the Disillusioned kid: FBI-UK?
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Sunday, October 10, 2004

FBI-UK?

Indymedia is a global independent media network, set up around the time of the WTO protests in Seattle in November 1999 to disseminate news about protests, struggles and activism from those actually involved. It has been incredibly successful and there are Indymedia Centres across the world. It's success has also brought with it some unwanted attention on the part of spammers, right-wing troublemakers and the authorities. This week saw Indymedia servers in the UK seized by FBI agents, affecting 20 Indymedia sites in different countries and various unrelated projects:
On Thursday morning, US authorities issued a federal order to Rackspace ordering them to hand over Indymedia web servers to the requesting agency. Rackspace, which provides hosting services for more that 20 Indymedia sites at its London facility, complied and turned over the requested servers, effectively removing those sites from the internet.

Since the subpoena was issued to Rackspace and not to Indymedia, the reasons for this action are still unknown to Indymedia. Talking to Indymedia volunteers, Rackspace stated that "they cannot provide Indymedia with any information regarding the order." ISPs have received gag orders in similar situations which prevent them from updating the concerned parties on what is happening.

It is unclear to Indymedia how and why a server that is outside the US jurisdiction can be seized by US authorities.

It is ironic that this happens now, just days before Indymedia is due to participate in the European Forum on Communications Rights being held alongside the European Social Forum and several other days of discussions about electronic civil liberties and community media. For more information on these events see www.efcr2004.net
It is difficult to know what to make of this. Tony Bunyan editor of Statewatch, which monitors civil liberties in Europe, comments,
This begs the questions: Why did the Home Office agree? What grounds did the USA give for the seizure of the servers? Where these grounds of a "political" nature? Has the Home Office requested that the servers be returned? What does this action say about freedom of expression and freedom of the press?
Presumably the answers will emerge over time, until then you'll excuse me if I expect the worst.
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