Post Gag Order, Lavabit Founder Reveals Non-Secret That Feds Were After Ed Snowden's Emails

from the the-least-surprising-news-ever dept

Want some unsurprising news? Apparently a three year gag order has just lapsed, allowing Ladar Levison, the founder and former operator of Lavabit, the secure email service Ed Snowden famously used, to finally say that yes, the feds asked him to turn over his encryption key in order to access Ed Snowden’s emails.

Lavabit founder Ladar Levison can finally confirm that Edward Snowden was the target of the 2013 investigation, which led to the shutdown of the Lavabit email service. The original case concerned law enforcement?s authority to compel the disclosure of an SSL/TLS private key, which belonged to Lavabit, and was used to protect the communications of all 410,000 customers, when only one of those customers was the subject of a criminal investigation. After three years, and five separate attempts, the federal judge overseeing the case has granted Mr. Levison permission to speak freely about investigation. The recently delivered court decision unseals the vast majority of the court filings, and releases Mr. Levison from the gag order, which has limited his ability to discuss the proceedings until now.

Mr. Levison has consistently relied on the First Amendment in his court filings, which sought to remove the gag orders entered against him. He argued that such orders are an unconstitutional restraint against speech, and an afront to the democratic process. He plans to use his newfound freedom to discuss the case during a planned presentation on Compelled Decryption at DEF CON 24 in Las Vegas, NV.

Of course, the fact that the feds were after Snowden isn’t exactly news. First off, it’s what everyone assumed the second the site shut itself down. But, more importantly, earlier this year, a redaction failure revealed it directly:

Still, it’s good that the gag order has finally been lifted, and it’s great that Levison is now going to talk about these issues more widely. He also notes plans to create a legal defense foundation to help with similar cases:

In order to continue the fight, Mr. Levison is forming the Lavabit Legal Defense Foundation (or ?LavaLegal?), a non-profit organization founded to, among other things, protect service providers from becoming complicit in unconstitutional activities, and fight secret attempts aimed circumventing digital privacy or impinging upon the right of those involved to speak of the experience. The foundation will be funded by donations from people and organizations all over the world that want to help protect digital privacy and bolster our collective defense against government overreach.

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Companies: lavabit

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Comments on “Post Gag Order, Lavabit Founder Reveals Non-Secret That Feds Were After Ed Snowden's Emails”

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Dave Cortright says:

Get an ProtonMail account

If this whole thing taught me anything, it’s that I cannot trust ISPs based in the USA. I got my ProtonMail account and I’m in the process of migrating everything over to it.

And as soon as a cell phone service comes out with security baked in, I’m switching over to that too. I have nothing extraordinary or illegal to hide, but I still don’t leave my blinds and doors open on my house.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Get an ProtonMail account

For secure Email you need to generate your own keys, and ensure that you get or validate the keys of the people you are communicating with. Achieve that, and it does not matter which email service you are using. If you rely on anybody else to manage the key exchange then you can never be sure that you are not communicating via a man in the middle. Any hiding of who you are communicating with is a separate issue. Stenography via some photo sharing site, and signalling the posting of a message via some signal on some public forum will be much better than any third party service, including TOR, as unless your security is compromised, the spies do not even know where to look, or what to watch for.
As ever with security, convenience is its enemy.

afn29129 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Get an ProtonMail account


One still has to be concerned with metadata; TO, FROM, DATE,

Have a look at Cyberpunk, Mixmaster, and Mixminion Re-mailers.

These types of re-mailers offered multiple layers of obfuscation. This technique could be quite instructive to anyone seeking to take up where Lavabit left off. But next time with even better security.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Get an ProtonMail account

Obfuscation is covered in my original reply, with a suggestion of one method. Using a well known service to directly obfuscate your communications is a always a potential weak point because:-
1) It will be under attack, which has enabled even TOR to be compromised.
2) Carries the risk of being back-doored.
3) It use shows that you are trying to hide your communications, and so attracts attention.
If you want to keep you communications secret, including the fact that you are trying to do so, you roll your own method hiding the communications in other activities. The first step to breaking secret communications is detecting that secret communication is taking place, and well known services for hiding communications advertise that hidden communication is taking place.

Max says:

In some parallel universe this is great news and a catalyst basis of change for the better. In the mean time, in this universe, the notions “handbasket”, “we all”, “to hell”, “are going”, “in a” come to mind. It’s just sad that the most comforting thing for me is that in about twenty or thirty years when it all comes to pass I will either not be around to see it or I’ll just be beyond caring… 🙁

I.T. Guy says:

Re: Re:

Are you a single man Max? For me it means my children will be in the fight and that kills me more. I want to stop it now. We are supposed to make it better for the next gen not worse. The next civil war will be bloody. More-so than the past.

Either that or Merikans will all succumb to accepting the 24/7 surveillance state. RFID implants, Facial Recognition, checkpoints, etc. It’s all coming to a city near you. Sadly, this appears to be this country’s future.

Freedom isn’t free. Personally I’d like to see someone in this position say F you, no, I will not hand over the key, and no, I will not keep quiet about it. We need more Snowdens.

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