FBI to Business Owner ‘Trust Us’: Seized Lavabit Secure Email Keys, Wrecked Business

In August of 2013, Ladar Levison, entrepreneur who founded the secure email system Lavabit, indefinitely suspended the operation of his company instead of complying with a government demand to hand over his secure socket layer (SSL) keys to the FBI. Refusing to comply with FBI demands, Levison found himself in court and under a gag order preventing him from explaining his situations to customers and others alike. If you recall, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden happened to be an alleged customer of Lavabit, putting Levison in the cross hairs of the government investigative scope.

fbi-logo-AP_620x350The FBI approached Levison in order to gain access to the Lavabit system to investigate this one account which might have belonged to Edward Snowden. However, the FBI was not satisfied with the access to just one account; they wanted total administrative access to Levison’s system. Levison stood his ground incurring the wrath of the FBI.

In an interview with the Daily Caller, Levison talks about his interaction with the FBI.

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“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.

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“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.”

And the FBI wanted a lot more access than to just one account, Levison said. “I had an FBI agent that came to my home office saying that they wanted to collect content, wanted to collect passwords. I could not in good conscience turn over these keys and let them have unaudited access.”

Levison was placed under a court-sanctioned gag order; but Levsion went to court instead of willfully complying. The court eventually ruled that Levison had to comply or face a $5,000 per day penalty if he did not. When Levison closed Lavabit operations, he became in contempt of court of the ruling. His case is now pending before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals where his “lawyers argue that it is a violation of Levison’s Fourth Amendment rights for the government to take his SSL keys.”

Snowden: Lavabit Encrypted Email Service Shuts DownLevison did not have to close his operation; he chose to do so rather than violate his own personal moral code. Should he lose the current legal battle, Levison plans on turning his service over to someone abroad.

It seems the federal government has turned into a Lay’s potato chip fanatic when it comes to collect data – the FBI cannot investigate just one so they go for the database. The government runs amok ignoring its constitutional limits while an individual who requests they uphold those limits is threatened, fined and saddled with a costly legal battle. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Before anyone jumps the gun and hollers, “Bush started it,” the PATRIOT Act was an abomination then and it is an abomination now regardless of what president signed that piece of garbage. The same thing goes for the NDAA or any law/regulation that seeks to strip away freedom, liberty and God-given rights for the sake of a sense of “false” security or a “perceived” sense of fairness. Any law contrary to the limits of government contained in the constitution, in violation of the Bill of Rights, or that seeks to empower the federal government over the people is unconstitutional. I don’t care who proposes it, who is president at the time, which party it came from or whatever their race, gender, religion or partridge in a pear tree designation you would like to assign. If that law/regulation strips freedom and liberty or removes unalienable God-given rights, it’s an abomination and whoever in government supports it is a traitor and an enemy of the people. If liberals, Obama supporters, the Democrats, the RINOs or the left are offended by that – tough; I don’t care.

The freedoms/rights that some people are so eager to squander away today are the same freedoms/rights that will be begged for when these individuals wake up to a totalitarian, dictatorial state. Anyone who honestly believes that Americans who are doing nothing wrong have nothing to worry about with massive, blanket government spying and surveillance has clearly forgotten their history or cared not to learn it in the first place.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. No one in America knows what this administration is up to, not even Congress. There is no accountability or responsibility of this administration to adhere to checks and balances. Department heads are in contempt of Congress while others just refuse to submit to congressional oversight stating they don’t work for Congress. These alphabet agencies fall under the executive branch, so in their mind, Congress has no control over them. This is what happens when Congress becomes derelict in their duties throughout the years outsourcing their job to agencies that are then assigned under the executive. When government oversteps its bounds to regulate activities reserved to the states or the people by creating unconstitutional agencies that operate under the executive, this is what happens.

There is documented evidence of repeated outright lying by this administration and Obama himself. There is no transparency. Still, no one is held accountable or responsible. Criminal activity by this president aided by his crony administration and Congress occur so routinely that the country is becoming numb to its existence.

Everyone in America is functioning under complete surveillance of their activities by the government. Want to bet some people still believe they have privacy? There is no more privacy in America. None. Every communication venue is monitored. I heard someone say that it was best to watch what you said just in case it was misinterpreted. Say what?! Evidently, this person didn’t realize what they said until it was pointed out to them.

So, being the government has every intent to continue being the Lay’s potato chip fanatic, I try not to disappoint them at every opportunity with something juicy to read or something interesting to hear. I stand in support of Levison’s decision to defy the government with an unreasonable search and seizure. I stand in support of Edward Snowden blowing the whistle on an out of control government who is spying on every US citizen and every citizen of every country of the world – at the expense of the American taxpayer. I refuse to comply with Obamacare or obey any unconstitutional law/regulation.

Oh, hey NSA guys, since you are monitoring my internet activity, I’m having a little trouble getting my order completed for those 3 dresses I want to order from Blair so if you could tone it down for 30 minutes, it would be appreciated – NO, you cannot borrow them but one of you can feel free to pay for them.

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