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An Interview with Sherman of RTF / LAAnarchists.org
An interview with Sherman, formerly of RaiseTheFist.com and LAAnarchists.org, whose home was raided by the LA Joint Terrorism Task Force on Jan. 24; the websites were shutdown and his computers confiscated. Sherman denies involvement with any illegal activity, saying of the Feds, "They're afraid. And they're going to try and silence us any way they can. ... My best advice is to not give in to their fear-tactics. Keep fighting, and fight hard. Don't stop."
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2002 15:15:07 -0800 (PST)
From: Arm The Homeless <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: mark burdett <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: please relay: questions for Sherman
[Ed. note: This e-mail interview is reproduced uncut and unabridged. Only spelling, punctuation, and basic grammar have been corrected.]
Hello, feel free to publish my responses to your questions anywhere.
Was there any warning that investigation of your website was heating up?
Yes. I have been monitoring government agencies connecting to the site for a long time. I'd been noticing more frequency with them coming back to the site. They had also started intercepting all packets on my DSL line, and seized one of my older AIM screen names for 12 days, so I knew something was going to happen - soon. It was really obvious. I even saw them outside my house at times. They have been monitoring the site very, very extensively LONG before the "incriminating content" which they were "concerned" about was posted onto the site. They simply used this content as an excuse to obtain a warrant for the raid.
As a victim of one of the first post-Patriot Act anti-"terrorism" raids, why do you think the Feds chose you?
Simply because Raisethefist was effective in what I was doing. It's the same reason why Feds raid other activist organizations. They're effective. And effectiveness within our movement scares them. They're afraid. And they're going to try and silence us any way they can.
Do you have a copy of the warrant that was served? What did it say they were looking for?
I cannot post any contents of the warrant online. Yes I have a copy of it. The warrant contains a lot of bogus information and misinterpretations. The warrant has information on me since I was 14 (I'm 18 now, almost 19).
Any idea how many agents/officers participated in the raid?
Yep, there was about 25-30 of them. They surrounded my house with guns. Blocked off the garage door with a big bench, had a door bammer, had cars all up and down the streets, then 2 agents knocked at my door, pulled me outside, and the FBI came in and raided. My sister and her friends were home at the time, and she refused to answer the door. I was currently taking a nap and she woke me up to tell me that there were police and undercover/FBI people all up and down the streets looking at the house. That's when I got up and approached the door.
Can you remember any exact quotes that the agents told you - what precisely did they say about 9-11, your web site, what they were looking for, etc.
They told me the main reason for the raid was because of the content on the site, and they wanted to see who was looking at it. This was not the main reason. It was an excuse. The alledged content which they claim they were so concerned about is from the Reclaim Guide. It's posted on thousands of other web sites around the internet. Why didn't they raid those? Why did they only come after Raisethefist.com? Again, they've been watching the site for a long time, long before the Reclaim Guide was even posted onto the site. They used this as an excuse to get a warrant for the raid and seize all computer equipment. I can't discuss the specifics over the internet, but I know for sure that they didn't raid simply because they wanted to see who was looking at the content on the site.
[Ed. note: The Reclaim Guide does not appear to be readily available elsewhere, in its entirety, although the topics covered are.]
One of the first things one of the head agents conducting the raid asked me was, "why did you grow your hair out?" The picture they have of me is a bit older when I had short hair. They were acting as if I was trying to "hide my appearance" from them. They then sat me down, started asking me questions, etc. All this while the FBI was in my house with guns drawn, and seizing all computer equipment.
The FBI, Secret Service, LAPD and LASD (Sheriffs Dept.) participated in the raid. The Secret Service person kept asking me if I'd like to see Bush killed. They were asking me a lot of loaded questions.
What exactly did the agents take? How many computers and how much was it all worth? What were some titles of the books, literature, and other items they confiscated?
I have about 12 computers. About 8 of them were running on the network. They took all of the computers in my house which had a hard drive in them. Which was basically all of them, except for the few broken ones which I was working on fixing. So yeah, they basically took everything. They ransacked my entire room. I don't have any more computers. They took all the hubs, DSL modem, etc., etc. I had thousands of dollars worth of equipment which was seized until further notice. They told me I probably won't be getting it back for a while (I doubt I ever will be) because they have to go through all of the files on all of the hard drives, which is a lot of data.
They also confiscated all of my political liturature. Everything from independent political newspapers to protest flyers, etc., etc.
Why do you think the FBI raided RaiseTheFist.com? Do you think they were out to shutdown something unique to your site, such as the photos of undercover cops?
They raided it simply because it was effective. It had a lot of potential, and was really moving, not just as a web site, but essentially as an anarchist/activist collective - kids were starting to set up clubs in their schools called "Raisethefist" - we were also beginning to put together an anarchist collective for Los Angeles, amongst other things. I believe one of the main things that got them scared about the site, is that we called for an actual change. Raisethefist was a bit more radical than other web sites, and seeing how it was getting so popular, they wanted to shut it down.
Based on what the agents told you, and your suspicions, do you have any idea if other participants or contributors to the website, or other websites, are also under investigation?
Yes. Those whose web sites I was hosting on the server will most likely be under investigation. How soon, or how much, I don't know. It could be going on right now. But i can't confirm. As far as I know, they are pretty overwhelmed with all the paperwork and other stuff they have to do with me, so who knows. I just advise those to be careful. Nothing illegal was being done, but the FBI likes to interpret things with a lot of prejudice against anarchists/activists, especially now after 9-11.
Did RaiseTheFist.com have any external backup? Do you expect to get your computers back any time soon? Do you have any plans to resume web operations?
I had the site backed up on a CD-ROM, which they took. Right now, we're just trying to find bits and pieces of the site in peoples cache so we can get it back up as soon as possible. There are people working on getting the site back up on another host. Getting the site back up is the first step, then trying to resume with it is the second step. It's going to take some time to get everything back together. I put alot of time into programming all of the things into the site. I don't think I'm going to get my computer equipment back. If I do, it won't be for a long time. They already told me that I probably won't be seeing any of it any time soon. They also told me that i was in some "serious trouble," etc., etc.
A webposting states that you are "a kid" who lives with his parents. Any comment as to whether you are under or over 18, and who you live with?
I'm 18 years old, almost 19. I currently live with my mom. The computers were also used for my job. I've been supporting myself through them doing independent programming. So not only is Raisethefist.com gone, but I'm out of a job for the time being.
By the way, there are a lot of stupid-ass rumors going on out there. I think I heard one about someone saying I was making "weapons of mass destruction" or something. Just shows the ignorance amongst a lot of people out there.
Do you think the Bush Administration is just trying to see what it can get away with? What would you predict will be the outcome of this episode?
They're going to try and get away with anything, and everything.
What does the future hold?
Nothing but a barcode.
What can we do to protect ourselves?
This was one of the main concerns Raisethefist.com addressed. My best advice is to not give in to their fear-tactics. Keep fighting, and fight hard. Don't stop.
With a newly-empowered FBI, is the web perhaps too open a medium for revolutionary expression? Are there alternatives whether through new technology or the lack thereof?
There is less security on the internet, as there really has never been any. But I'd suggest not to be discouraged by it. Keep utilizing the internet as an information resource.