From: RozNews@aol.com
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 23:00:30 EDT

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    Hello, I though folks would be interested in this note I just received. my
    best, roz





    27 APRIL 2001

    CONTACT: Seattle Independent Media Center 206.262.0721

    On the evening of Saturday, April 21, a day during which tens of thousands

    demonstrated against the FTAA in the streets of Quebec City, the Independent

    Media Center in Seattle was served with a sealed court order by two FBI

    agents and an agent of the US Secret Service. The terms of the sealed order

    prevented IMC volunteers from publicizing its terms; volunteers immediately

    began discussions with legal counsel to amend the order. This morning, April

    27, Magistrate Judge Monica Benton issued an amended order, freeing us to

    discuss the situation without the threat of being held in contempt.

    The original order, also issued by Judge Benton, directed the IMC to supply

    the FBI with "all user connection logs" for April 20 and 21st from a web

    server occupying an IP address which the Secret Service believed belonged to

    the IMC. The order stated that this was part of an "ongoing criminal

    investigation" into acts that could constitute violations of Canadian law,

    specifically theft and mischief. IMC legal counsel David Sobel, of the

    Electronic Privacy Information Center, comments: "As the U.S. Supreme Court

    has recognized, the First Amendment protects the right to communicate

    anonymously with the press and for political purposes. An order compelling

    the disclosure of information identifying an indiscriminately large number

    of users of a website devoted to political discourse raises very serious

    constitutional issues. To provide the same protection to the press and

    anonymous sources in the Internet world as with more traditional media, the

    Government must be severely limited in its ability to demand their Internet

    identity--their "Internet Protocol addresses." A federal statute already

    requires that such efforts against the press be approved by the Attorney

    General, and only where essential and after alternatives have been

    exhausted. There is no suggestion that these standards were met here.

    The sealed court order also directed the IMC not to disclose "the existence

    of this Application or Order, or the existence of this investigation, unless

    or until ordered by this court." Such a prior restraint on a media

    organization goes to the heart of the First Amendment. Ironically, the

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer learned about the existence of the order from

    "federal sources," suggesting that the purpose of the gag order was simply

    to allow the government to spin the issue its way.

    The order did not specify what acts were being investigated, and the Secret

    Service agent acknowledged that the IMC itself was not suspected of criminal

    activity. No violation of US law was alleged. It is not clear whether

    federal law allows the Attorney General ever to approve such an

    investigation of US press entities to facilitate a foreign investigation.

    According to IMC counsel Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

    "This kind of fishing expedition is another in a long line of overbroad and

    onerous attempts to chill political speech and activism. Back in 1956,

    Alabama tried to force the NAACP to give up its membership lists -- but the

    Supreme Court stopped them. This order to IMC, even without the 'gag,' is a

    threat to free speech, free association, and privacy."

    Responding to questions from IMC volunteers, the agents claimed that their

    investigation concerned the source of either one or two postings which, they

    said, had been posted to an IMC newswire early Saturday morning. These

    posts, according to the agents, contained documents stolen from a Canadian

    government agency, including classified information related to the travel

    itinerary of George W. Bush (who was at that time in Quebec City,

    participating in Summit of the Americas meetings). Agents claimed that the

    Secret Service was notified of the existence of such posts by a tip from an

    (unnamed) major commercial news network.

    The agents were unable to provide URL addresses or titles for the postings

    they described. Additionally, the court order contained a non-working IP

    address, rather than an address assigned to any of the IMC sites. IMC

    volunteers nevertheless were able to identify two articles posted to the

    Montreal IMC which partially matched the agents' incomplete description.

    These articles, posted first in French and then in English translations

    (http://montreal.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=505, 514 and 515),

    contain sections of documents purportedly stolen from a Quebec City police

    car during Friday night anti-FTAA demonstrations; the documents detail

    police strategies for hindering protesters' mass action. It does not appear

    that any materials were posted to any IMC site containing Bush1s travel


    Although the agents were concerned with only two posts, the court order

    demands "all user connections logs" for a 48-hour period, which would

    include individual IP addresses for every person who posted materials to or

    visited the IMC site during the FTAA protests. IMC legal counsel Nancy

    Chang, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, comments that "the overbroad

    sweep of the information demanded by the FBI raises the disturbing question

    of whether the order is calculated to discourage association with the IMC."

    The agents arrived at the IMC around 7pm. Seattle IMC volunteers had been

    busy all afternoon gathering regional IMC coverage of FTAA protests underway

    in Seattle and in Blaine, Washington, and coordinating coverage with other

    sites on the IMC network. Several visitors were also in the IMC at the time,

    using public computers.. While agents were speaking with one staff

    volunteer, another began making telephone calls in an effort to contact

    legal counsel. After the agents left, volunteers discussed the court order's

    gag provision, and began recontacting the handful of people who had already

    been called, in order to make sure that the terms of the court order would

    not be violated before legal counsel had time to appraise the situation.

    Initial attempts were made to contain news of the FBI/Secret Service visit;

    however, a few details of the story were soon leaked via a partially

    accurate report broadcast on the Vermont IMC internet radio stream. Soon the

    Seattle IMC was flooded with phone calls requesting information about what

    quickly began to be described as an "FBI raid," and speculations began to

    spread rapidly across the open-publishing newswires of various IMCs.

    For about three hours, a network of IMC technology volunteers attempted to

    comply with the court order by removing such posts from the Seattle IMC and

    other major IMC sites as they appeared. This had the unfortunate effect of

    seemingly confirming the worst suspicions of independent journalists who

    posted brief articles announcing or speculating about mysterious and

    terrible things going on at the Seattle IMC, then finding their posts

    removed from view minutes later. Volunteers called off this clumsy attempt

    at rumor control around midnight, when it became clear that removing of

    posts was only serving to fan the flames of rumor, and that in any case the

    story had already spread beyond the confines of the IMC network. In acting

    to remove these posts, IMC volunteers were motivated by fear of violating

    the court order's gag provision even before legal counsel had had a chance

    to review the document. We regret the feelings of confusion and

    disempowerment which many users of the IMC sites experienced due to Saturday

    night's blackout of postings on this topic, and the general frustration

    caused by the gag order.

    Since the incident occurred, several persistent, yet false, rumors have

    taken shape; some of these found their way into coverage published in

    Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other commercial media. We can now

    dispel some of the more common of these: No search warrant was served on IMC

    in connection with the court order, and nobody connected to the Seattle IMC

    has been arrested. No equipment or logs have been seized; the agents' visit

    was not a "raid."

    Now, free from restrictive court orders, the Seattle IMC will be able to

    cover this important story as it continues to unfold.

    The Seattle Independent Media Center was launched in Fall 1999 to provide

    immediate, authentic, grassroots coverage of protests against the WTO. Just

    a year and a half later, the IMC network has reached around the world, with

    dozens of sites scattered across six continents. IMCs are autonomously

    organized and administered, but share collective organizational principles

    and certain technological resources. Each IMC's news coverage centers upon

    its open-publishing newswire, an innovative and democratizing system

    allowing anyone with access to an Internet connection to become a

    journalist, reporting on events from his or her own perspective rather than

    being forced to rely on the narrow range of views presented by

    corporate-owned mainstream media sources.

    During last weekend's widespread protests against a proposed Free Trade Area

    of the Americas, many IMC sites collaborated to produce comprehensive

    coverage of demonstrations taking place in Quebec City and Sao Paulo, as

    well as solidarity protests in cities across the U.S. and along the Mexican

    and Canadian borders. The breadth and depth of coverage produced by the

    IMC's global network eclipsed that of many corporate media outlets.

    The Seattle IMC remains committed to its mission: "The Independent Media

    Center is a grassroots organization committed to using media production and

    distribution as a tool for promoting social and economic justice. It is our

    goal to further the self-determination of people under-represented in media

    production and content, and to illuminate and analyze local and global

    issues that impact ecosystems, communities and individuals. We seek to

    generate alternatives to the biases inherent in the corporate media

    controlled by profit, and to identify and create positive models for a

    sustainable and equitable society."


    Seattle Independent Media Center

    1415 3rd Ave.

    Seattle, WA, 98101


    206.262.9905 fax


    David Burman, IMC counsel

    Perkins Coie LLP

    1201 Third Ave., 40th Floor

    Seattle, WA 98101



    Alan Korn, Attorney with the National Lawyers Guild

    Center on Democratic Communication


    David Sobel, General Counsel

    Electronic Privacy Information Center

    Suite 200, 1718 Connecticut Avenue, NW

    Washington, DC 20009


    Nancy Chang, Senior Litigation Attorney

    Center for Constitutional Rights

    666 Broadway, 7th Floor

    New York, NY 10012


    Lee Tien, Senior Staff Attorney

    Electronic Frontier Foundation

    454 Shotwell Street

    San Francisco, CA 94110



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