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FBI INDYMEDIA Web-Server Seizure: Real Reason Is Private Lawsuit

Events this week in Geneva, Switzerland, will reveal that the FBI's seizure of two Internet servers of Indymedia Web sites in England (!) was to provide evidence for a private lawsuit in Switzerland (!). A Swiss judge will receive a civil complaint on behalf of two Geneva undercover men who say they were wrongfully outted, insulted, and threatened on Indymedia. Indymedia observers have been baffled by the FBI seizure, since the post seems harmless. But there are other posts, presented here for the first time, that could be the real targets.
(originally posted on NYC Indymedia)
Photo:  http://www.tdg.ch/tghome/toute_info/geneve_et_region/fbi_g8__7_10_.html

(Mon., Oct. 11, 2004) As early as today, examining magistrate Isabelle Cuendet in Geneva will be ready to receive a complaint from attorney Marc Oederlin on behalf of two local policemen known only by the first name of one, Mike, and of course by their photographs on the Indymedia website for Nantes, France. (Indymedia is a moderated forum on which independent journalists post articles on globalization, war, and social injustice.)

The officers are suing, presumably for monetary damages, unknown person(s) by whom they say they were insulted and threatened, as well as exposed by having their pictures and the name and address of one of the pair published. Translations of known -- and new, for the first time -- posts are included toward the end so the reader can judge along with magistrate Cuendet. Posts that prompted these claims are the apparent object of the FBI raid. (Yes, we know, the FBI is supposed to investigate crimes and it is a *US* law enforcement agency.)

The original post on September 9, 2004, (don't bother clicking on it; it has been removed) was  http://nantes.indymedia.org/article.php3?id_article=3910. This post by a person using the pseudonym "Jackouille" showed four photos of Mike and friend. This post is now mirrored at  http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/mtoups/nantes/copsinnantes.htm .

Indymedia became aware of a problem with the post on September 22, according to this message from the administrator of the server that has since been seized by the FBI:
administering ahimsa server in London
> Organization: Indymedia
> To: ahimsa-tech a lists.indymedia.org, imc-legal a lists.indymedia.org
> I just got this trouble ticket from Rackspace (the ISP hosting
> the server that hosts Nantes):
> =================================
> Wed Sep 22 10:59:56 2004
> Hello,
> We have received a complain from the FBI regarding some images
> and material hosted on your server on the page below.
>  http://nantes.indymedia.org/article.php3?id%20article=3910
> Please remove this material immediately and we understand that
> it contains personal information regarding two Swiss police
> officers as well as threats against them.
> Regards,
> Jennifer O'Connell
> Rackspace AUP
A French Independent Media collective in Nice removed the article briefly and posted revised versions by geneX on September 23 and 26. In the revisions, the cops' faces were covered with ski masks and replaced by the faces of police-show TV actors.

On Thursday of last week, October 21, the FBI, served a "commissioner's subpoena" on the Rackspace ISP in London and seized the two servers hosting about two dozen sites in 17 countries [Ambazonia, Uruguay, Andorra, Poland, Western Massachusetts, Nice, Nantes, Lilles, Marseille (all France), Euskal Herria (Basque Country), Liege, East and West Vlaanderen, Antwerpen (all Belgium), Belgrade, Portugal, Prague, Galiza, Italy, Brazil, UK, part of the Germany site, and the global Indymedia Radio site]. (The FBI is no slacker when it comes to globalization. Foreign reactions will be interesting.)

Rackspace then issued the following statement:

Rackspace Statement Regarding Indymedia
By Annalie Drusch
Director, Corporate Communications
Rackspace Managed Hosting

Friday 08 October 2004

In the present matter regarding Indymedia, Rackspace Managed Hosting,
a U.S. based company with offices in London, is acting in compliance
with a court order pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty
(MLAT), which establishes procedures for countries to assist each
other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping
and money laundering. Rackspace responded to a Commissioner's
subpoena, duly issued under Title 28, United States Code, Section 1782
in an investigation that did not arise in the United States. Rackspace
is acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with
international law enforcement authorities. The court prohibits
Rackspace from commenting further on this matter.

The statement begs the question, How can a subpoena issued under US law be executed in England? Also, the FBI action was at least high-handed and possibly illegal, as the FBI apparently did not bother to inform the London Metropolitan Police or the British Home Office of its actions on their turf, according to the Guardian newspaper in London. (Legally, the FBI isn't a police force even in the US; it is an investigative agency.) It is possible the FBI has even violated the sovereignty of the UK as well as the rights of citizens in 17 countries.

The FBI acknowledged that a subpoena had been issued but said it was at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities. "It is not an FBI operation," FBI spokesman Joe Parris told the French news agency AFP. "Through a legal assistance treaty, the subpoena was on behalf of a third country." The FBI spokesman said there was no US investigation but that the agency cooperated under the terms of an international treaty on law enforcement (the MLAT).

Swiss news media reported that the FBI action was requested by the Geneva police and that the police have confirmed that the two policemen are suing whoever posted their photos. (Since when does the FBI act as a private detective agency to secure evidence for a civil suit -- in Switzerland?)

There are some very large national and international legal and diplomatic issues raised by the FBI action.

The actions of Rackspace, the ISP, in reflexively caving in to an FBI request under such flimsy pretexts are especially troubling. Rackspace told Indymedia that they had so little notice from the FBI that they had to physically give away the hard drives with the Indymedia data. Fortunately, INDYMEDIA DOES NOT LOG USERS AND CONTRIBUTORS.

Nantes Indymedia post 3190 clearly does not involve any of the crimes named in the Rackspace statement: terrorism, kidnapping, and money laundering. It is very possible that the FBI action is not covered by the MLAT treaty at all. The photos merely show two men talking -- and one mugging for the camera. The text claims that the men are undercover agents of a Geneva police task force that had brutalized protestors at a G8 wealthy-countries meeting on June 1-3 in 2003. Some of the anti-anti-G8 officers (not the ones shown) have been convicted of criminal violence that exceeds US police actions against protests. There are gory photos of this violence on the Internet, and much bitterness remains at G8 protest sites like Geneva and Evian.

One possible motivation for post 3190 was that the Geneva police G8 task force had published wanted posters of suspected *potential* lawbreakers on a police Web site, photos taken by undercover cops like Mike and friend. This offers one avenue of defense for whoever turned the tables by publishing the police photos, if Jackouille ever is identified.

Below, loosely translated, is post 3190, which the FBI requested Rackspace to remove and which probably partly precipitated the FBI attack. (Even more informative are subsequent comments posted about this article, which could be the real reason for the attack.)

Photographs of 2 police officers (G8 unit)

By Jackouille

GENEVA post-G8: Videos, photographs and testimonies: All is set to track law-breakers and hooligans. A carefully planned work continued today by two inspectors, which has led to 200 arrests so far.

The G8 police force unit had been dissolved in December 2003; however, it took up service again, in smaller numbers -- two inspectors.

These inspectors view films and photographs received from informers and from other police officers.

They come to the streets of Geneva where they plan on finding "law-breakers/hooligans."

They take new photographs -- perhaps to make a database of activists because they think that they can be the future "law-breakers/hooligans" of future riots in Geneva?

As one of the 2 inspectors says to another: "I saw two of my colleagues being lynched during meetings against WTO, in 1998. I will be never able to forget."

It is not the only thing which the police officer will not forget! Because "Il n'y a pas que le Carpacio comme plat qui se mange froid!" (A French expression using a food metaphor: The idea is "the memories are not forgotten" or "resentments are not forgotten.")


The civil suit probably arises from other posts such as the following. These comments about the original article above were added in posts that appeared on the Switzerland Indymedia site and possibly elsewhere. We have added a translation and comments in English for each post:

Mais c'est Mike 08.09.2004 17:43
Celui qui a un peu d'embonpoint c'est Mike, il habite Boulevard xxxxxx au dessus d'une xxxxxx ...

But this is Mike 08.09.2004 17:43

The one that has a little potbelly, this is Mike, he lives on Boulevard xxxxxx above a xxxx ...

COMMENT: The post merely gave a first name, a street (no house number), and a type of business. Geneva is a big city. This information identifies no one. We deleted the street and business type, which could be wrong anyway.


Bof 10.09.2004 10:39

Finalement, on s'en fout... de tte façon ces mecs tt le monde les connait.. et pis y en a plein qui vont arriver (quoique s'ils s'en sortent au niveau du français, cf. le Tribune de GE d'aujourd'hui, les ânes !!!)

Bof 10.09.2004 10:39

Finally, someone screws himself... of tte manner these guys tt the world the connait.. and worse there in has full that will arrive (although they themselves sometimes go to the level of the French, cf. the Tribune of GE of today, the donkeys!!!) yann

COMMENT: The is inscrutable, possibly because of abbreviations or typing errors.


10.09.2004 17:53
le petit merdeux à droite sur la photo, j'espère pour lui ne jamais le croiser dans la rue ce fils de pute, il risquerait d'y passer.

10.09.2004 17:53

The small sh*t to right on the photo, I hope, for him, not ever to cross him in the street, this son of a ... , it would risky there.

COMMENT: There is an insult, but a routine one in the US where such vulgar terms, regrettably, are commonly heard. The "threat" sounds like pure bluster. Another common US expression is, "I'd like to get alone in a room with him/her." This is seldom taken seriously.
Lamentables 13.09.2004 02:35
Ah bravo, les gars...

Quel courage ! Vous avez affiché au grand jour les portraits de deux flics qui ont interpellé plus de 200 personnes et qui sont déjà connus comme des loups blancs à Genève ! Chapeau... A croire que personne ne les connaissait jusqu'à la parution de votre article merdique... Pour sûr, ils devaient chaque fois être cagoulés quand ils interpellaient des casseurs de votre espèce... tu parles d'un scoop...

Eux au moins, ils ne se masquent pas, quand ils vont dans une manif... ce n'est pas le cas de toutes les petites lopettes qui déversent leurs propos haineux et orduriers sur ce site merdique...

Au fait, Jackouille, les flics t'auraient pas pris en photo, toi aussi ? Réfléchis bien à ça, pauvre tâche...

Bon, les courageux héros de la révolution, je vous laisse, vous être trop lamentables, vous et vos métaphores culinaires à deux balles ("y a pas que le carpaccio qui se mange froid", non mais j'te jure...)...

Pour rester dans ton style gastro, je te dirai encore ceci : Elle sera pas coupée en tranches, mon garçon, la viande que tu risques de te prendre dans l'arrière-train... et là elle sera brûlante celle-là...

Lamentable 13.09.2004 02:35

Ah, bravo, guys...

What courage! You posted the pictures of two cops that shouted at more than 200 persons and that already are known as white wolves to Geneva! Hah!... To believe that a person did not know them before the publication of your damn item ... Oh, sure, they had to wear a gas mask when they shouted at demonstrators of your type... you talk about a scoop...

They at least, they do not mask themselves when they go out in a normal situation... this is not the case of all the small lopettes that pour their hate-filled and filthy matters on this damned site...

At the action, Jackouille, would the cops not have taken your photo also? Reflect well on that, you poor excuse...

Good, the courageous heroes of the revolution, I leave you, you to be too sorry, you and your culinary metaphors to two bullets (" there has not that the carpaccio that eats cold", no but j'te swears. ..)...

To remain in your gastronomical train of thought, I will say to you again: It will not be cut and split, my boy, meat that you risk taking from behind... But it will be extremely hot... --------------. -

COMMENT: The original article, 3190, referred to carpacio, a thinly sliced meat dish, in saying that resentments are not forgotten. The comment here warns the poster of 3190, using a culinary metaphor. The French are really much better at these things than we are.

toujours en style gastro 13.09.2004 18:37
ben on dirait qu'il y en a qui ont de la peine à digérer la publication des photos !!!
(merci à Luc pour les noms et adresses perso)
Grosses bises les poulets ... rotis (enfin bientôt) xyetz

always same trains of thought, gastro 13.09.2004 18:37

Ben, one would say that there are some that have indigestion over the publication of the photos!!! (thank-you to Luc for the names and personal addresses) Love and kisses to the chickens... roast (finally and soon)

COMMENTS: There are more French culinary expressions but these are hardly credible threats against the "chickens."


13.09.2004 22:47
Toi qui veux bouffer du poulet, gaffe aux petits os pointus qui se logent dans la gorge et qui, au mieux, peuvent terriblement faire mal...

13.09.2004 22:47

You who want to devour chicken, might blunder on the small pointed bones that lodge themselves in the throat and that, at best, can hurt terribly...

COMMENT: Half of the comments seem mainly to be warning against recriminations.