Matt Toups, a senior majoring in computer science, has recently found himself the subject of a subpoena issued by the United States Secret Service. The subpoena focuses on Toups and three other systems administrators for Indymedia, an independent online media organization that focuses on political and social issues across the United States.
On August 19, Calyx Internet Access, a New York-based internet service provider, was issued a federal grand jury subpoena to release registration information about NYC Indymedia, a subscriber of Calyx. The subpoena was issued in relation to an official criminal investigation of the violation of 18 U.S.C. 594, which has to do with voter intimidation. The subpoena also asked for further information about some postings made on the website. The postings in question contained private information about Republican Convention delegates, including phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and hotels at which the delegates were expected to stay. Toups and his fellow administrators were then issued the subpoena as well.
Toups said that he did not know much about the RNC delegate posting at first, and was surprised but not intimidated when he found out he would be involved in a federal subpoena. He said the subpoena ?will not scare us from being involved in grassroots publishing and open media.?
On August 30 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it would be representing Toups, as well as Calyx and other Indymedia volunteers, should further judicial action be taken. In a press statement, ACLU legal director Ann Beeson said, ?This type of investigation is really a form of intimidation and a message to activists that they will pay a price for speaking out.?
This is not the first time that Indymedia has been targeted by the Secret Service. On April 21, 2001, the Seattle Independent Media Center was visited by the FBI and Secret Service. As a result of that case Indymedia stopped keeping records of IP addresses, which can be used to identify posters.
Indymedia still has a protective stance on anonymity. Stephen Quinten, a recent CMU graduate and one of the members of the Pittsburgh Indymedia collective, said that the subpoena issue ?has reaffirmed our commitment to anonymous free speech.?
Toups remains optimistic. He feels that the Secret Service has failed in their purpose to intimidate Indymedia, and that the support he has received shows that ?Americans still take their liberties seriously.?
The Secret Service has not yet taken any further action.