Swartz's family has alleged in the press that MIT promised not to release more data to law enforcement than it had to, and not to do so without a warrant. Yet it seems to have done so. How can this be?
Comments about your question:
One theory articulated is the possibility of a National Security Letter, or NSL. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_security_letter.
An NSL is an instrument used by the federal government to obtain information about national security that bears a very ominous constraint. Pursuant to 18 USC § 2709 (c)(1), part of the USA PATRIOT Act, the government can mandate that recipients of an NSL not disclose that they have received one. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2709
So, if the Abelson report determines that MIT received an NSL, presumably it cannot disclose that fact to the public. Though, theoretically, if MIT has *not* received an NSL, it can disclose that fact. It would be helpful if the report could frame the facts such that it is clear how they fit with the possibility of an NSL, or how they are not consistent with it, if indeed the facts appear to fall out that way.
It'd be helpful to understand to what extent MIT's hands may have been tied, should it have received an NSL. But on the other hand, we also want to understand to what extent MIT had the option to resist the NSL, to refuse it, or argue it, or to decline to comply. NSLs are hardly settled law, and they have not found easy acceptance within the civil rights community.
Also, we should understand to what extent it is plausible that MIT might have received an NSL regarding Swartz. Wikileaks has alleged it has some kind of connection with Swartz, which brings the matter into the area of national security. Cf.
1. Aaron Swartz assisted WikiLeaks #aaronwartz (1/3)
2. Aaron Swartz was in communication with Julian Assange, including during 2010 and 2011
3. We have strong reasons to believe, but cannot prove, that Aaron Swartz was a WikiLeaks source. #aaronswartz