Updated: 5/16/2006; 2:54:54 PM.

Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses


daily link  Monday, October 11, 2004


Bush's Sinking Credibility in the Battleground States:  Nice collection of local editorials.  11:24:09 AM  permalink  

FBI seizes independent media servers: Patriot Act plus MLAT results in international seizures of internet servers without formal explanation or recourse.  "The FBI has issued an order to hosting provider Rackspace in the US, ordering it to turn over two of the servers hosting the Independent Media Centre's websites in the UK, a statement from the group says.  Rackspace has offices in the US and the UK. Independent Media Center, which is better known as Indymedia, was set up in 1999 to provide grassroots coverage of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests in Seattle.

Rackspace complied with the FBI order, without first notifying Indymedia, and turned over Indymedia's server in the UK. This affects over 20 Indymedia sites worldwide, the group said.   Indymedia said it did not know why the order had been issued as it was issued to Rackspace. Rackspace told some of the group's volunteers "they cannot provide Indymedia with any information regarding the order." ISPs have received gag orders in similar situations which prevent them from updating the parties involved on what is happening."

A UK analysis dug further, in Home Office in frame over FBI's London server seizures:  "Statewatch analysis. Statewatch considers that the seizure is likely to have been made under a US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) of 1996, but it seems doubtful that the Indymedia request could have been justified under even the broad terms of this treaty.  Indymedia itself does not know why its servers were seized, while Rackspace, the hosting company which was compelled to hand them over, issued a statement saying it was complying with a court order under an MLAT, and that the court prohibited it from commenting further. Under the terms of this MLAT (there are more in the works, and others now litter the globe's legal systems) the Home Office may not admit that a request has been made. The FBI commented to Agence France Presse that this was not an FBI operation but a subpoena issued "on behalf of a third country" and that the FBI was acting for the Swiss and Italian governments. 

Indymedia had been contacted recently by the FBI and Swiss authorities regarding two photos of Swiss undercover police published on Indymedia's French site, IMC Nantes. The police had been handling the G8 events in Switzerland in 2003, but their identities do not appear to have been clear in the photos. .. 

And even if there were something far more serious involved than just a couple of photos, the procedure ought to send shivers down the spine of every publishing organisation on the Internet. It is clearly perfectly possible for their operations to be crippled without warning, without their being told what it is they've done, and without explanation. Depending on whether the authorities (under the international MLAT regime this could be many, many authorities) want something you've got or just want to stop you doing something, the crippling could be pretty extensive and pretty long term. If they want you to stop doing something then they'll quite likely want your backups as well, and if you've no servers, no backups, and no idea when/if you're getting them back, two photos is going to be the least of your worries. ..

According to Indymedia in the AFP report: "The order was so short-term that Rackspace had to give away our hard drives in the UK." This suggests that the FBI requested something that was on the hard disk, now and that handing over the hard disk or the server was the only way to comply. So although the authorities will have known very well that they would be carrying off the hardware, the request itself quite possibly did not specify this. It is however clear from the MLAT's terms that it was devised primarily in order to detain or question individuals, and that if it has indeed been used here, the treaty has been to some extent repurposed."

  8:38:02 AM  permalink  

 
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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 2:54:54 PM.