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'Government interference' causes Lavabit email service to abruptly close its doors

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: government interference, Lavabit, email service

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(NaturalNews) If you had any doubt whatsoever that you had a single shred of privacy remaining as an American citizen, this story should put those doubts to rest.

Jeff Greenwald, the reporter for British newspaper The Guardian - the same newspaper and reporter who broke the Edward Snowden/NSA spying scandal - is reporting that a private secure email firm, Lavabit, which once boasted some 350,000 clients, has decided to close rather than allow the U.S. government unconstitutional access to those clients' email accounts.

One of those clients was Snowden, Greenwald reported.

A cryptic message - and warning

The site's owner and operator, Ladar Levison, said in a rather cryptic statement posted on the Lavabit LLC website, that he had chosen the shutdown after some "significant soul-searching":

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.

Levison went on to say that he is filing court action in the U.S. Fourth Circuit to reassert his company's constitutional right to operate without government interference and unconstitutional, arbitrary probing of his clients.

"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," Levison wrote.

Greenwald reported that Levison chose not to comply with a court order calling for compliance with U.S. government demands to spy on his customers. His is the first email company to have closed down instead of rolling over and letting Uncle Sam screw his clients.

Another company, Silent Circle, announced recently as well that it would shutter it's secure mail offering, Silent Mail. That firm, according to Greenwald, had yet to receive a federal government court order demanding access to secure mail clients, but in a blog posting said "the writing is on the wall."

Advocates of electronic privacy said the moves by both firms was unprecedented.

"I am unaware of any situation in which a service provider chose to shut down rather than comply with a court order they felt violated the constitution," Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Greenwald.

Meanwhile, a number of technology firms that participate in the National Security Agency's massive surveillance programs have filed legal requests for the right to tell their customers precisely the kinds of information they are providing to the government, per the government's demand. One of those firms, Yahoo!, has sued "for the disclosure of some of those court orders," Greenwald writes.

Unfortunately, it's the courts - or nothing - for relief

The best strategy for thwarting such government requests, according to NSA codebreaker William Binney, is to do what Silent Circle and Lavabit have done - simply refuse to go along.

That's hard to do, however, given the size of many of these companies. Large and wealthy, with scores of shareholders, it isn't as if they can merely shut their doors overnight. But the idea is right - non-cooperation. The best way to achieve that goal, however - save any congressional action barring the NSA from its blanket surveillance operations - is through the courts.

Which, by the way, is expensive. Levison has set up a fund for financial assistance; if you want to give, click here.





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