Police want anarchists to remove files recovered from lost (cop?) thumb-drive

Someone (a newspaper report claims it was Mo Karn, an anarchist activist) found a thumb-drive full of Richmond, VA police data near a trashcan. Someone posted those files on the Internet and Karn linked to them from her collective's website. Now the Richmond police are suing to get her to remove the links, and to get the files removed.

Mo Karn, a member of the Wingnut Anarchist Collective in Barton Heights who linked to the documents on her website, wingnutrva.org, says her source found the portable hard drive fair and square: On the ground in a parking lot near a trash can. She says it contained a quiche recipe, family photos and, yeah, hundreds of the Richmond Police Department's internal documents and communications.

The week before Thanksgiving the whole thing broke into a contentious lawsuit that resulted in two separate orders from Richmond Circuit Court Judge Gregory L. Rupe demanding that Karn and Nathan Cox — the latter operates the libertarian-leaning Virginia Cop Block — remove the documents from their websites. Karn and Cox say they've complied as best they can, considering they didn't actually upload the information and don't have the hard drive.

The press report and the collective's own posts aren't really clear on what's going on here, especially on the subject of why the police aren't suing the site where the files are actually hosted, and under what legal theory they believe the files can be removed.

Watching the Detectives [Ned Oliver, Style Weekly] (Thanks, Colby!)


  1. Tip to the anarchists (comments disabled on their site): Next time, guys, upload the official documents to Wikileaks. Don’t draw undue attention to yourselves. Then, clean your prints off the drive with alcohol, and send it back to the owner anonymously, so they can get their personal docs back.

    1. Except that this isn’t whistleblowing. Mostly they’re just removing some secrecy from the Richmond Police so people can make better choices in how they interact with the Richmond Police. It makes sense for a group already working to serve that community to be the distributor.
      (And without explaining how they innocently acquired docs, I imagine they’d face a real shit storm).

  2. ” why the police aren’t suing the site where the files are actually hosted, and under what legal theory they believe the files can be removed.”
    ’cause of terrorists – the all-round justification in the US nowadays.

  3. I think they should meet them half way and delete the quiche recipe as an act of good faith. Put the rest of the stuff in a public torrent.

  4. The problem with the internet is, once important secret stuff like this gets out, it’s very hard to put the genie back in the bottle.  Fortunately, our representatives in Congress are learning how, with help from friends in more secure countries like China and Iran and Syria.

    1. Exactly. They just demonstrated the Streisand Effect™ to all the other mouthbreathers who think that there’s a giant Ctrl-Z for the intarwebs.

  5. Mo had previously posted some files she got in a FOIA request, which caused a storm. The RPD sent her a batch of stuff for her FOIA request, she posted the files, then the RPD said they sent her stuff they shouldn’t have, and would she please return the documents and take down the posts. Yeah right – once it’s posted, it’s out there in the public eye. Taking it down isn’t going to have any real effect. The RPD can’t find their butts with both hands and a flashlight, and are trying to close the barn gate after the horse is in the pasture, to mix a couple of metaphors. Disclaimer: I used to live in Richmond, and kind of know Mo and the Wingnut Collective. See the Wingnut Collective and Mo Karnage on FB.

    1. I’m still here in RVA, and the Wingnut is doing exactly what needs to be done. The RPD, although not a particularly nasty police department, is really losing badly in this whole thing.

      Gift that keeps on giving, this whole incident is.

      After the blithering stupidity of their shutdown of the Occupy RVA camp, and the amount of riot squad activity during the Iraq war protests, I can say with some glee it is nice to see them taken down a notch.

  6. What legal theory?  Sovereign immunity.  They have an excuse to harass the people who are trying to hold them accountable and they will face no consequences for having done so.  I don’t see why it has to be any more complex than that.

  7. I’m sorry, but if you live in a two-story home in the suburbs of Richmond VA and you maintain a blog YOU ARE NOT AN ANARCHIST.

    1. Barton Heights ain’t the suburbs, dude. You’ve obviously never been there. It’s downtown, in a poor neighborhood with a lot of urban blight problems. The Wingnuts moved there to help clean up the neighborhood, teach the people there how to be self sufficient, that sort of thing. But then yeah, what Jim said.

  8. Does the Richmond police force have any plans to notify the individuals who may be affected by their careless and negligent breach? Have they investigated why confidential files were ever put on a USB key in the first place?

  9. Well assuming they really do have the thumb-drive and this isn’t some big wacky misunderstanding, I think it’s rather noble to put the files online if it serves as an aid to the community in navigating around the substantial problem that is police brutality in this country. I don’t know much about Richmond but in my experience living in LA, Santa Barbara and Chicago there’s always going to be a some good cops and some bad cops, not only in America’s good ol’ dystopian metropolises. Still I have to say that if these guys get in trouble, even serve jail-time, then I hope they realized that they were probably going to face these consequences when they did it and were prepared. I’m not saying you can’t make an argument that laws that might prohibit citizens from sharing information that the police keep secret with the public aren’t unjust, but you can’t convince me that they didn’t realize what they were doing was illegal when they took their stand. If it helps people, then good maybe it was worth it, but too often extremist groups like these (which I freely admit I have associated with) take these stances and then play the victim card, and while this is true to some extent it distracts from the fact that in some communities innocent men, women and children (typically of color) have their rights and well-being violated by cops who have grown too cynical to keep prejudice out of their decision making faculties.

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