In what advocates are calling a victory for press freedom, the
U.S. government last Wednesday dropped an April 21st court order
demanding that Seattle’s Independent Media Center
hand over its server logs of users who may have viewed Quebec
police documents relating to global justice demonstrations.
The order had claimed that two documents, stolen from a police car
during the April 20-22 demonstrations against the Free Trade Area
of the Americas, had been posted online to the IMC’s Montreal site
and circulated throughout the IMC network. The documents
allegedly contained information about various protest groups and
details of George W. Bush’s travel itinerary. Bush was in Quebec
for the trade talks. The court order sought the unique IP (Internet
Protocol) addresses of every visitor to the IMC’s Web sites
on April 20 and 21–over 1.25 million in all–to aid a Canadian
investigation into the theft of the documents.
IMC volunteers and legal observers decried the order as a
heavy-handed government attempt to intimidate activists and quash
independent coverage of the protests. ‘This kind of fishing
expedition is another in a long line of overbroad and onerous
attempts to chill political speech and activism,’ said IMC attorney
Lee Tien, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. ‘Back in 1956,
Alabama tried to force the NAACP to give up its membership lists —
but the Supreme Court stopped them.’ Tien and others hailed the
government’s move as an important victory for press freedom.