Protest FBI Crackdown on Indymedia!
OCTOBER 12—With no warning, commercial Web site provider Rackspace was invaded on October 7 in London by government agents under a U.S. court order. Rackspace handed over two computer servers hosting Indymedia Web sites. The seizure affected over 20 world sites, including in Britain, France, Brazil, Italy, Germany and Poland. According to an 11 October Independent Media Center Web posting, “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’.” The posting also stated that a federal prosecutor in Switzerland has opened a criminal investigation into Indymedia, and that an Italian prosecutor is investigating Italy Indymedia because it may “support terrorism.”
The Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee vehemently protest this outrageous, obviously vindictive and chilling raid on a major source of independent journalism and left-wing social activism. The U.S.’s “war on terrorism” means terror against any potential political dissent. Indymedia (Independent Media Center) isn’t just a worldwide online collective providing independent, uncensored news, interactive commentary, video, radio and photos. Because it’s the “go-to” source for instant streaming information on international anti-globalization and other social protests, it’s no wonder that Indymedia is also a thorn in the side of the American empire’s global police.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has called for an investigation in an October 8 statement. Its general secretary, Aidan White, stated: “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 journalist inquiry than crime-busting.”
The international journalists’ organization stated: “The IFJ believes the seizure may be linked to a September 30 court case in San Jose California, in which Indymedia San Francisco and two students at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania successfully opposed an application by Diebold Election Systems Inc to remove documents claiming to reveal flaws in the design of electronic voting machines which are due to be used widely in the forthcoming US Presidential election.” Diebold, like other companies providing electronic balloting, has close links to the Republican Party. The New York Times (8 October) reported that some Indymedia members think the seizure “might be related to recent requests by the FBI asking that the site remove photos posted by IMC’s Nantes affiliate, purportedly depicting Swiss undercover police” during the 2003 G-8 Summit protests in Geneva.
Whatever the pretext for this raid, it is clear that the U.S. rulers would like to wipe out political dissent. For example, Sherman Austin (recently released to a halfway house) was convicted in 2003 under a 1997 “anti-terrorism” law just for hosting an anarchist Web site on which publicly available information was posted. Activists and others have been banned from flying or even entering the country. The U.S. even barred former pop singer Cat Stevens (who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam) from the U.S. on “national security grounds”!
The U.S. capitalist rulers are also bent on swatting out of their way any obstacles to their continued sway—like journalists who might expose inconvenient or damning truths. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in September launched a series of raids on small “alternative” community radio stations across the country, among them “Free Radio Santa Cruz,” which had operated freely without a license for nearly ten years. On September 29 two dozen federal agents with automatic weapons and riot gear seized the station’s antenna and equipment from its base in a student housing co-op, ironically just as it finished its regular broadcast of “Democracy Now!” Even reporters for the respectable New York Times are targeted: Judith Miller now faces 18 months in jail for refusing to “name names” of her sources to a federal prosecutor investigating the exposure of a CIA agent—even though she never published an article on the subject!
In this era of “war on terror” repression against political dissent, free speech and other rights are being attacked, including on an expanding electronic battlefield. The Feds were thwarted two times recently in going after Internet sources of information. Before the Republican National Convention, the Secret Service tried to get Indymedia to turn over contact information, a blatant attempt to intimidate people planning to protest at the convention. That attempt was beaten back successfully, as was a previous attempt in 2001. On September 29 the American Civil Liberties Union won an important victory for Internet privacy when a federal appeals court overturned a key part of the Patriot Act. The court barred the Justice Department from issuing “National Security Letters” to Internet service providers. These letters authorized the government seizure of financial information and communications information on citizens without the constitutional requirement of a search warrant issued by a judge upon probable cause a crime has been committed. The law’s provision also prohibited its victims from revealing to anyone they were the recipients of such government demands.
Now the U.S. government has struck again in London. It’s a well-known cliché that truth is the first casualty in war. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said in Baghdad, “We don’t target journalists,” as two journalists were killed by U.S. forces firing at the Palestine Hotel and an Al-Jazeera TV reporter died in a U.S. air strike in the early days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. From the front lines of war to the back offices disseminating uncensored information, we stand in fullest solidarity with those courageous journalists who struggle to tell the truth against the repression and lies of the American imperialists.