On January 30, 2009 IndyMedia, an alternative on-line new source, received a subpoena from the Southern District of Indiana Federal Court for the “IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information” of all the site’s visitors on June 25, 2008. IndyMedia was then prohibited from notifying visitors of this release of otherwise private and protected information because disclosure “would impede the investigation being conducted and thereby interfere with the enforcement of the law.”
The subpoena was issued under the authority of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), passed in January of 2009, which allows the government to subpoena any stored electronic communication record, including IP addresses and any other information it deems pertinent, on any server within national borders. It does not require that sites notify those whose records are being obtained.
The SCA does not, however, provide for the broad and sweeping mass of information that the subpoena required. IndyMedia and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization dedicated to protecting rights in the digital realm, challenged the order and the subpoena was eventually dropped. In addition, government officials later admitted that the gag they had placed on IndyMedia was, in fact, illegal.
The EFF’s full report on their involvement, a pdf of the full subpoena, and interviews with IndyMedia’s system administrator are now available at www.indymedia.org.
IndyMedia, November 13, 2009
“Indymedia.us and EFF Successfully Fight Back Against Bogus FBI Subpoena.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation, November 9, 2009
“From EFF’s Secret Files: Anatomy of a Bogus Subpoena”
Author: Kevin Bankston
Student Researchers: Trisha Himmelein and Emily Schuler
Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley, Associate Professor of Media Studies, DePauw University
Evaluator: Brian Howard, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, DePauw University