The Server of the Bristol indymedia IMC has been accessed by court order and all open publishing has been suspended. This coincides with the upcoming NATO meeting in Cardiff and is likely part of a government fishing expedition. The scope of the information accessed by police was far wider than that required to investigate the anonymous posts used as the excuse for the court order served on Bristol IMC's ISP
the PACE special procedure production order obtained by Avon and Somerset Police and served on Bytemark on 15th August 2014 "demands access to the details of administrators and bill-payers, login credentials, information on those who posted articles and the IP addresses of everyone who visited the site over an unspecified period". The court order served on Bytemark hasn't been published.
Sadly, It looks like this will be the end of open publishing for Bristol.
A statement from the collective was issued containing the following statement:
Bristol Indymedia disabled open publishing on the server and said "it is unlikely that open publishing of news items will ever be re-enabled as it would require complete re-installation of the server".
Disinformation, misinformation and the Security State
Unfortunately a, now hidden, fabricated, article containing intentional lies, claiming that "owing to an administration error by one of the techies all IP address details for the past 16 months were still stored on the server", was published on UK Indymedia and picked up by various sources, including The Times, before it was removed. This is a classic example of disinformation, "intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately" and it used the classic tactic "to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies". The propagation of this disinformation, as misinformation, "information that is unintentionally false", has occurred on activist discussion boards, Twitter and no doubt elsewhere. The nature of open publishing (pioneered by Indymedia — anyone can post an article) is vulnerable to abuse — in the past the Police have posted disinformation including comments inviting activists undertake illegal activity.
It is worth noting that the Police were not just after IP addresses of authors of specific articles but, as The Times reported, "details of administrators and bill-payers, login credentials, information on those who posted articles and the IP addresses of everyone who visited the site". It appears that it might be a general Police fishing operation as they were seeking far more data than they would need if they were genuinely after the details of the poster(s) of specific articles.
There is no reason to disbelieve Bristol Indymedia's relaunch article and publishing page that stated that they installed Apache mod_remove IP, this means that WordPress would never have access to the client's IP address and there would be no IP information in the Apache log files. However the site didn't use encrypted connections for reading or publishing (HTTPS), probably didn't have an encrypted filesystem.
Thanks to Edward Snowden's revelations it is now general knowledge that GCHQ tap and log vast quantities of Internet backbone traffic, so they will, no doubt, have extensive records of activity on the Bristol Indymedia site and this data, in all likelihood, have been shared with the Police. However GCHQ's illegally gathered data would not be admissible as evidence in a court case and GCHQ wouldn't want their evidence used in court as this would force them to admit what they are doing. In the United States there is a long history of the Police basing cases on illegally gathered intelligence data and then "building a parallel - or separate - evidentiary basis for a criminal investigation in order to conceal how the investigation began", this is known as parallel construction.