News Briefs

Indymedia servers seized

(AP) Devin Theriot-Orr, a member of a feisty group ofreporter-activists called Indymedia, was surprised when two FBIagents showed up at his Seattle law office, saying the visit was a”courtesy call” on behalf of Swiss authorities.

Theriot-Orr was even more surprised a week later when more than20 Indymedia web sites were knocked offline as the computer serversthat hosted them were seized in Britain.

Indymedia’s Portland website,, wasstill online as of Tuesday night.

The Independent Media Center, more commonly known as Indymedia,says the seizure is tantamount to censorship, and civillibertarians agree. The internet is a publishing medium just like aprinting press, they argue, and governments have no right to removeweb sites.

The case, which involves an internet company based in Texas,photos of undercover Swiss police officers and a request from anItalian prosecutor investigating anarchists, raises questions aboutthe circumstances under which internet companies can be compelledto turn over data.

“The implications are profound,” said Barry Steinhardt of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union, calling the Indymedia activists”classic dissenters” and likening the case to “seizing a printingpress or shutting down a radio transmitter.”

“It smells to high heaven,” he said.

Internet providers in the United States routinely remain silentwhen ordered by authorities to turn over data, though actualseizures of their servers is rare.

AT&T Wireless to merge withCingular

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Communications Commission gave itsapproval Tuesday to Cingular Wireless LLC’s $41 billion acquisitionof AT&T Wireless Services Inc., completing the federalregulatory blessing necessary for creation of the country’s largestcell phone company.

Antitrust regulators at the Justice Department had cleared theway for the merger on Monday.

“Without these divestitures, wireless customers in these marketswould have had fewer choices for their wireless telephone serviceand faced the risk of higher prices, lower quality service andfewer choices for the newest high-speed mobile wireless dataservices,” said R. Hewitt Pate, assistant attorney general for theJustice Department’s antitrust division.

Both agencies, however, set conditions for the merger that wouldgive Atlanta-based Cingular about 47.6 million subscribers. Thatwould top Verizon Wireless, the current market leader with 40.4million customers as of midyear, while paring the number ofnational cell phone providers to five.

The FCC will require the agency to divest assets in 22 marketsin at least eight states. Among them: Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansasand Texas.

Under the agreement with the Justice Department filed in federalcourt in Washington, Cingular must divest itself of the newcombined company’s assets in 11 states. The settlement requires themerged company to divest assets in parts of Connecticut, Georgia,Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Michigan,Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. These assets include wirelessservices businesses and radio wave spectrum licenses.

Cingular is a joint venture between BellSouth Corp. and SBCCommunications Inc. Combined, Cingular and AT&T Wireless haveabout 70,000 employees, although layoffs are expected.

Bar declines to investigate complaint againstWu

(AP) — The Oregon State Bar won’t investigate whether U.S. Rep.David Wu, D-Ore., lied about being disciplined in college on his1985 application to become an attorney.

Bar officials said a complaint requesting such an investigationdid not provide enough evidence to justify a review of confidentialadmissions applications.

The complaint was filed by Jeff Smith, the Republican Party’s1st Congressional District chairman, who had questioned whether Wutruthfully answered a question about whether he had ever been,”dropped, suspended, disciplined or subjected to a disciplinaryinquiry or proceeding by any college or law school.”

Smith’s complaint came after a report published in The Oregonianthat said Wu had been questioned by Stanford University police in1976 after an ex-girlfriend allegedly accused him of trying tosexually assault her. After publication of the article, Wu said hehad been disciplined by Stanford and apologized for his”inexcusable behavior.”

Smith can appeal the bar’s decision to take no further action.Wu is running for re-election against Republican Goli Ameri.