Hmmm: Secure e-mail service Snowden was using shuts down suddenly

posted at 9:41 pm on August 8, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

An e-mail service it appeared NSA leaker Edward Snowden had been using from a Moscow airport was shut down suddenly Thursday. Lavabit’s owner Ladar Levison, whose pitch to users was better security and noncompliance with requests by the government to turn over data, implied in a letter to users the reason for the shuttering was just such a request:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

It sounds like Levison is going forward with legal action in hopes of resurrecting Lavabit and revealing some of NSA’s methods. Other companies have sought more transparency from NSA, and permission to reveal communications with the government, but to no avail, and none has ever shut down rather than comply:

Several technology companies that participate in the National Security Agency’s surveillance dragnets have filed legal requests to lift the secrecy restrictions that prevent them from explaining to their customers precisely what it is that they provide to the powerful intelligence service – either wittingly or due to a court order. Yahoo has sued for the disclosure of some of those court orders.

The presiding judge of the secret court that issues such orders, known as the Fisa court, has indicated to the Justice Department that he expects declassification in the Yahoo case. The department agreed last week to a review that will last into September about the issues surrounding the release of that information.

I understand national security concerns, but it seems quite disturbing that all of these companies, with whom we trust so much of our personal information, are perhaps routinely compliant with orders from the government whose reach we don’t understand, whose authorizations we can never see, and about which the companies can never inform us, even if they shut down their otherwise legally operating businesses in this free country. I assume it has to do with Levison’s legal plans, but I’ve kind of wondered why a market underdog company with a owner who’s a conscientious objector doesn’t just go all libertarian barbaric yawp and publish every request the government sends them, in full. There’d certainly be harsh legal consequences, but they’d presumably be meted out in the light of day, offering the company plenty of publicity and the owner a chance to offer increased transparency to a public who’d be pretty friendly to it. I’m probably overestimating the public’s response, and how much it’d keep the feds in check, but polling seems to indicate if this stuff were revealed by a much cleaner Snowden-type who faced the music stateside, they’d appreciate it.


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I guess the Gestapo knocked at his door and pointed to the black van waiting for him outside.

Punchenko on August 8, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Coming to a anti-Dear Leader dissident near you…

CPT. Charles on August 8, 2013 at 9:48 PM

We love Big Brother.

Philly on August 8, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Makes me think of this passage.

T

hat to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Bmore on August 8, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Couldn’t you find a better example than a scumhole like Spencer Ackerman?

jaime on August 8, 2013 at 9:51 PM

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Bmore on August 8, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Maybes he didn’t pay his bill,or the NSA has an Axe to grind
with Snowden!!

Jus say’n!
(sarc)

canopfor on August 8, 2013 at 9:55 PM

Bmore- that was pre-Stasi.

wolly4321 on August 8, 2013 at 9:59 PM

We love Big Brother.

Philly on August 8, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Way too many folks do. That’s the problem.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 8, 2013 at 9:59 PM

Quoting Journ-O-lister & Obama fanboy Spencer Ackermann for this story is ironic.

Ackermann is one of the reasons this is all happening.

tetriskid on August 8, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Interesting the Lord and Savoir was on Leno last night assuring all of us that there is no spying on US Citizens.

Today an (my) email provider closes his doors rather than let the NSA violate the law abiding and free people’s rights.

Unbelievable!

old school on August 8, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Well I hope all of you neocons that love a big powerful government that’s powerful enough to bomb and invade other countries, it looks like that big progressive govt is turning its scope to include all.

MoreLiberty on August 8, 2013 at 10:10 PM

publish every request the government sends them, in full.

What if the “requests”come accompanied by black tinted out Chevy Suburbans hanging out across the street?

wolly4321 on August 8, 2013 at 10:10 PM

If I start putting the Constitution in my emails would the government still read them?

alchemist19 on August 8, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Lolz!

Bmore on August 8, 2013 at 10:11 PM

gangster government…..I no longer say “God Bless America,” i now say “God Help America.”

roflmmfao

donabernathy on August 8, 2013 at 10:19 PM

This one party government is killing us…

d1carter on August 8, 2013 at 10:20 PM

The NSA is an anti-American abomination, something fitting for Hitler Germany or Stalin Russia, but not for any free and self-respecting nation. The Founding Fathers would be aghast that the American people would tolerate such a blatant violation of the Bill of Rights they fought so hard against an earlier tyranny for. Every employee of the NSA should hang his head in shame.

VorDaj on August 8, 2013 at 10:28 PM

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

The only real private property that exists are satellites. Everything else is just stuff that the feral government deigns to let you use … for a while.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 8, 2013 at 10:32 PM

We love Big Brother.

Philly on August 8, 2013 at 9:48 PM

And Big Brother dearly loves all his subjects… … except for white-Hispanics … and Tea Partiers … and Arizonians … and Texans … and Christians … and …

VorDaj on August 8, 2013 at 10:32 PM

gangster government…..I no longer say “God Bless America,” i now say “God Help America.”

donabernathy on August 8, 2013 at 10:19 PM

America has been dead and buried for more than a year, now. This is the American Socialist Superstate we are now captives of. The only solution to this is a national divorce to allow the restoration of an American Republic. Nothing less will do the job.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 8, 2013 at 10:34 PM

but I’ve kind of wondered why a market underdog company with a owner who’s a conscientious objector doesn’t just go all libertarian barbaric yawp and publish every request the government sends them, in full. There’d certainly be harsh legal consequences, but they’d presumably be meted out in the light of day, offering the company plenty of publicity and the owner a chance to offer increased transparency to a public who’d be pretty friendly to it.


Oh, MKH !!!
Did Hitler give up when people first started criticizing the Nazis?

I’ve said it before:

They can get information on you from third parties who have broken the law – and judges have ruled it is legal.

A third party can hack your computers, frame you for multiple felonies and then provide them with where and what to look for – and judges have ruled it is legal.

If later this week this gentleman is indicted by a federal grand jury for “purveying child porn from and to third parties” are you going to STILL wonder why “a conscientious objector doesn’t just go all libertarian”???

http://washingtonexaminer.com/irs-agent-tax-agency-is-still-targeting-tea-party-groups/article/2534044

IRS agent: Tax agency is still targeting Tea Party groups

In a remarkable admission that is likely to rock the Internal Revenue Service again, testimony released Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp reveals that an agent involved in reviewing tax exempt applications from conservative groups told a committee investigator that the agency is still targeting Tea Party groups, three months after the IRS scandal erupted..

In closed door testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee, the unidentified IRS agent said requests for special tax status from Tea Party groups is being forced into a special “secondary screening” because the agency has yet to come up with new guidance on how to judge the tax status of the groups.

PolAgnostic on August 8, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Every employee of the NSA should hang his head in shame.

VorDaj on August 8, 2013 at 10:28 PM

I’d leave out the shame part.

Schadenfreude on August 8, 2013 at 10:58 PM

No wonder Putin laughs at the US.

He can always claim that he keeps Snowden free.

Schadenfreude on August 8, 2013 at 10:59 PM

Somewhat related: anybody who hasn’t yet seen Julia Ioffe’s piece utterly ripping the crap out of Lawrence O’Donnell should check it out. Not the cleanest language, but she’s right more often than not and completely pwns the MSNBC stooge in the process.

Gingotts on August 8, 2013 at 11:08 PM

Every employee of the NSA should hang his head in shame.

VorDaj on August 8, 2013 at 10:28 PM

I’d leave out the shame part.

Schadenfreude on August 8, 2013 at 10:58 PM

Ask any employee of the NSA and they’ll all swear that what they’re doing is to “keep America safe and free”.
And they’ll all say that they abhor some of the methods they have to use…but it’s for “The Greater Good”.

The CIA was exactly the same in the 60s and early half of the 70s.

Solaratov on August 8, 2013 at 11:10 PM

“He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

― George Orwell, 1984

We are a lot closer to 1984 than most can ever imagine….

coldwarrior on August 8, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Solaratov on August 8, 2013 at 11:10 PM

I blame the ones who make them do it. The Rs are more culpable than the Utopian tyrannical Ds.

Good on him for shutting down his 10 years old effort/business, instead of helping a corrupt and unconstitutional gov’t operation. He is fighting to the SC too. Eventually we’ll know how he was threatened by this gov’t.

Those who give up freedom for security will have neither.

Schadenfreude on August 8, 2013 at 11:39 PM

coldwarrior on August 8, 2013 at 11:38 PM

This is very sad coldwarrior, very bad for the once free land.

Same as Russia. Putin can boast to have more freedom and human rights, soon. He alreay is. Snowden made it possible, due to obama’s weaknesses and intentional destruction of the US.

Schadenfreude on August 8, 2013 at 11:41 PM

Schadenfreude on August 8, 2013 at 11:41 PM

We, the Believers, are all proles, now.

But, for how long?

The Party.

The Thought Police.

The ever-present Dear Leader.

Is it possible?

Here?

The Founders weep.

coldwarrior on August 8, 2013 at 11:45 PM

The comments in this thread are reminiscent of Daily Kos postings circa 2004.

righty45 on August 9, 2013 at 12:03 AM

The comments in this thread are reminiscent of Daily Kos postings circa 2004.

righty45 on August 9, 2013 at 12:03 AM

And if a Republican were still in the White House, the Daily Kos postings today would be reminiscent of their postings circa 2004.

President Bush’s shortcomings were magnified a hundred fold by the Left…the failings and crimes of this administration require no magnifying glass. And the Kos Kids got what they wanted-a Socialist in the White House. The big shots also got what they wanted-a crook to fleece the American people on an unprecedented scale.

When we elected George W. we didn’t get what we wanted, but we only got a better alternative to Gore and Kerry.

The way I see it anyhow.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 9, 2013 at 12:31 AM

The comments in this thread are reminiscent of Daily Kos postings circa 2004.

righty45 on August 9, 2013 at 12:03 AM

Agreed. The libertarian is philosophically next door to the communist. They both yelp about lost freedom in exactly the same way, and anyone who disagrees ought to be stood up against the wall and shot.

I’m glad this guy is down. Let him fight for the jihadis, the Russians, the Chinese, in court.

The smart money is not on him, because I’m betting all of the warrants were in order.

unclesmrgol on August 9, 2013 at 1:34 AM

Hey, since Obama and other politicians have no problem with the NSA hacking our emails or phone records, then they will not mind if we turn the tables on them.

I think we should ask for all these records for the last 6 months of all the people they spoke with privately on the phone or via email. For Obama, how about a few records of your pre-election email and phone records. Now that would be a treat!

bigjacket on August 9, 2013 at 3:25 AM

I’ve kind of wondered why a market underdog company with a owner who’s a conscientious objector doesn’t just go all libertarian barbaric yawp and publish every request the government sends them, in full. There’d certainly be harsh legal consequences, but they’d presumably be meted out in the light of day, offering the company plenty of publicity and the owner a chance to offer increased transparency to a public who’d be pretty friendly to it. I’m probably overestimating the public’s response, and how much it’d keep the feds in check, but polling seems to indicate if this stuff were revealed by a much cleaner Snowden-type who faced the music stateside, they’d appreciate it.

This paragraph is full of self contradiction.

If you really wonder why someone doesn’t risk their freedoms by fighting the government, I feel sorry for you.

Or maybe you just thought, “Libertarian barbaric yawp is the coolest phrase ever. I need some context so I can throw it out there and people can see how clever I am.”

fossten on August 9, 2013 at 8:04 AM

Room 101.

ProfShadow on August 9, 2013 at 8:49 AM

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Sincerely,
Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

Bmore on August 9, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Hey, since Obama and other politicians have no problem with the NSA hacking our emails or phone records, then they will not mind if we turn the tables on them.

I think we should ask for all these records for the last 6 months of all the people they spoke with privately on the phone or via email. For Obama, how about a few records of your pre-election email and phone records. Now that would be a treat!

bigjacket on August 9, 2013 at 3:25 AM

Yep, the meta-data on phone calls in and out of Lois Lerner’s corrupt exempt organizations IRS building in Cincinnati would be very interesting.

slickwillie2001 on August 9, 2013 at 10:13 AM

unclesmrgol on August 9, 2013 at 1:34 AM

You don’t deserve to ever be free. What a fool you are.

Schadenfreude on August 9, 2013 at 1:48 PM

All your communications are belong to us.

petefrt on August 9, 2013 at 1:58 PM

The comments in this thread are reminiscent of Daily Kos postings circa 2004.

righty45 on August 9, 2013 at 12:03 AM
Agreed. The libertarian is philosophically next door to the communist. They both yelp about lost freedom in exactly the same way, and anyone who disagrees ought to be stood up against the wall and shot.

I’m glad this guy is down. Let him fight for the jihadis, the Russians, the Chinese, in court.

The smart money is not on him, because I’m betting all of the warrants were in order.

unclesmrgol on August 9, 2013 at 1:34 AM

with sheeple like you, who needs a Bill of Rights?

burserker on August 9, 2013 at 3:37 PM