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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 Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:47PM (#47051743) Journal
    Where freedom refers to the the government being free to fuck you over as much as they want!
  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:54PM (#47051835)

    I don't suppose they've considered locating a new service outside the US? The sad truth is that anybody who's looking to run a private service needs to look outside of the US.

    It doesn't help. Just ask Kim Dotcom about Megaupload... Right now, none of the Internet is "free" and it will take some major changes to make it so.

  • by uCallHimDrJ0NES ( 2546640 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:59PM (#47051867)

    Let me guess...YOU live in the nation with the trustworthy government, and your country's companies make nothing but the BEST. Also, your feces is fragrant, like flowers.

  • Thanks USA (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:00PM (#47051881)

    It was totally awesome coming home one day and finding out my primary e-mail account was shut down.

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:01PM (#47051883)

    Not really. The US is not particularly dependent on foreign trade. Sure there would be some dislocations but it would likely remain a superpower.

  • Re:Paging Oslo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:04PM (#47051907)

    It's not like they really had that much credibility to begin with. They gave the peace prize to Kissinger as well.

  • by TFoo ( 678732 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:11PM (#47051961)
    I think this is an important article because he does a good job of showing how the govt bullies people around -- and illuminating precisely why governmental power NEEDS checks and balances, like a functioning (not rubber-stamp) court and warrant system.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:20PM (#47052027) Journal
    You could change a few words in this story and make it about something that happened in China or Soviet Russia or any other oppressive nation on Earth, past or present, and it would be plausible.

    I've said it before: The United States that I thought I grew up in? It wasn't real; it was a fantasy, a lie. THIS is the reality, and it's a goddamned depressing one. 'Secure in your person and papers', indeed. When was the last time those words actually meant something? Did they ever mean anything?
  • by dhammabum ( 190105 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:25PM (#47052067)

    OK, I'll bite - so just because other countries abuse people's rights, that makes the abuse of the US courts and government OK? The point is: most other countries abusing such rights don't hypocritically pretend to be "the land of the free." Except the UK, of course. Once this may have been true for the US but that time has long gone.

  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:26PM (#47052075)

    I would have made a constitutional argument in court

    Good luck rounding up legal representation from a cell in Gitmo. Any attempt to make a legal argument around the details of NSA's request would have them shut down as hindering national security. Push the issue and you're a terrorist and off to a little resort in the Caribbean for you.

  • by log0n ( 18224 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:40PM (#47052219)

    Completely agree. I'll quote myself for no other reason than I just 90sec ago stated the same thing earlier and you completely encapsulated how I feel. I have a feeling that there are quite a lot of us like this.

    "We expect it from China because they are [more or less] (not us, so therefore) a potential enemy, like Russia, like latest Islamatyrant, blah blah.

    (going US centric) We were raised to believe that the US was better than what we're finding out it's doing. We were taught to believe we are a shining beacon of freedom, democracy, that our way is the best way - or at least it's the best way done so far - because look at all of the failings we see around us.. we take the moral highground making us better than the tyrants who do the stuff that we despise, etc.

    There are a lot of Snowdens out there.. not necessarily in what power or knowledge we have, but that those of us that feel everything instilled in us about our nation's greatness is turning out to be complete bullshit."

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:44PM (#47052267) Journal
    I empathize, nay, am nearly envious of folks who still wear the comforting cloak of naivity, as I did growing up in an earlier American generation.

    Political corruption always exists. The extent to which it affects you is parallel to the degree your ruling class is allowed to interfere in your private lives.

    Your country's government is not the one of the last high-minded do-gooders the World has to offer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:56PM (#47052385)

    I violated the Prime Directive and read TFA, which, as an American, I found horrifying. For the first time that I can remember, I was inspired to contact my Congresscritters. If you're a citizen, please read the article, and then contact your senator/representatives and tell them this has to stop.

  • by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:03PM (#47052421) Homepage

    Not really. The US is not particularly dependent on foreign trade. Sure there would be some dislocations but it would likely remain a superpower.

    You don't shop much do you? Do you have any idea how hard it is to find any household items not made in China?

  • by mariox19 ( 632969 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:19PM (#47052523)

    Let me guess...YOU live in the nation with the trustworthy government [...]

    What's your point, seriously? Who cares! Look, I'm an American. I really don't give a shit what other countries do, and I don't care if they want to criticize us about this. It's really neither here nor there. Our government is doing something very wrong, something that undermines the whole American Experiment—irrevocably. That's the real topic of conversation here.

    Frankly, with the way things are in this country, I hope it begins to pinch our wallets. It's the only way most Americans, from the corporate bigwigs to the politicians to the straphangers and soccer moms in the suburbs, ever take anything seriously. People need to wake up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:21PM (#47052537)

    How does his noncompliance give the government the right to invade the privacy of a large number of 3rd parties.

    Sounds more like they wanted him to resist so they would have an excuse.

  • by Tiger Smile ( 78220 ) <james@dorn[ ]com ['an.' in gap]> on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:50PM (#47052741) Homepage

    This is a false argument. If a country is wrong in what it's doing, it's wrong. The US government is wrong in this case. They should have marrowed the search to specific accounts. They wanted to capture all communication, which cannot be justified without false statements. If it's wrong it's wrong, even if the person pointing it out is in a worse situation. People in far worse countries have always looked to the US to set the example. They have just as much right, if not more, to feel let down. We are not the leaders of the free world as much as we are the leaders of the mass spying on the free world.

  • by Tiger Smile ( 78220 ) <james@dorn[ ]com ['an.' in gap]> on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:56PM (#47052771) Homepage

    It's far more clever than that. Normally the small business owner can appeal for help and fight. This is something that works for the public good to keep goernment in check, but they made even asking for help impossible. 1st rule of FISA Club is you don't talk about FISA Club. The act of mearly asking for help would land a person in prison.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:16PM (#47052913) Journal
    You first.
  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:26PM (#47052969) Homepage Journal

    No, the US isn't problem free, and the Iraq was the stupidest theater of war on record.

    Are you sure of that? There's a lot of competition for that title, y'know. Most of the wars in the last couple of decades are serious contenders.

    There's yet another one ramping up in the area between Russia and the Black Sea, similar to the American Civil War, but even stupider. In the case of Iraq, Saddam was a seriously evil bastard, with lots of blood on his hands, though of course that didn't come close to justifying what the US did to the Iraqi population (and what Iraqi factions did to each other), so it's pretty far up there on the stupid-meter. But do a bit of reading about the recent history in, say, Rwanda or Kosovo or Cambodia, if you want to see some really over-the-top stupid slaughter of civilian populations for no discernible reason other than the insightful word "theater".

    You can also (re-)read Jonathan Swift's tale of Gulliver's Travels, especially the section about the war between the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians, for a good explanation of how such wars get started.

  • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @01:50AM (#47054013) Journal

    We all live in prisons. It's just that ours has better marketing. :)

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant