Levison of Lavabits on FBI gag order: “There’s information I can’t share with my lawyer”

Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” gets an exclusive interview with Ladar Levison, who closed down his Lavabit encrypted email service rather than comply with Federal demands that he allow it to be monitored. Levison’s plight, whereby he was ordered to do something against his conscience without a warrant and then placed under a gag order not by a judge but by an arm of the executive, is clearly a violation of his constitutional rights. I’d like to point out that if Barack Obama and Eric Holder wanted, they could just instruct the FBI and the NSA not to behave this way. That Bush’s anti-Patriotic Act lets them do something doesn’t mean this administration has to.

The blurb for the show:

“Lavabit, an encrypted email service believed to have been used by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, has abruptly shut down. The move came amidst a legal fight that appeared to involve U.S. government attempts to win access to customer information. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we are joined by Lavabit owner Ladar Levison and his lawyer, Jesse Binnall. “Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it. I would like to, believe me,” Levison says. “I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.” In a message to his customers last week, Levison said: “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” Levison said he was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision. Soon after, another secure email provider called Silent Circle also announced it was shutting down.”

Amy Goodman interviews Levison:

From the transcript: Levison reveals that he is not permitted to discuss his case even with his attorney:

“AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald also wrote, “What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it.”

Greenwald goes on to write, quote, “Just as is true for people who receive National Security Letters under the Patriot Act, Lavabit has been told [that] they would face serious criminal sanctions if they publicly discuss what is being done to their company.” . . .

LADAR LEVISON: Well, just to add one thing to Greenwald’s comments, I mean, there’s information that I can’t even share with my lawyer, let alone with the American public. So if we’re talking about secrecy, you know, it’s really been taken to the extreme. And I think it’s really being used by the current administration to cover up tactics that they may be ashamed of.”

8 Responses

  1. For those of use who were watching, the erosion of constitutional civil liberties was apparent in the ’90’s. (My friends and I were able to get 5% of our state to vote against it.) Clearly the 9-11 incident accelerated the trend, while also accelerating the trends of disassociation & individualization in society, which combined with total snooping of all electronic media makes it harder for idealistic, well-meaning Americans to organize against it.

    Pure speculation, my guess is that Barak got some fantastic lectures from some generals and spooks in January ’09, and he has basically given them everything they’ve wanted. He did manage to get his speech _suggesting_ reform out just before the Snowden thing broke, did they know that was going to happen?

    As I said 20 years ago, if all the people who don’t vote because they feel disgusted by the corruptions and failures of American politics could somehow organize to vote against the political duopoly, that would be the revolution right there. Slightly less unrealistically, if the 25-40 million Americans who do vote towards Democrats (and minor parties) yet are the cultural leaders of more advanced concepts of all types could somehow organize to really press Hilary and whomever else in the Dem. primaries in ’16, on all types of questions from the Bill of Rights to climate change to the warfare state, in contrast to our usual disfunctional idealistic individualistic behaviors, that would be actual progressive politics and it would bring changes. Of course I have thousands of more words of discussion of these topics at my site.)

    • Ron, in answer to whether Bo knew the Snowden leak was coming, yes he knew. Remember Snowden gave the Guardian and WP material months earlier and both organisations asked government prior to publishing whether there were any concerns. So Obama knew that a leak was coming…

  2. What’s particularly relevant is the video clip Amy plays of Obama as a congressman, speaking to this very point.
    Words alone cannot convey my contempt for the man who would be president…

  3. What’s the point of screwing Levison? Presumably he can’t read Snowden’s email. The Streisand Effect on the National Security Letter doesn’t help the cause or move the football down the field. And finally, surely the NSA can gain something from the traffic to and from Lavabits servers.

    So the speculative answer is the FBI leaned on Levison to either hand over his encryption keys or fold.

    Can you imagine if Lavabits had shareholders that didn’t want to lose their money?

  4. Why would they have to cover up tactics of which they are ashamed? If they are ashamed of what they are doing, the president and his subordinates can stop!!!

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