Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Owner of Email Service Snowden Used Faces Arrest

The owner of an encrypted email service used by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he has been threatened with criminal charges for refusing to comply with a secret surveillance order to turn over information about his customers, NBC News is reporting.

"I could be arrested for this action," Ladar Levison told NBC News about his decision to shut down his company, Lavabit, in protest over a secret court order he had received from a federal court that is overseeing the investigation into Snowden.

Levison said he is barred by federal law from elaborating on the order or any of his communications with federal prosecutors. But a source familiar with the matter told NBC News that James Trump, a senior litigation counsel in the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Va., sent an email to Levison's lawyer last Thursday—the day Lavabit was shuttered—stating that Levison may have "violated the court order," a statement that was interpreted as a possible threat to charge Levison with contempt of court.

CNBC reports:
"Because the government has barred Lavabit from disclosing the nature of its demands, we still don't know what information the government is seeking, or why it's seeking it," said Ben Wizner, a national security lawyer for the ACLU. "It's hard to have a debate about the reasonableness of the government's actions—or Lavabit's response, for that matter—when we don't know what we're debating."
Levison said he started Lavabit 10 years ago to capitalize on public concerns about the Patriot Act, offering customers a paid service—between $8 and $16 a year—that would encrypt their emails in ways that would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement agents to decipher. He said that until he shut down, his small company was generating about $100,000 in revenue annually, with about 10,000 users paying for the encryption service.
One who appears to have been a customer was Snowden. When the ex-NSA contractor invited human rights groups to a press conference at the Moscow airport on July 11, his message was communicated from a email address:
Snowden himself told Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian last week that he found Levison's decision to close rather than provide information to the government "inspiring" and asked why other larger companies such as Google "aren't fighting for our interest the same way small businesses are." 
Levison stressed that he has complied with "upwards of two dozen court orders" for information in the past that were targeted at "specific users" and that "I never had a problem with that." But without disclosing details, he suggested that the order he received more recently was markedly different, requiring him to cooperate in broadly based surveillance that would scoop up information about all the users of his service.


  1. Directives from atop that are yet another source of anxiety.

    Maybe that's the fundamental purpose--to create anxiety? Seems that way to me.

    1. That's why American's lifespans are shorter, with more illness

  2. We are becoming more like the Nazis every day!

    Over at Fox News, a story on Michael Hastings murder says:

    San Diego 6 News also reported on a purported email from a CIA contractor which said Brennan was behind "witch hunts of investigative journalists" and someone from the White House was targeting anyone printing material "negative to the Obama agenda."

    If that's not like Hitler I don't know what is.

  3. The time has come for a good old fashioned sit-in. Let the feds try to arrest this man when he is surrounded 24-7 by a few thousand peaceful citizens. Let them try to arrest everyone. We non-violent types must practice what we preach about Ghandi, MLK etc. With a few thousand people in mass protest we can raise the heat high enough that even McCain, Peter King and Lindsey Graham will feel it.

  4. People often wonder why more businessmen are not libertarian. After all, shouldn't ALL successful businessmen be libertarian? The heroic Lavar Ledison shows why that is not the case. If you oppose the State, you get crushed and your business is shut down. So if you want to continue to operate, you better comply. Once you comply, you have to psychologically justify your actions. No one wants to admit they sold out their principles to continue making money. So you either convince yourself to become pro-State, you spit out pro-State bullshit that you secretly don't believe, or you keep quiet and work for liberty behind the scenes. This of course excludes those businessmen that benefit from the State, a not-insignificant portion. In any case, no public defense of libertarianism comes forth. Ever wonder why all the ardent out-spoken defenders of liberty are relatively poor? It's because they don't have that much to loose if the State's boot comes down on them.

    1. An excellent, spot-on analysis, Ed Ucation. I just wish you were wrong. :-(

  5. Hmm, so they get frustrated enough to threaten to arrest him anyway, for "obstruction" no doubt. So now their threat of arrest should he speak out is thus extinguished, he might simply ignore their gag order as unconstitutional.

  6. He appeared on the ron Paul channel today! Ron is getting the best interviews on his new channel.