Over on TechDirt, they're asking this question: Why, two days before Aaron Swartz' arrest, did the Secret Service take over handling of the case? Their question comes from Marcy Wheeler's excellent reporting on new documents disclosed in his case:
According to a suppression motion in his case, however, two days before Aaron was arrested, the Secret Service took over the investigation.
On the morning of January 4, 2011, at approximately 8:00 am, MIT personnel located the netbook being used for the downloads and decided to leave it in place and institute a packet capture of the network traffic to and from the netbook.This was accomplished using the laptop of Dave Newman, MIT Senior Network Engineer, which was connected to the netbook and intercepted the communications coming to and from it.Later that day, beginning at 11:00 am, the Secret Service assumed control of the investigation. [my emphasis]
In fact, in one of the most recent developments in discovery in Aaron’s case, the government belatedly turned over an email showing Secret Service agent Michael Pickett offering to take possession of the hardware seized from Aaron “anytime after it has been processed for prints or whenever you [Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann] feel it is appropriate.” Another newly disclosed document shows the Pickett accompanied the local cops as they moved the hardware they had seized from Aaron around.
Her point is well-taken: According to the Secret Service website, they get involved in computer crime investigations in limited situations, and downloading academic papers from JSTOR fits none of the criteria.
But if you go and look at the testimony of the Secret Service before Congress, you might find the answer there. In April 2011, Special Agent Pablo Martinez testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. The purpose of his testimony was to inform the subcommittee about measures to coordinate and investigate computer crimes which could result in economic loss. Buried in that testimony, there is this: