IndyMedia Center & Sydney Morning Herald – 2004-10-12 09:13:54
FBI Seizes Global Indymedia Servers
Sascha Meinrath / NYC IMC http://nyc.indymedia.org
October 7, 2004 (From UC-IMC / Global IMC / Wire Reports): The FBI took the hard drives of Global IMC servers in the USA and the UK. It appears that a court order was issued to Rackspace (Indymedia’s service provider with offices in the US and in London) to physically remove the hard drives from Global Indymedia servers (backup servers are now in place).
Rackspace was given no time to defend against the order before it was acted upon and turned over the hard drives, both in the US and the UK. The servers hosted numerous local IMCs, including UK Indymedia, Belgium, Africa, Palestine, UK, Germany, Brasil, Italy, Uruguay, Poland, Belgrade, Portugal and others.
Secret Service Targeted Media During GOP Convention
During the Republican Convention, the ISP of the NYC IMC was informed that it was the subject of a Secret Service / FBI investigation into an article submitted to its Open Newswire identifying delegates at the RNC.
While the FBI has made it clear to members of the press that the investigation is ongoing, there is not necessarily a connection between events in NYC and the FBI’s seizure of the Rackspace servers. Currently, much of the speculation about the reasons for the FBI’s move centers around photographs posted to the IMC-Nantes website.
The FBI’s latest anti-free-press actions began at the beginning of October when they visited Indymedia’s ISP demanding the removal of identifying information from photographs of undercover police officers that was posted on the Nantes Indymedia website. When asked what the US government was doing requesting the removal of information from a French-run website that contained information about Swiss police actions, the FBI stated that this was a “courtesy” to the Swiss government.
The FBI agents stated that no laws had been broken, and no crimes had been committed. However, because no identifying information was posted on the website in question, it was unclear what actions the FBI was requesting. The article in question is/was posted here: http://nantes.indymedia.org/article.php3?id_article=3910
On Tuesday October 5th, Indymedia received the following message from Rackspace:
“I apologize for the delay in responding. I have been trying to get ahold of the FBI agent I spoke with before, but haven’t been able to at this time. As the request originated with the Swiss police, I can only speculate on what they saw or what they were concerned about. However, at this time, I have received no further communications from either the FBI or the Swiss authorities, so I feel like we can close this issue.”
Today the FBI seized Global Indymedia servers; however it is unclear if this is related to the Nantes issue or is a second FBI concern within the past week. (14:20) Rackspace has issued a “no comment” response concerning the FBI’s actions. See also: http://www.indymedia.org/en/2004/10/111987.shtml http://nyc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/126052/index.php
FBI Blacks Out Independent Media Around the World
The Sydney Morning Herald
(October 8, 2004) — The FBI has issued an order to hosting provider Rackspace in the US, ordering it to turn over two of the servers hosting the Independent Media Centre’s websites in the UK, a statement from the group says. Rackspace has offices in the US and the UK. Independent Media Center, which is better known as Indymedia, was set up in 1999 to provide grassroots coverage of the World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle.
Rackspace complied with the FBI order, without first notifying Indymedia, and turned over Indymedia’s server in the UK. This affects over 20 Indymedia sites worldwide, the group said. Indymedia said it did not know why the order had been issued as it was issued to Rackspace.
Rackspace told some of the group’s volunteers “they cannot provide Indymedia with any information regarding the order.” ISPs have received gag orders in similar situations which prevent them from updating the parties involved on what is happening.
In August. the US Secret Service used a subpoena in an attempt to disrupt the New York City Independent Media Center before the Republican National Convention by trying to get IP logs from an ISP in the US and the Netherlands.
Last month the US Federal Communications Commission shut down community radio stations around the US. Two weeks ago the FBI asked Indymedia to remove a post on the Nantes IMC that had a photo of some undercover Swiss police and IMC volunteers in Seattle were visited by the FBI on the same issue.
Indymedia said the list of local media collectives affected included Ambazonia, Uruguay, Andorra, Poland, Western Massachusetts, Nice, Nantes, Lilles, Marseille (all France), Euskal Herria (Basque Country), Liege, East and West Vlaanderen, Antwerpen (all Belgium), Belgrade, Portugal, Prague, Galiza, Italy, Brazil, UK, part of the Germany site, and the global Indymedia Radio site.
Feds Seize Indymedia Servers
John Leyden / The Register U.K.
(October 8, 2004) — The FBI yesterday seized a pair of UK servers used by Indymedia , the independent newsgathering collective, after serving a subpoena in the US on Indymedia’s hosting firm, Rackspace. Why or how remains unclear.
Rackspace UK complied with a legal order and handed over hard disks without first notifying Indymedia. It’s unclear if the raid was executed under extraterritorial provisions of US legislation or the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Provisions of RIPA make it a criminal offence to discuss warrants, so Rackspace would not be able to discuss the action with its customer Indymedia, or with the media.
Rackspace US has issued a statement which says that the investigation “did not arise in the United States”, but which sheds very little light on the whys and the wherefores.
In the present matter regarding Indymedia, Rackspace Managed Hosting, a US based company with offices in London, is acting in compliance with a court order pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which establishes procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.
Rackspace responded to a Commissionerís subpoena, duly issued under Title 28, United States Code, Section 1782 in an investigation that did not arise in the United States. Rackspace is acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with international law enforcement authorities. The court prohibits Rackspace from commenting further on this matter.”
Dai Davis, an IT lawyer at London law firm Nabarro Nathanson, said Rackspace’s statement fails to clarify the legal basis of the raid. “If it was a RIPA warrant, Rackspace can’t refer to it. Most RIPA warrants can be issued by the Home Secretary,” he said. “The FBI has no jurisdiction in the UK and would need to act in concert with UK authorities, such as the security services or police,” he added.
The seizure of Indymedia’s servers affects more than 30 Indymedia sites worldwide. The list of affected local media collectives includes Uruguay, Andorra, Poland, Nice, several French groups, Euskal Herria (Basque Country), multiple Belgian sites, Serbia, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Italy, Brazil, the UK, part of the Germany site, and the global Indymedia Radio site.
One of the servers taken down at Rackspace provided streaming radio to several radio stations and served files related to the Blag Linux distribution, among other purposes.
While Indymedia is not exactly sure what prompted the action, the group does have one strong idea. A French Indymedia site last month posted photos of what it believed to be undercover Swiss police officers photographing protesters at a French event. Indymedia received a request from the FBI to pull those photos down, as they “revealed personal information” about the undercover police, said Indymedia press officer Hep Sano.
Photos of Undercover Police May Have Triggered the Seizures
Rackspace appeared to confirm that the photos were an issue with the FBI. “I apologize for the delay in responding. I have been trying to get ahold of the FBI agent I spoke with before, but haven’t been able to at this time,” wrote a Rackspace official to Indymedia earlier this week, according to Sano. “As the request originated with the Swiss police, I can only speculate on what they saw or what they were concerned about. However, at this time, I have received no further communications from either the FBI or the Swiss authorities, so I feel like we can close this this issue.”
Still, Indymedia has never sorted out the matter with the FBI.
“They never clarified what they meant by personal information,” she said. “The photos were taken on a public street.”
Indymedia believes the photos were eventually pulled, but ironically cannot check on this as it no longer has access to the servers or hard disks. The group has not been notified if the FBI is even involved in this seizure or whether or not the servers or just hard disks were confiscated.
“We are still trying to work with the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) to figure out who is charging us and with what crime,” said Sano. The EFF did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Indymedia said yesterday’s raids were part of a wider pattern of “attacks” against independent media outlets by the US Federal Government authorities over recent months. Last month the Federal Communications Commission shut down community radio stations around the US.
In addition, an article submitted through Indymedia’s Open Newswire service identifying the names of delegates to the Republican Convention and where they were staying in New York reportedly led to an investigation by the FBI.
The Secret Service used a subpoena in an “attempt to disrupt” the New York City’s Independent Media Centre before last month’s Republican National Convention in the city. Speculation (on Slashdot) links yesterday’s raids with this investigation. This remains unconfirmed but Rackspace’s comment that this is to do with “an investigation that did not arise in the United States” doesn’t fit with this theory. Indymedia also believes that the Republican Convention problems have passed and are not an issue in this week’s server raids.
Indymedia (AKA Independent Media Center) was set up in 1999 to provide grassroots coverage of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests in Seattle. It has continued to report on controversial subjects often under- reported in the mainstream media since then; but this week has marked the most controversial chapter in its operations.
FBI Denies Responsibility for IndyMedia Seizure
NYC IMC / Global Indymedia
More information continues to trickle out regarding the October 7 seizure of Indymedia’s servers. The FBI acknowledged yesterday that a subpoena had been issued by a U.S. District Court and served by the FBI, but claimed it was at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities. “It is not an FBI operation,” Bureau spokesman Joe Parris told the Agence France Press. [Good Analysis of the Cross Border Legal Issues From statewatch.org]
The reasons for the court order or who actually holds the servers now are still unknown to Indymedia, according to a statement on the Global IMC site.
In additon to legal and political questions, global justice activists today expressed concern about the integrity of the data contained on the servers. “In the seized servers there were all the information related to Genoa events. We are very worried,” Laura Tartarini from the Genoa Legal Forum told the Inter-Press Service. Statements of support for Indymedia have been issued by multiple civil society groups. ”More intimidation than crime-busting,” International Federation of Journalists general-secretary Aidan White said. ”The seizing of computers and the high profile nature of this incident suggests that someone wanted to stifle these independent voices in journalism.”
Mauro Bulgarelli, a member of Italy’s Green party, called it a “provocation and intimidation effort” against the alternative media.
“This seizure has grave implications for free speech and privacy. The Constitution does not permit the government to unilaterally cut off the speech of an independent media outlet, especially without providing a reason or even allowing Indymedia the information necessary to contest the seizure,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Kurt Opsahl.