Après le G20 de Pittsburgh, le FBI travaille

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Un utilisateur de Twitter poursuivi

Un militant «anarchiste» qui aurait utilisé le site de socialisation Twitter pour aider des manifestants à échapper aux autorités lors du G20 a été arrêté par la police au premier jour du sommet, a-t-on appris mardi suite à la diffusion de la plainte.

Elliot Madison, 41 ans, qui se présente lui même comme un «anarchiste», a été arrêté dans une chambre d’hôtel de Pittsburgh (Pennsylvanie, est des États-Unis) le 24 septembre.

Selon la plainte de la police, obtenue par une organisation à but non lucratif, Electronic Frontier Foundation, qui milite pour la liberté sur internet, et mise en ligne mardi, Elliot Madison et un autre homme se trouvaient dans la chambre d’hôtel quand la police est arrivée.

«Les deux hommes étaient face à des ordinateurs et des téléphones portables, ils avaient des micros et des casques et plusieurs plans, des numéros de téléphone et du matériel pour écouter les communications de la police et des services de secours», dit la plainte. Ils sont entrés en contact avec des groupes de manifestants, en utilisant à la fois des téléphones portables et internet et notamment le site de socialisation Twitter, est-il écrit.

Leur presse (AFP), 7 octobre 2009.


Arrêté pour avoir utilisé Twitter lors d’une manifestation aux États-Unis

Des militants «anarchistes» écoutaient les communications de la police…

Twitter semble décidément le meilleur outil pour être au cœur d’un événement. Un outil qui n’est pas du goût de la police de Pittsburgh. Cette dernière a déposé plainte fin septembre contre Elliot Madison, un Américain de 41 ans, et un autre homme non identifié, qui auraient utilisé le réseau social et des SMS afin de venir en aide aux manifestants lors du dernier G20.

«Les deux hommes étaient face à des ordinateurs et des téléphones portables, ils avaient des micros et des casques et plusieurs plans, des numéros de téléphone et du matériel pour écouter les communications de la police et des services de secours», indique le rapport des autorités qui les ont surpris dans une chambre d’hôtel de Pittsburgh, le 24 septembre.

L’accusé se dit «anarchiste»

Les SMS et autres messages «tweetés» par Elliot Madison, qui se présente comme un «anarchiste», et son complice, étaient «utiles aux leaders de la  manifestation pour éviter les interpellations», poursuit le rapport.

L’affaire leur tient à cœur, puisqu’une semaine plus tard, le 1er octobre, la police de New York et le FBI ont fait irruption au domicile d’Elliot Madison, à New York, à la recherche de nouvelles preuves pouvant accuser le militant d’incitation aux émeutes. Seize heures de perquisition pour repartir avec les ordinateurs, et même son poster de Lénine et les magnettes de son réfrigérateur.

«Pas uniquement en Iran»

Levée de boucliers côté associatifs. «Comment cela (écouter les communications de la police) peut-il être un crime ?», s’est indigné Witold Walczak, le directeur juridique d’une organisation qui défend les libertés individuelles. «Si la police veut communiquer sans être entendue, il y a certainement des moyens pour cela.»

Sur Twitter, le même message se multiplie chez les défenseurs de l’anarchiste. «Libérez Elliot Madison! Permettez l’utilisation de Twitter pour les manifestations aux États-Unis, et non uniquement en Iran !»

Leur presse (20 minutes), 7 octobre.



Queens “terror” raid hits G-20 anarchist


FBI anti-terrorism agents raided the Queens home of a self-described anarchist charged with tweeting protesters with instructions on how to evade police at the G-20 summit.

A dozen gas masks, liquid mercury, backpacks containing hammers and anarchist literature were among the dozens of items seized Thursday at the Jackson Heights home where Elliot Madison, 41, lives with his wife Elena, 39.

Madison is free on bail after Pittsburgh cops arrested him on September 24 and charged him with hindering prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possessing criminal instruments.

Police tracked Madison and another man to a motel room at the Carefree Inn in Pittsburgh, where they discovered a makeshift communications center, according to a criminal complaint.

The two men were seated in front of personal computers and telecommunications equipment, wearing headphones and microphones and surrounded by maps, contact numbers and police and EMS scanners.

Cops claim they were using Twitter to direct the movements of protesters and update them on the location and actions of law enforcement.

The details of Madison’s recent arrest and Thursday’s search emerged yesterday as defense lawyer Martin Stolar asked a federal judge to stop authorities from reviewing confidential information contained in his client’s computers.

But Assistant US Attorney Andrew Goldsmith argued that some of the items raised alarm, including a pound of liquid mercury in the house, alongside “books about poisons” and a microscope.

The feds also found metal triangles that are used to puncture tires and two boxes of ammunition. Goldsmith said agents left a collection of machetes, samurai swords and daggers at the house, because they didn’t fall within the scope of the search warrants.

Stolar said Madison and his wife have a long history of working for the People’s Law Collective, a group he described as providing legal representation for protesters.

In court papers, Stolar argued that the search is illegal and asked Brooklyn federal Judge Dora Irizarry to order the return of the property.

The judge issued a temporary order of protection stopping the feds from going through the material.

Neighbors said the house was swarming with agents during the 16-hour search, while helicopters flew overhead.

Their press (Kati Cornell, New York Post), October 3rd, 2009.


Men arrested for G-20 Twittering say it’s free speech
Police claim tweets aided protesters’
criminal activity

The quick evolution of technology has changed the way Americans do almost everything, including how law enforcement combats crime, and consequently, how criminals elude law enforcement.
Those two concepts converged during the G-20 summit, when state police arrested two New York men for using Twitter to inform protesters in Pittsburgh about the movements of local officers.

They are accused of hindering apprehension, criminal use of communication facility and possessing instruments of crime. The charges raise questions about the use of technology in areas where the First Amendment and potential criminal activity converge.

“Anyone can tweet, but the truth is, sometimes speech can be criminal,” said John Burkoff, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

The charges came to light late last week when an attorney for self-described anarchist Elliot Madison filed a motion in federal court in New York asking for the return of much of the evidence seized during a 16-hour FBI search. Agents arrived at the man’s Queens residence at 6 a.m. Thursday to investigate potential violations of “federal rioting laws.”

Several people live in the house, Mr. Madison’s lawyer said, and much of the material taken did not belong to his client.

While there were many potentially relevant items seized — gas masks, computers, corked glass vials, beakers and test tubes — there were lots of likely irrelevant materials seized, as well — posters of a cat and another of Curious George, photographs of Karl Marx and Lenin, along with MP3 players.

Also taken were files of Mr. Madison’s clients. He is a social worker in Manhattan and has two master’s degrees.

Attorney Martin R. Stolar describes his clients, Elliot and Elena Madison, as “political activists dealing with social justice issues as well as paralegal support workers for those contemplating political action and those arrested as a result of political demonstration activity.”

Elena Madison is not charged in the case but is one of the plaintiffs requesting return of the seized items.

They work as part of a confederation known as The Peoples’ Law Collective.

According to a criminal complaint filed against Mr. Madison, Pennsylvania State Police served a search warrant on Room 238 of the Carefree Inn on Kisow Drive in Kennedy early in the afternoon of September 24. It was the first day of the G-20 summit and also the day set for unsanctioned protests in Lawrenceville.

In the motel room, police discovered Mr. Madison and Michael Wallschlaeger sitting in front of personal computers listening to both police and EMS scanners.

They were using headphones, microphones and maps to alert protesters about the movements of law enforcement, the complaint said. They sent the information out via cell phones and Twitter.

“Investigating the government and broadcasting information about it would seem to be constitutionally protected communication,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union. “If the police want to communicate privately, there are certainly ways to do that, and police radios are not one of those.”

“How can it be a crime? It’s not a secure communication.”

But Mr. Burkoff said that it’s one thing to listen to police information and even to share it. It’s another, though, to provide it to someone for potentially criminal purposes.

“Were they sending it to people simply to protest, or to commit further crimes?” he asked.

To earn a conviction, prosecutors will have to show that Mr. Madison and Mr. Wallschlaeger were assisting criminal activity.

“It begs the question of both timing and what the people were doing when they received [the information],” Mr. Burkoff said.

Given the timing of the arrests — the criminal complaint lists 3:25 p.m. — Mr. Walczak noted that Mr. Madison could not have been aiding the few people who destroyed property in Oakland during the G-20, because that happened later in the day.

Indeed, the court filing specifically notes that the underlying crime Mr. Madison was assisting was the protesters’ failure to disperse.


“Are they plotting against world leaders?” Mr. Walczak asked. “I find so much of what happened the last two weeks mystifying. The response seems so disproportionate to the threat.”


Mr. Burkoff has not heard of police making arrests based on the use of Twitter before.


He noted that the American government encouraged the use of the social networking program for people protesting elections in Iran earlier this year.


“We tend to applaud the use of Twitter when it’s in Iran and protests we like,” he said. “But we're much more nervous about it when it’s protests we don't like.”


Mr. Walczak questioned the constitutionality of the charges, as well as their necessity.


“I guess if you have 5,000 police officers and a quarter-million dollars in fancy equipment, you have to do something with it,” he said. “Might as well go after some amateur ham radio operators in a motel room.”


Their press (Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), October 5th.

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