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Seized IndyMedia Hard Drives Reappear

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A few days ago we mentioned the mysterious and labrynthine case of the seized IndyMedia hard drives. Now they have reappeared:

    The media group said it had verified that the hard drives returned on 13 October were the ones actually taken in the raid.

    With the help of the cyber-liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it is making sure the returned data is secure and has taken its own copy of it in case of future legal action. [BBC]

The EFF says:

    Now that the servers have been returned, the question still remains: who took them, and under what authority? Citing a gag order, Rackspace would not comment on what had happened both in the original seizure of the servers or their return. All that is known at this point is that the subpoena that resulted in the seizure was issued at the request of a foreign government, most likely with the assistance of the United States Attorney’s Office in San Antonio. Although initial reports suggested that the FBI had taken the servers, the FBI has now denied any involvement.

    The seizure, which silenced numerous political news websites for several days, is clearly a violation of the First Amendment. “Secret orders silencing US media should be beyond the realm of possibility in a country that believes in freedom of speech,” said EFF staff attorney Kurt Opsahl. “EFF was founded with the Steve Jackson Games case fourteen years ago, and at that time we established that seizing entire servers because of a claim about some pieces of information on them is blatantly illegal and improper. It appears the government forgot this basic rule, and we will need to remind them.”

    EFF will take legal action to find out what really happened to Indymedia’s servers and ensure that Internet media are protected from egregious First Amendment violations like this in the future.

    ….”The FBI can’t pull the plug on more than 20 news websites — our modern printing presses — based on a secret proceeding at the request of a foreign government. This is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment,” said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow. “As far as the Constitution is concerned, Indymedia has the same rights as any other news publisher. The government can’t shut down the New York Times, and it can’t shut down Indymedia.”

IndyMedia says:

    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.” 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. 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.” Plazzi says she will provide more information on Thursday, October 14th.

The Italians and Swiss sound serious about this – has IndyMedia gone too far?

I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me the key question is could the material sought by the Swiss and Italians have been obtained without shutting the sites down?

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