View Full Version : FBI/DHS Attempt to Seize Colorado Indymedia Server and Silence Our Users

Magda Hassan
06-27-2010, 03:42 AM
FBI/DHS Attempt to Seize Colorado Indymedia Server and Silence Our Users

Submitted by ringo on June 24, 2010 - 5:43pm
On Jun 17, Colorado Indymedia was contacted by Special Agent Adam Kowalski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)/Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As part of an "ongoing investigation" by Federal Protective Services, they attempted to seize the Colorado Indymedia server, believing that we kept logs (such as IP address access logs) that could identity users on our site. Our servers are graciously hosted at Denver Open Media who was approached by Kowalski. Kowalski claimed he had a court order but refused to leave a copy at Denver Open Media. He was told to contact the system administrators in order to obtain the logs as Denver Open Media does not have the ability to consent to a seizure or search of our property.
As of this date, we do not have a copy of the court order if it even exists. It's likely that this was just a bluff as it's well-established that cops, the FBI, and other law enforcement can lie in order to illicit consent and lying about court orders is no exception.
We told the FBI that "Colorado Indymedia does not retain this information because we strongly believe in the First Amendment right to free, anonymous speech. Frequently communities outside of our society's mainstream feel more comfortable expressing their views in an anonymous setting. Like all Independent Media Centers, Colorado Indymedia exists to serve these communities, and thus strives to maintain the anonymity of its users."
In particular, the FBI was looking for information that would identify a user(s) who had used the "spamsucks" account. This account's username and password are posted on the main page of our site for users who would like to post and remain anonymous. Given the time period of the logs they were seeking, we believe they are looking to identify the individual(s) who posted the two communiques that claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE) offices. (See "ICE Facility Attacked in Loveland" http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7733) and "ICE Office Attacked" http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7721)).
This request is part of an investigation by Federal Protective Services, the agency which is tasked with protecting the security of Federal property (such as buildings). Communiques posted by the same account claiming direct action attacks against other places such as a Wells Fargo branch (http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7664)) have not attracted similar reactions from the agency. It appears as if the ICE attacks prompted additional attention and heat due to their status as Federal buildings even though the attack on the Wells Fargo branch seems related to their funding of private ICE prisons through the GEO Group.
While this may look to many as a run-of-the-mill investigation, there are several things that bring this into question. Firstly, it is a well known and widely publicized policy of Colorado Indymedia that we do not retain logs that can identify individual users. For instance, our privacy policy (http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/550)), which is linked to twice from our main page, notes that we do not log such information. The FBI is well aware of this policy but still decided to ask us for logs they know we do not keep. This could be a simple "fill in the box" task that has to be completed, but then why not approach DOM's Internet service provider, which almost certainly does retain logs of this nature (as all major Internet Service Providers and the NSA do)? Additionally, the FBI seemed intent on seizing our server when they came to Denver Open Media, indicating their goal may have been the disruption of our service instead of simply identifying users.
Given this, it seems likely that the government is upset that we provide a venue for anonymous speech and is retaliating for this. We allow people who ordinarily cannot speak to tell their story to the world including those who took credit for smashing up the ICE offices. In any democratic society, it's important that all members of society can have as much available information in order to make informed decisions, including decisions about whether to support the actions that these communiques discuss. If places like COIMC did not exist, it could be that nobody would have heard why this office was attacked and people would be forced to make evaluations based on coverage from mainstream media outlets who act as a police mouthpiece. In retaliation for providing this service and working to give everybody a voice, we have been targeted.
This targeting is no surprise and something we expect from law enforcement. Police are a tool of those who are in power who use them to maintain that power through force. Behind every law is a charge, behind every badge is a gun, and behind every subpoena is the possibility of being kidnapped and held hostage for contempt. This type of targeting is done every day against those who assert their right to privacy, who do not have societal privilege, who lack the money to defend themselves in court or conform to society's norms, and who choose to defy and change those norms themselves or challenge the power structures that control society. We are not treated differently than anybody else and the targeting of Colorado Indymedia is business as usual. If the Department of Justice had their way (based on their actions and lobbying efforts), the right to anonymous speech would completely disappear. The services that we provide are a critical part of fostering social change and democratic discourse in this region. For this reason and many others we will not be intimidated into maintaining investigative records on our own users or shutting down our service. As far as we know, we are the only media outlet that has provided coverage on the attacks against ICE offices.
It's important when things like this happen we not internalize this repression and that we let people know we are being bullied. The majority of a bully's power is derived from their ability to keep their victim's silent. This is true whether those bullies are police, rapists, the bully who steals your lunch money, or an abusive parent. This enforced silence keeps the victim feeling powerless and alone. When we are silent, we cannot find others who have faced the same treatment and speak out about it or fight back. Police are a tool of those in power which they use to enforce their rules, laws, social codes, and ultimately maintain their place at the top of the hierarchy. They do not want to hear about people challenging their authority. Most of all, they want to make sure that nobody sees or hears about those actions and chooses to support those individuals or becomes inspired to challenge authority on their own.
You may view our privacy policy at http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/550) which contractually binds us to protect your information. We would like to thank Denver Open Media (http://denveropenmedia.org (http://denveropenmedia.org/)) for continuing to host our server and recognizing the importance of the service we provide. We continue to look for people who are willing to help with website/server administration, moderation, legal problems, and other things. Please see http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/13) for more information. The original letter from the FBI can be found below including our response (with minor formatting changes for your viewing pleasure).
From: Kowalski, Adam J <adam.kowalski@dhs.gov>
Date: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 4:16 PM
Subject: Request for information on Open Media Foundation server / Colorado Indymedia
To: jeff@openmediafoundation.org
Cc: Tony@openmediafoundation.org, "Kowalski, Adam" <Adam.Kowalski@ic.fbi.gov
To: Open Media Foundation Executive Director Tony Sawcross [sic] and Business and
Finance Director Jeff Villano

Pursuant to our discussion today, the Colorado Indymedia organization, as found at http://colorado.indymedia.org/, and/or IP address, is utilizing an Open Media Foundation computer server maintained on the premises of 700 Kalamath Street in Denver, Colorado to host its webpage.
Through my discussions with you today, it is your belief that Open Media Foundation representatives are unable to obtain any of the information described below on the applicable Open Media Foundation server and that only representatives of Colorado Indymedia are able to access the requested information.
In order to minimize any adverse impact this request for information may have on either organization, I request that the organization able to access the requested information be identified as soon as practicable to receive the appropriate legal process for release of the requested information.
If the requested information is no longer available, I request that the responsible party issue a return correspondence noting the negative results of the search and identify the standard retention period that information of this type is typically retained.
Information sought:
Pursuant to an ongoing federal investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Protective Service is seeking the following information, if available, as data files on CD-ROM or other electronic media or facsimile:
1. The following customer or subscriber account information for each account registered to or associated with the “spamsucks” screen name on Colorado Indymedia’s website for the time period May 17, 2010 through May 26, 2010:
1. subscriber names, user names, screen names, or other identities;
2. mailing addresses, residential addresses, business addresses, e-mail addresses and other contact information.
3. local and long distance telephone records, or records of session times and durations;
4. length of service (including start date) and types of service utilized;
5. telephone or instrument number or subscriber number or identity, including any temporally assigned network address; and
6. means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number) and billing records.
2. All records and other information relating to the accounts(s) and time
period in Part A, including:
1. records of user activity for any connections made by the screen name, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet Protocol address(es);
2. telephone records, including local and long distance telephone connection records, caller identification records, cellular site and sector
information, GPS data, and cellular network identifying information (such as IMSI, MISISDN, IMEI, MEID, or ESN)
3. non-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account(s), such as the source and destination email addresses and IP addresses.
4. correspondence and notes of records related to the account(s).
Again, thank you for your cooperation and timely response in this request.
Special Agent Adam Kowalski
(303) 210-7629
Mr. Kowalski,
This email is a response to the email sent by you to Tony Shawcross on Thursday June 17, 2010 as a representative of the Federal Protective Service of the Department of Homeland Security. That email requested that Colorado Indymedia disclose information related to the identity of persons who posted using the "spamsucks" user name during the period of May 17, 2010 through May 26, 2010. A copy of the original message is included below this reply.
Colorado Indymedia does not retain any personally identifying information, such as IP addresses or telephone numbers, of any of our site's users. IP addresses
associated with user names are never logged, and web server logs are discarded after 48 hours. Because of this, we do not possess the information sought by the DHS, et al.
Colorado Indymedia does not retain this information because we strongly believe in the First Amendment right to free, anonymous speech. Frequently communities outside of our society's mainstream feel more comfortable expressing their views in an anonymous setting. Like all Independent Media Centers, Colorado Indymedia exists to serve these communities, and thus strives to maintain the anonymity of its users.
The "spamsucks" account was created to preserve this anonymity after we experienced a surge in anonymous spam articles and comments which forced us to temporarily disable the ability of user to post in a truly anonymous fashion. It is used by multiple individuals - both the "spamsucks" username and its password are publicly available at
http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7639)
You can also read our privacy policy in full at
http://colorado.indymedia.org/no... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/550)
Colorado Indymedia is a collective, and as such decisions about its policies are made by consensus amongst all of its members. However, if you have any future questions about our website, you may contact me directly by emails at
nathan@coimc.org or by phone at 303.807.0086.
Yours in solidarity,
Nathan Acks
COIMC Webmaster
On behalf of the Colorado Independent Media Center collective


And how do we know... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7781#comment-5868)

Submitted by Evan Herzoff on June 25, 2010 - 12:11pm.
And how do we know the ICE office and Wells Fargo were even attacked at all? One thing I noticed about those postings, the ones claiming that an ICE office and a Wells Fargo were vandalized, is that there were no pictures and nothing to substantiate the claims being made. Those postings could just as easily have been agents logging in with the "spamsucks" account. Were they just part of a setup or did anything actually happen? I haven't noticed any damaged Wells Fargo buildings, and they're pretty visible downtown. I didn't see any of these attacks, not in Loveland, nor the Springs and Denver, in the news. You'd think vandalism like this would have been seized upon by the corporate press to demonize May Day participants or what have you. But there was nothing that I can remember. Anyone remember seeing any reports of these incidents in the corporate press? Did S.A. Kowalski provide any evidence whatsoever that such incidents even occurred? The posts afforded responsibility for these events to "anarchists" and provided no other information to that effect besides being related to immigration issues, and even with regards to that the posts just muttered typical and predictable cliche slogans that anyone could have thought up, especially someone who monitors radical websites or conducts what is known as "data mining," say at the Colorado Information Analysis Center or somewhere like that perhaps?
http://coloradoindependent.com/4... (http://coloradoindependent.com/4424/colorado-fusion-center-to-step-up-intelligence-gathering-during-dnc)
Affording credit for vandalism to an undefined and unspecified group of people identified by vague generalizations like ideological labels is rather suspicious. What would be the point? To cast a dark cloud over everyone who may have expressed their beliefs in those terms. A method of disrupting political movements that explicitly challenge power.

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Evan (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7781#comment-5869)

Submitted by spamsucks on June 25, 2010 - 4:53pm.
While your comments are sound but speculative at best, I find it a tad irresponsible to diminish the fact that there are combative, aggressive anarchists willing to act directly against oppression in this area. Your pondering that some kind of "false flag" operation to take down indymedia took place instead of coordinated radical action reeks more of paranoia than sensible analysis. The corporate press rarely reports on direct action unless arson was involved or the target has sustained multiple attacks for the same reasons. I am as shocked as you are these incidents didn't make the mainstream press, but remember there is probably a reason for that as well: to keep the fact that there are militants out there striking blows hushed, especially because of the explicit ideological identities. Colorado is home to a wide range of above-ground and "legally operating" anarchist groups and attacks like these (which one could commend, simply for the timing, targeting, tactics, and apparent execution) raise the visibility and relevance of these groups to a huge swath of the population. Of course the press, as mouthpieces for the police departments, are going to stay silent about "a few broken windows" when there is this much political implication as well as opportunity for escalation and generalization of revolt.
Evan, if you are really curious as to whether these events took place, get a hold of the police reports. Visit the sites and ask somebody. If they really took place, it's likely the owners of the buildings filed for insurance claims or made police reports. Maybe that won't satiate you, however, as I imagine that you'd jump to the conclusion that agent provocateurs attacked these places in order to fit everything into your neat little conspiracy; once again shitting on the courage comrades found to act at risk and discouraging more radical folks out there from staging attacks themselves. Your conspiracies hinder the movement and over-complicate easily replicated actions taken by brave individuals. Until somebody gets off of their ass to see if these things all really happened as they were posted, the motives of the FBI won't be completely clear. Throwing bullshit into the wind and clouding the dialogue with jacketing anonymous possible comrades is reckless and stupid.

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Here is the story as reported in the Gaztte of Colorado Springs (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7781#comment-5874)

Submitted by phil on June 26, 2010 - 4:11am.
Even the story was carried in the mainstream media as well as on COIMC Her is a link to the story in the Colorado Springs Gazette. http://thebroadside.freedomblogg... (http://thebroadside.freedomblogging.com/2010/06/07/possible-terrorist-attack-disrupted-by-observant-ice-agents/) If you had done a google search you would have found it and a couple of others.
I have to agree with the commentator above that you false flag theory does seem on its face to speak more to paranoia. I would also like to point out that as a site administrator here at COIMC I personally try to verify all claims of direct action by searching the mainstream media and asking around. There are times when a contributor posts a story that I can not find anything about or in any way verify and that distresses me. As a community based news outlet where people can say and publish what they wish (Stories are not published after all by COIMC but by people in the community we are just an outlet) I and other editors and administrators here take a special interest in at least trying to know a little about the veracity of the posts on this site.
If you look through the site you will find times when the comments reflect a strong skepticism as to weather a post is true. Posts like your post. You are a smart man Even who has been around a while and I would have expected you would have checked around, done a little homework, before making your statement.

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Linking item to legitgov.org (CLG) website (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7781#comment-5871)

Submitted by Lori_Price_CLG on June 26, 2010 - 12:29am.
I'm linking this item to the Citizens for Legitimate Government website. I'm glad Colorado Indymedia (essentially) told the DHS to go f*ck themselves. They spend so much time on the CLG site, I think they should pay a portion of our webhosting bill.
Lori Price
Managing Editor
Citizens For Legitimate Government
http://www.legitgov.org/ (http://www.legitgov.org/)

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Thanks for linking This (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7781#comment-5875)

Submitted by phil on June 26, 2010 - 4:19am.
Thanks for linking this story to your site. Alternative news outlets need to stick together and in the spirit of shared struggle share information and tactics.

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... uh, ok ... (http://colorado.indymedia.org/node/7781#comment-5876)

Submitted by Evan Herzoff on June 26, 2010 - 3:08pm.
First of all, to the person who logged in using the "spamsucks" account (as if anyone couldn't guess who that is by the rhetoric), you're not paying attention to the question I simply brought up. I did not present any theory, I merely expressed suspicion at the integrity of the FBI's claims and intentions. Why does that bother [I]you if you don't mind my asking? If the Wells Fargo and ICE office were damaged by someone who is militant, anarchist and ready for a good time, a revolution, call it what you want, well then GOOD! Next time burn the whole f*cking building down. Then leave a note that says "well if it's on motherf*cker then it's on G," paraphrasing Eazy E. Or something like that, don't sell your imagination short. However, I don't trust SA Kowalski, and had you bothered to read the story to which these comments are attached you would understand why you can't trust what a pig says, namely because they have the right to lie to illicit consent, and gather leads and evidence. All cops are trained to listen for incriminating information when so much as talking to a person. The questions I presented were merely pertaining to what evidence is there that SA Kowalski's claims are substantial, and I did not ask for any "anarchist" to provide evidence of anything.
Furthermore, I'm obviously not the one implying that someone wants to take down indymedia, that is explicitly expressed in the article which I did not post nor write or contribute to in any way. Whether or not it was a "false flag" is a question I posed, a serious one, and that is it. There is no "neat little conspiracy" presented here, and quite frankly I'm getting tired of this revolution fantasy you keep pretending is underway. I wish it were, but I haven't seen it yet. In your comment you have presented more than one theory as though it is factual reality, and they are not even your theories. One is Marx/Fanon/Sartre (typical), the other is not one I can place a name upon, however, it is a theory I remember from undergraduate political science classes that cover the common tactics of most activists, and the class I took specified environmental activism. It was well illustrated in J. Layzer's Environmental Case, that would be the one about raising the salience of an issue, however what you're implying is the raising of the salience of a revolution, which is a spin back to the Marx/Fanon/Sartre theory of piercing through the illusion of the bourgeois facade by provoking repression and then stepping back and pointing at it to call out the criminality of the state. The problem is that only amateurs would assume this crap would work in today's world. This has all been done before (Ernesto "Che" Guevara ring a bell? He was confident and successful, unlike the Weather Underground). In fact these tactics which you think are so important, enough to call me "irresponsible" for questioning their integrity even as far out of context as you did, were described by Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois Black Panther Party as "child's play" and "folly," and that was more than 40 years ago. So I'm glad you've decided to go to school and get an education, even to do your homework, but really you should wait until you've studied to the at least the Bachelor level before you boast yourself as an expert of 1) the nature of corporate media (which stories they cover and why), 2) the concept of solidarity in militant action, 3) piercing through the illusion of the political facades and 4) proper analysis. I did not target, nor attack, nor insult, nor even mildly criticize anyone but SA Kowalski and the FBI/DHS assholes who hassled the folks at Denver Open Media! When are you immature suburbanite wannabe rebels going to learn the principle of the street, "don't start nothin', won't be nothin'?" Those of you who may be young, not experts, from the suburbs and "white" (a racial identity is a social construct not backed by biology or physical science in any way), and actually do want to be a revolution and create one (one of Che's most pertinent theories that I like to reiterate again and again), please know that my harsh comments are not directed toward you and thank you for being committed and having that kind of compassion. To those who always try to start a pissing contest with me, the statement is for you, and you know who you are as well as most of us could guess. This wouldn't be the first time, in other words.
And, to Phil, who said "the story was carried in the mainstream media as well as on COIMC" then provided a link to the following article: "Possible terrorist attack disrupted by observant ICE agents," by Seth Richardson (June 7th, 2010) in the Colorado Springs Gazette. The article does not even remotely mention anything related to these alleged incidents. It is a completely unrelated story. It is about a false claim that an Iranian-Canadian tried to smuggle weapons into the USA, and it praises ICE for catching him with weapons for a gun store without a license. So, Phil, I'll take your advice and google it. Lo and behold there is nothing. I found no articles anywhere prior to this one. The Westword reported on this article after the fact. There are no independent reports prior to this one, which is not about the vandalism but the FBI's inquiry. Remaining on the subject, this story regarding the FBI's inquiry is possible to find via google search, and the story of the alleged attacks/vandalism on ICE offices and a Wells Fargo are not. Plain and simple. So why don't you try doing a google search and see if you can find it. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Let us all know what you come up with, by all means, be my guest.
Oh, and by the way, the demonizing methods used by pigs in general to cause disruption and divisions in political movements is well documented. Ward Churchill wrote about it, as did Noam Chomsky, and even Ernesto Vigil (Ward and Ernesto don't get along at all, as is also documented to some extent, although I don't want to bring that issue up beyond this point. It's depressing.) wrote a book about Denver Police's similar shenanigans against the Crusade For Justice. Also, the Spy Files is a well known case, as was the JTTF case, both documented by Colorado ACLU and Copwatch watchdogs, and I provided a consistent link to the article in Colorado Independent by a journalist I happen to know personally, not well, but she's an acquaintance, about the "fusion center" set up during the DNC. Go read it, please.
And last but certainly not least, to the FBI, DHS, and FPS - can't you people find a better way to spend American tax dollars? Really, how does this crap "keep the nation secure"? Most Americans probably wouldn't feel much safer knowing you're wasting your time and our money hassling indymedia rather than investigating actual threats. Have a nice day.

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Peter Lemkin
06-27-2010, 04:37 AM
Chilling and meant to be chilling. Much of the apparatus of COG and repression has been moved to Colorado. Colorado, where I am when I am in the USA also has a small group of very progressive persons for the central part of the country - no surprise the friction between the two groups. Part of the general pattern of turning off all first amendment expression left of center; repression and the creation of fear; attempts to intimidate and track those who would question the PTB, let alone challenge them legally [to the limited and shrinking extent any legal means still exist]. Very sad to see in my lifetime the rise of a Police State in my beloved country. :eviltongue: [I'm not so naive not to know it was there long before my lifetime, but it really is in the ascendancy lately - and largely unchecked - hiding under the cloak of a war on [really of] terror.]