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Correspondence with UK government over server seizures

Yakoub Islam | 21.12.2004 13:53 | Indymedia | Repression | Oxford | Sheffield

Correspondence between Yakoub Islam, director of the Tasneem Project website, and the UK government regarding FBI seizure of Indymedia servers this October.

Tony Blair, PM
10 Downing Street,

October 11, 2004

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to draw your attention to recent alarming events affecting the Independent Media Center (IMC).

On Thursday, October 7th, I understand a court order under the context of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty forced an ISP to the IMC to surrender two servers used by the group. This caused the loss of IMC websites services in 17 countries, including the service set to provide streaming coverage of the European Social Forum 14-17th October 2004.

Some sites have lost months of articles and coverage. In effect, the writing of history from below has been silenced.

The seizure of the servers occurred without any notification and a spokesperson for the FBI (the seizing authority) has stated that the subpoena was authorized at the request of the Swiss and Italian authorities.

The IMC is a network of collectively run grassroots media that presents an important alternative news service, in a world where corporate media interests frequently dictate news agendas of little relevance to the needs and concerns of ordinary people.

The people at IMC work as part of their commitment to a better, more peaceful world. Whilst I understand that, post-9/11, governments may feel the need to limit freedom of speech in some instances, I believe the aforementioned actions of the FBI have seriously impeded free speech far beyond what is justifiable on security grounds.

I am therefore calling on you to monitor this situation so that security agencies are held accountable, investigations are rapidly concluded and the servers are thus returned at the earliest possible time.


Yakoub Islam


Home Office
50 Queen Anne's Gate

Dear Mr Islam,

Thank you for your letter dated 11 October 2004 addressed to the Prime Minister regarding Indymedia. Your letter has been passed to the Home Office as the government Department responsible for such matters and I have been asked to reply.

It is standard Home Office policy neither to confirm nor deny the existence or receipt of a mutual legal assistance request. However, I would like to provide information on the process of mutual legal assistance.

Mutual legal assistance treaties are not just restricted to cases of international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering. They can cover all types of crime or be crime specific. For example many states have treaties that relate solely to the issue of combating drug trafficking. Others have all crime treaties, which provides a basis for mutual legal assistance generally. The treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States is an all crimes treaty and is not limited to just serious crime.

The procedure for MLA requests is as follows: Requests are issued from one state and may be acceded to by the requested state provided that the request is in conformity with domestic law of that requested state. In the case of the UK, the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 sets out the general framework for acceding to requests from overseas jurisdictions for the provision of evidence for their investigations or proceedings.

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to comment in detail on this particular matter, but I can provide general information. In this case it would appear that, pursuant to a US Commissioner’s subpoena, Rackspace US accessed its servers in London from the USA. No UK law enforcement agencies were involved.

Yours sincerely

Stuart Blackley
Deputy Head - Central Authority

Yakoub Islam
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