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Protecting your customers may lead to big penalties in today's police state

Ladar Levison had a thriving business.  His encrypted email service was heavily used by corporate users that valued protecting their trade secrets.  The Obama administration, however, stepped in and crushed this American success story.
 
I. Feds Demand Lavabit Hand Over Keys to All its Corporate Customers' Communications, Opening the Door for Corporate Espionage
 
Mr. Levison had a client whose name today is well known -- Edward Snowden.  It is perhaps unsurprising that a man who was smart enough to dupe supposed computer espionage experts into giving up their logins would be savvy enough to find a well encrypted email service to protect his work while he prepared to blow the lid off the Obama administration's unprecedented campaign of spying.
 
After it was revealed that the Obama administration was nullifying the Constitutional protections against search and seizure in order to execute warrantless seizures of the metadata of America's law abiding majority, the administration struck back.  Members of Congress, including numerous Republicans that showed a surprising solidarity with the Democratic President, labeled Edward Snowden a “traitor”.

Ladar Levison
Ladar Levison was forced to abandon his thriving email business to protect his users from spying by the Obama administration.  [Image Source: D Magazine]

In the aftermath, one of the Snowden reports carelessly showed his email -- revealing he had a Lavabit address.  Now President Obama and his bipartisan backers had a new victim to sink the teeth of the judicial system into.
 
Mr. Levison was ordered not just to hand over Mr. Snowden's encryption keys, but the keys of all of his users -- every single one.
 
Mr. Levison was faced with a tough choice.  He could give the government the keys, which federal officials could potentially use to conduct corporate espionage on behalf of their campaign donors without the victims or public ever knowing.  That was choice A.  Or he could defy the order and face imprisonment under the provision of 50 USC § 1861/18 USC § 2703 (which define the federal government's rights to unconstitutional seizures) and 50 USC § 1881a (which defines the punishment for exercising ones Constitutional rights and refusing to comply to said seizures).  That was choice B.
 
Instead he opted for choice C -- to act in civil disobedience while being careful not to directly defy the legal statutes of the USA PATRIOT Act.  He allegedly ducked out his back door when he first saw federal agents coming to his home, denying them a chance to deliver a subpoena.
 
The Obama administration's FISA court was not happy with this action.
 
It held Mr. Levison in contempt of court and authorized the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to install malware on Mr. Levison's servers -- R -- and fine him $5,000 for every day he did not turn over his customers' encryption keys.
 
Mr. Levison exercised his Constitutional rights and waited two days, before defiantly delivering a printout of the keys printed in size 4 font.  But by then he'd already shut down his business and purged his servers, leaving nothing for the feds to collect.
 
Mr. Levison stated in a brief release, "[I refuse] to become complicit in crimes against the American people."
 
D Magazine has written an excellent in-depth story about the scuffle and an interview with Mr. Levison.
 
II. I Fought the Law and I Won -- But It Cost Me
 
The Obama administration was outraged at that refusal.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) briefly considered seeking his imprisonment, according to sources.  But after Mr. Levison collected $100,000 USD in donations to support a legal defense, the DOJ declined to seek prison time for Mr. Levison's acts of civil disobedience.  Instead it opted to just punish Mr. Levison with the financial penalty stated in the original contempt order -- a fine of $10,000 USD.
 
Mr. Levison refused to accept even that punishment.  He has appealed the fine to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, arguing his Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure were violated.  He asserts that his business was founded on U.S. privacy and that the government was behaving illegally when it order him to violate all of his users privacy by handing over everyone's encryption keys, in order to allegedly target just one user.
Lavabit
The DOJ is fighting back, looking to nail Mr. Levison with the $10,000 fine.  In a just-filed appellate brief it writes:

Mr. Levison [illegally] alerted all of Lavabit’s users, including the target of the investigation, that Lavabit was engaged in litigation with the government and that, rather than comply with the court’s orders, he decided to shut down his business.

The pen/trap order and the search warrant issued by the district court were plainly lawful. The information used by Lavabit to encrypt communications on its systems, what has been referred to as SSL or encryption keys, was both necessary to the installation and operation of a lawfully ordered pen register/trap and trace device as well as subject to disclosure pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703. As such, it was within the district court's power to compel the production of those keys.

 



It remains to be seen whether the appellate judges will uphold the $10,000 fine.  But for now the worst is presumably over and Mr. Levison can celebrate victory to an extent.  He won.  His client's data is safe from the Obama's administration's PATRIOT Act seizure attempt.  And despite that he's a free man.


Yet the victory is also bitter and Pyrrhic.  Lavabit was a thriving business.  Now it is but a memory, in an era where digital privacy is slowly becoming illegal in the U.S. as Big Brother tightens his grip.

Sources: U.S. Appellate Brief, D Magazine



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RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Reclaimer77 on 11/13/2013 2:27:47 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I find Obama the lesser of two evils


Then you're just an idiot. And that's being kind.

You ARE part of the problem. Did you even ask yourself if he was qualified? He was a Congressman for like 100 something days, and before that did NOTHING that remotely indicated he could run a snowball stand, much less the country.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By EasyC on 11/13/2013 2:44:28 PM , Rating: 3
You think Romney was peachy? Really? Romney knows how to run a business, not a country. You're probably one of those people who thinks Fox News is a legitimate source of information, rather than the TV equivalent of the herpes you pick up from a she-male hooker behind a dumpster in Bangkok.

I'm not the problem. The people who enable the same election system and same corrupt politicians (not just the president) to run this country are the problem. Lobbying is the problem. GE, Apple getting out taxation while the middle class pays the way, is the problem. The fact that being a politician is now a CAREER, rather than a RESPONSIBILITY is the problem. When you blame the faults of the entire system on one man, you clearly demonstrate your ignorance to the matter. Any opinion you set forth after that statement means next to nothing. You're just more noise drowning out anybody with a worth opinion in the matter.

Go hug your Glenn Beck teddy bear.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Reclaimer77 on 11/13/2013 2:57:20 PM , Rating: 2
Uhhh Romney had LIGHT YEARS more executive experience than Obama. He didn't just "run a business", he was Governor of Massachusetts for 5 years, a very successful one at that.

Your ignorance is sadly all too typical of the average Obama voter. You just have NO idea what you're talking about.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By EasyC on 11/13/13, Rating: 0
RE: All the keys ?!?!
By EasyC on 11/13/2013 2:59:44 PM , Rating: 3
Oh yea, ask people who live in Mass how awesome it is. SMH. It sucks. I know, I lived there when he was governor.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Reclaimer77 on 11/13/2013 3:17:43 PM , Rating: 3
Don't change the subject. You said Romney had no idea how to run the country, but I just demonstrated he has 100% more executive experience than Obama. So how exactly was Obama qualified again?

But even this post from you shows that you're a typical low-information voter. Romney added more jobs, balanced the budget, and slashed unemployment when he was Governor. Oh and he worked to institute a universal healthcare system that actually works. Compare that to the universal clusterfu$k that is Obamacare.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By EasyC on 11/13/2013 3:37:11 PM , Rating: 2
You used Mass as an example of Romney's "Success". I witnessed it first hand. It sucked. Still sucks. That's not changing the subject. It's telling you, you're wrong.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Reclaimer77 on 11/13/13, Rating: 0
RE: All the keys ?!?!
By ritualm on 11/13/2013 5:34:33 PM , Rating: 3
I find EasyC's posts more believable and truthful than your drivel.

Both options were bad. Live with the devil you know, or live with the evil you scarcely knew (unless you lived in Mass.) So EasyC went for Obama because he already had first-hand experience living under Romney rule, and you called him an idiot and "low-information voter" for it.

You don't know when to cut your losses and shut up. Here, want a ball gag?


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Reclaimer77 on 11/13/2013 5:47:09 PM , Rating: 1
He never actually said what "sucked" about living in Mass. His post was as reasoned at a 5'th graders. You're just siding with him because he's a fellow idiot Liberal.

Also just because someone on the Internet says they lived somewhere, doesn't necessarily mean it's truth.

quote:
Both options were bad.


And that's your opinion. I happen to believe Romney would be a better President than Obama. But that's hardly a glowing endorsement, seeing as how Obama has set the bar so low almost anyone else would make the cut.

Obama isn't just the worst President we've ever had, he's one of the worst people on the planet. Everyone who cast a vote for him should be shamed and made to live in fear for the rest of their lives.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Freakie on 11/13/2013 7:46:01 PM , Rating: 1
"HEY EVERYONE! LOOK! I HAVE THE INTELLIGENCE OF A 10 YEAR OLD AND THE MATURITY OF ONE TOO. WATCH ME ACT LIKE A MORON WHILE I SHOVE MY HEAD UP MY ASS WHENEVER SOMEONE HAS AN OPINION I DON'T LIKE"

Basic summary of the way Reclaimer77 is acting. Props to those keeping a level head in the "conversation".


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Indianapolis on 11/13/2013 8:05:06 PM , Rating: 3
I agree with Reclaimer77...your liberalism is blinding you to reality. I wish I could pity you, but instead all I can do now is despise you. And thank you so much for ObamaCare.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By EasyC on 11/13/2013 8:25:21 PM , Rating: 3
ObamaCare? How easy some people forget about....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_health_...

I'm done arguing with the far right "conservatives". I'm not a liberal, or democrat for that matter. I don't let a single "party" decide my opinions for me. It's an amazing concept.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By The0ne on 11/14/2013 12:15:05 PM , Rating: 3
Now you've gone and ruin it with the link! As Freakie said earlier I just really ignore Reclaimer now because for the most part Freakie is right about him. There is not "discussing" the issue at hand with him. My suggestion is to let it be. He isn't going to change, want to, nor know to.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By half_duplex on 11/13/2013 8:28:00 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
"HEY EVERYONE! LOOK! I HAVE THE INTELLIGENCE OF A 10 YEAR OLD AND THE MATURITY OF ONE TOO. WATCH ME ACT LIKE A MORON WHILE I SHOVE MY HEAD UP MY ASS WHENEVER SOMEONE HAS AN OPINION I DON'T LIKE"

Basic summary of the way Reclaimer77 is acting. Props to those keeping a level head in the "conversation".


He's not the one who isn't backing up his assertions in this conversation, the Obama voters are. So far, I've heard how Mass sucked, FOX News sucks, Romney sucks... but I've yet to hear one iota of WHY they suck.

I can tell you why Obama sucks.

1) He forced the ACA on the country, and it's now a shit storm, and people are losing their health care.
2) He's mishandled Iran to the point that Israel is going to probably end up bombing them.
3) He's continued EVERY policy that his supporters hated Bush for.
4) He pushed through massive stimulus as soon as he got into office.
5) His IRS singled out opposing political groups, and got a pass.
6) His DOJ has investigated/intimidated journalist from Fox, AP, etc.
7) He mishandled a deadly attack on a US embassy, a possible cover up.
8) Unemployment is still up.
9) Solendra as well as other solar companies.

The list goes on and on. Name one other president with a rap sheet that even comes close to this? And people like you and the other guy have let him skate on ALL of it.

We've all made errors in judgement when voting, but at some point you have to admit this is getting pretty insane.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By inperfectdarkness on 11/14/2013 6:20:10 AM , Rating: 2
You make a great point. I don't even think Hoover was that bad by comparison...and the Great Depression started under his watch (not that he really was at fault for that). Yet Obama got elected and Hoover did not. Just saying.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Zshazz on 11/14/13, Rating: 0
RE: All the keys ?!?!
By SilthDraeth on 11/15/2013 12:50:24 AM , Rating: 2
1. He did know since he made the provision after the ACA was passed that would end up causing health care to be lost. So yes he knew, and it was purposeful.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By hifloor on 11/19/2013 4:02:40 AM , Rating: 2
That wasn't Obama, it's the insurance companies. And the sell-out the Republicans made in rewriting it over and over to the point that it only favors the insurance companies.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By JediJeb on 11/15/2013 5:25:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Democrats are not the friends to the common man that they are made out to be. I think this revelation is too much for the individuals who typically lean that way to bear, so they ignore it.


Interesting bit of information that I learned this week in our training for lab work in pharma. When the first law was passed to help protect consumers against fraudulent drugs and harmful food additives only 8 Democrats voted against it. That was back in the early 1900's, seems the Party for the common man even back then was not so supportive as it should have been.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Reclaimer77 on 11/14/2013 4:31:06 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly.

Notice how they're talking about everything besides Obama's failed record? Shame on me for once again letting Liberal morons set the tone of a debate. Romney's theoretical Presidential record is not what should be relevant here, it's certainly not as germane as the proven disaster Obama has been as President.

But this is typical of the pro-Obama crowd. The President refuses to take responsibility for anything, so why should they? Blame Bush, blame Fox News, flame Romney or the corporations or the banks, whoever, but absolutely NEVER hold Obama accountable for anything. Oh heavens no, we can't do that.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By tamalero on 11/15/2013 4:24:53 AM , Rating: 3
As a Neutral from another country.. I see No difference from the Republican camp. All blame, zero solutions.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By EricMartello on 11/15/2013 9:52:50 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I happen to believe Romney would be a better President than Obama. But that's hardly a glowing endorsement, seeing as how Obama has set the bar so low almost anyone else would make the cut.


Without a doubt he would have been, even if the bar was high and obama wasn't the failure that he is. By all accounts Romney should have won. The entire obama campaign was one big lie, including his ACA promise...and Romney didn't resort to mudslinging during his campaign; not even indirectly thru the pacs, indicating that he possessed above-average integrity.

This country is full of dismissive idiots who associate left wing politics with being "intelligent", yet fail to note that history is riddled with plenty of examples of just how bad left wing politics are. They spend their time in school being taught what to think and more than half of them emerge full believers.

It's somewhat refreshing that at least a select few republicans are operating in line with what they should be - limited government and a focus on personal liberty and responsibility. Let's hope that the ACA can help us purge the liberal communists from America once and for all.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By jmarchel on 11/14/2013 8:23:24 AM , Rating: 2
Sure it sucks. No matter how good the governor is, it is still a deeply blue state.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By random2 on 11/14/2013 2:01:36 AM , Rating: 5
You guys are hilarious. You actually think that the President runs the country! Both of you need to get out more.

While both of you are here peeing in each other corn flakes a thousand guys just like the Koch brothers are financing the efforts needed to formulate public opinion amongst people, JUST LIKE YOU, all across America. They are financing lobbyists, think tanks, political action groups to further erode any semblance of control the American people, JUST LIKE YOU, have within the political system in the U.S. They are literally buying up Congressman, Senators and Governors across the country to enlist them in helping them steal what is left of the wealth of the middle class, people JUST LIKE YOU.

Divide and conquer. Works every time.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By The0ne on 11/14/2013 12:28:18 PM , Rating: 2
One does, the other doesn't and has made it cleared. You decide which is the one that does :)


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By random2 on 11/14/2013 4:08:17 PM , Rating: 3
You're right, my bad. I blame EasyC for enabling trolls though. :)


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By EasyC on 11/15/2013 9:05:56 PM , Rating: 2
Hey! At least I got out when I realized the troll cesspool was surrounding me!


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By yomamafor1 on 11/14/2013 1:50:39 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, because we all know an executive of a for-profit business that's specializing in dodging regulations is fit to run a country in charge of setting up those regulations.

There was no good candidate in 2008, or 2012. Romney was bad. Ron Paul was bad. Obama was bad, but he was the less worse of the three potentially electable candidates.

It's funny that no one mentioned Obama was an Illinois State Senator from 1997 to 2004, and a US Senator from 2004 to 2008. Your "100 days" assertion is laughable to say the least.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By ClownPuncher on 11/14/2013 2:34:46 PM , Rating: 2
Gary Johnson was the Libertarian candidate for 2012.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By sorry dog on 11/14/2013 9:11:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There was no good candidate in 2008, or 2012. Romney was bad. Ron Paul was bad. Obama was bad, but he was the less worse of the three potentially electable candidates.


That's extremely debatable, however Romney would probably be screwing us even harder when it comes to privacy issues.

The biggest difference I see between those two is which set of friends get to eat at the public feeding trough for the next four years.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By tamalero on 11/15/2013 4:21:57 AM , Rating: 1
Wasnt "Obamacare" and outright copy of Romney's plan?
Yet everyone blames Obama?


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By inperfectdarkness on 11/14/2013 6:10:04 AM , Rating: 2
Nope. Romney wasn't peachy at all. He simply knows how to run a business--as you so eloquently pointed out. Given that we're 17 TRILLION in debt--and counting--I would that that qualification, alone, should have placed him at the top of the pile for "most qualified candidates". Call me crazy because I think a man with demonstrated fiscal responsibility should be put in charge. *facepalm*

There is no effective way to change the system, and no one--apart from those in washington--has the ability to fix it. The system runs on a self-perpetuating mix of special-interest groups, lobbying and self-interested politicians.

I don't side with any political party. I hate all of them equally. If you want to effect change in the form of 3rd parties getting put in charge, lobby to have the Primary and Secondary elections reversed. Tell your representative/senator that you want to vote for a party in the Primary and a person in the Secondary. It's the only way to get around the debacle that has invariably given the American public a choice between "the lesser of two evils" for the last 25 years.

P.S.
It would be refreshingly nice to be able to pick from 3-6 candidates from the winning party--rather than just a choice between who brown-nosed & kow-towed their respective party-line dogma the best.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By bsd228 on 11/14/2013 2:43:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Nope. Romney wasn't peachy at all. He simply knows how to run a business--as you so eloquently pointed out. Given that we're 17 TRILLION in debt--and counting--I would that that qualification, alone, should have placed him at the top of the pile for "most qualified candidates". Call me crazy because I think a man with demonstrated fiscal responsibility should be put in charge. *facepalm*


You might want to look at the typical MO for Bain Capital. Find a company with low debt and issue a crap load of leveraged debt, collecting management fees along the process. Then watch it crumble.

Not quite what I would call 'running a business.' More like "raiding the cookie jar."

In contrast, crazy Ross Perot built EDS into a billion dollar company. That was actually running a business.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Cerin218 on 11/14/2013 3:51:14 PM , Rating: 2
Did Bain manage to SAVE any companies? Staples? Home Depot? Sometimes a company is run SO BAD that all there is to do is sell of it's assets and kill it. But for all the negative you spouted your forgot the positives.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By marvdmartian on 11/14/2013 8:33:14 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair, Reclaimer was talking more of the first (2008) election, when Obama ran against McCain, and you responded with Romney, who was the 2nd (2012) re-election of Obama.

Obama was elected in 2008 for no bigger reason than backlash to the W. Bush era. Doesn't really matter who would've run as the Republican candidate that year, they didn't stand a chance against ANY strong Democratic candidate. Hell, they could've put someone in the running who had a ton of skeletons in their closet, and that person still woudl've won (and they damn near did, with Hillary).

In 2012, Obama had 4 years in office, had successfully rammed through the ACA (Obamacare), as well as a bunch of other social programs (phone giveaways, etc), and basically bought the election by buying votes with freebies. If he'd been judged on his REAL accomplishments, or if we had seen the rollout of Obamacare debacle we're seeing now, before that election, I doubt he would have won.

This is why Democrats are going crazy right now, because they're seeing themselves backed into a corner....either Obama "fixes" the mess (which I can't see happening, without violating the law), or they're forced to vote in favor of the Republican-led bill that's to be voted on tomorrow. Anyone who opposes it, irregardless of whether it's a good and sensible change to the law or not, will be looked upon as an obstructionist, and their popularity with the voters will suffer.

In fact, I suspect that the Republican party is going to gain back a lot of the popularity they lost during the budget idiocy in October, with this bill in November. Time will tell!


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By superstition on 11/17/2013 12:41:30 AM , Rating: 2
Romney's campaign financial adviser, Frank VanderSloot, runs a pyramid scheme that's based on the type of patent medicine scamming that would have gotten him tarred and feathered years ago.

He abuses the courts to sue anyone who even reports on his corruption. But, the "conservative" Obama haters turn a conveniently blind eye to this sort of chicanery or twist themselves into pretzels to try to absolve Romney from blame for clearly endorsing it.

http://www.salon.com/2012/02/17/billionaire_romney...


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By BurnItDwn on 11/13/2013 3:39:15 PM , Rating: 3
0.
He was a congress man for 0 days.

He was an IL State Senator from 1997 to 2004.
He was a US Senator for IL from 2005 to 2008.

That's about 11 years.

If in your imagination 11 years is how long 100 days is, then I don't see the point of anybody trying to argue or debate with you since it's obvious you just make up your own facts and figures.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By Cerin218 on 11/14/2013 3:58:00 PM , Rating: 2
And post his voting record during that time.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By ritualm on 11/13/2013 4:08:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
EasyC: I find Obama the lesser of two evils
Reclaimer77: Then you're just an idiot

Way to miss the context, and by the way: Obama has zero experience as a Congressman.

Who did you vote for in 2012, Reclaimer77? Romney or Obama? If Palin is a walking sack of sh!t bricks, you're a baby bottle-sucking 9-year-old waving your middle fingers as your "seal of approval".


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By inperfectdarkness on 11/14/2013 6:16:17 AM , Rating: 2
...and it's also people like you who are the problem. A paragon of the willing, pliable masses who are only too happy to be spoon-fed whatever they are given by the mass-media.

Just the fact that you see the 2012 presidential election as ONLY a choice between Romney and Obama...speaks volumes to why the system continues to run in perpetuity and refuses to change. Anyone who assumes that an individual who did not vote for candidate A automatically voted for candidate B--is part of the problem. This is not a bi-polar issue; this is a bi-partisan issue. If you cannot fathom the grey area between that which is most publicly covered...then you are part of the problem.


RE: All the keys ?!?!
By croc on 11/13/2013 8:32:43 PM , Rating: 2
Hey! Idiot! WHAT WERE THE CHOICES????? Given choices between tweedledum and tweedledee is no choice, is it? In my lifetime there has only ever been ONE viable third party candidate. I admit to voting for H.Ross Perot. Even with all his money, even with a clear pro-business platform, even with all that you say that you are for... That the tea-partiers are for... The Republicans are all for... Even then he couldn't get much more than enough to but make a small profit on the 'buy the presidency' exercise.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates














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