The US State Department keeps saying
it wants to support a free and open internet, and to build systems that protect dissedents and reformers who are speaking out. But it seems that they can't get the message through to the rest of the US government. Apparently the FBI has seized a server used by various people to anonymize their emails
, because it was also used as part of a bomb threat:
On Wednesday, April 18, at approximately 16:00 Eastern Time, U.S. Federal authorities removed a server from a colocation facility shared by Riseup Networks and May First/People Link in New York City. The seized server was operated by the European Counter Network (“ECN”), the oldest independent internet service provider in Europe, who, among many other things, provided an anonymous remailer service, Mixmaster, that was the target of an FBI investigation into the bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh.
“The company running the facility has confirmed that the server was removed in conjunction with a search warrant issued at the request of the FBI,” said May First/People Link director Jamie McClelland. “The server seizure is not only an attack against us, but an attack against all users of the Internet who depend on anonymous communication.”
Disrupted in this seizure were academics, artists, historians, feminist groups, gay rights groups, community centers, documentation and software archives and free speech groups. The server included the mailing list “cyber rights” (the oldest discussion list in Italy to discuss this topic), a Mexican migrant solidarity group, and other groups working to support indigenous groups and workers in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. In total, over 300 email accounts, between 50-80 email lists, and several other websites have been taken off the Internet by this action. None are alleged to be involved in the anonymous bomb threats. The seized machine did not contain any riseup email accounts, lists, or user data. Rather, the data belonged to ECN.
As the announcement from Riseup states, the FBI (as is all too typical) is "using a sledgehammer approach," killing off this important service that many used, just because one person abused it.
“We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh community who have had to deal with this frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose such threatening actions. However, taking this server won’t stop these bomb threats. The only effect it has is to also disrupt e-mail and websites for thousands of unrelated people,” continues Mr. Theriot-Orr. “Furthermore, the network of anonymous remailers that exists is not harmed by taking this machine. So we cannot help but wonder why such drastic action was taken when authorities knew that the server contained no useful information that would help in their investigation.”
Why is it that law enforcement almost never seems to think through the actual consequences of actions like these?