Lavabit founder has stopped using email: "If you knew what I know, you might not use it either"

Earlier this week, Xeni reported on the shutdown of Lavabit, the email provider used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Ladar Levison, Lavabit's founder, has given an interview to Forbes about his reasoning for the shutdown, which comes -- apparently -- as a result of a secret NSA search-warrant complete with a gag order.

After discussing the general absurdity and creepiness of not being allowed to freely criticize the government for the order they brought to his company, he concludes by saying that he's stopped using email altogether, and "If you knew what I know about email, you might not use it either."

“This is about protecting all of our users, not just one in particular. It’s not my place to decide whether an investigation is just, but the government has the legal authority to force you to do things you’re uncomfortable with,” said Levison in a phone call on Friday. “The fact that I can’t talk about this is as big a problem as what they asked me to do.”

Levison’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, who is based in Northern Virginia — the court district where Levison needed representation — added that it’s “ridiculous” that Levison has to so carefully parse what he says about the government inquiry. “In America, we’re not supposed to have to worry about watching our words like this when we’re talking to the press,” Binnall said.

Lavabit's Ladar Levison: 'If You Knew What I Know About Email, You Might Not Use It' [Kashmir Hill/Forbes]

Notable Replies

  1. That's so ominous, but at this point, I don't see how reality could be any worse than our suspicions, unless they actually had shoggoths arranged on racks systematically reading and cursing each packet.

  2. George W. Bush didn't use email either. Remember that the internet was a Darpa joint from the beginning. The internet has always been a government beast and it always will be. But if this government is stupid enough to monitor me and all my friends and family, none of whom are terrorists or any sort of threat to anyone anywhere, then it really deserves the backlash that will inevitably arise against it. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy of a bully provoking people. Sort of a backwards Koresh, if you will. If the nameless faceless security apparatus has achieved the level of sophistication that equals the pathology of a paranoid person who sees threats in every single person around it, it's tim to medicate the beast or put it out of its misery. Time to starve some contractors out of business. Me, my family, and my friends are no threat to the United States; why are they treating us like criminal suspects except to prove that they have way too much money, power, and time on their hands?

  3. Technically ARPANET used a different protocol. It was the older brother to the internet, but the internet itself wasn't a military device, nor was TCP/IP - in fact it was developed as an open alternative to ARPANET (admittedly by one of the creators of ARPANET).

    Slightly pedantic, but I think an important distinction.

  4. kmoser says:

    Very interesting. Papers, please.

  5. Me, my family, and my friends are no threat to the United States; why are they treating us like criminal suspects except to prove that they have way too much money, power, and time on their hands?

    It's not the threat to the "United States" they're worried about, but otherwise you're right on the money. It's the threat to their treasonous profits when average Americans spread factual information to one another.

    What would these guys do if average Americans educated each other on their military-industrial complex scam en masse and stopped voting in their lackey politicians?

    Also, if one of your friends ever decides to enter politics and/or activism that could potentially hurt these guys' bottom lines (by exposing their corruption), they can easily neuter them.

    They already have every email, every chat, all web browsing history and every phone call you've all ever made to help find your weaknesses (perceived or otherwise) to set you up for failure and destroy you before you get a chance.

    To put it in perspective...

    Imagine the power you would have at your job over all your co-workers if you had easy access to all of their private communications. You could collect the data and use it against them to destroy any nemeses and embolden your allies.

    How difficult would it be to use this corrupt power to make yourself move up in the world and keep other people down? I mean, really imagine how much power you'd have at work... and then expand it to the rest of the USA and other countries. Plucking valuable business secrets at will, setting up competitors for disaster when you know all their weaknesses and even thwarting journalists who try to expose you.

    It's about the protection of profits for the 0.01 percent. The fact that if the United States cut its military budget by 85% and it would still have the largest military budget in the world should start to tell us all something...

    Why go to all this trouble to spy on you, your family and friends? Power and money. In the off chance any of you heathens decide to make real change in the world, they'll know about it and also know exactly how to destroy you.

    Then again, if you stay in line for the rest of your life and support the status quo, you probably have nothing to worry about. Your own data will just be a loaded gun pointed at your head with the hammer cocked, but they might not ever use it. Just stay in line and keep pouring your taxes into their pockets and make do without things like a single payer system for health care, job security, a middle class, etc... But, whatever you do, stay in line.

    And, don't forget... you live in a free country. Stand your ass up at the football game during The Star-Spangled Banner and sing it loud and proud. Don't want to cause any suspicion in the The of the Free, Inc.

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