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MIT's report on the Aaron Swartz case
Posted Jul 30, 2013 22:56 UTC (Tue) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
One argument for relying on MIT people is that they'll face less resistance in their investigation. People can level with the investigators and speak a bit freer. If the goal was to identify and punish culprits, then independent investigators are needed, but when the goal is to see what went wrong in the system / dynamics / culture, then frank discussions are more important.
I've no opinion on whether this approach was right or wrong here. Just pointing those things out.
Posted Jul 31, 2013 12:35 UTC (Wed) by tialaramex (subscriber, #21167)
However the only alternative that I can see is a report focused on preventing future harm. This report's authors were for whatever reason reluctant to do that, it seems to stop short of making any concrete recommendations, limiting itself to asking open questions. Anybody can ask questions and a useful report into this case should have done much more, either come back with either a categorical rejection of the idea that MIT should have handled this better or a clear list of things that ought to change.
It is unfortunate, but perhaps inevitable, that the authors weren't given any authority within MIT to actually insist on such changes, but an enforcement power is not needed, the fact of having recommended the changes would itself at least give forces for good within MIT something to rally behind.
The report's authors also did not have any legal protection. People investigating a serious accident for the government usually work under a shield which prevents their work (intended to prevent future harm) from being used instead in prosecutions or lawsuits related to the events being investigated. Even in the lawsuit happy US the NTSB's reports are forbidden from being used as evidence in a civil suit. Without this shield there is a chilling effect on the investigation.
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