Indymedia servers seized by FBI following international investigation

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by Jonathan Lawson

Independent Media Center activists today reported that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents confiscated hard drives housing a number of Indymedia websites from the Dallas and London offices of internet service provider Rackspace. The seizure, evidently occasioned by a court order, follows a week during which the FBI questioned IMC activists and Rackspace about information posted to a French Indymedia site.

On Oct. 1, two FBI officers visited Seattle IMC volunteer Devin Theriot-Orr to request that certain information be removed from the french-language Indymedia Nantes site. The article in question, posted days earlier, included photos of two men who the anonymous author claimed were Swiss undercover police officers posing as anti-G8 protesters during Geneva protests.

In an email to other Indymedia volunteers, Theriot-Orr wrote that the agents claimed their visit was

merely a courtesy to the Swiss government, who had requested that the identifying information be removed. They were careful to state that no laws had been violated and that there was no crime at issue, it was just a courtesy request. They also clarified that this was not a request to remove the photographs, just the identifying information.

Theriot-Orr explained that the Seattle IMC had no formal association with the IMC in Nantes, and the officers left.

Around the same time, Nantes Indymedia volunteers received a message from Rackspace indicating that the FBI had contacted the ISP with instructions to remove the controversial post. Not wishing to endanger several other international Indymedia sites also hosted by Rackspace, Nantes Indymedia adminstrators evidently decided to alter the photos by obscuring the officers' faces. [link to Nantes IMC���currently offline]

Several days passed before the FBI's seizure of Rackspace computer equipment. The confiscated servers hosted local/regional Indymedia sites based in Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East. The decentralized nature of the Indymedia network allowed IMC volunteers to quickly restore most of the affected websites. As of Thursday afternoon, the Nantes site remains inaccessible.

For Theriot-Orr and other Indymedia activists in Seattle, the FBI's visit brought a sense of d?�j?� vu. During the Quebec City FTAA protests in April 2001, FBI and Secret Service agents slapped Seattle IMC volunteers with a court order demanding the release of server logs; the agents claimed to be investigating information posted to a Canadian Indymedia site.

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