Monday, July 10, 2006
U.S. government "blocks" a website
There is an odd story from Agence France-Presse (AFP) that's being ignored by American news organizations. And what makes the story interesting isn't so much what it contains as what it fails to explain—
WARSAW (AFP) - Polish police, working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), have blocked a neo-Nazi website hosted by a US server, which published blacklists of Polish gays, feminists and left-wing sympathisers.
"We worked together very well," said Polish police chief Marek Bienkowski on Thursday, who had asked the FBI for help in blocking the website of the Polish wing of the neo-fascist Blood and Honour organisation.
Several of the administrators of the www.redwatch.info site were detained by Polish police.
The website was hosted by a server based in the southwestern US state of Arizona.
The site was run by a Polish skinhead group that "urged its followers to gather information about 'persons engaged in anti-fascist and anti-racist activities, on coloured immigrants, on left-wing activists and sympathisers and on the homosexual and pedophile lobby.'"
A near-attack on a "human rights activist" is said to be linked to the website.1
The American embassy in Warsaw was so proud of the FBI activity that they issued a press release—
Ambassador Victor Ashe stressed today that due to excellent cooperation between the Polish National Police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation the controversial "Blood and Honor" website was shut down. The Warsaw FBI office said "First and foremost, the credit should go to the Polish National Police who really worked hard on this case. We at the FBI were happy to assist them in bringing justice to these criminals. We look forward to continued strong cooperation with Polish authorities."
But Adam Cioch had previously reported at a French website the arrests ("detentions") mentioned above but added—
The [Polish] government has asked American police to close the site, hosted in the United States, but for the moment it remains accessible since American law doesn't prosecute fascist propaganda. [a Simply Appalling translation]
That would be my understanding.
So we are left with a mystery. What action did the FBI take to "block" a website hosted in Arizona?
One possibility is that FBI agents simply went to the person or persons hosting the site, mentioned their fear that the website might be posing a threat to Polish gay Jewish anarchists2 and asked them to take it down. But we don't know that, and the use of the term "blocked" in the AFP account implies an action that was considerably more aggressive.
On the other hand we would expect the FBI to do whatever it takes to show their fullest cooperation with the Polish government, since the Polish government has kindly helped the U.S. by keeping the captives swept up in "extraordinary renditions" in secret prisons somewhere in Poland.
Again the government has gotten into the business of shutting down a website, as it has done previously (see below), and again this has failed to attract the attention of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the LA Times, the AP and CNN, to mention but a few.
Even with such sparse media coverage we now know of two instances where government censorship was exercised by cutting off the host server. Are there more?
Update on "U.S. blocks a website" (7/13/06)
1Just who this person was and what actually occurred is also a bit of a mystery.
The AFP story says—
On May 16, a human rights activist, whose name was on the Blood and Honour list, narrowly avoided a knife attack in a Warsaw street. According to the US embassy in Warsaw, the would-be victim is Jewish.
It is first a puzzle why the US embassy is identifying to the press the religion-ethnicity of Polish citizens who have avoided an attack on the street. Wouldn't that normally be the job of the Polish police? Is this a common practice?
Then we have this tidbit repeated by Doug Ireland—
The Web site http://www.gaypoland.pl reported that two weeks ago, "a young left-wing and ecological activist was stabbed with a foot-long knife which narrowly missed his vital organs. The assault is obviously linked with his presence on an Internet list called 'Krew i Honor' [Blood and Honor'] where Polish fascist organizations openly call for killing left-wing and gay activists. Although fascism is a crime in Poland, the police are unable to solve the problem since the server with the Web site is located in the U.S.A."
I could not verify the original quote, but Ireland is generally a trustworthy reporter and I have no reason to doubt the quote. Assuming the truth of it, is this the same person referred to in the AFP article? Does "narrowly missed his vital organs" equate to "narrowly avoided a knife attack"? And does it sound better to describe an anarchist in the environmental movement as a "human rights worker"? [back]
2Of course I jest. There is one and only one group being protected here—the Jews. In fact the Polish government, which has taken a hard-right turn, is in competition with the very skinhead group it wanted shut down to persecute gay groups.
Doug Ireland wrote last month—
Poland's state prosecutor last week announced a government investigation of all Polish gay groups for illegal financing, criminal connections, and pedophilia. This crackdown on gay groups is only the latest in a series of disturbing developments in Poland during the last month that illustrate the continuing rise of political homophobia under the country's new gay-hostile government led by the duo nicknamed the Terrible Twins: President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslav, who controls the Polish Parliament.[back]
The state prosecutor's announcement of the investigation of gay groups came in response to a May 12 letter from Wojciech Wierzejski, a front-bench member of Parliament from the League of Polish Families Party, of which Wierzejski is a vice-president. Ultra-homophobic, anti-Semitic, and Catholic fundamentalist, the League recently became part of the hard-right national government led by the Kaczynski twins. A copy of Wierzejski's letter was attached to the state prosecutor's order.