No one talks, everyone walks. It’s a phrase that has been commonly used by radical anarchist groups for some time now. The meaning of the statement is obvious, if nobody talks to the police, prosecutors, or grand juries everybody will be able to walk away. Police, prosecutors, and grand juries are specialists in destroying lives. What seems like a casual conversation about a friend can turn into the evidence needed for prosecutors to bring charges against that friend, which is what appears to have happened with Aaron Swartz’s case:
When journalist Quinn Norton was presented with a subpoena in 2011 to appear in front of a federal grand jury, she “had to Google grand jury to find out what it was.” She did not know that in a small, closed hearing, federal prosecutors would push her to inadvertently help incriminate her dearest friend and then-lover — Aaron Swartz.
The journalist explains how she at first cooperated with the prosecutors, convinced that she knew nothing that could be used against Swartz. But, as she learned, prosecutors are pro fishermen — they cast wide nets. In a moment Norton describes as “profoundly foolish” she told the grand jury that Swartz had co-authored a blog post advocating for open data. As we now know, his Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto was used by prosecutors as evidence that the technologist had “malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.”
Norton recalls how “it had not sunk in that I’d accidentally betrayed someone I loved. It was so mind-numbingly stupid on the part of these powerful men, these elites of law enforcement, that I couldn’t conceive that I’d actually harmed Aaron.”
What seemed like innocuous information to Norton ended up being the rope needed by the state to hang Aaron. Unfortunately the cruelty of the state is not well known, which isn’t surprising since we’re brought up in this country to believe that the police are your friends, politicians are your representatives, and the innocent need not worry about talking or surveillance.
Anarchists were made well aware of this fact during the First Red Scare, where foreign anarchists were forcibly deported under the Immigration Act of 1903 and the Immigration Act of 1918 (both commonly referred to as the Anarchist Exclusion Acts). This is why Leah-Lynn Plante, Katherine Olejnik, and Matt Duran refused to testify to a grand jury. Because of their unwillingness to cooperate with the state they ended up walking free. Had any one of them testified to the grand jury it is likely all three of them would be facing multi-year prison sentences.
I don’t mean to lambast Norton. She, like Swartz, is a victim of the state. At no point did she mean to hand the grand jury a statement they could fabricate into charges against Swartz. In all likelihood she didn’t realize that the “justice system” in the United States is staffed by individuals who specialized in destroying lives.
Hopefully some benefit can be derived from this entire fiasco. At the very least it should be a demonstration of why you should never, ever, cooperate with police, prosecutors, grand juries, or any other element within the “justice system.”