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Server Seizure Blurs Borders

So much for freedom of speech. The Independent Media Centre (IMC), an alternative news agency that runs www.indymedia.org, recently was surprised to learn that the FBI had seized two of its servers, which were hosted by Rackspace, a San Antonio, Texas-based managed hosting provider. Oddly enough, the seizure took place at Rackspace's overseas office in London. No explanation was given, and the hosting company released a statement saying the action was taken under international law, that the investigation did not involve the United States and that Rackspace was prohibited from commenting further on the case.

The removal of the servers shut down more than 20 Web sites across the globe. When the IMC and its lawyers sought answers, they were told by federal authorities that it was not an FBI operation and that the United States was acting on behalf of a "third party." Less than a week after the seizure, the servers were returned.

So, what happened? Many questions remain, but the FBI confirmed it was acting on behalf of Italian and Swiss authorities, neither of which have disclosed the nature of the investigation. The IMC, meanwhile, has suggested that the server seizure involved a Web story about undercover Swiss police officers posing as G8 protesters during the summit event in Switzerland in 2003. The IMC says it may take legal action to resolve the matter, which has sparked a controversy over international law, freedom of the press and the legal ramifications of the Internet.

For sure, this is one international coalition the United States had no problem with.