This Monday (9 February 2009), Kent Police arrested a man in Sheffield under the Serious Crime Act 2007 in relation to the recent Indymedia server seizure. His home was raided, all computer equipment and related papers taken. He was released after eight hours. The person had neither technical, administrative nor editorial access to the Indymedia UK website. He was only associated to the project by hosting its server.
The arrest took place under Section 44-46 of the Serious Crime Act, which was passed into law on 1st October 2008 to combat serious international crime like drug trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and armed robbery. Sections 44-46 refer to “encouraging or assisting offences”.
Kent police claim that they are after the IP address of the poster of two anonymous comments to a report about a recent animal liberation court case, which included personal details of the Judge. The IP address of the poster is not stored as Indymedia does not log IP addresses. This was acknowledged by British Transport Police in 2005, after the Bristol IMC server seizure.
For the police to arrest the person who happened to sign the contract for server hosting, is sheer intimidation, in light of Indymedia’s openly stated policy of no IP logging.
With the implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive in March 2009, the UK government attempts to turn every internet service provider in the country into part of the law enforcement apparatus. This legislation will provide a legal basis to track, intimidate, harass, and arrest people who are doing valuable and necessary work for social change, for example as peace activists, campaigners for economic and social justice or against police brutality.
The present intimidation of the open publishing alternative news platform Indymedia will have serious implications for anyone running a server in the UK which allows user contributions – blogs, social networking sites, wikis. This is an attempt to close down sites that respect the privacy of their contributors, pure and simple.
Our fears about the wretched Serious Crime Act 2007, and its likely use to chill political dissent and free speech appear to have been borne out.
See our previous article: Serious Crime Act 2007 - proof of how useless the Opposition is to Labour's repressive legal fantasies
The Register reports the chilling news that:
By Chris Williams
Posted in Law, 10th February 2009 15:01 GMT
A Sheffield man has been released on police bail after being questioned in connection with comments posted to the activist news website Indymedia, which included the personal details of a prominent High Court judge.
Note that the controversial new Terrorism Act 2000 section 58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc., brought in by the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 section 76, does not apply to Judges, juries or prison officers who might be at risk from terrorists or serious criminals.
The man, in his 40s and thought to work as a systems administrator, was arrested on Monday and questioned for about eight hours. He has been bailed without charge to appear at a police station in May. His home was searched and computer equipment and paperwork seized.
The comments at the centre of the investigation were critical of Mr Justice Neil Butterfield for the landmark blackmail sentences he handed down to seven animal rights extremists last month. One posting encouraged other Indymedia users to use the personal information to contact Butterfield and "to let this friend of [animal testing firm Huntingdon Life Sciences] know exactly what you think about him".
Indymedia administrators deleted the personal information soon after it was posted, but they were contacted by Kent Police the following day requesting the IP addresses of the posters. The Kent force carried out the original investigation that resulted in the blackmail sentences handed down by Butterfield.
Indymedia told Kent Police it does not record IP addresses. The same day the force seized a server belonging to Indymedia and hosted at Manchester-based colocation provider UK Grid.
The Register understands that the man arrested was not responsible for either of the comments and is not an Indymedia activist or administrator. Rather the server was hosted by UK Grid under a contract in his name, along with several others on behalf of unrelated clients.
He was arrested under sections 44-46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007, which came into force on October 1 last year. The relevant sections criminalise "intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence", "encouraging or assisting an offence believing it will be committed" and "encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed".
A spokeswoman for Kent Police confirmed the man was arrested on "suspicion of incitement" under the Serious Crime Act.
Indymedia has a long-standing policy of not retaining IP address logs to preserve anonymity, and the hard drive of the server taken from UK Grid was encrypted, as were the drives taken from the man's home. It's understood police did not use Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) powers to demand he turn over any encryption keys.
Refusing to provide encryption keys is an offence under section 49 of RIPA and carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
Who now doubts that we are living in a Police state under this unpopular and increasingly hated repressive Labour government ?
What happened to freedom of speech on the internet or even in the mainstream media ?
Who will be next ?
If the mainstream media and the UK political blogosphere and the UK telecomms and Internet Service Provider industries do not kick up a huge fuss about this case, then the terrorists will have won, by provoking this morally weak Government into
destroying our fundamental human right of free speech.
technically we are all already subject to RIPA, as it is an Act of Parliament, which covers the entire United Kingdom, and lays legal claim to "communications systems" anywhere "within the UK" or "outside of the UK" i.e. the entire known and unknown universe, which may use any "electrical" or "electromagnetic" signals, up to and beyond Morse Code messages sent by exploding supernova stars etc.
Unlike with the previous Indymedia computer server seizure scandal in 2004, this time it was the UK police who caused the "collateral damage" to all the other unrelated international websites and forums hosted on the seized machine. Back in 2004, the UK authorities shrugged their shoulders and claimed to know nothing about the international "mutual legal assistance" request which led a UK subsidiary of a US company to cave in and hand over server hard disks to foreign intelligence and police agencies, without any sort of UK warrant.
This time the UK police are directly to blame, and simply must not be allowed to arrest, harass or persecute someone who is not even the publisher of the website in question, let alone the person who posted something dubious, but probably not illegal.
Indymedia may be a publisher but they are definately not "Communications Service Providers", within the meaning of RIPA or the Communications Act 2003 i.e. they are not regulated Telecommunications or Internet Service Provider companies.
Nobody can be forced by RIPA to log stuff or to retain logfiles for things which they have no need for, for business or technical administration reasons.
The EU Directive on mandatory Data Retention for internet logfiles does not come into force until April 6th this year. Neither it, nor the UK Regulations which will implement it contain any criminal or financial penalties for Communications Service providers if they refuse to, or are technically unable to, log IP addresses etc.
The list of hundreds of Public Bodies under RIPA is a list of bodies who are allowed to demand access to copies of any logfiles which happen to exist, or which have not been destroyed as they otherwise would have been, under the current Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 voluntary