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News :: Human Rights : International : Media : Technology
Indy Media's Hardware is Returned, but Many Questions Remain
15 Oct 2004
On Wednesday, October 13th, Indymedia's seized hardware was mysteriously returned in the same way it disappeared -- without any information provided as to who took it or why, and on whose orders. An employee at Rackspace, the U.S.-based web hosting company that handed over Indymedia's disks to the U.S. government on 7 October, emailed an Indymedia volunteer to say that the disks were returned and that "the court order is being complied with... I will pass along any more information that becomes available and that I am allowed to."
On October 14th, Italy Indymedia learned that an investigation in Bologna could have precipitated the U.S.' order for the seizure of Indymedia's hard drives from the U.K.

Marina Plazzi, a public prosecutor for Bologna investigating the "Informal Anarchist Federation," reportedly issued a request for information (RFI) to U.S. authorities concerning posts published on, one of the 20 odd Indymedia sites hosted on the U.K. server. The U.S. authorities, going beyond the requirements of the RFI, then issued an order to seize the drives.

Despite this new information and the return of the hardware many questions remain.

"The fact that the authorities' actions are shrouded in mystery leaves Indymedia in the Kafkaesque position of not knowing the identity of its accusers or the nature of their claim," says David Dadge, editor for the International Press Institute.

Indymedia volunteers are now calling for supporters to sign a solidarity declaration at denouncing the hard drive seizure as an unacceptable attack on press freedom, freedom of expression, and privacy. They are demanding a full disclosure of the names of organizations and individuals involved in the seizure, a copy of the court order, and an independent investigation into any violations of due process.

"We have serious concerns about the use of international co-operation frameworks to obscure legal process, undermine civil liberties, and erode communication rights," said an Indymedia volunteer.

Numerous organizations have already expressed their solidarity with Indymedia. "I would say that this is an indication of the successfulness of the Indymedia network," says Peter Phillips, Ph.D., director of Project Censored. "Freedom of information is a radical idea when applied in a fair manner, and radical ideas will always be suppressed by the transnational corporate elites whenever possible."

For more information, visit, email

press (at), or call:

Tomasso at +39 3383903806 (Italy)

Hep Sano at +1-415-867-9472 (San Francisco)

David Meieran at +1-412-996-4986 (Pittsburgh)
See also:

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Watching the Centurions: The Indymedia Debacle
16 Oct 2004
Modified: 04:17:00 PM
Question: If the Roman Empire were up and running now, what kind of shenanigans do you suppose it would be engaged in?

Answer: It's pretty easy to picture a twenty-first century Roman Empire that might lose sight of a few pesky civil liberties -- say, the principles of protected speech, freedom from unwarranted search and seizure, and the right of an independent press to, you know, exist.

And it's also easy to picture a contemporary Roman Empire descending without warning on the territory of one of its own allies, and then demanding that unauthorized communications by unauthorized persons in that country be squelched.

It's even easy to picture a modern Roman Emperor issuing a decree that the writings, pictures, and tools of the unauthorized communicators be seized; it's easy to picture him sending forth centurions to do the seizing.

It's easy to picture all that stuff, because that's what a Roman emperor might do. One expects a little more, however, from the head of state of a constitutional democracy in the twenty-first century -- even a head of state with a history of contempt for the press and a habit of responding to tough questions with a flash of his trademark

One expected a little more, even from George Bush.

Even a bad president, most people imagined, would have SOME principles.

Imagine no more.

On October 7th of this year, George Bush's FBI seized the servers of 20 Internet sites belonging to INDYMEDIA, a network of independent news reporters.

In shutting down 20 web sites on that day without even an attempt to explain the reasons behind its actions, Bush's secret police appears to have combined stark theft with the far more ominous steps of:

1) placing prior restraint upon a supposedly free press,

2) establishing a policy of recrimination against reporters who offer a version of events that differs from that of the Administration, and

3) last but not least, pulling a stunt in England that apparently can't be pulled at home. Yet.

One reason for the seizure, according to Reporters Sans Frontieres ( someone wasn't happy with INDYMEDIA'S independent coverage of the war in Iraq.

Reporters Sans Frontieres immediately condemned the US action and called for the return of the servers (which eventually rematerialized, again without explanation). RSF was, however, harder on the British government, whose complacency in this latest Bush-led fiasco establishes, amazingly, a new low. "This intervention," a letter from the organization stated, "is the responsibility of the British authorities because it relates to a hosting company operating on their territory. Closure of websites is a serious step, the reasons for
which should definitely be made public."

Indeed they should. But do you hear that deafening silence on the radio? See that strange gap on page one of your newspaper? Smell that dead air on your TV? That, my fellow citizens, is the sound, sight, and smell of a gentleman's agreement not to discuss this crime against the First Amendment.

According to the organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the American news media has largely ignored the Indymedia debacle, which should, by any thinking reporter's standards, have been a huge story. "Aside from two AP articles (10/8/04, 10/14/04), one by UPI (10/11/04) and one in the Hartford Courant (10/13/04)," FAIR was able to locate "no mainstream news outlets reporting on the Indymedia story."

The US media is apparently too distracted by the presidential campaign to report as front-page news what must surely be among the most brazen
governmental assaults on free speech on the American record.

Somewhere, one senses, Augustus Caesar is smiling.

Or is he smirking?

--- Brandon Yusuf Toropov


See also:
latest from the Global IMC
22 Oct 2004
Indymedia asks: "Who took our servers?"

Two weeks after the hard drives of two Indymedia servers were seized from the London office of a US-owned web hosting company called Rackspace, Caroline Flint, UK Home Office Under-Secretary, answered parlamentarian questions by stating that "no UK law enforcement agencies were involved." (1) The seizure shut down around 20 Indymedia websites, an internet radio station, and other projects. The servers were returned a week later because "the court order had been complied with", but still no information is available to Indymedia as to who seized them and who now might have copies of all the public and personal information they contained.

An FBI spokesperson originally suggested to Agence France-Presse that the FBI issued a subpoena to Rackspace, but that it was "on behalf of a third country." Later he denied that the FBI had any involvement whatsoever. (2)

A few days after the seizure, a senior federal prosecutor for Geneva, Switzerland, also confirmed that she had opened a criminal investigation of Indymedia. - But that she had not asked for the servers to be seized.

A Italian judge from Bologna confirmed that she issued a request to U.S. authorities for the server's IP logs concerning certain posts published on Italy Indymedia. - But she says that she did not request the seizure of the server hardware, either.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who is representing the interests of Indymedia, has contacted all the likely suspects in the U.S. - including the FBI, the State Department, and the Federal District Court in Texas - that could have issued the subpoena referenced in Rackspace's public October 8 statement concerning the Indymedia server. But none of them did claim responsibility for the seizure.

"Were our servers abducted by aliens?", asks Clara, an Indymedia volunteer from the Netherlands. "Two weeks have passed and we are no step closer to knowing who took our servers, why, or even on which continent they were."

The only thing that is known is what Rackspace volunteered in their statement: that they received a court order in the U.S. Efforts are now underway by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to unseal that court order.

Meanwhile, the international outcry continues. 5,000 individuals have signed on to Indymedia's solidarity declaration (, and numerous others continue to contact Indymedia offering their support to help insure that secret court orders and mysterious government agencies don't shut down Indymedia's websites ever again.

For more information, visit,, email press(a), or call:

Tomasso at +39 3383903806 (Italy) Andrew at +44 788-4282-077 (UK) Hep Sano at +1-415-867-9472 (San Francisco) David Meieran at +1-412-996-4986 (Pittsburgh)

Notes to editors

(1) Indymedia


(3) Indymedia is a global media network consisting of 144 autonomous Independent Media Centers that provide openly accessible newswires with the capacity for anyone to publish texts, images, audio, and video, particulary concerning political and social justice issues.