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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FBI server seizure, attack on 'Anonymous speech'


The recent seizure of server providing anonymous remailer and other services at a co-loction facility by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has been described as attack on ‘Anonymous speech.’

ITRealms Online recalls that on Wednesday, April 18, at approximately 16:00 Eastern Time, U.S. Federal authorities removed a server from a colocation facility shared by Riseup Networks and May First/People Link in New York City.

The seized server was operated by the European Counter Network (“ECN”), the oldest independent internet service provider in Europe, who, among many other things, provided an anonymous remailer service, Mixmaster that was the target of an FBI investigation into the bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh.

Director, May First/People Link, Jamie McClelland said that the company running the facility has confirmed that the server was removed in conjunction with a search warrant issued at the request of the FBI.

“The server seizure is not only an attack against us, but an attack against all users of the Internet who depend on anonymous communication,” Jamie said.

He also notes that disrupted in this seizure were academics, artists, historians, feminist groups, gay rights groups, community centers, documentation and software archives and free speech groups.

The server, he explained included the mailing list “cyber rights” (the oldest discussion list in Italy to discuss this topic), a Mexican migrant solidarity group, and other groups working to support indigenous groups and workers in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

He further said that in total, over 300 email accounts, between 50-80 email lists, and several other websites have been taken off the Internet by this action, stressing that none has been alleged to be involved in the anonymous bomb threats.

“The seized machine did not contain any riseup email accounts, lists, or user data. Rather, the data belonged to ECN,” the joint press statement revealed.

“The FBI is using a sledgehammer approach, shutting down service to hundreds of users due to the actions of one anonymous person,” said Devin Theriot-Orr, a spokesperson for Riseup, adding that this is particularly misguided because there is unlikely to be any information on the server regarding the source of the threatening emails.

“We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh community who has to deal with this frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose such threatening actions. However, taking this server won’t stop these bomb threats. The only effect it has is to also disrupt e-mail and websites for thousands of unrelated people,” continues Mr. Theriot-Orr.

“Furthermore, the network of anonymous remailers that exists is not harmed by taking this machine. So we cannot help but wonder why such drastic action was taken when authorities knew that the server contained no useful information that would help in their investigation,” he said.

The FBI purportedly seized the server because it was hosting an anonymous remailer called Mixmaster.

Remmy Nweke
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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