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Lavabit Shutdown Citing Govt Interference
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Exclamation Lavabit Shutdown Citing Govt Interference - 08-08-2013, 09:11 PM

Email service Lavabit abruptly shut down citing government interference | Technology | theguardian.com

Founder of service reportedly used by Edward Snowden said he would not be complicit in 'crimes against the American people'

'The first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the free*** to speak out in situations like this,' Levison wrote.

The email service reportedly used by surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden abruptly shut down on Thursday after its owner cryptically announced his refusal to become "complicit in crimes against the American people."

Lavabit, an email service that boasted of its security features and claimed 350,000 customers, is no more, apparently after rejecting a court order for cooperation with the US government to participate in surveillance on its customers. It is the first such company known to have shuttered rather than comply with government surveillance.

"I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit," founder Ladar Levison wrote on the company's website, reported by Xeni Jardin the popular news site Boing Boing.

Levison said government-imposed restrictions prevented him from explaining what exactly led to his company's crisis point.

Quote:
I feel you deserve to know what's going on – the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the free*** to speak out in situations like this," Levison wrote. "Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.
Privacy advocates called the move unprecedented. "I am unaware of any situation in which a service provider chose to shut down rather than comply with a court order they felt violated the Constitution," said Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Several technology companies that participate in the National Security Agency's surveillance dragnets have filed legal requests to lift the secrecy restrictions that prevent them from explaining to their customers precisely what it is that they provide to the powerful intelligence service – either wittingly or due to a court order. Yahoo has sued for the disclosure of some of those court orders.

The presiding judge of the secret court that issues such orders, known as the Fisa court, has indicated to the Justice Department that he expects declassification in the Yahoo case. The department agreed last week to a review that will last into September about the issues surrounding the release of that information.

There are few internet and telecommunications companies known to have refused compliance with the NSA for its bulk surveillance efforts, which the NSA and the Obama administration assert are vital to protect Americans. One of them is Qwest Communications, whose former CEO Joseph Nacchio – convicted of insider trading – alleged that the government rejected it for lucrative contracts after Qwest became a rare holdout for post-9/11 surveillance.

"Without the companies' participation," former NSA codebreaker William Binney recently told the Guardian, "it would reduce the collection capability of the NSA significantly."

Snowden was allegedly a Lavabit customer. A Lavabit email address believed to come from Snowden invited reporters to a press conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in mid-July.

While Levinson did not say much about the shuttering of his company – he notably did not refer to the NSA, for instance – he did say he intended to mount a legal challenge.

"We've already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals," Levinson wrote. "A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company."

He continued: "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."

Opsahl noted that the fact that Levinson was appealing a case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals indicated the government had a court order for Lavabit's data.

"It's taking a very bold stand, one that I'm sure will have financial ramifications," Opsahl said.

"There should be more transparency around this. There's probably no harm to the national security of the United States to have it publicly revealed what are the legal issues here," Opsahl continued.

Representatives from the NSA, White House, Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately reply to a request for comment





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Silent Circle sees 'writing on the wall,'
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Silent Circle sees 'writing on the wall,' - 08-09-2013, 08:13 AM

Shutsdown Secure Email Service

Silent Circle sees 'writing on the wall,' shuts down secure email service | The Verge

Phil Zimmerman’s encrypted communications company Silent Circle is shuttering its Silent Mail email service after another secure email service used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, called Lavabit, closed down earlier today. Silent Circle wrote that it saw "the writing on the wall" after Lavabit owner Ladar Levison explained he was being forced to "become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away."

Silent Circle’s other services, Silent Phone and Silent Text, are completely end-to-end encrypted; only the users hold the keys needed to decrypt the messages, so even if the company were compelled to produce evidence in court, it wouldn’t have access to its customers’ communications in a usable form. But the protocols used for email — SMTP, POP3, and IMAP — can’t be secured, facing the team with a dilemma: continue providing Silent Mail, which offers similar privacy protections as other secure email services, or ditch the service altogether.

Quote:
"It's always better to be safe than sorry."
Silent Circle says it hadn't yet received any government requests for data, but didn't want to simply wait until the feds came calling for its customers' emails. "We’d considered phasing the service out, continuing service for existing customers, and a variety of other things up until today. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that the worst decision is always no decision," it said.

Update: We've reached out to Silent Circle and received the following statement from Chief Technical Officer Jon Callas:

Quote:
We give very strong security guarantees about Silent Phone and Silent Text, and every time we talked about key management, metadata, and so on, had to have a little asterisk footnote that essentially said, "Except for Silent Mail." Email is different. It's also useful, which is why we offered as a service.

We have had discussions about it from the very start, and our discussions about whether we should have it at all have been picking up speed. What to do about it was an agenda item on our next BoD meeting, even. We had also planned changes in our offerings to be announced next week.

When we saw the sad news about Lavabit, we had discussions about what that means for us and anyone else running a secure email system. Ladar Levison is a great guy and his team does fantastic work. Something happened there. We can but guess, but there are a lot of obvious guesses.

Our own discussion took on a new urgency. After debate and discussion, we decided that it's best for everyone if we just close it down, delete all the mail, and wipe the disks. It's drastic, but whatever made Lavabit have to close down can't be good for us or our subscribers, whom we have pledged to protect. Of all the choices we had, that seemed the least bad.
For those that do not know:

Quote:
Philip R. “Phil” Zimmermann, Jr. (born February 12, 1954) is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), the most widely used email encryption software in the world. He is also known for his work in VoIP encryption protocols, notably ZRTP and Zfone. Zimmermann is currently the President and co-founder of the global encrypted communications firm, Silent Circle.
Zimmermann has received numerous technical and humanitarian awards for his pioneering work in cryptography:

Quote:
* In 2012, Zimmermann was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.
* In 2008, PC World named Zimmermann one of the “Top 50 Tech Visionaries” of the last 50 years.
* In 2006, eWeek ranked PGP 9th in the 25 Most Influential and Innovative Products introduced since the invention of the PC in 1981 .
* In 2003, Reason named him a “Hero of Free***”
* In 2001, Zimmermann was inducted into the CRN Industry Hall of Fame .
* In 2000, InfoWorld named him one of the “Top 10 Innovators in E-business” .
* In 1999, he received the Louis Brandeis Award from Privacy International.
* In 1998, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Secure Computing Magazine.
* In 1996, he received the Norbert Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility for promoting the responsible use of technology.
* In 1995, he received the Chrysler Design Award for Innovation, and the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
* In 1995, Newsweek also named Zimmermann one of the “Net 50”, the 50 most influential people on the Internet.
* Simon Singh’s The Code Book devotes an entire chapter to Zimmermann and PGP.





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