Swartz affair:

Lawyers representing MIT are filing a motion to intervene in my FOIA
lawsuit over thousands of pages of Secret Service documents about the
late activist and coder Aaron Swartz…. MIT claims it’s afraid the release of Swartz’s file will identify the
names of MIT people who helped the Secret Service and federal
prosecutors pursue felony charges against Swartz for his bulk
downloading of academic articles from MIT’s network in 2011.

MIT argues that those people might face threats and harassment if
their names become public. But it’s worth noting that names of third
parties are already redacted from documents produced under FOIA.

I’ll post MIT’s motion here once it’s filed.

I have never, in fifteen years of reporting, seen a non-governmental
party argue for the right to interfere in a Freedom of Information Act
release of government documents. My lawyer has been litigating FOIA for
decades, and he’s never encountered it either. It’s saddening to see an
academic institution set this precedent.

I find it
fascinating to observe how organizations appear to be increasingly disposed to try keeping their
actions against individuals hidden from the public view.  I recently
received an email from the Canadian Regional Director complaining about
how I’d characterized his previous communications with me:

“The membership numbers in the online directory represent our best data. We do not track membership numbers by specific dates.

note that you have misrepresented my answer to your last request on
your blog. Failure to correct this will be considered in reviewing your

“As previously instructed, all further correspondence in this matter should be directed to me.”

requested, I replaced what I’d previously written with a direct quote
to avoid any possibility of misrepresentation. However, note that this is what he
claimed to be a misrepresentation of his answer:

“Mr. Johnson informed me that the membership numbers in the online
directory represent the organization’s best data and that SFWA does not
track membership numbers.”

Of course, if that is
misrepresentation, what is one to make of the numerous, shall we say,
less than entirely accurate representations contained in Mr. Johnson’s report to
the SFWA Board?  Will his failure to correct them also be considered by the Board?  Based on his last sentence, I fear I will
likely not be hearing back from the Secretary concerning the number of
members in the organization on the three dates requested, Article V,
Section 5 (c) of the SFWA bylaws notwithstanding.