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October 10th, 2013
09:11 AM ET

What happened to Lavabit?

Why did the secure e-mail service Lavabit suddenly shut down in August?

It was widely believed that the U.S. government wanted access to the Lavabit account of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Lavabit's owner, Ladar Levison, posted a message blaming a secret U.S. court battle. He also vowed to keep fighting while adding this warning:

"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."

Last week, some court documents were unsealed and made public. A review of the files on NewYorker.com says, "These disclosures fall short of the ideal of open justice, but they do give Levison’s ordeal a public shape."

Regular News Stream contributor Nicholas Thompson edited the New Yorker piece. I spoke to him about what the documents reveal.

He tells me, "What we are seeing from these court documents is that most e-mail providers - when the FBI came to them during the NSA (episode) – said, 'Here it is.'"

"But here's the one guy who said, 'No. I'm going to fight you tooth and nail, no matter what way I can.'"

Listen on to learn how Levison resisted U.S. government demands to turn over the Lavabit encryption key (including the use of an 11-page printout in 4-point type) and what the aggressive pursuit of Lavabit reveals about the psyche in Washington.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. tomczerniawski

    The US is behaving shamefully. The NSA must be defunded and de-powered for the US to regain an ounce of credibility in the world's eyes. The nerve of USGov to accuse the Chinese of hacking... fascinating, how those accusations have ceased recently.

    October 11, 2013 at 2:29 am | Reply
  2. tomczerniawski

    The US is behaving shamefully.

    October 11, 2013 at 2:29 am | Reply

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