Why Ladar Levison shut down Lavabit secure email service

by 1389 on October 31, 2013

in FBI, privacy, tyranny

Looking through keyhole

Daily Caller has the story:

FBI to Lavabit founder: ‘Do you really think users trust you over us?’

The FBI fined, threatened, and forced Ladar Levison to suspend the operation of his secure email service, Lavabit LLC, telling the entrepreneur that his users were more likely to trust the government than him.

This year, the government demanded that Levison turn over his private SSL (secure socket layer) so that the FBI could investigate a single user account allegedly belonging to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

“By taking these keys from me they were able to unlock everything coming in and out…gaining access to email content, passwords, and credit card numbers,” Levison told The Daily Caller in an interview. The keys allowed the FBI to “masquerade” as Levison himself, giving the agency administrative access to his system.

“They were completely unwilling to provide any kind of transparency back to me to assure me that the only information they were collecting was the information on this one specific user,” said Levison. “Users trusted me to protect their private information and I was essentially opening up the doors wide for the feds to come in and take whatever they wanted.”

Levison said he was willing to provide the FBI limited access to what they wanted, but the bureau told him that was not sufficient, insisting on full access.

He recalls lead prosecutor Jim Trump asking, “Do you really think users trust you over us?” Levison answered in the affirmative and Trump replied that Levison was “lucky” he had not already been arrested.

“I was outnumbered eight to one,” said Levison speaking of his interaction with federal agents. “They were taking offense that I was saying these things. They didn’t seem to understand at all what they were doing.”

Levison said the FBI responded to concerns about overreach by saying, basically, “Don’t worry. We’re the federal government. We wouldn’t do that.”

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