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Encryption Communications Government Privacy United States

Why Lavabit Shut Down 304

An anonymous reader writes "Ladar Levison, founder of the encrypted email service Lavabit that shut down last year because of friction with U.S. government data requests, has an article at The Guardian where he explains the whole story. He writes, 'My legal saga started last summer with a knock at the door, behind which stood two federal agents ready to to serve me with a court order requiring the installation of surveillance equipment on my company's network. ... I had no choice but to consent to the installation of their device, which would hand the U.S. government access to all of the messages – to and from all of my customers – as they traveled between their email accounts other providers on the Internet. But that wasn't enough. The federal agents then claimed that their court order required me to surrender my company's private encryption keys, and I balked. What they said they needed were customer passwords – which were sent securely – so that they could access the plain-text versions of messages from customers using my company's encrypted storage feature. (The government would later claim they only made this demand because of my "noncompliance".) ... What ensued was a flurry of legal proceedings that would last 38 days, ending not only my startup but also destroying, bit by bit, the very principle upon which I founded it – that we all have a right to personal privacy.'"
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Why Lavabit Shut Down

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  • by Knightman ( 142928 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:19PM (#47052019)

    Uhm, you know that US imports most of its consumer goods?

    That means that the US also need to export things to have a healthy trade balance, otherwise the economy will go in the crapper (even more so than it is).

    The US has been running a trade deficient since 1980's and if foreign countries stop buying US made products it's going to be a huge problem financially. In March the US trade deficit was a staggering $40 billion. See [] for current and historical data on the US trade.

    In other words, saying that "the US is not particularly dependent on foreign trade" is patently wrong.

  • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:28PM (#47052095) Homepage

    "Logical Fallacies -- Changing the Subject: The fallacies in this section change the subject by discussing the person making the argument instead of discussing reasons to believe or disbelieve the conclusion. While on some occasions it is useful to cite authorities, it is almost never appropriate to discuss the person instead of the argument." []

  • by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:31PM (#47052121)

    You actually believe that shit? Really?

    Do you realize that what it is actually saying is that in the US, manufacturers have much higher markups on their products than Chinese?
    And of course carefully ignores the fact that most of what they count as manufacturing is actually assembly of Chinese produced components?

    a few other titbits you may like:
    'China’s holdings of U.S. Treasuries increased $12.2 billion to a record $1.317 trillion in November, data released on the Treasury Department’s website showed. '
    'China’s swelling foreign-exchange reserves, reported today to have reached a world record $3.82 trillion at the end of December'

    The simple fact is that americans have priced themselves out of base manufacturing, and are only just holding on to 'value-added' assembly - most of the
    base capability still left is held their artifically to avoid huge unemployment of the working class.
    That is of course why the US has spent the last two decades forcing their own bizarre view of IP/Trade laws down the throats of other countries practically at gunpoint - after all the Romans demand their peeled grapes. See .

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:36PM (#47052181) Homepage Journal

    Did you read TFA at all? They were supposed to look at just one user's metadata but tried to expand it to cover all users data and metadata so they could have themselves a nice fishing expedition.

    He didn't refuse to comply, he just needed some time to get advice on what he ACTUALLY had to do to comply. Being stuck under a gag order certainly didn't speed up that process. The feds were mad because when they said jump, he didn't salute and ask how high before the echo of their words faded.

  • by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:52PM (#47052363)

    This is a better article than Guardian crap: []

    - June 28 - warrant for metadata for one user
    - Lavabit fails to comply
    - July 16 - warant for SSL keys
    - Lavabit freaks out and still refuses to comply
    - August 5 court threatens contempt and $5,000/day fine and Lavabit shuts down

    Not making a comment on who is right. It's just misleading to ignore the first part hence you've been mislead.

  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:06PM (#47052433)

    The truth behind the story is [...]

    That a small business owner is ill-equipped to deal with the weight of the federal government coming down on him.

    We learned that you can't go from nothing to fighting the FBI and NSA on constitutional grounds in the space of a few days. You won't even FIND a lawyer able to take up your case; nevermind be able to bring him up to speed, and get him the evidence you need, and have him prepare an actual defense for you; especially when everything is under seal, and secret gag orders.

    He refused to comply with a court order and provide the metadata (email headers, not the body) after which the prosecutors obtained a warrant for SLL keys.

    His version of the story contradicts that claim. I doubt you have authoritative inside knowledge as to the truth here.

    Warrants for email headers are commonly obtained in criminal investigations and its not unusual or surprising that they wanted Snowden's as he is a subject of federal investigation for multiple serious crimes.

    Have you read the warrant? Some how I doubt it. Because he's claiming they wanted a lot more than that.

    The general consensus is that he handled his defense poorly, and as a result made things worse for himself. What this interview shone the spotlight on is that his 'poor handling' of his defense was, in many respects, entirely beyond his control -- trapped between tight deadlines, restrictive sealed gag orders, being a '3rd party' to the actual case instead of an actual defendant, and not having a lawyer already lined up and primed meant that he was effectively denied justice by these process constraints put on him.

    I think he makes a good care here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:20PM (#47052527)

    As someone who studied history and lived overseas, the US has its problems. However, it sucks less than other countries. If you profess you are athiest in a good chunk of the world, the locals will have your head, and your family's head, call it an honor killing, and jump with joy.

    If you lived in East Germany, step over the wrong line, and you would get machine gunned down for kicks.

    No, the US isn't problem free, and the Iraq was the stupidest theater of war on record. However, I can yell epithets about the politicians out the window... and get people clapping. That will get someone killed within hours in a lot of the world.

    Realistically, other than Australia, north America, and western Europe, there are not many free countries out there.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:56PM (#47053151)

    Can someone please point me to the alleged Right to Privacy in the Constitution, because I don't see one.

    There is no prohibition against government infringing upon a hypothetical right to privacy, and certainly no expectation of privacy exists for anything transmitted over the Internet, which was created and built with government money.

    It's called the tenth amendment.

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    Since there's not a specific right to invade privacy granted to the Fed, there is therefore a right to privacy.

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:14PM (#47053245) Homepage Journal

    From Wikipedia:

    For many years, the English government had used a "general warrant" to enforce its laws. These warrants were broad in nature and did not have specifics as to why they were issued or what the arrest was being made for. A general warrant placed almost no limitations on the search or arresting authority of a soldier or sheriff. This concept had become a serious problem when those in power issued general warrants to have their enemies arrested when no wrongdoing had been done. During the mid-18th century, the English government outlawed all general warrants. This study of the history of England made the American Founding Fathers ensure that general warrants would be illegal in the United States as well when the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1791.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @11:08PM (#47053509)
    Not really. He is using a unique pseudonym, so his written statements and reputation can be tracked.
    If a criminal investigation in necessitated, it's pretty easy to find out who the real person is that uses that pseudonym.

    He's not "hiding behind a pseudonym", rather he is using it to create his own identity in the slashdot community while putting enough separation between himself and those things outside of slashdot that each must be judged on it's own merits, and he won't have his boss breathing down his neck if his opinions differ from those of management.

    You on the other hand...

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright