Aaron Swartz (1986–2013) was an American computer programmer, a writer, a political organizer, and an Internet hacktivist, devoted to a free and open internet. He was involved in the development of RSS, Creative Commons, web.py, and Reddit. When he tried to 'liberate' data from an academic website, US authorities responded fiercely. He faced a fine of up to $1m and 35 years in jail. In 2013, he tragically took his own life.
The Boy Who Could Change the World is a newly-published collection of his writings; the life’s work of one of the most original minds of our time. In tribute to Swartz, this book is available to download for FREE—for one day only! We’ve also included other ebooks such as Inventing the Future, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, and The Wikileaks Files.
Aaron Swartz read widely, posting annual lists of the books he enjoyed (and didn’t). Taken from The Boy Who Could Change the World, we bring you a hacktivist reading list – books that Swartz posted about from 2006-2011, presented here in his own words.
To what extent should the US disrupt the growth of ISIS? And should it be on the offense or defense? Wikileaks Whistleblower Chelsea Manning was an all-source analyst in Iraq during the beginnings of the brutal extremist group and writes in the Guardian:
Attacking Isis directly, by air strikes or special operations forces, is a very tempting option available to policymakers, with immediate (but not always good) results. Unfortunately, when the west fights fire with fire, we feed into a cycle of outrage, recruitment, organizing and even more fighting that goes back decades. This is exactly what happened in Iraq during the height of a civil war in 2006 and 2007, and it can only be expected to occur again.
The panicky response to WikiLeaks from some liberals has had its opera buffa highlights. WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer and New Yorker liberal hawk George Packer clucked like wet hens in horror at WikiLeaks’ release of a (ludicrously) classified list of world locations of strategic interest to the United States. Can we ever be safe now that the terrorists know there are vast mineral reserves in Central Africa, and that the Strait of Gibraltar is a vital shipping lane? Ambrose Bierce said that war is God’s way of teaching geography to Americans, but have we become so infantilized that grade-school factoids must be guarded as state secrets?
Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Story, wrote this 'My Hero' piece in the Guardian.
There could be no more bitterly appropriate coda to our Iraq conflict – a debacle schemed up behind official secrecy, distortion and lies – than the prosecution of a conscience-stricken soldier who delivered us the truth. Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks' source inside the US military, was this week convicted of charges that could put him away for 136 years. His crime is to release some 700,000 documents, many of them classified – the largest security breach in US history – though well under 1% of what Washington classified last year.
But his real sin is a failure of cynicism. He thought Operation Iraqi Freedom would promote Iraqi freedom.He thought that a nation where everyone claims to hate the very idea of government would want to know some of the hateful things their government was doing. He probably even thought journalists might stick up for their source if he got busted. His gifts have not been well received at home. A depoliticised society cannot comprehend political motives and reduces them to psychology, sex, celebrity-envy. The fact that Manning was considering gender transition has been seized on as the obvious explanation for the soldier's heroic actions, which makes perfect sense only if you blame the gender straightness of Bush and Blair for the invasion of Iraq.
At his trial, the prosecutors laboured to paint Manning as a traitor, a crazy person, a self-absorbed loser – themes that the "quality" press had helpfully outlined in more muted tints over the last three years.But a young man bearing no resemblance to these cartoon smears took the stand to speak for himself on 1 March.Poised, articulate and with just the faintest tint of indignation, Manning soberly explained why he thought people should know the truth about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about the foreign policy of the world's mightiest nation. Standing 5' 2" in his crisp uniform, he seemed the living incarnation of the still, small voice of reason and conscience.
Manning has not communicated with journalists in the three-year course of his imprisonment, but this will probably changeonce his sentence is handed down at the end of August. I expect that the more people hear from him, the more they are going to realise who in this story has been the responsible and decent human, and who have been the destructive narcissists.
- Featured in the Guardian
Chase Madar is the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikieaks Whistleblower.
Although a military judge found Bradley Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, the guilty verdicts on other charges revealed this week will leave him languishing in military jail for up to 130 years. This is the sacrifice he has paid for exposing the truth about US war crimes in Iraq, including this infamous massacre: www.collateralmurder.com - a harrowing gun-sight view of an Apache helicopter slaughtering a couple of armed men and a much larger group of civilians on a Baghdad street in July, 2007.
There is no doubt that the severity of the government response to Bradley deliberately seeks to intimidate future whistleblowers. What does the future hold for those who expose injustices committed by their government, in their name?
"Contrary to widespread panic, massive leaks of classified material tend to enhance national security as the new information can prevent the kind of reckless, poorly-informed decisions that have squandered so much blood and money, from Southeast Asia to Iraq" says Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower.
He argues that there is absolutely no evidence to show that any US soldier or civilian has been harmed by the information that Bradley Manning leaked. It is remarkable that the same people who are incredibly tight-lipped when it comes to civilian casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are suddenly consumed with moral concern over possible lives lost thanks to Wikileaks and Bradley Manning. "We have seen thousands of people killed in real wars from the government's reckless actions", says Chase.
The US’s main problem is, in fact, "a cult of extreme levels of dystopian secrecy. Washington classified 92 million documents in 2011. To put things in perspective, what Bradley Manning leaked is less than 1% of that."
Looking to the long-term effect of this case on civil liberties, government secrecy and investigative journalism, Chase calls the verdict this week a "very bad thing for journalism" as it will "encourage the US government to use the espionage act of 1917 as a weapon against domestic leakers and whistleblowers". That will, in turn, have a chilling effect on a great deal of essential journalism; journalism that has relied on illicit leaks of classified information for decades and decades (just think of the Pentagon papers, Watergate and drone strike program).
The Passion of Bradley Manning by Chase Madar tells the story behind the Wikileaks whistleblower, revealing who Bradley Manning is and why he commited the largest security breach in American history. Read his