MIT gun hoax caller cited Swartz
Feb 28, 2013 (Boston Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The hoax caller whose phony tip of a campus gunman brought SWAT officers swarming to MIT last Saturday claimed the shooter was a staff member seeking revenge for the suicide of folk-hero hacker Aaron Swartz, school officials said.
"The caller indicated that the alleged gunman was retaliating against people involved in the suicide of Aaron Swartz," Massachusetts Institute of Technology executive vice president and treasurer Israel Ruiz wrote in an email distributed campuswide yesterday. Ruiz said MIT President Rafael Reif was identified in the hoax as the gunman's intended target.
Ruiz wrote that the caller named a specific MIT staffer, saying the staffer had "a really big gun" and body armor, and was "getting out of control." The staff member was "found not to be connected to the incident in any way," Ruiz wrote. The caller used a Sprint relay message service designed for people with hearing or speech impediments in the 7:30 a.m. call.
The email contradicts initial statements by Cambridge police, who said Saturday they did not believe Swartz's death had anything to do with the hoax -- an example of a dirty tricks tactic called "swatting," in which callers phone in false emergency reports to torment their adversaries with a heavy police response. A Cambridge police spokesman could not be reached for comment last night.
Swartz, 26, killed himself in his Brooklyn apartment last month while awaiting trial in Boston federal court on charges he hid a computer in a closet at MIT and downloaded millions of scholarly articles from a subscription service. Prosecutors under U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz had been threatening Swartz with more than 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines for what critics say was a political act advocating Internet freedom.
The case has resulted in an ongoing investigation by a congressional committee and a series of hacking stunts in Department of Justice and MIT websites by the underground vigilante hacker group that calls itself Anonymous.
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