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Is attack on Indymedia a Trap

andrés | 13.10.2004 19:15 | FBI Server Seizure | Analysis | Indymedia | Repression | World

This analysis was published on the Spanish site La Haine. It suggests that to focus on the issue of the Nantes photographs is to fall into a trap leading to endless disruptive debate. [and the Italian angle looks much more promising I myself add]. Indymedia should fight back.

Repression of Indymedia: largest attack to date on the alternative press on the Internet

by Roberto Delgado - La Haine - [11-oct-04] -

On the basis of the sparse data that the FBI and the commercial media have been providng, is possible to make a brief analysis of what this repression means for Indymedia and for the objectives of Indymedia. The ball is in our court. An act of this type forces the anticapitalist movement to raise its guard, and the steps taken at this point will be very important for the future.

Official version of events:

The chief prosecutor of Geneva, Daniel Zappelli, opened a judicial investigation, following a complaint made by two police inspectors of that city concerning the "publication of photographs and the name and address of one of them on the French Indymedia site (Nantes)."

The two undercover policemen were part of the G8 cell, concerned with investigating incidents in Geneva during the protests surrounding the Group of Eight meeting in Geneva in 2003.


On Thursday morning the 7 of October the FBI seduces Rackspace (supplier of Indymedia, American company with offices also in London, and carries off not only all the data pertaining to Indymedia Nantes, but also that of another twenty of the network's websites in other countries.

Following the FBI's action the sites remained inaccessible. Hours later some sites, having resorted to alternative servers shared in solidarity, were in operation again. Most of the sites have been closed for two or three days, although not all have yet recovered normality. The photos of the undercover policemen, that until now had been seen only in reduced circles, suddenly are known by leftist movements worldwide, since they continue to be accessible on the Internet in other pages, and accompany the glare of publicity this action has provoked.

Information on reasons is minimum. "I opened an investigation but I will say nothing else", said the Geneva prosecutor. The FBI's spokesperson Joe Parris asserted that the request to raid Indymedia's ISP came from the Italian and Swiss governments", without giving more details. "The people in charge of the Justice Ministry only fulfilled the legal obligations contained in our treaty of mutual support", he insisted.

According to Geneva press, it was the police of that city who resorted to the North American FBI so as to pull the photos.

Trap and Fear:

At first sight, the two primary targets of this repressive activity are: 1. To divide the Network Indymedia; and 2. To create fear amongst alternative press activists.

1. With this action the Powerful impose a false debate in the internal Indymedia lists: Is it correct to publish photos and even data on secret police? This artificially provoked discussion would focus on the limits of journalistic ethics, the moral superiority that should characterize the militants of left and the necessity to avoid political-informative actions that provoke and could be used to justify repression. There are web sites (Indymedia Madrid, for example) that sometimes when they publish photos of demonstrations manipulate images to hide the faces of antiriot police [note, IMC Madrid denies this].

In this case, the System tries to remain on the sidelines. Its argument would go: "we ourseves have no desire to close down alternative media, but if someone fails to obey the law we have no choice but to accept judicial decisions." If we accept this false debate, all we have left is to argue amongst ourselves, instead of being united in opposition to "this massive attack on freedom of expression."

What is clear is that there are serious probabilities that numerous Indymedia activists wil fall in the trap of this debate, that can go on forever and would lead to a rupturing of the cohesion of the global Network.

2. Any activst is likely to feel threatened on reading the headline: "FBI closes Indymedia servers". Although this repressive act represents the largest attack to date on the alternative press on the Internet, up to now it is not especially painful, but rather, symbolic. Most of the web sites were again accessible within a few days, and, more important, following this action they achieve, through sharing in solidarity alternative servers, a greater diffusion of the project and an increase of the number of visits. Obviously those in power take this into account, but such news does not stop being impressive.

The big shots are giving us a warning in an attempt to make us feel afraid: when they decide to attack the anticapitalist movement there will be no international law nor freedom of expression worth anything; the forces of repression will act with total impunity.

This is not to say that this attack could not be the embryo of an even larger scale operation against Indymedia that tries to completely destroy the the virtual network's activity. We do not discard that within a few months other repressive acts take place such as arrests of activists.

All will depend on the response we make as a movement.

The true debate: the information monopoly sees itself in danger:

The discussion that all activists of the anticapitalist movement should face up to in relation to the repression of Indymedia is: How do we respond to this attack? How do we avoid this type of repressive activities in the future?

It is a matter of asking ourselves these questions. As for me I offer some reflections:

This action cannot go unpunished. We should activate mechanisms of social mobilization in the street to defend our alternative media, such as informative conversations, demonstrations, propaganda actions and complaints, etc. Scandal and social awareness are now the worst enemies of power. It is true that governments can deepen the repression of Indymedia and other alternative media with arrests and imprisonments, but we should not forget that that is its way of defending itself. If for our part we make the decision to not expose infiltrated police and if in general we moderate the policies developed in alternative media, we are falling into the trap they have laid for us, resigning ourselves to reporting only within limits established by those in power. In effect, accepting defeat. The authorities act when the information monopoly sees itself in danger.



Hide the following 5 comments

at least until the american election

13.10.2004 21:08

the cia/fbi has the plan to put us under pressure until their election, that's their october plan, they probably, among other aims, wanted to try our reaction, it seems we reacted almost unvoluntarily, or did i? lets see what will be their next move, evacuate europe? lets just go on thinking and writing what we think, lets continue to try to approach the truth and be sure we are on the way towards justice, that's what they want to prevent u from doing, just think. thinking is the right way to fight them back. moreover i heard ther's a war inside their services about the columnist novak revealing cia names and ruining their jobs, they must be very busy by now, time is my copilot.


Interesting theory but...

13.10.2004 21:46

... if they intended to divide us then I don't think its working. No one I know is debating whether its right to post pics of cops (although Nantes IMC were even before they were approached by the FBI). Besides we don't know if that had anything to do with the removal of the hard drives.

Usually if you attack a group that unites them rather than divides them. Hence wars are good for nationalism and patriotism. If those responsible for the seizure were thinking along the way you are saying they would have surely realised this anyway.

Also I don't agree that activists will necessarily feel threatened. For many it will make them feel more defiant and more motivated to carry on what they are doing. Some IMCs have already made comments along these lines.

It's also interesting to note that the FBI attacked the webhosting company - a weak and easy target - rather than activists themselves. Not really so scary for activists - just annoying.

However I agree that we should not be complacent and act - in fact that's exactly what's happening with the call for solidarity.

PS. The hard drives were apparently returned to Rackspace this morning.


technical not legal defences

14.10.2004 00:45

I thought it was interesting that there seemed to be no legal defence since the law was so nebulous. In Ireland we have had recent struggles tied up by groups that saw a legal defence but in this case it was only technical defences that mattered. Indymedia has to concentrate on the vulnerabilities of the network regardless of the legal situation which is probably a good thing.

All respect to the paranoid sysadmins that beat this.


why do you all ignore what matters most?

15.10.2004 05:45

Do the authorities now have the ip numbers of all the people who have been posting to these sites?



15.10.2004 06:57

There are no logs of anyone posting to this site: no IP addresses, or names used, or PC info, nothing. No user logs are kept at all, for obvious reasons.

IMC volunteer