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FBI and UK Home Office Deny Seizing Indymedia Hard Drives

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Section: International News Geography: Europe UK Topics: media

October 23, 2004

FBI and UK Home Office Deny Seizing Indymedia Hard Drives

On October 7th, London-based computer equipment belonging to the independent news organization Indymedia was impounded by court order and returned less than one week later. The seizure is believed to have been prompted by a news item that included photographs of Swiss police officers at a G8 summit.

Three weeks after the seizure the situation has only gotten murkier. The FBI, Swiss officials, and the British Home Office have all denied playing a role in the seizure of hard drives, even though Rackspace - the company hosting the equipment - was told that the sealed court order was issued pursuant to the US-Italy Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty by a judge in Texas. Earlier press reports indicated that Swiss officials had contacted US counterparts, expressing concern about photographs of Swiss undercover police posted to an Indymedia site hosted in London.

A US agency then issued a supoena under agreements with the United Kingdom authorizing the seizure of the servers. When over 20 Indymedia web sites went offline, Rackspace issued a statement saying that it was "cooperating with international law enforcement authorities" and that it was prohibited from commenting further by court order.

The British Information Technology magazine The Register summarized the situation with these words: "Nobody seized Indymedia's servers, apparently." The FBI attributed previous reports of its involvement to a comment made by an FBI spokesperson, misinterpreted by journalists.

The events surrounding the seizure are now the subject of rampant speculation. Meanwhile, the 20-plus Indymedia web sites remain offline as volunteers attempt to determine whether any hard drive content was changed. Some servers contained correspondence with lawyers acting in connection with a suit against Italian police regarding their actions at the Genoa G8 summit. Meanwhile, thousands have signed a statement of solidarity condemning the seizure as an internationally coordinated attack on free speech.

Indymedia is a global network of autonomous news organizations. Indymedia outlets subscribe to the principle of open publishing, which means that anyone is allowed to post photos, text, video or audio to their servers.

One Indymedia volunteer likened the seizure to shutting down 20 printing presses. "I'm glad it's happening to us, in that we are prepared to fight it, and we have access to the resources to fight this and make it public," he added.

Some indymedia activists have staged public interventions involving handing over large numbers of hard drives and other computer components to law enforcement officials and embassies.

Dru Oja Jay


» The Register: Indymedia: the tale of the servers 'nobody' seized

» Journalism.co.uk: Indymedia petition grows

» FAIR: FBI Shutdown of Indymedia Threatens Free Speech

» WSWS: FBI shuts down 20 antiwar web sites: an unprecedented act of Internet censorship

» Wired News: IndyMedia Gets Its Servers Back

» Indymedia: Operation Hard Drive-by

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