Senator questions federal website seizures

Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security announced its largest domain seizure, its ongoing anti-piracy program drew criticism from a senator.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Operation In Our Sites seized more than 150 domains allegedly selling counterfeit or pirated goods on Cyber Monday, reports Government Computer News. The operation rerouted the domain name servers for the sites to seizedservers.com, a server run by ICE. Site visitors landed on page with a message: “This domain name has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court.”

Sites were seized without due process, which has some, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) questioning how DHS chooses sites for investigation. Wired's Threat Level blog reports the program recently returned a hip-hop review blog, Daraz1.com, to its owner after holding it for a year without allowing the owner to challenge the seizure in court. Wyden wants to know why there are no public court records other than the initial seizure filing and a Wyden spokeswoman told Wired the senator's office will be filing Freedom of Information Act requests.

Individuals are supposed to be able to challenge property seizures and federal law requires the release of seized property if it creates a substantial hardship. Courts are supposed to move quickly on property seizures, prioritizing them over other items, Techdirt reports online operators can use a Firefox extension -- with a Chrome version coming soon -- to reroute visitors to blocked sites to a new domain.

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