November 10, 2009
Declan McCullagh  reports for CBS News that the Department of Justice sent a formal request to Indymedia ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day. A grand jury subpoena required the independent news website “not to disclose the existence of this request” unless authorized by the Justice Department. The subpoena and gag order represent a new level of government intrusion into the operation of a free press in this country.
The subpoena issued by U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demands a transcript of “all IP traffic to and from www.indymedia.us” on June 25, 2008. It required website administrator Kristina Clair of the Philadelphia-based Indymedia website to “include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information,” including email addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers’ Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and other information on users of the website.
Clair told McCullagh and CBS: “I didn’t think anything we were doing was worthy of any (federal) attention.” She called the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco and the organization agreed to represent her.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has noted a number of problems with the government subpoena, including that it was not personally served, and that a court order is required for the server logs. Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based EFF, noted the Indymedia does not store its server logs.
Indymedia, short for Independent Media Center, is a global participatory network of journalists that report on political and social issues. It originated during the anti-WTO protests worldwide in 1999 and remains closely associated with the global justice movement, which criticizes neo-liberalism, and its associated institutions. Indymedia uses an open publishing and democratic media process that allows anybody to contribute, according to Wikipedia .
“If you get a subpoena and you’re a journalist, they can’t gag you,” Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of The Press, told McCullagh. “I have seen any number of these things withdrawn when counsel for someone who is claiming a reporter’s privilege says, ‘Can you tell me the date you got approval from the attorney general’s office’… I’m willing to chalk this up to bad lawyering on the part of the DOJ, or just not thinking.”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The government does not consider Indymedia — or the alternative news media as a whole (including Infowars and Prison Planet) — as legitimate news organizations. The corporate media does not accept the notion of “citizen journalists” and has consistently criticized bloggers.
In 2004, the DOJ sent a grand jury subpoena demanding information about who posted lists of Republican delegates to the GOP convention in New York. An Indymedia hosting service in Texas received a subpoena demanding server logs in relation to an investigation of an attempted murder in Italy.
Obama promised “change” during the election. However, as the latest effrontery to the First Amendment by the Department of Justice reveals, nothing has changed and the Obama administration intends to continue the unconstitutional policies of the Bush administration.