The FBI has demanded server logs of flag.blackened.net which hosts a variety of grassroots anarchist websites, including the valuable Infoshop.org, and Infoshop News. The sysadmin, Dave, is under a gag order preventing him from giving specific details, but explains some of the circumstances in an informal “press release”:
I have been ordered to submit IP info on two separate incidents having to do with subdomains hosted on flag. Both of these are in regard to claimed or threatened responsibility for acts of propaganda by the deed. Both incidents involve topics which are completely out of line for consideration here at flag and really I can only view them in two ways. Either people are simply ignorant about the murderous history of the FBI, or, as is my belief in one case, they are trying to make flag vulnerable to government intrusion. …
I have called numerous friends nationwide, anarchists and otherwise whose opinions I respect and who I know will be honest and forthwith in their opinions to ask them how I should proceed. The unanimous consensus is that I comply with the wishes of the FBI and provide the IP addresses responsible. The only point of discussion, really, has been whether or not I should reveal the specific information in violation of two court orders. …
Though it pains me to comply with the State in any manner, I have… The people who have foolishly compromised us all will shoulder the burden for their selfish actions. Frankly folks, they know better – we all know better.
Without a doubt these demands for server logs, like Indymedia has experienced, is a harassment technique, especially since system administrators risk court-sanctioned penalties if they do not comply.
Dave invokes COINTELPRO in his release, in reference to the fact that the posts garnering FBI attention are presumably about committing acts of targeted violence of some sort. The COINTELPRO angle is the possibility that government officials or agents made the posts in order to give the feds an excuse to go fishing through server logs.
Even if it’s not a direct government or law enforcement plot, the posts may be the work of persons with an ax to grind, looking to create trouble for flag.blackened.net. We certainly see more than our fair share of garbage posts to Indymedia websites that seem written only for the purpose of stirring up trouble and bringing unwanted attention.
And, of course, maybe the posts are the result of moronic braggadocio from folks who thinks it’s cool to strut about and talk big, or, sadly, they could be posts from people who have actually committed some violence and aren’t smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
In any event, the net effect is still chilling. If the FBI can come in and seize records of who posts to radically political forums and newswires, then that presents a strong disincentive for people to post information and opinions that challenge the ruling order.
Indymedia has seen similar demands for server logs and actually experienced the seizure of equipment. As a result of the FBI’s first demand for Indymedia server logs back in 2001, most, if not all, IMC websites do not maintain server logs that contain identifying information like IP addresses.
Unfortunately, not maintaining IP logs make it harder to fend off crackers trying to attack IMC websites, but the consensus appears to be that the tradeoff is worthwhile in order to protect the anonymity of IMC website posters.
According to comments on this thread about the flag.blackened.net situation at NYC IMC, some of the software running sites on that server do maintain IP addresses, which the sysadmins periodically purge. Unfortunately, it looks like the addresses the FBI was after were not yet purged.
The threat from the government is real, and the intent is real: Independent media websites should shut up and control what gets published. Don’t push the boundaries.
We don’t have to give in to the threat. But I agree with Dave, that we have to pay attention and watch ourselves:
This is why we do not discuss certain things as if they are a legitimate part of anarchism. Resist the extra y-chromosome influenced urge to sound more hardcore than the guy next to you. Nobody is impressed and the powers that be are sitting on the edges of their seats waiting for an excuse to shut down flag. Freedom of speech does not exist, don’t try to test it. They will come bust down your door – for real – point a gun to your head and pull the trigger if you refuse to comply.