Italy and Switzerland Requested Indymedia's Server Seizure
Today, October 8, 2004, Indymedia has learned that the request to seize Indymedia servers hosted by a US company in the UK originated from government agencies in Italy and Switzerland. More than 20 Indymedia sites, several internet radio streams and other projects were hosted on the servers. They were taken offline on October 7th after an order was issued to Rackspace, Inc., one of Indymedia's web hosting providers.
According to Italian news agency reports and an Agence France-Presse (AFP) interview with FBI spokesman Joe Parris, the FBI acted on Italian and Swiss requests. "It is not an FBI operation," Parris told AFP. "Through a legal assistance treaty, the subpoena was on behalf of a third country."(1)
Earlier today Rackspace published a statement that they turned over the servers in response to an order under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The MLAT establishes procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations regarding international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering. The court prohibits Rackspace from commenting further on this matter. (2)
An Indymedia system administrator stated: "We do not know if Rackspace is under a gag order, or what legal restrictions were imposed requiring them to act this way, or whether they legal department had enough time to study the request."
Aidan White, the General Secretary for the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had this to say. "We have witnessed an intolerable and intrusive international police operation against a network specialising in independent journalism. The way this has been done smacks more of intimidation of legitimate journalistic inquiry than crime-busting."(3)
Indymedia condemns the fact that even 24 hours after two entire servers were taken down, Indymedia is still not getting any information of the reasons for the order.
By taking down 2 servers more than 20 Indymedia sites were affected in different countries globally as well as several unrelated projects. Indymedia considers this extremely invasive operation a a serious threat to the Freedom of Speech worldwide.
Indymedia insists that the servers are returned because each day they are inoperable and Indymedia's irreplaceable data is unaccessible means greater material damages to the Indymedia operation worldwide.
Note to editors:
(2) AFP report http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1509&ncid=738&e=6&u=/afp/20041008/tc_afp/us_internet_justice
(2) Statement from Rackspace, 8 Oct. 2004: "In the present matter regarding Indymedia, Rackspace Managed Hosting, a U.S. based company with offices in London, is acting in compliance with a court order pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which establishes procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering. Rackspace responded to a Commissioner’s subpoena, duly issued under Title 28, United States Code, Section 1782 in an investigation that did not arise in the United States. Rackspace is acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with international law enforcement authorities. The court prohibits Rackspace from commenting further on this matter." For additional information on the MLAT, please visit http://library.lp.findlaw.com/articles/file/00297/002460/title/Subject/topic/Criminal%20Justice_Extradition%20and%20Detainers/filename/criminaljustice_2_2251
(3) IFJ Statement http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=2734&Language=EN
(4) Indymedia volunteers can only speculate about possible reasons. Switzerland Indymedia suspects that the order might have to do with two photos published on the French site (IMC Nantes) of Swiss undercover police agents in charge of the G8 events in Switzerland in 2003. In the last few weeks there was contact between Swiss, specifically the Genevan governmental authorities, and the FBI. The FBI also approached Rackspace as well as a Seattle Indymedia activist recently regarding that matter, but according to communication from Rackspace to Indymedia on Tuesday, the matter appeared to to be closed. For its part, Italy Indymedia can only assume that the request is motivated by the Italian government's attitude towards Indymedia, which has been overtly hostile ever since the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa.
(5) More background information is available at http://indymedia.org/en/static/fbi
(6) Contact: press@indymediaSTOPSPAM.org