Were 11 Spanish Anarchists Arrested for Using Secure Email?

  • Posted on: 11 January 2015
  • By: worker

From Vice - by Jason Koebler
In mid-December, 11 Spanish anarchists were arrested by Catalan police in Barcelona, and it now appears they were detained at least in part because they were using an encrypted suite of secure communication tools known as Riseup.net. At the moment, seven of them are still waiting to stand trial. No formal charges have been made public.Early media reports suggested that those charged may have played a role in the destruction of ATMs around the city in 2012 and 2013, but that report hasn't been confirmed, because the Spanish judge presiding over the case has refused to make the official police report public. However, Judge Gomez Bermudez noted this week that the defendants "were using emails with extreme security measures, such as RISEUP.net." The defendants were also accused of having a book called Against Democracy and of having a "internal organizational and bureaucratic structures."

what email service they use shouldn't be one of the determining factors in whether they're arrested

In the activist world, RiseUp.net is a pretty well-known secure email service that's run by a nonprofit collective in Seattle. The website Security in a Box, which is run by a human rights NGO and reviews various encryption and personal security services, notes that it's "managed by trustworthy advocates of internet privacy and security." It also says, however, that using a RiseUp email address could draw the eyes of authorities, which of course is the concern here: "An unusual email service may attract unwarranted attention. It might make more sense in some situations to blend in by using a popular email service in your country."And that's the problem. In this case, there's at least the appearance that the use of secure email and chat protocols somehow led to the arrests, members of the collective at RiseUp noted. It's very possible that the Spanish government has hard evidence that those arrested had committed or were actively planning to commit a crime—but if it does have that information, it's not saying. Instead, the implication is that the use of encrypted communication channels is somehow implicitly related to criminal activity."We reject this Kafka-esque criminalization of social movements, and the ludicrous and extremely alarming implication that protecting one’s internet privacy is tantamount to terrorism," Riseup.net wrote in a blog post about the arrests. "Riseup, like any other email provider, has an obligation to protect the privacy of its users. Many of the 'extreme security measures' used by Riseup are common best practices for online security and are also used by providers such as Hotmail, Gmail or Facebook," the collective added. "However, unlike these providers, Riseup is not willing to allow illegal backdoors or sell our users’ data to third parties."Josh Levy, the advocacy director at Access, a New York-based civil liberties group, told me that though we don't know whether these people were involved in illegal activity, it's highly concerning that governments are now pointing to encryption as something inherently associated with it."Whether or not they were doing illegal activity, what email service they use shouldn't be one of the determining factors in whether they're arrested," Levy said. "Given that this particular email service is used by activists around the world, I don't think it's much of a leap to say that this shows authorities elsewhere are more actively monitoring people who make the choice to use a secure email service."More details are sure to come out, but for now, the Spanish government isn't talking. Lawyers for those detained maintain the group's innocence. And with little transparency in the whole process so far, it's unfortunately looking like using secure internet services can make you a target.

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Comments

Thanks vice!

Oh that... http://www.thebaffler.com/salvos/the-vertically-integrated-rape-joke

Ah, sure, we had to wait for this racist, phallocratic, Rupert Murdoch-pwned hipster outlet to tell us all about Operation Pandora. After weeks of articles published by actual anarchist sources all over the place. Right.

You're right of course and VICE is like a bad joke about meta-hipster-nihilism turned shock-journalism, their entire story is a depressing thought experiment about the power of the spectacle and finally, selling their brand they cobbled together out of garbage and shit. You have to admire them purely as con artists but the fact remains, that's a HUGE audience that doesn't otherwise consume much anarchist media.

"that's a HUGE audience that doesn't otherwise consume much anarchist media."

Which is part of their purpose as a control of dissent tool. Without which at least some of this huge audience would otherwise probably be reading from the lesser-hyped, lower-budget, authentically-DIY anarchist media.

But now with VICE, what can make people out of this huge non-anarchist-minded readership read anarchist media? It makes it a hundred times lesser likely than before, not until at least VICE wanes out for good and the hipsters start to get more hooked again by the hype of DIY media.

Disagree, you're giving people too much credit. Most people are initially exposed through channels like VICE, where the genuine perspective has made a big enough splash to bleed through to the corporate media.

Look at the Stimulator as an example, he's been around for over a decade now, churning out the indie DIY stuff and he's made a discernible impact where you can travel around and random people know his shit but he's still a gnat attacking an elephant like VICE or NEWSCORP. His page-views are really impressive considering his format but it's many orders of magnitude difference. You don't have to like it (I certainly don't) but it's objective reality. Economies of scale comrade.

All of which is only important if "spreading the word" is your method. I don't really see much point in it anymore but plenty of others are doing a decent job of it. Trying to persuade everyone isn't one of the most important things we should be doing IMHO.

And now Stimulator's with Al Jazeera, and next... deals with major labels/Hollywood Studios, and... (lulz)

But srsly, a terrible example in support of a bad idea. And "objective reality"? (*facepalm*) What the fuck do you really really know about the objective reality of how Submedia.tv has been successful in spreading the anarchist struggle in North America? Or how anarchy is that bigger and more well-organized in 2015 than in 2005, and more importantly how does it have to do with VICE or "It's the End of the World...".

You're not serious in anything there, or perhaps just another phony anarchoid who thinks an anarchist struggle so desperately relies on quantitative factors first and foremost than it should compromise itself even with Neonazis monopolizing these factors. This is where VICE has brought many of us, after all, a year ago in Ukraine, right? Or at least would have, if there weren't a heavy antifascist critique spread through many anarchist and non-anarchist outlets in parallel.

Furthermore the paradigm of anarchy is diametrically opposed to monopolization, as you should know.

To me it's just another "Krokodil" . A tool of consolidation of order through a spectacular product, among a plethora of so many other spectacular representations of the enthropic and the abnormal, profiting on the people's interest in these, all the while also being able to steer dissent through its vast network of naive or dumb followers, and why not snitch on anyone as well. After all Rupert Murdoch became infamous for his snitching schemes.

Also, didja even fucking read the article on VICE posted above? It's quite damning.

hahah, I like you. You have a really condescending, chirpy tone like you don't give a fuck, I respect that.

I'm about as serious as anyone here, I've known Frank for about 5 years, watched his progress with interest because at one time, I was a radical media nerd too. He was actually running his little op by "crowd-sourcing" it and has about as much credibility in my eyes as anyone doing media could (hint: it's a con artist's game, not about morality)

You're off on a tangent with the Ukraine thing … telling that story and fetishizing the militancy of the initial uprisings doesn't make you a neonazi sympathizer, you're just being trigger-happy with that association. Logic fallacy.

I'm READILY admitting that VICE is incredibly amoral and evil and return to my original point about what the media game is. This is the darkness, full of smiling sharks and evil sorcerers attempting to turn the winds of public opinion towards various agendas, there are no "good guys" here. Abandon all hope, etc.

You seem to be stuck with the moral framework stuff. You can critique everything to death all you like and you probably won't even be wrong but I'm much more interested in functional praxis i.e.. reach as many people as possible

As I said elsewhere here, I don't really believe trying to persuade everyone is all that important anymore and besides, there's lot of highly effective people already trying to do that. I'd rather see people spending more energy on keeping social centres open and projects of attack and disruption BUT if propaganda is your game and you don't want to burn out after a few years of charging at the wind mills, you might want to start doing some basic math, look at how web traffic flows, stuff like that.

I would love to see your mass propaganda strategy!

Food Not Bombs in over 5 different cities! Handing out fliers at the local LGBTQ parade and of course never forget, the big punk rock show with over 100 people a year.

Somehow I'd like to believe this is pure trolling, this is evidently a false argument for a wrong idea. Or what will you do out of a successful "mass propaganda strategy"?

Self-manage the factories and the military, right? Yep, Murdoch and the other cryptofascist tools working at VICE are soooo up for this! LoL....

(above hipster commenter then goes back a 100 years ago to cry in a wobblie assembly).

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