back to AhimsaOverview

Answering questions and clarifying the situation around Ahimsa

Ahimsa Seizure Timeline (full timeline with everything up to 09 Nov incorporated see AhimsaTimeLine)

  • September 22: FBI contacts Rackspace about photos on Nantes IMC

  • October 01: FBI visits Devin Theriot-Orr (Seattle IMC) in Seattle about the photos on Nantes IMC

  • October 05: Rackspace emails Jebba to say "I have received no further communications from either the FBI or the Swiss authorities, so I feel like we can close this issue."

  • October 07: Rackspace served with a subpoena, turns over HDs and emails Jebba

  • October 08: FBI spokesperson tells AFP that FBI issued subpoena "on behalf of a third country." (Later he tells EFF that the FBI wasn't involved and that he was misquoted.)

  • October 12: Swiss federal prosecutor for Geneva admits that he is investigating Indymedia regarding coverage of the 2003 G8 Summit but that he didn't seek the seizure

  • October 12: Rackspace emails Jebba that hardware is returned and that servers will be back online by the end of the day

  • October 13: Public Prosecutor in Bologna admits that she has requested IP log info through MLAT but that she didn't seek the seizure

Who Took Ahimsa exactly: FBI in the UK? UK cops?

Today it was confirmed to Italy Indymedia that the order for the seizure of indymedia's hard drives in London's offices of Rackspace originated from Bologna.

[That is unclear.]

Marina Plazzi, the judge in charge of investigations upon FAI (Informal Anarchist Federation) and "bomb-threats" delivered to the President of the EU Commission Romano Prodi, was ordered to acquire information about posts published on The FBI took \x93extreme\x94 action in seizing the logs, going beyond the court order. As the prosecutor did not not validate the seizure and the hardware had to be returned.

"confirmed Bologna's ties and FBI excess" Italy Indymedia

-- WoWi - 14 Oct 2004

We have this information from Rackspace:
Wed Sep 22 10:59:56 2004

Unfortunately, we have received a federal order to provide your hardware to the requesting agency. We are complying at this time. Our datacenter technicians are building you a new server which will be online as soon as possible. Your account manager will notify you once the new server is online and available.
I apologize for abruptness of this. However, we are required to comply with all federal orders of this nature. Please let us know if there is anything that we can do to make this easier on you.

Jennifer O'Connell
AUP Administrator
Rackspace Managed Hosting

We do no have confirmation, but the above communication indicates that Rackspace was probably issued some sort of order and then had their technicians take Ahisma offline to hand over either the hard drive or the full server to the FBI.

Jennifer O'Connell appears to be based in the US.

-- RabbleRouser - 07 Oct 2004

Please add to this - EpsasNova
From: Kurt Opsahl 
Date: October 7, 2004 3:38:34 PM PDT
Subject: Indymedia seizure facts

The following is a summary of the various facts and theories I am aware
of regarding the seizure.  I am only listing as facts those items on
which I have a primary source.  If you have additional information,
please let me know.

1. Government served a subpoena upon Rackspace, requesting certain
information. Rackspace handed over two computers to the agency to
comply with the subpoena.
Primary Source: Jennifer O'Connell, Acceptable Use Policy Manger for
Additional theories:
       a. The agency is the FBI.  O'Connell didn't disagree when I suggested
this, though didn't confirm explicitly.
       b. The requested information likely concerns the Nates post on Swiss
Police.  Based on FBI visit to Devin Theriot-Orr requesting removal of
this information last week.
       c. "Rackspace was given no time to defend against the order before it
was acted upon and turned over the hard drives, both in the US and the
UK."  Source:
(this info is based on first info on irc, and not confirmed)

       d. The subpoena was for information on the servers, not for seizure.
Without saying what the subpoena was for, O'Connell indicated that
Rackspace could only provide the information requested by providing the
actual computers.

2. Rackspace refuses to provide a copy of the subpoena on advice of
Primary Source: Jennifer O'Connell
Additional theories:
       a. Likely due to a gag order in the subpoena.

3. Rackspace provided two dedicated servers to Indymedia, which hosted
a number of Indymedia and related sites, including Nates.  The
computers were located in the UK, but owned by Rackspace, a U.S.
Primary Source: Jeff Moe
Additional theories:
       a. Hosting Nantes means that this seizure has to do with the Swiss
Police investigation.
       b. The subpoena required Rackspace to provide information subject to
their control, and Rackspace "controls" it UK servers.  This would
explain how a UK-based server would be seized by a US subpoena.

4. FBI asked for the Nantes post on swiss police to be removed, but
admitted no laws were violated
Primary Source: Devin Theriot-Orr
"The FBI agents told me that they were not concerned with the photos,
but with the identifying information.  There never was any such
identifying information, and even if there was, it would likely be
protected by the first amendment if it was obtained legally.  (There
was a recent case here in Washington that you may be familiar with on
this very issue).  But, even assuming it is illegal to post identifying
information (which it is not), there WAS NO SUCH info.  The FBI agents
freely admitted to me that individuals have a right to take photographs
of agents in public places and post those photos on the internet."
Additional theories:
       a. Swiss have engaged a legal proceeding against the person who posted
the info on Nantes.  Source: Radio Suisee Romade, via Sieste.

Questions for Rackspace (and Answers, sort of)

Q: Did the subpoena specify that hardware should be handed over? Or just information?

A: Refused to say.

Q: What exactly did Rackspace hand over to the requesting agency?
(We have heard "2 computers", "servers", "hard disks")

A: Refused to say.

Q: Who issued the subpoena?

A: Through the State Department., entitled "Commissioner's Subpoena". Would not say which commisioner.

Q: At what time was the subpoena issued?

A: Refused to say.

Q: Who at Rackspace received the subpoena?

A: Jennifer O'Connell.

Q: At what time was the hardware handed over?

A: Refused to say.

Q: Was any attempt made to contact people at indymedia? If so, at what time?

A: No response.

Q: Was the data copied before you potentially destroyed it by giving it to whoever you gave it to?

A: Refused to say.

A: (to blicero at the phone, thursday October 7th, 20 minutes after the "ping unreachable" to ahimsa) we did not make a copy [jennifer]

Statement from Rackspace

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\x92s 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.

For additional information on the MLAT, please visit

Statement from Rackspace: Audio

Why did they take it ?

Background on MLAT - Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty - can be found on the websites below. Basically, the MLATs are bilateral agreements that the US has made a lot of countries sign. These agreements allow for the US to "do stuff within other nations" that was previously not possible due to national sovereignty. As such, MLATs are an example of "globalisation from above". The original intentions of such an international legal structure were to fight mainly drugs trafficking and money laundering - and many things can be said to be good about such legal structures. But business as usual laws can be and are abused. In this case, it appears that the FBI has acted upon a request from Swizz and Italian authorities - meaning that instead of the MLAT offering a possibility for US authorities to investigate crimes in foreign countries that are related to US affairs (the way the treaty was meant), actually Swiss and Italian authorities use the MLAT 'in reverse': they ask the US to perform actions that they could not themselves carry out for whatever reasons (such as legal, geographical or technical constraints). It really means that the FBI operates some sort of odd-jobs service for 'friendly countries' - that is not conspiracy theory, it is practice; and a good example of how global power can reach anywhere anytime. By the way, if it really is about Swiss undercover cops, then you can get a feel for how they usually behave here:


Background on Section 1782 - This section of the US Code allows cooperation with a foreign or international investigation, even during a preliminary investigating phase.


Additional links for further reading:

Statewatch's Legal Analysis:

at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities

  • corriere dela sierra{C9C0843E-A8ED-4536-08C2-07324241C3EF}
    • EN: "the block of the indymedia server has been solicited to fbi by italy and switzerland. joe parris, officer of fbi said to the press the initiative has not been an individual initiative of the American Government" - confirmed
    • IT: "NEW YORK - Il blocco dei server del sito Indymedia da parte dell'Fbi e' stato sollecitato dall'Italia e dalla Svizzera. Lo ha detto un portavoce del Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joe Parris. L'iniziativa, dunque, non e' stata una decisione autonoma del ministero della Giustizia americano."
  • corriere dela sera
  • FR -
    • Marc Oederlin, the lawyer of the two policemen, does not think that he is the cause of what happened.
  • EN AhimsaAFPRoughTranslation041010a - FR -
    • AFP says that prosecutor Daniel Zappelli of Geneva declares on Sat 9 Oct that he has opened an enquiry following a complaint by two policemen who had discovered the name of one of them, their addresses and their photos on the French version of the alterglobalist and protest site Indymedia.
    • AFP also says that the Tribune of Geneve says that Radio suisse romande says that the two policmen have laid a complaint against X for insults and threats. (As of AFP, this is 4th-hand info, if we count the two cops as 1st-hand sources.)
  • IT - 20 Nov 2003 official parliamentary record (it seems) -
    • Mario Landolfi asks Government of Italy to take action against Indymedia Italy because of criticism of state terrorism (he probably does not use the words "state terrorism")
  • Il Manifesto - by Alessandro Mantovani & Serena Tinari
    • Marina Plazzi, Bologna Public Prosecutor investigating the Informal Anarchist Federation said that the the seizure COULD be a consequence of their investigations ("months ago we asked to identify some people" - they say and no more); the same prosecutor is also investigating about the "defamation" of italian soldier bombed in Nassirya, and this generated the idea that this defamation could be the reason of the seizure.
    • The chief of the Prosecutor office says that a request for an international intervention has been made, but they never ordered a seizure and they know nothing of the answer to this request at the present date.
    • Italian Minister of Justice and Interior Ministry stay behind "no comment" and "we know nothing of this".
  • Swiss Press Conference, Oct. 12 - Jean Pierre Garbade, the Geneva lawyer that had contact recently with Kurt at the EFF, spoke today and left an official letter to Isabelle Cuendet - the substitute attorney in charge of the investigation concerning the pictures of the 2 undercover cops published on Indymedia Nantes. Isabelle said that they didn't ask for an international rogatory for that case, nor did they ask for the hard drives to be seized. She said she passed to the General Attorney an open enquiry against unknown persons for threats against public officers. Garbade says that's not unusual as the agreement between the US and Switzerland only allows rogatories in severe cases, not for threats against public officers. Garbade could only make one hypothesis: that there are 2 different cases opened about the IMC Nantes posting. A second one could refer for example to the crime of public inducement or solicitation for violence. In that case, which is included in the agreement between the US and Switzerland, the charge could be managed directly by the General Attorney. When the persons responsible for the crime are not known - like in this case - the General Attorney can order a preliminary enquiry, wich can include an international rogatory to get information or evidence. The General Attorney also has the power to delegate that preliminary enquiry to the police, and it can include a penal mandate for seizing. Garbade found out that he can't ask for a suspension or a claim to reverse the rogatory consequences. The EFF, however, may be able to persue a remedy in the US.

Should Indymedia Sue?

Should Indymedia not sue in the right places for punitive damages - any proceeds to go towards indymedia finance and maybe a future legal defense fund?

-- AndresFuerte - 15 Oct 2004
Topic revision: r28 - 10 Nov 2004, IonNec
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