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    USA Goverment Relations FBI Shows UN How Internet Governance is Really Done
    posted by Mueller on Wednesday October 13 2004, @10:49AM

    On 7 October 2004 two Indymedia Web Servers were seized from the US-owned web hosting company Rackspace operating in London (UK), at the request of the US Justice Department, which apparently acted at the prompting of Italian and Swiss authorities. As a bald display of global power causing "collateral damage" to free expression, the action is becoming a cause celebre among communication-information activists and has important implications for the Internet governance debate.



    Indymedia is an global alternative media network that provides challenging and independent reporting, particularly of political and social justice issues, with a newswire where any member of the public can publish their own reports and articles. The Indymedia network is composed of "wiki-like" Web sites in which anyone is free to post articles and comments.

    The servers appear to have been seized under a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). Besides Britain and the USA being partners in the MLAT which allows in certain cases to prosecute citizens from a country at the request of the other country's justices, this still needs to be done in compliance with the legal standards of the affected country (in this case, Britain). Taking into account the above, it seems this might not have been the case.

    According to Carlos Afonso of Brazil's RITS, "Indymedia in Britain hosted its servers in a USA corporation subsidiary - Rackspace - in Britain. Thus, the corporation is forced to abide by the imposition of American justice, and this includes its subsidiaries. The obvious question is why Indymedia took such a risk, when there are several other, legally less vulnerable, alternatives?"

    The alleged reason for the shutdown was the publication of the photos of two Swiss undercover agents by an Italian Indymedia center. "Their images are all over the Internet by now, which turns the apparently illegal seizure into even more nonsense," says Afonso.

    The global advocacy organization Association for Progressive Communications issued a statement strongly condemning the seizure:

    "The seizure of the servers in London shut down around 20 different Indymedia websites including Ambazonia, Uruguay, Andorra, Poland, Western Massachusetts, Nice, Nantes, Lilles, Marseille, Euskal Herria (Basque Country), Liege, East and West Vlaanderen, Antwerpen (all Belgium), Belgrade, Portugal, Prague, Galiza, Italy, Brazil, UK, and parts of Germany Indymedia. Many are still offline, those few that have returned have suffered data loss.

    "The particular legal framework under which the seizures took place is unknown. Five Days after the seizures there is still an almost total information blackout from the authorities in the UK, US, Switzeland and Italy. Indymedia still has no confirmation of who ordered the seizures, who took the servers in London, why the seizures took place, where the servers are now located, and whether they will be returned.

    "We [APC] are concerned over the growing use of international co-operation frameworks by Governments and Law enforcement agencies which can be used to obscure clear legal process, and call for openness and clarity in international co-operation, to ensure due process and that civil liberties are protected.

    "Statements of support for Indymedia and condemnation of the shutting down of over 20 Media outlets have been recieved from The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The International Federation of Journalists, the National Union of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters and many other organisations.

    "Indymedia UK condemns the seizure of the servers as an unacceptable and unprecedented attack on press freedom, free speech and privacy and asks for urgent solidarity action in demanding:

    "RECOMMENDED ACTION:
    Please write to the British Home Secretary and the US Attorney General:

    1. Expressing grave concern at the action taken against Indymedia.
    2. Demanding the immediate return of the servers to Indymedia with all data intact.
    3. Requesting a full investigation into the circumstances and legality of the action taken to seize the Indymedia servers and to close Indymedia websites, with the disclosure of the names of the organisations and individuals involved in the seizure.

    APPEALS TO:
    Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
    Home Secretary
    The Home Office
    London - UK
    Email: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

    John Ashcroft
    Attorney General
    US Department of Justice
    Washington - USA
    Email: askdoj@usdoj.gov

    Please send copies of letters to: imc-uk-contact@lists.indymedia.org

    Organisations and individuals are also encouraged to issue their own statements in support of Indymedia and against the seizure of the servers.

    Please send copies to: imc-uk-contact@lists.indymedia.org Additionaly organisations and indivduals can add their statements of support here: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/10/298931.htm " For background on the Server Seizures see:
    http://indymedia.org/en/static/fbi
    http://www.indymedia.org
    http://www.indymedia.org.uk

     
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      Related Links  
    · Electronic Frontier Foundation
    · RITS
    · Association for Progressive Communications
    · Indymedia
    · More USA Goverment Relations stories
    · Also by Mueller
     
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    FBI Shows UN How Internet Governance is Really Done | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 4 comments | Search Discussion
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    You need to rethink "internet governance"
    by Mueller ({mueller} {at} {syr.edu}) on Thursday October 14 2004, @08:38AM (#14350)
    User #2901 Info | http://istweb.syr.edu/~mueller/
    Wrong.
    This IS global internet governance because it involves the use of international treaties among governments in a way that affects the basic operations of Internet connectivity. If taking down an entire string of websites because of the content published is not internet governance, what is? (the content may or may not have been illegal, that is not the point)

    "Routine police investigation?" Not at all. It's extraterritorial, for one thing; routine police investigations involve authorities acting within their own jurisdiction. What's even less "routine" about this case is the indirect ussage of the MLT: the FBI had no interest in the case at all; the Swiss and Italian law enforcement authorities were using a USA-UK agreement to gain access to the servers of a US company with operations in England. Globalized law.

    If ISPs get a lot of these kind of cases it underscores my main point: so many people in the US hear about the UN and WSIS getting involved in "Internet governance" and they start to scream "omigod, governments are intefering with the [otherwise free] internet!" And this is kinda dumb and borderline hypocritical, isn't it? When US government agencies can cooperate to suppress expression on the Internet and impose gag orders on everyone involved based on (nontransparent) requests by law enforcement authorities in other countries, it is obvious that we already have substantial means of government intervention that can be and is being used to suppress certain kinds of content on the Internet.

    The real issue is, when did the public get any kind of input into that system of governance? Whose interests does it serve? Is it being abused?

    In our discussions of Internet governance and threats from government to the free operation of the Internet, let's stop being distracted by scare talk about Chinese censorship - let's look at who's actions are REALLY haveing a global impact on the Internet - it's the good old USA.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • one more try by Mueller Saturday October 16 2004, @07:29PM
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