Colorado Indymedia on FBI's info request following ICE offices vandalism

On Friday, we shared an account by Open Media Foundation's Tony Shawcross about an FBI request for information from Colorado Indymedia following acts of vandalism at two Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices. Now, a Colorado Indymedia representative weighs in on the incident, which, in his opinion, has spawned misinformation about both CIM and the feds' action.

As pointed out in our original post, the tale began with the posting of two pieces on the Colorado Indymedia site. The first, published May 17 under the headline "ICE Office Attacked," is a mere snippet. It reads:

The entrance to an undisclosed/pseudo-secret ICE office in downtown Colorado Springs was attacked Saturday night. The office, ironically, is located within a bank building. No Deportations! No Borders!

The second, from May 27, is longer and more detailed. Its headline is "ICE Facility Attacked in Loveland:"

Over the weekend of the 15th of May, an ICE field office in Loveland, Colorado was attacked. Every window and door was shattered, totaling around twelve panes in all.

The unmarked facility is one of many such hidden ICE buildings in the U.S. that attempt to operate in secrecy. One tactic used by ICE to maintain this secrecy is to take people from their homes in the middle of the night to be "processed" before taken to privately-owned ICE prisons.

By operating in secrecy, ICE is able to maintain this particular sub-station within a shopping and residential district without revealing the repression used to create and sustain borders.

This action was taken in the climate typified by SB1070 in Arizona and local anti-immigrant sentiment. However, the ICE office would have been targeted regardless of legislation.

Resistance and attacks against manifestations of borders, prison and power will continue as long as families are separated and people are imprisoned, deported, and harassed.

As others have said-


Solidarity means attack.

In June, according to Shawcross, an FBI representative turned up at Open Media Foundation, which hosts Colorado Indymedia's site. He had a warrant and was seeking the IP address of the user or users who'd posted the ICE pieces. But this information wasn't available: The server doesn't record such data as a way of protecting the anonymity of CIM's users. A letter was sent to the FBI confirming this situation, Shawcross noted, with the feds apparently dropping the matter there.

But that's not how the situation is seen by Ringo, one of several administrators for Colorado Indymedia, who's been designated to speak for the organization on this topic. He begins by addressing incorrect assumptions about CIM itself.

"There are rumors that Colorado Indymedia is an anarchist site or that we promote a particular political ideology, and that's not the case," he says. "Our users produce the content for our site. We're not like the Denver Post or something. And the reason the site exists is because the mainstream media has one viewpoint, and we allow people to present their own viewpoint regardless of what it might be or how much money they might have."

As for the incident in question, he says, "another misconception is that the FBI was looking for logs to identify a particular user -- and based on the evidence we've seen, that doesn't seem to be the case. Basically, when the FBI came to Denver Open Media" -- the name under which the Open Media Foundation operates here -- "they said they wanted to take the server rather than getting information about a particular user."

In the end, Ringo confirms, Denver Open Media "didn't let them take the server. And the FBI didn't leave a copy of the warrant. They waved a paper around, but they wouldn't allow the people at Denver Open Media to get a copy of it. So it's possible there was no court order in the first place, and it was just a ruse to get them to voluntarily give the server to the FBI."

Not that Denver Open Media simply slammed the door in the agent's face. "Knowing the kind of work that Colorado Indymedia does, they said, 'Do you want logs?,'" Ringo says. Shortly thereafter, the FBI contacted the Colorado Indymedia administrative team, requesting records beginning and ending around the dates of the two acts of ICE-related vandalism.

Colorado Indymedia couldn't have complied even if administrators had felt like doing so -- because CIM doesn't collect such information. Why not?

"When you keep logs, it's going to create people who want them," Ringo explains. "It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if the FBI had taken our server, it would have given them the names of every person who ever used our website -- because they aren't going to say, 'I'm only going to take the logs of these people.'"

There's been no FBI followup since an e-mail was sent to the agency revealing that user information was unavailable. But that doesn't mean Ringo or his colleagues are assuming all is well.

"I think the whole server-seizure thing is a sign of how desperate the FBI is now," he maintains. "In Colorado over the past six months or so, we've seen a lot of direct action and attacks against government offices, which is really hard to stop. So instead of going after the people who smashed up the ICE offices, they thought, 'Let's just shut down the server.' Because before we published it, no other media outlet covered what was going on. And people hearing about this is the scariest thing in [the FBI's] eyes. If we hear about these incidents, we might think, 'We need to change how we think about immigration.'

"We're hoping this will be the end of it, but we're not expecting it to be," Ringo concedes. "We expect this kind of treatment from law enforcement. More often than not, they're coming as an act of intimidation -- using fear to stop people from even talking about what happened at these ICE offices. That makes them a bully, and a bully's power is to silence people. So we're telling people what's going on, and to be aware of what happened."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts