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[liberationtech] Riseup had a server seized by the US Federal Authorities

Arzak Khan azrak_khan at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 19 22:33:03 PDT 2012


This needs to be condemned at the highest possible level.   Arzak
 > Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 00:31:06 +0200
> From: annalist at riseup.net
> To: liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu; unlike-us at listcultures.org
> Subject: [liberationtech] Riseup had a server seized by the US Federal	Authorities
> 
> https://help.riseup.net/en/seizure-2012-april
> 
> Server Seizure, April 2012
> April 18th, 2012, Riseup had a server seized by the US Federal 
> Authorities. This is our press release.
> 
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
> 
> FBI seizes server providing anonymous remailer and many other services 
> from colocation facility.
> Contacts:¶
> 
> - Riseup Networks, Devin Theriot-Orr, 206-708-8740, sunbird at riseup.net
> - May First/People Link, Jamie McClelland, 917-509-5734, jm at mayfirst.org
> - ECN: Isole Nella Rete, inr at riseup.net
> 
> Attack on Anonymous Speech¶
> 
> 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 by 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 FBI is using a sledgehammer approach, shutting down service to 
> hundreds of users due to the actions of one anonymous person,” said 
> Devin Theriot-Orr, a spokesperson for Riseup. “This is particularly 
> misguided because there is unlikely to be any information on the server 
> regarding the source of the threatening emails.”
> 
> “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.”
> 
> The FBI purportedly seized the server because it was hosting an 
> anonymous remailer called Mixmaster. Anonymous remailers are used to 
> send email anonymously, or pseudonymously. Like other anonymizing 
> services such as the Tor network, these remailers are widely used to 
> protect the identity of human rights activists who place themselves and 
> their families in grave danger by reporting information about abuses. 
> Remailers are also important for corporate whistle blowers, democracy 
> activists working under repressive regimes, and others to communicate 
> vital information that would otherwise go un-reported.
> 
> The Mixmaster software is specifically designed to make it impossible 
> for anyone to trace the emails. The system does not record logs of 
> connections, details of who sent messages, or how they were routed. This 
> is because the Mixmaster network is specifically designed to resist 
> censorship, and support privacy and anonymity. Unfortunately, some 
> people misuse the network. However, compared to the rate of legitimate 
> use, the abuse rate is very low. There is therefore no legitimate 
> purpose for the FBI to seize this server because they will not be able 
> to obtain any information about the sender. This is plainly 
> extra-judicial punishment and an attack on free speech and anonymity on 
> the internet and serves as a chilling effect on others providers of 
> anonymous remailers or other anonymous services.
> 
> In absence of any other leads, the FBI needs to show that they are 
> making progress in this case, and this has meant seizing a server so 
> they can proudly demonstrate they are taking some action. But what this 
> incident shows is they are grasping at straws and are willing to destroy 
> innocent bystanders for the sake of protecting their careers.
> About the organizations involved¶
> 
> MayFirst/People Link (mayfirst.org) is a politically-progressive 
> member-run and controlled organization that redefines the concept of 
> “Internet Service Provider” in a collective and collaborative way. May 
> First/People Link’s members are organizers and activists who elect a 
> Leadership Committee to direct the organization. Like a coop, members 
> pay dues, buy equipment and then share that equipment for websites, 
> email, email lists, and other Internet purposes.
> 
> Riseup Networks (riseup.net) provides online communication tools for 
> people and groups working on liberatory social change. Riseup creates 
> democratic alternatives and practices self-determination by controlling 
> our own secure means of communications.
> 
> ECN (European Counter Network – ecn.org) is the oldest independent 
> service provider in Europe providing free email accounts, mailing lists, 
> and websites to organizations, activists, and movements that are 
> involved in human rights, freedom of speech and information in Italy and 
> Europe. ECN is anti-fascist and works towards a just and equal society. 
> Years ago, before sites like Youtube and Vimeo existed, ECN created a 
> platform called NGV where people could upload and share independent 
> video of human rights violations. Nowadays ECN works primarily with 
> anti-fascist and anti-Nazi movements in all of Europe, providing space 
> and resources to political and social centers.
> Questions / further reading¶
> 
> Q: Doesn’t Mixmaster/anonymous remailers enable criminals to do bad things?
> 
> A: Criminals can already do bad things. Since they’re willing to break 
> laws, they already have lots of options available that provide better 
> privacy than mixmaster provides. They can steal cell phones, use them, 
> and throw them in a ditch; they can crack into computers in Korea or 
> Brazil and use them to launch abusive activities; they can use spyware, 
> viruses, and other techniques to take control of literally millions of 
> Windows machines around the world.
> 
> Mixmaster aims to provide protection for ordinary people who want to 
> follow the law. Only criminals have privacy right now, and we need to 
> fix that.
> 
> Some advocates of anonymity explain that it’s just a tradeoff — 
> accepting the bad uses for the good ones — but there’s more to it than 
> that. Criminals and other bad people have the motivation to learn how to 
> get good anonymity, and many have the motivation to pay well to achieve 
> it. Being able to steal and reuse the identities of innocent victims 
> (identify theft) makes it even easier. Normal people, on the other hand, 
> don’t have the time or money to spend figuring out how to get privacy 
> online. This is the worst of all possible worlds.
> 
> So yes, criminals could in theory use mixmaster, but they already have 
> better options, and it seems unlikely that taking mixmaster away from 
> the world will stop them from doing bad things. At the same time, 
> mixmaster and other privacy measures can fight identity theft, physical 
> crimes like stalking, and so on. (www.torproject.org/docs/faq-abuse.html)
> 
> Q: How does Mixmaster / Anonymous remailers work?
> 
> A: Anonymous remailers work by connecting to other anonymous remailers 
> in a chain, and every one in that chain removes the mail header 
> information making it impossible to find the real sender. The Tor 
> project maintains a list of typical users of this and other anonymity 
> systems, and the Mixmaster home page
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