NarcoNews Investigative Story- US Prosecutors Turned a Blind Eye to Drone Code Piracy

The Free Pass for “Too-Big-to-Fail” Netezza vs. The Prosecution of Swartz

By Bill Conroy of NarcoNews

Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old Internet activist and the co-developer of popular web tools like RSS feeds and Reddit, ended his life earlier this year at the end of a long battle with federal prosecutors in Boston — who had accused him of engaging in digital piracy.

Under the umbrella of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the prosecutors in Swartz’ case, led by US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, piled multiple criminal counts on him that collectively could have locked him up for a quarter century. His alleged transgression: Stashing a laptop computer in a closet of a building on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus (where Swartz was a research fellow) and using it to download several million academic articles — many the product of taxpayer funding — from the archives of a nonprofit online library called JSTOR.

Nobody was harmed in Swartz’ alleged crime, and JSTOR itself argued against pressing charges, but federal prosecutors pressed forward zealously, seemingly looking to make Swartz a stepping stone for their careers. However, US Attorney Ortiz, and her team of legal hounds, sparked international outrage for their actions when the target of their prosecutorial persecution, by then a cult hero in the tech world, on Jan. 11 committed suicide by hanging himself in his New York apartment.

But there is far more to this sordid tale of justice gone awry that so far has remained suppressed by the very powers that ultimately destroyed Swartz’ life.

It turns out that the same prosecutors who chose to bury Swartz under an avalanche of computer-fraud charges chose not to pursue prosecution of another far more serious alleged corporate computer crime that came to light only months prior to Swartz’ January 2011 arrest by MIT and Cambridge, Mass., cops. In the corporate caper, lives did hang in the balance, as did the financial fortunes of a major US corporation, IBM — where US Attorney Ortiz’ significant other was employed as an executive.

Predator Software

The corporate software-piracy intrigue was revealed via a lawsuit involving two Boston-area tech companies — high-speed computer maker Netezza Corp. (which was acquired by IBM in early November 2010 in a deal valued at $1.7 billion) and software developer Intelligent Integration Systems Inc. (IISI).

The initial pleadings in the breach-of-contract lawsuit were filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts in November 2009 (within days of US Attorney Ortiz assuming office). The case revolved around a series of claims and counterclaims related to a sophisticated, analytical software program, known as Geospatial, that was developed IISI.

The software is capable of integrating at extremely high speeds spatial data, such as maps and visual images, with non-visual data, such as names and phone numbers.

Netezza, in its pleadings, claimed that IISI, per contract, was required to upgrade the Geospatial software code to make it work on Netezza’s data-warehouse computer platform, called the TwinFin. IISI argued, and the court ultimately agreed, that it was under no such obligation.

In the wake of IISI refusing to adapt the Geospatial software to the TwinFin on Netezza’s timeline, IISI asserted in court pleadings that Netezza proceeded to develop a re-engineered (or pirated) version of the software that was flawed. The company then loaded that defective software on the TwinFin platform and sold it to the CIA for use in the agency’s Predator drone program.

Netezza’s actions carry potentially criminal implications. It in essence misappropriated sophisticated computer software developed by IISi; hacked that software to adapt it for use with its computer products; and then sold that computer hardware and hacked software, which did not work properly, to the US government — including the CIA, for use in tracking targets for drone missions. According to the court pleadings, that flawed software pirated by Netezza produces calculations that are “a little off, from 1 to 13 meters” (roughly up to 40 feet) — which is not of small significance in a drone program that makes use of Hellfire missiles in exterminating targets.

In late August 2010, the judge in the Netezza/IISI litigation issued a summary judgment in the case in favor of IISI

“Unbeknownst to IISI at the time, Netezza had already represented to the US Government that Geospatial was running and available on the TwinFin [computer], when in fact it was not, and had been representing, at trade conferences, that it had a geospatial product that ran on its new TwinFin computer, when in fact it did not,” the judge’s ruling states. “On September 11, 2009, at a time when IISI was still reporting that it needed physical access to a TwinFin to set up a proper development environment, Netezza received a purchase order from a company acting for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (‘CIA’) for a TwinFin priced at over $1 million, and a software product referred to as ‘Netezza GeoSpatial for Netezza TwinFin 12’ which in fact did not exist.”

The civil case was settled out of court on terms quite favorable to IISI on Nov. 10, 2010 — two months prior to the arrest of Swartz and a day prior to the closing of IBM’s purchase of Netezza. However, the underlying claims of software misappropriation, software hacking and fraudulent sale of that code to the US government, as alleged by IISI and substantiated in the judge’s ruling, were never addressed by US prosecutors — at least in public sunlight

Read the entire investigative story here at NarcoNews: Click Here

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