[Media-watch] Indymedia servers returned - The Register - 14/10/2004

Julie-ann Davies jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Oct 14 16:24:01 BST 2004


Servers seized by FBI returned - but who wanted what?
By John Lettice
Published Thursday 14th October 2004 09:51 GMT

The Indymedia hardware seized in London last week were put back in place
over the last 24 hours, but their return puts the UK Home Office even
more on the spot. The original hard disks, apparently with the original
data, have been returned, which suggests strongly that the authorities
wanted sight of information that is on them.

Who these authorities are remains as open a question as what they wanted
to see, but given the convoluted nature of the seizure process (the FBI
apparently acting under a US-UK treaty on behalf of Switzerland and/or
Italy to seize hardware in London), the British Home Office must surely
have been presented with at least a flimsy pretext for its approval of
the operation.

Further mystery is added by the circumstances of the return. Rackspace,
the hosting company involved, alerted Indymedia to their return
yesterday morning, saying: "I was just told that the court order is
being complied with and your servers in London will be online at 5pm
GMT." But what court order? And why is being complied with? The
Orwellian nature of the powers likely to have been used in the case
severely restrict Rackspace's ability to tell its customer, or anybody
else, what's going on, and can also be used (on US request) to bind the
Home Office to confidentiality. Not that any compulsion is usually
necessary here.

Although the data on the drives appears intact, Indymedia is treating
them as potentially compromised, and won't boot them or take the servers
live until they've been verified. Depending on what was done to them
when they were in the hands of, er, whoever, there may be some slight
chance that the verification will throw up some clues. And if
information was being sought as evidence in a pending court case, then
information on how this evidence was obtained and by what process will
also have to be produced. If the process turns out not to have been one
that would be accepted by a court, then it will be likely that direct
evidence-gathering was not the intent. Which would raise even more
questions about the validity of the use of an MLAT, and the Home
Office's involvement in it.

Richard Allan, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield, Hallam, has tabled a
Parliamentary question to the Home Office asking David Blunkett "what
recent discussions he has had with US law enforcement agencies
concerning the seizure of material from UK-based internet hosting
providers; and if he will make a statement." This is to be dealt with
later today. MPs in the National Union of Journalists' Parliamentary
Group are also tabling questions. ®

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