In a story of international intrigue, the FBI confiscated hard drives from a pair of servers in England hosting Indymedia (the self-described “democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate and passionate tellings of truth”) websites, owned by the Texas-based company Rackspace Managed Hosting. Got it so far? Okay, well the FBI says it was just the middleman, saying the order had been issued at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities.
Damnation, what did those rabble-rousers at Indymedia do now? No one is sure, or at least no one who is sure is telling:
- “Rackspace is acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with international law enforcement authorities,” said a statement by the company.
It said it was responding to an order issued under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. Under the agreement, countries assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering
….”Indymedia had been asked last month by the FBI to remove a story about Swiss undercover police from one of the websites hosted at Rackspace,” said the group in a statement.
“It is not known, however, whether Thursday’s order is related to that incident since the order was issued to Rackspace and not to Indymedia.”
….The seizure has sparked off protests from journalist groups.
“We have witnessed an intolerable and intrusive international police operation against a network specialising in independent journalism,” said Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists.
“The way this has been done smacks more of intimidation of legitimate journalistic inquiry than crime-busting.” [BBC]
The “ACLU of cyberspece,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is on the job:
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is currently assisting Indymedia investigate possible responses to the seizure of its information. More than 20 Indymedia-related websites, along with Indymedia’s online radio, were hosted on the servers, which were dedicated machines provided by Rackspace.
“This seizure has grave implications for free speech and privacy. The Constitution does not permit the government unilaterally to 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 EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.
The FBI and Indymedia have a history:
- Indymedia & the FBI: earlier events
Earlier incidents with the FBI, CIA or other US authorities included:
Gov’t Attempts Subpoena For Indymedia Logs – Service Provider Refuses: Shortly before the RNC in NYC, August 2004, the FBI attempted to retrieve IP logs from one of Indymedia’s ISP at their offices in the US and in Amsterdam (Netherlands).
FBI asked for the Nantes post on Swiss police to be removed, but admitted no laws were violated:
“The FBI agents told me that they were not concerned with the photos, but with the identifying information. There never was any such identifying information, and even if there was, it would likely be protected by the first amendment if it was obtained legally. (There was a recent case here in Washington that you may be familiar with on this very issue). But, even assuming it is illegal to post identifying information (which it is not), there WAS NO SUCH info. The FBI agents freely admitted to me that individuals have a right to take photographs of agents in public places and post those photos on the internet.”
We’ll be following this one.