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News :: International : Media : Technology
Indymedia to U.S., U.K., Swiss and Italian Authorities: "Hands Off Our Websites!"
11 Oct 2004
Evidence is beginning to mount that the authorities of at least four countries (Switzerland, Italy, U.K. and U.S.A.) are involved in last week's seizure of two of Indymedia's servers that brought down more than 20 of the Indymedia network's web sites and several internet radio streams. Indymedia has yet to receive any official statement or information about what the order entailed or why it was issued.

An FBI spokesperson, Joe Parris, confirmed to Agence France-Presse that the FBI issued a subpoena to the provider who hosted the Indymedia servers in the U.K., but that it was "on behalf of a third country." (1) Daniel Zapelli, senior federal prosecutor for Geneva (Switzerland), confirmed that he has opened a criminal investigation into Indymedia coverage of the 2003 G8 Summit in Evian. (2) Zapelli will provide details of that investigation at a press conference on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutor of Bologna (Italy) Marina Plazzi stated that she is investigating Italy Indymedia because it may "support terrorism." (3) Plazzi says she will provide more information on Thursday, October 14th.

Meanwhile international journalist associations have come forward in support of Indymedia. "We have witnessed an intolerable and intrusive international police operation against a network specialising in independent journalism," said Aidan White IFJ General Secretary. (4)

Indymedia is consulting with the Electronic Frontier Foundation on how to retrieve its servers and prevent further government attacks on free speech. "EFF is deeply concerned about the grave implications of this seizure for free speech and privacy, and we are exploring all avenues to hold the government accountable for this improper and unconstitutional silencing of independent media.," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. (5)

As of Monday, October 11, five of the downed websites have been restored, including Brasil, Euskal Herria, Poland, UK and Nice. Indymedia volunteers are working around the clock to restore the remaining sites, however at least four of them - Uruguay, Italy, Western Massachusetts and Nantes - have suffered data loss as a result of the governments' action.

"This FBI operation gives us even more reason to continue with what we have been doing for several years," says an activist from Italy Indymedia.

"Uruguay has a long history of media repression. We don't have the money to pay for web hosting, and so we rely on the solidarity of other countries. Actions like the seizure of the servers make the whole world insecure for free media," says Libertinus, an Indymedia volunteer from Uruguay, one of many Indymedia web sites that was caught in the FBI actions as a bystander. "Uruguay's national elections will take place on October 31st. It's a bad time for this to happen."

[Boston Indymedia dug up a recent study from the netherlands relating to the European Ecommerce Directive that could possibly indicate why Rackspace reacted so quickly to the demands of the government authorities. Take a look at the Multatuli Study ISP Notice and Take downs at http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/29126/index.php
for past Boston indymedia posts on this issue see http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/29055/index.php and http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/29017/index.php ]
Notes to the editor

For more information, visit www.indymedia.org/en/static/fbi, email press(a)indymedia.org , Tommaso at +39-3383903806, Hep Sano at +1-415-867-9472 (San Francisco), or David Meieran at +1-412-996-4986 (Pittsburgh).

(1) On October 7, 2004, Rackspace, a web hosting provider based in San Antonio (USA), turned over two servers at its London officer after it was issued a court order under the Mutual Legal Assistence Treaty. Rackspace officials claim that the order prevents them from divulging the reasons for the seizure and to whom the servers were actually given. They stated, "Rackspace is acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with international law enforcement authorities." See more details on www.indymedia.org/fbi and on the press releases from 8 and 9 October: http://www.indymedia.org/en/2004/10/111999.shtml and http://www.indymedia.org/en/2004/10/112047.shtml

(2) For more examples see: http://www.indymedia.org/en/static/fbi.shtml

(3) AFP report: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1509&ncid=738&e=6&u=/afp

(4) International Federation of Jounalists: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=2734&Language=EN

(5) Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): http://eff.org/

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: Indymedia to U.S., U.K., Swiss and Italian Authorities: "Hands Off Our Websites!"
13 Oct 2004
great article. thanks
Take Action Now!!
13 Oct 2004
don't just stand there. write a letter to the editor to have corporate media pay attention to this attack on free speech!
Proactive reaction is better than paranoia
16 Oct 2004
It seems to me that there are procedures that need to be developed to avoid the taking down of websites.
IndyMedia should lower their level of outrage and instead go to the partys involved and ask them if there is a better way to handle this if there is a next time.
Law Enforcement does not want to be thought of as repressive 'takers away' of rights. And so if the conversation goes like this:

"Gee, you got that site and saw what it had, but you also took down these other sites. And did you need to take the whole site down? How can we do this better next time so that you can get the information that you need for your court order without taking down our sites which are protected speach and very important new sources world wide?"

And then work out a process that will be used the next time and thus set a better precedent.

If the servers were compromised and really being used by someone to plan hateful violence, wouldn't you want law enforcement to try and figure out who it is and take action? You must remember that law enforcement is on the side of innocents. It is only when it is currupt that this doesn't happen. These folks want to do what is right, and they do listen to direction (which is why they may upset anarcists).

It is not good to create this battle between you and the law. IndyMedia should approach the situation with the idea that they want to help law enforcement weed out institutional curruption and governmental facism.

So, make friends with the courts and the law and maybe you can work with the system to make it less prone to the flaws in human character that make so many crave the facist as protector.

If you cast the law enforcer as enemy they may cast you that way too.
If there really are these vast international conspiracies that are trying to take down IndyMedia that would be something that law enforcers would probably help IndyMedia prevent. They would be on your side in that case so why make them the enemy? In that case you would need to work with them. So let the relationship be respectful.

And if there are elements of IndyMedia folks who are out to harm others, then those folks should be weeded from IndyMedia. If you found out that someone in your organization was borderline and ready to do violence would you not welcome a law officer coming and saying: "This person is planning to do this evil thing. . ."

In any case, we need law enforcement so we should not demonize it.
Re: Indymedia to U.S., U.K., Swiss and Italian Authorities: "Hands Off Our Websites!"
18 Oct 2004
Bill, your comments seem a bit naive to me. Perhaps law enforcement officers do not want to be thought of repressive, but some of them are. The FBI has a particularly bad record when it comes to left-wing groups.

First, off the seizure--as far as anyone has been able to deduce--was not about hate groups planning violence using the IMC. Certainly, IMCs are not interested in promoting "hateful violence" and most of them have policies about hiding or deleting such things (as we do). What appeared to be the excuse for the seizure was the fact that photos of undercover Swiss police were posted on the Nantes, France IMC site. There was no personal information, like names and home addresses. Just photos. If they were at a public demonstration, it's perfectly legitimate for folks to take their pictures and post them on the web, as even the FBI admitted when they were speaking to members of the Seattle IMC collective about this (apparently under the misguided notion that the IMC has a central headquarters in Seattle, because that's where the IMC started). Further, outing undercover cops can be quite important--they often act as agent provocateurs. In the anti-G8 protests in Genoa, Italy, the people running around smashing the windows of small businesses were not anarchists but undercover police (and fascist thugs hired by them--Italy's police are really right-wing).

In the US, the FBI has not proven itself to be friend to the left over the years. There was COINTELPRO during the 1960s, where they infiltrated all sorts of progressive groups, often deliberately fomenting divisions in the groups, setting members at each others' throats. And then there were the staged "shoot outs" in which the FBI murdered leaders of the Black Panther Party. Fast forward to the 1980s, and there are many cases of the FBI breaking into the offices of groups trying to end the US government's proxy wars in Central America. Many of these groups were church-based--hardly candidates far planning massive violence against the US government or anyone else.

While there are doubtless local police who respect civil liberties, there are also many documented cases of police spying on and creating files on progressive activists, including those who were sticking entirely to lawful activities supposedly protected by the First Amendment. In numerous recent protests--the anti-RNC protests in New York this past summer being a good example--the police used a strategy of pre-emptive arrests. They would arrest people doing nothing illegal to keep them from possibly engaging in something illegal--say, some heinous crime like nonviolent civil disobedience--later. The police know these arrests won't stand up in court. That isn't the point. The point is to keep from protesting and taking effective action to change both government policy and--hopefully, eventually--the larger social structure.

This seizure of IMC harddrives fits a larger pattern of action by the FBI of repression against progressive activists, even those engaging in strictly legal activities. If we're going to engage in dialogue with the FBI, the FBI has to do something to gain our trust first. As of now, those of us on the left have no reason to trust them--nor are we ever likely to have such a reason. The job of the police, including the FBI, is in practice less about upholding the law than upholding the status quo. We are trying to fundamentally alter the status quo. While there may be individual FBI agents who sympathize with some of our goals and believe in protecting civil liberies, as an organization the FBI has proven itself to be an enemy of the left. I don't see that changing any time soon.
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