FBI seizes Internet host from N.Y. 'remailer' center
By Mike Wereschagin
Published: Saturday, April 21, 2012, 2:47 p.m.
The FBI seized a computer server from a New York Internet host through which at least three bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh were relayed, the host said on Thursday.
Officials at May First/People Link said the FBI removed the server about 4 p.m. on Wednesday on a federal warrant. An Italian Internet service provider, the European Counter Network, operated an anonymous email service on the server. Jamie McClelland, co-director of May First/People Link, said the server stored more than 300 email accounts, up to 80 email lists and websites serving groups from Latin America to Europe.
The FBI could not be reached.
WPXI-TV reported federal agents on Wednesday also raided the home of a Cambria County couple who have testified in a grand jury investigation into the threats. Seamus Johnston and Katherine McCloskey told the station the agents took a laptop, desktop computer, CDs, a router and a cable modem. Johnston and McCloskey could not be reached. They have denied involvement in the threats.
Authorities cleared 13 Pitt buildings yesterday in the latest in an ongoing series of bomb threats that have triggered more than 110 evacuations since Feb. 13. The threats have been delivered by email and in handwritten messages. Authorities have not found explosives.
More than 700 liberal and union-oriented organizations from around the world pool their resources through May First/People Link to pay for Internet hosting equipment and expenses. The server the FBI seized was housed in a New York building that May First shared with Riseup Networks, which says on its website that it offers hosting services for groups similar to those that use May First.
At least three of the Pitt bomb threats came via a service provided by ECN, one of May First's members. The service facilitates an anonymous remailer program called Mixmaster that makes emails all but impossible to trace. Mixmaster bounces encrypted emails through a global network of servers. The servers typically don't store information about the emails that pass through them, according to Lance Cottrell, who wrote Mixmaster.
"We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh community who have had to deal with this frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose such threatening actions. However, taking this server won't stop these bomb threats. The only effect it has is to also disrupt email and websites for thousands of unrelated people," said Devin Theriot-Orr, a Riseup spokesman.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hill District nonprofit’s finances are taking another dive
- Boat owners prepare for winterization
- Food stamp fraud, bloat overshadow debate on farm bill