28 June 2005
More Indymedia seizures
ON THE eve of the G8 summit in Scotland police in
Bristol have seized the server computer that runs the local
Indymedia "newswire" - and a group in Italy have discovered that
police have been intercepting legally sensitive communications for a year.
At about 5:30pm on Monday (27 June) British Transport police visited the
home of a member of the Bristol Indymedia Collective (BIC). They arrested
him and charged him with incitement to criminal damage, and seized the
computer that hosted Bristol Indymedia information as well as personal
computers. That evening they bailed him for a date in October.
Indymedia centres operate open "newswires". As well as
collective members researching and publishing stories, any internet
user can post stories or comments. Ten days previously, someone posted
a message of which the least incoherent parts called for people to
"stick two fingers up to this oil-addicted society," mentioning
trainloads of new cars shipped from Portbury Dock and "dropping rocks
onto useless pieces of metal".
The Freelance understands that a person who had fallen out
with BIC reported this message to the police, telling them that BIC would
be able to identify the person who wrote it from a log of the
computer addresses ("IP numbers") of such contributors. Indymedia
sites do not retain such details. BIC had removed the message in question
from the public site before police emailed them.
When the police contacted them. BIM called the NUJ and civil liberties
organisation Liberty, who argued that demanding information from Indymedia
requires a special warrant to obtain journalistic material under the Police
and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Asked about this, a British Transport Police
spokesperson said "A warrant was obtained; I don't know the details. ...
Website server - I don't know if you could describe it as journalistic material?"
They later clarified that "We obtained a Section 8 [PACE] Warrant after
discussing with the Crown Prosecution Service who said we didn't need a
Section 9 / Schedule 1 [journalistic material] warrant." Section 8 warrants
cover evidence-gathering except where privileged, excluded (that is,
confidential or medical) or "special procedure" (that is, other
journalistic) material is involved.
The NUJ has strongly supported Indymedia, particularly when the main
Indymedia UK servers in London were seized by persons unknown, claiming
to be acting for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, just before the
European Social Forum gathering in London on 7 October 2004.
That seizure appears to have originated with a request from the Italian
government to a court in Texas. Many believe that the motive was to obtain
confidential lawyer-client communications concerning the
police attack on 22 July 2001 on the school
building that Indymedia used as a base during protests around the Genoa
G8 meeting in and subsequent lawsuits.
On Tuesday evening BIC issued this statement:
We are outraged at the actions of the police. They have completely
disabled the entire Bristol Indymedia news service. By their
actions they have undermined the principle of open publishing and
free access to the media, thereby removing people's opportunity to
read and report their own news. This situation has serious
implications for anyone providing a news service on the Internet.
We do not intend to let this stop us from continuing the project.
And an even more independent information service in Italy -
- reports discovering that on 15 June 2004 police secretly obtained copies of
the passwords and encryption keys used to keep emails sent through their system
According to Indymedia USA
the server was turned off while the police were copying data: asked why
it was off, the hosting company Aruba said there had been a power
failure. They may have been forced to lie: in the UK, for example,
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act makes it an offence
punishable by five years in prison to reveal that you have been
ordered to reveal an encryption key - see here.
The server in question hosts email accounts and mailing lists
- including those of the Genoa Legal Forum and HREF="http://https://supportolegale.org/">supportolegale.org.
These are likely to have conveyed privileged lawyer-client communications
concering the post-Genoa lawsuits. This raises the gravest of suspicions
over the Italian authorities' motives for intercepting these