Why Did ICE Seize 80 Websites Without Prior Warning?

Posted: Dec 07, 2010 2:03 PM
This is one of the saddest notices to come across on a commercial website:


This notice has shown up on over 80 sites in the U.S. after Immigrations and Customs Enforcementt (ICE) seized their domains for selling illegal materials and playing copyrighted material. The question that civil liberties advocates are questioning is whether or not the appropriate procedure was undertaken before the seizures. WSJ:
Chris Castle, a Los Angeles attorney, said the ICE's crackdown has been supported not only by businesses, but also by major labor unions, who say that sales of counterfeit and pirated goods can cost U.S. jobs. He added that judges routinely grant warrants allowing authorities to seize assets of suspected criminals, once law-enforcement officials have presented evidence to support the action.
Got that? Big Business is working with Big Labor to promote the crackdowns -- which very well may be legal, but are certainly bring into question the methodology and motivation. The website All Hip Hop comments on the enforcement, speaking for several online music sites that were shuttered:
In the case of these hip hop sites, no warning was given. Not only that, but the entire websites were seized. In some cases we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of message board postings, articles etc. This wasn’t a shut down of a website. It was the shut down of a community and no matter how one feels about copyright law and how vigorously it should be enforced shut downs without due process should be disturbing to every last one of us.
Erik Barnett, assistant deputy director of ICE, responds to some of these questions at CNN:
...from a law enforcement agency standpoint, there's criminal activity. The process that's set up to address that is a law enforcement agency investigates, which is what Homeland Security Investigations does. The Justice Department determines if the elements of the criminal statute have been met. And then a judge determines if the enforcement action that's proposed -- in this case, a seizure warrant -- is appropriate. So that's the process.