Government Order Demanded Only Logs Web Host Rackspace Handed Over Server

San Antonio, TX - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) last week won a motion allowing it to access sealed court documents about the mysterious disappearance of two web servers used to host news websites for Indymedia, a global collective of Independent Media Centers (IMCs) and thousands of journalists. After six months of secret litigation, EFF obtained a copy of the federal court order that resulted in the October 2004 handover of copies of Indymedia servers to the government by Indymedia's web host. That handover resulted in the silencing of more than 20 news websites and radio feeds for nearly a week.

However, the unsealed documents reveal that the government never officially demanded the computer servers -- the subpoena to Rackspace only requested server log files. This contradicts previous statements by the web host that it took the servers offline because the government had demanded the hardware. The documents also contradict Rackspace's claim that it had been ordered by the court not to discuss publicly the government's demand. It cannot be determined from the unsealed documents whether or not the government informally pressured Rackspace to turn over the servers. By giving the government more data than it requested, the company not only violated the privacy of Indymedia journalists whose information was housed on the servers, but also undermined the free flow of information by taking Indymedia's websites offline. Moreover, the logs that the government requested didn't exist, so Rackspace should never have given the government anything at all.

"When Rackspace received a government demand to examine logs that didn't exist, it had a responsibility to the customer and to the principles of freedom of the press to fight the order and resolve this without taking more than 20 news sites off the Internet," said Kurt Opsahl, EFF staff attorney.

"Rackspace may claim to provide its customers with 'fanatical support,' but in this case it looks like it was more interested in serving the government," added Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow. "Despite these new revelations, a key question remains: Did government agents intentionally mislead the web host into thinking it had to hand over complete copies of the Indymedia servers?"

The court order served on San Antonio-based Rackspace Managed Hosting was issued based on a treaty request from the Italian government as part of an ongoing criminal investigation in that country.

EFF was assisted in this case by James A. Hemphill and W. Reid Whittliff with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon &amp Moody in Austin, Texas.

Read the Commissioner's subpoena here.

Read the order unsealing the documents here.

There are many more unsealed documents here .


Kevin Bankston
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues