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Mainstream Media Coverage of Bristol IMC Server Seizure

info | 28.06.2005 16:05 | G8 2005 | Indymedia | Repression | Technology | London | World

Collecting links and media coverrage of the police take down and seizure of Indymedia Bristol's web server and arrest of indymedia volunteer.

Indymedia server seized in raid
Indymedia says the raid was an attack on press freedom
Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK

A computer server and IT equipment belonging to the alternative media network known as Indymedia have been seized by police in Bristol.

The raid is understood to have been prompted by complaints about a message on the site concerning rail vandalism.

A 20-year-old man was arrested, and bailed, on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage.

A statement on Indymedia UK said: "Police demanded access to the server to gain the IP details of a posting."

A representative of Bristol Indymedia, on behalf of the collective, told BBC News: "Yesterday the police raided a residential property in Bristol and seized an Indymedia server and other computer equipment.

"We see this police action as an attack on the freedom of speech."

Tim Lezard, president of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), added: "We are obviously not happy that police have closed the server.

"We are supposed to be a free press.

"Will people read a post and take action?"

The raid and arrest were carried out by the British Transport Police.

A spokesman said: "This is not unusual. When we get wind of graffiti, for example, we often do house searches."

Once obtained, the IP address can then be used by internet service providers to track down computer users.

In 2004, servers belonging to Indymedia were seized in London by the FBI, acting on behalf of the Italian and Swiss authorities.

The legal justification for that raid included a gagging order that prevented details being revealed.

However, the servers were thought to have been seized under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty which is typically used by nations co-operating to investigate cross-border crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.


Legal row after police seize Bristol Indymedia server
By John Leyden
Published Tuesday 28th June 2005 13:44 GMT

Police seized a server used by Indymedia, the independent newsgathering collective, from the Bristol home of a member of the group after issuing a search warrant on Monday. The raid is the second time within the last year that an Indymedia server has been seized in the UK.

Officers also took the unnamed Bristol collective member in for questioning, and seized a PC, in an incident that has already provoked a huge row. The action happened despite the intervention on Indymedia's behalf by justice group Liberty whose lawyers advised police that the server was "considered an item of journalistic equipment and so subject to special provision under the law". Police had sought access to the server in order to gain access to logs about a posting related to an attack on a freight train that caused a reported £100,000 in damage.

On or around 17 June an anonymous person posted on the Bristol Indymedia newswire about an 'action' in which a freight train carrying new cars was reportedly attacked in a protest about cars and climate change in the run up to next week's G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Bristol Indymedia volunteers hid the post from their main newswire within a day because it breached editorial policy. The raid followed unsuccessful police attempts to get Indymedia to hand over the server voluntarily so they could examine logs for evidence.

Bristol Indymedia explained its stance in a posting: "As part of our policy, we will not make non-public information we hold publicly available. We do not permanently store IP addresses. We do not intend to voluntarily hand over information to the police as they have requested, and have informed them of this," it said.

In October 2004, a pair of UK servers used by Indymedia were seized a week before the European Social Forum. The servers were taken from the London offices of hosting firm Rackspace after the latter was served with a controversial US warrant. The FBI apparently acting under a US-UK treaty on behalf of Switzerland and/or Italy to seize the hardware, which was subsequently returned. Swiss authorities reportedly said the data could help its investigation of Indymedia's coverage of the 2003 G8 in Evian but the server was also thought to include correspondence with lawyers involved in the case against Genoa police related to a 2001 G8 summit in the city.

That action resulted in many Indymedia sites becoming temporarily unavailable. The latest raid has left Bristol Indymedia's web site offline with surfers redirected to the main Indymedia UK web site through which a protest against the police action is been organised.



Hide the following 8 comments

Alternative Bristol Information Outlets

28.06.2005 16:42

In the days before the BIMC server was seized an 'unofficial emergency response network' was publicised on BIM in anticipation of the seizure. The re-routed page to an extent, thankfully, makes this less necessary, but it doesn't have such a Bristol / South West focus.


The Bristol Social Forum & Bristol Stop-The-War message boards have now been opened up so that anyone can currently post to them from any email account (although posts will continue to be moderated and there may be a delay of a few days on the Bristol Social Forum so that emails can be sent out in more user friendly batches direct to people's inboxes.)

As it has a subscription base of 350+, it is a valuable outlet.

Bristol Social Forum. (Bristol / South West focussed posts please)
Anyone can post to:
You can also subscribe if you like, instructions at bottom of page, or PM me.

Bristol Stop The War. (National level posts are also welcome here)
Anyone can post to:
99% of subscribers only receive the monthly newsletter direct to their inbox, but it is widely publicised as a public message board too, so it has it's uses.

I hope this helps.


A number of other contacts were given, but they seem less necessary now, as our networks aren't completely destroyed, and the additional contacts were postal addresses and alternative emails.




28.06.2005 16:46

Sorry, bad links provided in the above. Bristol-Stop-The-War is:


Freelance Artilce - Warrant info included

28.06.2005 16:58

28 June 2005
More Indymedia seizures

ON THE eve of the G8 summit in Scotland police in Bristol have seized the server computer that runs the local Indymedia "newswire" - and a group in Italy have discovered that police have been intercepting legally sensitive communications for a year.

At about 5:30pm on Monday (27 June) British Transport police visited the home of a member of the Bristol Indymedia Collective (BIC). They arrested him and charged him with incitement to criminal damage, and seized the computer that hosted Bristol Indymedia information as well as personal computers. That evening they bailed him for a date in October.

Indymedia centres operate open "newswires". As well as collective members researching and publishing stories, any internet user can post stories or comments. Ten days previously, someone posted a message of which the least incoherent parts called for people to "stick two fingers up to this oil-addicted society," mentioning trainloads of new cars shipped from Pilton Docks and "dropping rocks onto useless pieces of metal".

The Freelance understands that a person who had fallen out with BIC reported this message to the police, telling them that BIC would be able to identify the person who wrote it from a log of the computer addresses ("IP numbers") of such contributors. Indymedia sites do not retain such details. BIC had removed the message in question from the public site before police emailed them.

When the police contacted them. BIM called the NUJ and civil liberties organisation Liberty, who argued that demanding information from Indymedia requires a special warrant to obtain journalistic material under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Asked about this, a British Transport Police spokesperson said "A warrant was obtained; I don't know the details. ... Website server - I don't know if you could describe it as journalistic material?" They later clarified that "We obtained a Section 8 [PACE] Warrant after discussing with the Crown Prosecution Service who said we didn't need a Section 9 Schedule 1 [journalistic material] warrant." Section 8 Warrants cover evidence-gathering except where "special procedure" (that is, journalistic) material is involved.

The NUJ has strongly supported Indymedia, particularly when the main Indymedia UK servers in London were seized by persons unknown, claiming to be acting for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, just before the European Social Forum gathering in London on 7 October 2004. That seizure appears to have originated with a request from the Italian government to a court in Texas. Many believe that the motive was to obtain confidential lawyer-client communications concerning the police attack on 22 July 2001 on the school building that Indymedia used as a base during protests around the Genoa G8 meeting in and subsequent lawsuite.

Now an even more independent information service in Italy - - reports discovering that in July 2004 police secretly obtained copies of the passwords used to keep emails sent through their system secure. It is being suggested that this also relates to the Genoa trials of protesters, bystanders and police.

The Freelance is seeking translations of the Italian information and awaits a statement from the BIC collective which meets this evening.



28.06.2005 17:22

A better interim fix than using the above opened up yahoo groups (as well as sharing space on UK IMC) may follow shortly. SO WATCH THESE SPACES!


More Coverage

30.06.2005 15:35

Freedom of press under attack?
Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK

The police seizure this week of a computer server belonging to alternative network Indymedia is not the first time the organisation has been targeted. Last time the FBI was involved - on behalf of the Italian and Swiss authorities.

Indymedia has criticised the raid

On Monday, British Transport Police carried out a raid in Bristol after complaints about a posting on the site relating to an act of rail vandalism.

Two linked computers were removed as officers wanted the IP address of the poster, which is something Indymedia did not want to hand over, as a point of principle.

Officers swooped after getting a search warrant from a magistrate, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. One person was arrested and bailed.

The magistrate rejected arguments the server was "journalistic equipment". If the argument had been accepted, it would have been harder - but not impossible - for the police to take.

But Indymedia, supported by the NUJ and Liberty, said the raid was an attack on press freedom.

Every news publisher should be wondering, 'will I be silenced next?'
Kurt Opsahl
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Tim Lezard, president of the NUJ, said: "We are not agents of the police and are not here to provide them with information.

"We are obviously not happy that police have closed the server. We are supposed to be a free press."

In an age rife with bloggers, Detective Inspector Tony Bennett disagrees: "This is an open forum, with an invitation to submit what you want. The server is not journalistic equipment."

He added the larger issue of an act of vandalism on the railways should also be considered.

"What has happened is beyond reproach and lacks any understanding of the protection and safety of people," he said.

Even if Indymedia was considered to be a bona fide journalistic operation, it is not protected from handing over material.

Actions 'troubling'

Police can go to court to get media outlets to hand over information for specific reasons including the prevention or detection of crime.

But Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney at the digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the police actions were "troubling".

"By seizing the servers, the UK authorities pulled the plug on the entire Bristol website - our modern printing presses - and took down a host of political journalism.

"Every news publisher should be wondering, 'will I be silenced next?'"

Aside from the issue of press freedom, there is the question of whether police will be successful in getting hold of the IP address.

A spokeswoman from Indymedia says it does not keep them.

Articles remain

"We have scripts that run regularly that wipe IP addresses," she said.

"We make it a policy not to store them. But to say they are definitely not there is impossible."

What happens next is equally important.

A spokesman for QinetiQ said: "It is not just about data recovery. It is about the due diligence process the pc goes through to make the evidence admissible in court."

Indymedia says it cannot delete articles as this is too controversial for such a site, but did move the post in question to a part of the site "not easily accessible", because it breached their guidelines.

It will be up to the courts to decide what to do with Indymedia's server now.


Indymedia computer seized in pre-G8 police raid

A web server run by the Indymedia alternative news organisation has been seized by police in Bristol. An Indymedia volunter was also arrested during the raid.

A week before the 27 June raid, police demanded access to the server to gain the IP details of a message posted on the website - one method of tracking the originator of the message. The message itself had been deemed to breach the Bristol Indymedia groups editorial guidelines and had been removed from view on the site. The BBC reported that a man was later arrested in connection with alleged vandalism of cars in an environmental protest. The alternative media outlet is receiving advice from civil liberties organisations and the National Union of Journalists. The raid was linked to preparations for Group of Eight richest nations in Scotland; in October 2003, just prior to the European Social Forum, Indymedia servers in London were similarly seized by police.


Bristol Indymedia disabled by police raid
Posted: 29 June 2005 By: Jemima Kiss

Bristol's alternative news network Indymedia has been forced offline after police launched an investigation into an article that appeared to encourage vandalism.

Following a tip-off from an Indymedia reader, police raided a residential address on Monday seizing IT equipment and the server that hosts the group's site.

During the raid a Bristol Indymedia volunteer was arrested on a charge of incitement to criminal damage. The charge related to an article published on 17 June in which an anonymous person claimed to have dropped concrete blocks onto cars on a cargo train.

It is part of Indymedia's open publishing policy that controversial pieces should be 'hidden' on the site but not entirely removed. As the group felt that the article in question breached its editorial guidelines it was hidden one day after it was posted. In practice, this means that only a technically adept user, with an idea of how the story was worded when it first appeared, could relocate it.

In pursuit of the story's author, police requested access to the site's internet protocol (IP) logs which document the location of its users, but Indymedia refused on the grounds that the site's content should be protected by journalistic privilege.

Indymedia today told dotJournalism that a programming script deletes user's IP addresses from the site logs, and said it is unlikely that police could identify the unknown poster using the confiscated server.

"We don't really understand why our volunteer has been charged. It seems that anyone who hosts a website can be held responsible for someone else's actions," said a spokesperson for Indymedia.

"They appear to be attacking the fundamental principle of open publishing - and they don't understand that we operate without a large editorial team."

The group is now planning a fundraising event to raise money for new hosting space and to cover legal costs for the volunteer, due to be sentenced in October.

Volunteers are working on restoring the site using back-up data and expect Indymedia Bristol to be running again by the weekend.

The seizure is the second raid on Indymedia in eight months. In October 2004, the Indymedia network was brought down in 21 countries after an international police action to confiscate some of the group's servers from an internet service provider. No formal reason was given for the seizure, although the police operation was thought to be triggered by pictures which apparently showed undercover police at work during a demonstration in Geneva.

Bristol Indymedia was not affected by October's raids because the site housed its own independent server.


some more

30.06.2005 15:41

the story has also appeared today (30th june thursday) in tabloids like the express and the sun with the G8 angle to the fore and talking about damage to cars on trains.


Police raid servers ahead of G8 summit
Good thing we don't live in a police state
Iain Thomson, 29 Jun 2005

UK police have raided the Bristol offices of independent news network Indymedia and seized PC servers as part of an investigation in the run up to the forthcoming G8 meeting in Scotland.

The move is similar to a police raid on the alternative media outlet last October, when Indymedia servers in London were confiscated just prior to the European Social Forum.

Before police confiscated its servers, Indymedia Bristol stated: "We do not intend to voluntarily hand over information to the police as they have requested."

One person was reported to have been arrested during the raid. The independent news group said that it is receiving advice from civil liberties organisations and the National Union of Journalists.

The same article also appeared here:


Page 95 of todays Bristol Pisspoor

30.06.2005 17:33

The story has made page 95 (120 pages in total).
Notice that the attack on the train is referred to as "an alleged incident"

On a different issue, wasn't Bristol Indymedia also hosting an Iraqi Indymedia?



11:00 - 30 June 2005
Computer equipment used by a Bristol-based independent media network has been seized by police. Police demanded access to a server used by volunteer staff of Bristol Indymedia after complaints about a message on its internet site concerning rail vandalism

A 30-year-old man was arrested, and bailed, on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage.

A message was posted on the site on June 17 which gave details of an alleged incident in which rocks were thrown at a rail transporter carrying imported cars out of Royal Portbury Docks in Avonmouth.

The message, which was later removed from the site, also incited others to take similar action. Officers from British Transport Police seized the equipment on Monday.

Bristol Indymedia said a request was received from the police last week to hand over the server to gain the "IP" address - computer code revealing where the message was sent from. The original message was posted on the Indymedia site by a person using the pseudonym s.p.RAY of freshair.

In the message, the user claimed to have dropped rocks on to rail transporters carrying cars leaving the Royal Portbury docks.

Bristol Indymedia said volunteers hid the message from their main newswire within 24 hours of it being posted, as it violated its editorial policy, before police made contact.

British Transport Police said the message was posted on the internet shortly after several large rocks were thrown at 14 new motor vehicles on a car transporter train travelling between Portbury Docks and Bedminster, causing damage valued at £7,000.

A spokesman said: "British Transport Police launched an investigation into both the damage and the incitement to commit further damage, which remained on public view on the internet.

"On June 27, British Transport Police executed a warrant at an address in Bristol. During the search two computers were seized, one of which was the server for Bristol Indymedia.

"A 30-year-old man who lives on the premises was arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage. The man was later bailed for further enquiries to be made."

Before being legally forced to hand over the server, Bristol Indymedia issued a statement, which said: "We do not intend to voluntarily hand over information to the police as they have requested."

Once obtained, the IP address can then be used by internet service providers to track down computer users. British Transport Police is appealing to anyone who has information about the incident to contact them on 0800 405 040.

Bristol resident

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