Statement of Brian Szymanski Regarding Secret Service Investigation of Indymedia

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
August 30, 2004 12:00 am

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I have been involved in Indymedia since early 2001. Indymedia is based on the premise of open publishing — empowering people to publish anything that they deem newsworthy with no filter except the reader’s own — to “be the media.” It also gives the publisher the power to be anonymous, pseudonymous, or registered, so they can choose how much readers know about them. This is an extremely powerful device because it allows whistleblowers and others who need an assurance of anonymity to publish a story without fear of retribution while still letting journalists who wish to have their identities known build a reputation and readership.

My first involvement with New York City Indymedia was in late 2003/early 2004 when I migrated it and a number of other Indymedia websites to new software on a new server (hosted at Calyx in New York City). When doing these migrations, I personally set the configuration that tells the webserver not to keep Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in the server logs. Hence, not only does Indymedia have a longstanding policy of not logging IPs, I can personally attest that NYC Indymedia has not kept logs for at least the last seven to eight months when I have been involved in administering the site.

On August 24, I received communication from Nicholas Merrill at Calyx saying that he had been served with a subpoena by the Secret Service in relation to a post on the NYC Indymedia website. I cannot explain in words just how stressful this was to me – it made me a nervous wreck, even though it was in my opinion an obvious attempt to stifle the dissent of Indymedia volunteers, visitors to our websites, and the activist community at large by proxy.

I do not think that the government has a right to intimidate every person they can find on their way to someone they want to investigate. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident — the federal government in recent years, especially under George W. Bush, has become increasingly authoritarian, to the detriment of the civil liberties of our citizens and the health of our democracy. This is only one example of this disturbing trend.

I personally have nothing to hide, and thus the government’s attempts to intimidate me will not accomplish anything, but I fear for the effect that this sort of action by the government will have on the citizenry at large.

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