I saw the question on Reddit after a different revelation last month. I feel like we're going to ask that question more and more.
I can only hope more and more of us are inspired, as Snowden was by Levinson (Lavabit's CEO) and many of us have been by both of them, and we act to protect ourselves and constrain our governments from overreaching to where they can't help repeating the disasters of previous overreaching governments.
You insult people who have experienced a police state by calling what we are experiencing a police state.
A police state has no distinction between legislation and executive.
Our legislation is currently investigating the president for:
* CIA coverup of the attack on our Benghazi consulate'
* IRS targeting of political opposition
They're planning on using their primary power, the power over our nations money, to enforce not only strict budget cuts, but requiring that the President's signature legislative victory be repealed.
That's before we discuss the court and how they've treated the President. Remember when they threw out his NLRB nominations as unconstitutional?
Now someone will bring up spying, but I urge you to realize that Congressional distaste for spying is centralized among the less important Congresspeople. Our leadership on both sides of the aisle is largely supportive of the infrastructure, seeing as they wrote and passed all of the laws that make it possibly. That's not an executive behaving without regard to legislation, it's one working with them.
I don't see a police state, and I think being cavalier with terminology does a grave injustice to lessons of the past and the people who have experienced (and are experiencing) a totalitarian government with truly no checks and balances.
Did you live in a police state? I have.
What police state calls itself "police state"? Hint: no state calls itself that. There is always a nice fluffy propaganda label slapped on top. "Freedom Loving Republic Of ..."
> Our legislation is currently investigating the president for:
Oh look, two investigations. Do you want a list of all the new developments that have been happening recently with leaks. I suspect you are familiar with them.
> I don't see a police state, and I think being cavalier with terminology
I see the beginning of one. Police states don't often turn police states overnight. There is a slow process of erosion going on.
> does a grave injustice to lessons of the past and the people who have experienced (and are experiencing) a totalitarian government with truly no checks and balances.
For one, it depends what you compare it to. You choose to compare against other states. Ok there are lot of fucked up states. So still doing well there. Now there is another way to compare and to compare a country by its own propaganda, that is what people want or believe that country to be. "We love freedom" (yet we imprison and assassinate people without a trial). "We love privacy" (yet we spy on everyone). "We respect human right" (yet we torture people). Should I continue? Another way to compare is historically, compare US against US say 15 years ago. I would say things got worse.
Again if Somalia did this, nobody would care. When US does this, it is very serious. People expect more from US and US has more power. So a 500 lb gorilla not behaving nicely is a lot worse than an angry dog.
> Again if Somalia did this, nobody would care.
I think you've just illustrated his point...Those fucked up states? Those are the actual police states (some of them at least). The whole point is that you can't just gloss over them, that's the injustice. I absolutely agree that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, but calling it a police state is hyperbole that's not really helpful.
It's like calling the US a third-world country because you saw a homeless camp. It belies a lack of perspective as to what an actual third-world country is.
But if you read my comment it depends what metric you use to compare. I choose to compare US against what other expect from US and what it should expect from itself. Also US against its historical state (now many would argue this is not looking too good either).
Now another way to look at it is like this -- qualitatively vs quantitatively. It seems to me (and I maybe wrong) that qualitatively we didn't have these provisions to imprison people without trial, to torture them, to assassinate, we weren't supposed to spy on American citizens. This was understood by the government, legislation and citizens in general. What changed is that the legal framework (using weasel words and loopholes) has been shaped to allow these things. Qualitatively one could argue these are the same legal provisions that would allow a police state to exist just by turning up the level of torture, extra judicial killing, indefinite detention, total monitoring and recording. Those are there now.
Now quantitatively. You got to lunch with your friends on Saturday to a cafe in Chicago. Should you be afraid of a drone strike and you'd rather hide in a basement? No. It is not happening. Can you still yell about how stupid the president is? Yes. But my point is, from that reality to this is just a matter of turning up the levels not really building or overcoming a major hurdle of putting together a new legal framework.
You don't live in a police state.
I lived in Cuba for a while. Many people would consider that a police state.
Yet people were free to vocally criticize the government. And they did.
The government tolerated it because they knew those particular people were harmless. It only clamped down on those that posed an actual threat to their authority.
Cuba is an especially interesting case because it's a communist police state which is also a tourist destination for huge amounts of free, affluent Westerners every year. That means that they can't use any of the standard 'scare tactics' of a police state (assuming they would if they could), such as having soldiers policing the street constantly.
I was also told by a guide that they don't allow imagery of the ruling leader (e.g. posters to say 'Hey, Fidel is so great!') because they don't want government to turn into hero worship. After a leader is dead, then their image can be used in 'publicity', but not before.
So Cuba's a really interesting state.
You're right, I saw no Fidel images. Tons of Che.
Actually...no, I did think about posting it. A month or two ago, I wouldn't have. I am actively engaging in censorship. I still posted it, but I did hesitate for a while. What if I have a defense related project in the future? Will they read back to me this comment? It did cross my mind. So by that test well, it got worse certainly.
Emerging police state may be more accurate. The people who use such language note trends. The USA still has liberty, but things are moving in the wrong direction.
An article is on the front page on the increasing militarization of police forces. This level of police action surpasses the level of state violence in many police states.
I've lived in one police state: Cuba. In many ways, the Cubans were freer of speech than Americans are, and they faced less police intrusion in their lives.
And, in other ways, the Cubans were less free and faced more restrictions on speech. Chiefly, when someone decided to step out of line and move from passive complainer to actual threat to the state.
My point is this. The USA is still a free country. Citizens enjoy great liberty. However, there are many elements of US society that surpass the excesses of 'police states'. Those trends are increasing, not decreasing.
Pointing out that the institutions of American democracy still exist and exercise certain functions does not refute any concerns about increasing state violence.
When is the appropriate moment to voice concerns that the USA is moving towards becoming a police state? Once it happens, it will be too late.
An investigation in which the conclusion is already obvious and no one will be held accountable is not really an investigation, it is only smoke and mirrors. Throwing out one set of nominations as unconstitutional among hundreds is the same smoke and mirrors.
The ability to create a public drama while the real decisions occur underneath is certainly no proof of the lack of totalitarian government. Not that I'd say the USA is a totalitarian government, just that your proof is very shaky.
The key difference would be that when acts happen that defy the needs and expectations of society that those actions end.
If Keith Alexander was blamed for acting without authorization and imprisoned for treason and then NSA operations went quietly on their way again, that wouldn't necessarily mean anything.
If on the other hand, there was no punishment doled out, but instead any apology was given out and the PRISM program and similar were dismantled, and a new intelligence system were built in its place with support and approval from the public. Maybe something with proper auditable checks and balances, something with less risk to the public. If that was the case, even if nobody was punished, the situation would improve.
Calling for punishment or vengeance will satisfy emotions. It doesn't do anything to change the status quo. I'm not in the US, but if I were, I wouldn't be calling for the President to be held accountable, or anyone else. I would be calling for change of the laws and processes that I felt were violating my rights.
I think this is especially true in a system as complex as government. There is no one person truly responsible for these systems. So to focus on punishing a person is meaningless. People can be forced to do things despite the potential punishment. People can have decisions made by more powerful people attributed to them.
In the end though, it is more important that bad behavior stops than it is that we exact retribution on some person for it happening. If the latter happens without the former, it's worse than meaningless.
There is a general concensus among people across the political parties that things are broken. Congress is not good, the President is not doing a good job and problems are mounting.
The majority realizes that the system is broken (ish), things are bad, the government should be doing something about it instead of prolonging the status quo -- and yet we can't get any meaningful change going.
I just don't understand it.
We live in a age where polititians are completely obtuse from the people who elect them..
we live in the age of schizophrenic democracies.. the people are much more evolved and sophisticated, and they are still doing the same sort of politics it use to work in the past..
well, we need to make them hear a clear message, they need to hear that things have changed, we changed for the better, and if they insist in not listening to us.. let them know that or they do it, or we will make it work in other ways..
but making them know we are not just that silly harmless sheap that accepts everything anymore.. and that consumism its not enough anymore.. we want and need more.. they will listen.
at least we are having a good experience overhere.. they are aware of us, of our needs and our expectations.. finally!
Certainly there is more that can be done, but I think if this whole affair is indicative of the reaction to be expected then I'm not surprised people avoided making oversight of these programs a loud and noisy public debate.
I still think a Gingrich or Tea Party level congressional revolution in 2014, bipartisan, focused on "re-establishing effective oversight of the military/intelligence apparatus", should have reasonable odds of going through. There are enough districts which don't financially benefit from this (and a lot which are going to be hurt by it, like Silicon Valley and Redmond), that a number of junior congressmen could probably get elected on it (assuming they're not otherwise psycho).
For example, suppose Clapper is imprisoned for 6 months and looses his job for contempt of congress (he is the one who falsely told congress that the NSA was not spying on millions of Americans). I imagine it will be awhile before the next NSA leader decides to tell congress a porkie. Done properly, individual accountability has a systemic effect.
I agree with you in that a key difference would be if people were held accountable for illegal acts.
If you think the law makes it a police state, then argue about the law, but RyanZAG was suggesting that some evidence of a police state is that laws meant to restrain the government are not being enforced.
The people who argue this is constitutional have really only addressed the "on it's face"/prima facie sort of constitutionality.
Whereas, "as applied" is both harder to defend and attack because we know so little.
You can now break the law without even knowing it.
For starters, the law creating FISA isn't something that one can "break", necessarily. The only ones who can run afoul of it are agencies like the NSA, not the populace at large.
More importantly though, the public law carves out a niche that they allow the NSA to operate under, with the proviso that the NSA get the activities pre-approved and overseen by the FISA Court, and with reports routinely made to Congress. The FISA Court verifies that the NSA's proposed activities fall within the scope of the FISA (as amendmended) and with normal case law.
For the approved programs (even the secret ones) they are approved because of the fact that they fall within the area laid out by public law (in the opinion of the FISA Court of course, but that issue underlies all of law).
Even in unclassified jurisprudence there are lots of examples of closed-door court sessions, gag orders, etc.
Now I agree that there are problems with the way the FISA Court is staffed and composed, but those problems don't derive from the closed-door nature as much as from the fact that a single person is able to stack that Court as he/she wishes.
What amazes me is that Clapper can baldly lie to Congress and not even have to resign, let alone be prosecuted. Lying to Congress is a federal crime! Yet the government spends $40 million prosecuting Roger Clemens for lying to Congress about steroids, and they couldn't even get a conviction.
Also, Clapper has been wrong about many things, including Libya and Egypt. I believe the US government wants total spying because their intelligence agencies are so incompetent at identifying threats. 9/11 proves this as the CIA had identified two of the hijackers as Al Qaeda members, determined they had US visas and then did not tell the FBI or State Department. The NSA had phone transcriptions of terrorists and refused to share them with the FBI. The FBI actually started building listening stations in Africa and the east at great expense due to NSA intransigence.
Before 9/11, they were very vigilant about respecting laws on intelligence gathering. After 9/11 it all went out the window, laws were broadened and oversight has been strangled.
And a violation on such scale...
That's not to say each and every instance of these programs has always been scrupulously constitutional, but we never expect our government to get it right 100% of the time. That's why the FISA court exists. You may wish its oversight were stronger or its opinions always public, but again, nothing about how it operates is obviously unconstitutional. Certainly not as self-evidently as some people around here seem to assume.
Instead, their intentions clearly were in the other direction.
To strive for accuracy, I'd go with "unaccountable oligarchy" or "faux-democratic tyrannical beauracracy". Not as punchy, admittedly. You could also call it "soft fascism".
Ultimately, we live in a new and unprecedented form of state power run wild, and while there are echoes of history, it's probably going to continue to unfold in a mostly unique way. There's no reason to forcibly apply the old labels any more than there is to call an airplane a "winged tank".
I know there has always been a strain of the paranoid (sometimes well-earned) in hacker culture, but presumably it wasn't what this site was built to highlight.
I am beyond happy and proud of HN for keeping such a discourse about these issues! I have so much more respect for the HN community for keeping these issues on the front page and having such a sober view of their implications!
It's exceptionally naive to think that these issues are not related to what HN is all about: technology startups; what if your going to build "the next google" - clearly then you will come face to face with some MIB demanding access to your users data. If you don't pay attention to what's going on now, and develop an understanding of how grave this situation is, you'd never be in a position to build the future without furthering an actual police state.
The world is being steamrollered by the interests of the .001% and there is no reason why it has to be that way.
Edit: minor grammatical changes
And I'm still very much annoyed that, as a foreigner who happens to have American customers and business partners, I'm told I have no reason to worry if the USG is watching my work, my personal activities and my relationships. I'd be just as annoyed if another entity was doing the spying and the posterior use of the information to punish me.
So I cannot understand why HN—a site for startup founders, programmers, tech business owners, and people working in technology—wouldn't be a place to discuss an entity watching our actions with the implicit threat of selective punishment.
I worry about some stranger getting access to our customer data. Why wouldn't I worry about a government, be it the US or any other country, getting access to that data?
Sober views like calling the U.S. a police state? The train where hn had a high-quality discussion about U.S. surveillance and national security policy left the station long, long ago. It was about the time we were getting minute-by-minute postings on the exact position of an airplane seat that didn't contain Edward Snowden.
While you might say that things are "not that bad" - just because you hav some relative "comfort" (so long as you're not against the State) - does not mean that the actual architecture of the system is not that of a police state.
The US became a police state as soon as the CIA did its coup of the executive branch. Now, when this actually occurred is debatable - but my opinion is that they succeeded 100% once GHW Bush took the VP spot as Reagan's handler.
This coup was a LONG time in the making -- and goes all the way back to Prescott, but ever since 1980 - every president has been a puppet of GHW Bush and the CIA.
If you're interested in sources and history, we can discuss further...
Clinton was brought into the CIA fold after his complicity to allowing CIA drug importation to Mena Arkansas.
Here is a brief clip where Clinton does not deny any of the allegations of the trafficking - he simply attempts to deny any awareness of it.
Watch the Mena Connection....
There is a lot more to it as well.
It probably started with Latin American countries (CIA coups, Smedley Butler), vietnam, Iran (Shaw), Afghanistan (when the CIA radicalized them to fight the russians), etc. Ike warned of the MIC, and he was right. Now we're turning the lens inward, as the empire is totally insolvent.
One of the reasons I generally like HN so much is because there is so much expertise around that the comments often get right to the actual heart of an issue.
A great example is something like the P ≠ NP attempted proof from a couple years back: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1585850 The top comment is extremely informative, nearly the best commentary you could find about the issue anywhere.
Imagine if the top comment was instead from one of the numerous people who believed they had already proved P = NP or P ≠ NP, and they went off about their own theories and disparaged all of the mathematical community for ignoring them. A mathematical quack, basically.
The people who actually understand math could spend their time refuting this guy, but by doing so the overall signal-to-noise ratio of the site would go down, and with it the overall comment quality. And besides, the quack has probably heard it all before and it didn't change his mind. So instead people vote stuff like this down so that the top comments are from people who actually know what they are talking about.
The problem with stories like this is that the equivalent of these mathematical quacks get voted up to the top. The natural hacker distrust for authority, which on one hand motivates good and productive work on privacy/anonymizing technologies, in this case motivates people to post comments that involve low-quality grandstanding and statements about the political situation that are objectively false. Sure it is possible to refute them, but S/N ratio is still lowered and no one's mind gets changed anyway.
By the way, I'm not someone who is downplaying the significance of Snowden's revelations. I just want to read a discussion that really cuts to the heart of the issues, instead of generic outrage, vague calls to action, and outright inaccurate statements like calling the US a police state.
Just because it's far from your reality doesn't mean it's the same for everyone else. People are constantly bombarded with articles about the US engaging in potentially illegal and unconstitutional activities that affects a lot of internet users, so it's only natural people get upset about it and let their emotions run wild, thus resulting in the "paranoid" comments that we now regularly see.
You should take the time to show these people an alternate point of view, because your comment will not only be read by the person you're replying to (who may or may not change his mind), but also by the thousands of lurkers who don't even participate in the discussion.
And yet instead of the usual 100% noise of naive brogrammer narrow political relativism, you are seeing some more interesting replies from people who say they have actually lived in police states and that this is where things are heading.
1. What attributes constitute a condition we call a "Police State"? (a list of which you already provided)
2. Does America (or some part of it) have those attributes?
3. Assuming the above is "Yes", what can we do to make it not have those attributes? (e.g. call currently elected representatives, elect representatives based on their historical opposition to those attributes, avoid certain companies or products, etc...)
4. How do we track if these actions are being performed and how effective they are?
Actually, we probably don't need to do categorize negative attributes so much. We can probably just focus on reversing the attributes we think are making our country worse.
Also, enacting political change is a skill as old as civilization I'm sure. There is probably lots of material around on how to do it effectively. We can start by reading and trying some of that stuff in place of arguing in circles about what is and isn't a police state.
Yuck is right. The truth is yucky.
"The truth will set you free, but it's gonna piss you off first"
I don't think that it is largely speaking that people who always thought that the US is a police state have suddenly appeared on HN, but more that people on HN who didn't previously think that the US was a police state are changing their minds.
The US has the worlds highest incarceration rate per capita than any other country and has just been caught running a global surveillance network that would make even the Stasi blink. To not use the term police state when discussing all of this would be weirder.
Perhaps if you come up for air (and sun, it's good for you) you'll see that discussion about police states is both relevant and extremely important at this time. Many people don't want to dive head-first off the cliff with you.
I think you insult their experience much more by allowing your country to become a police state while denying what's happening.
It's true, it could be far, far worse. But that doesn't change the fact that the US is rapidly moving into that direction. The fact that the executive branch and the legislature both support the police state, doesn't make it any less of a police state. Yes, you can call it something else, but a police state by any other name stinks just as much.
Surely every police state has had factions that have vied for political primacy via such side-shows. That can't possibly be a disqualifier.
We do not have a functioning legislature.
These investigations are politically motivated, effectively battles in a war between factions of the aristocracy.
That's because you haven't been on the wrong end of it yet. Many others in the same state have, and their experience trumps yours.
The entire NSA spying program was designed to thwart the separation of powers and to circumvent the democratic process.
What does that have to do with anything? There are any number of democracies in the world where that is true; google "responsible government" to learn more. The head of each executive agency in Westminster parliamentary systems is an elected legislator...
The essential characteristics of a "police state" involve excessive police supervision of the day-to-day activities of the citizenry, generally with the goal of disrupting and discouraging activism against the government.
For now few things are clearly visible:
1. US spends disproportionately on security and surveillance.
2. There is mission creep and mission search in all security related branches.
3. Vague laws gives prosecutors insane amounts of heavy mallets with which to threaten people - if 95% of trials end with guilty plea and a deal - due process is illusion.
4. US is having very high incarceration per capital ratio.
And while 4 has leveled in the last few years I think the other are accelerating. Of course it is not impossible to be reversed. Or even that hard.
Surely as a logical, intelligent HN poster you understand that this is not a valid counterargument? It is rhetorically quite a persuasive statement, but if you have a strong argument why is an emotional appeal necessary?
>A police state has no distinction between legislation and executive.
So when secret courts start popping up, what does that mean to you? When repressive arms of the state are free to exercise unrestricted surveillance despite prohibitive legislation, what does that mean to you?
The names of things mean very little. How they function is what's important.
It's a continuum. All such terms are. Shouldn't people be upset when the current location swings noticeably in an undesirable direction? What else should it be called? "Can we call it a 45% police state with intermittent oversight favoring the executive branch yet?"
And anyway. Why get upset when others get a taste of something bad? Instead of being demeaned by it, why not support, since you know how bad it can get? Whenever stuff like this comes up, it's echoed by "That's insulting, in my day..." as if that somehow makes what's happening now not bad.
This isn't a contest for who knows / has lived in the worst governing body.
Using your own argument, you primarily rely on the distinction between legislative and executive branches as the determining factor on if police state = true. While I think it a bad argument in the first place (as it ignores all the nuances of what can constitute a police state, and ignores the various definitions of the word), I will allow for the time being that it is an argument worth having, and will simply assert that we currently have almost no distinction between the legislative branch and executive branches (I would also argue the judicial as well).
Here is why.
All three branches are compromised from multiple angles.
Angle 1. K Street (massive corporations and regulatory capture) Mostly affects congress, but has reaching effects in the other two branches. (elections/nominations in the exec, etc)
Angle 2. Dirty info. When the executive starts to gobble up everything on everyone, everyone becomes manipulatable. I think there is good academic standing to be had on the argument that many of our congresspeople are being blackmailed or manipulated in some other way by the executive.
Lack of use of tradition checks. We have a very specific checks and balances system, but because of the merging of the three branches that I propose is true, a simple test would be to see how often any of the checks systems have actually been utilized.
How often have any of the following occurred? Veto's, impeachment, removal of persons from office, declaration of an act as unconstitutional...etc.
In short, the three branches are in the process of merging (if they haven't already for all intents and purposes) All the things that you claim congress is pursuing against the president are part of the media based Hegelian dialectic. They are essentially none issues.
For example, on Benghazi, the congressional intel committee probably was more involved or at least more aware of what happened that the POTUS was. But they are investigating? They are the controlled opposition.
It is you, not anyone else, who is being cavalier with your terminology, and the implied assertion that because it's not as bad as X example in the past or present is a dangerous road, as it essentially encourages the "it's not so bad, so why are you complaining?" attitude. Also, who fucking cares if someone who has once experienced a "real police state" is "offended" by someone else's assertion of a police state. This is a slimy tactic used by people like the JDF...
and the press just plays dead
In practice, however, the tail wags the dog.
I got in a bicycle accident on my way home, and somehow managed to get myself home (I don't remember this part) with my face pretty much split open. So, I called 911, and an ambulance and some cops came. The cops asked him some questions.
He freaked out. I got this lecture the next day about how he didn't sign up for this, how I needed to keep his name out of my trouble, how I'm bad news, etc.
I couldn't help but think that talking to the police meant something very, very different where he's from than where I am.
Food for thought.
The problem now is who's going to step into the vacuum and start providing services these people are being persecuted for?? I think this is the real issue. The further you push people down, the more they scatter and go further underground.
Sad, sad state of affairs for this country. . .
In short, the difference between a surveillance state and a police state is a matter of nature, but they have capabilities in common.
I think a police state will likely follow.
He sacrified his life for us. He is the inspiration.
Certainly no president in the next few terms will rest until he is rendered, he has to look over his shoulder now forever.
Thank you for your sacrifice Mr. Snowden.
And what I think should stands as the most important for people of your country... Good bye America.
Yep, sounds like he sacrificed his life. Sure, he can build a new one. But his last one? Pretty much destroyed.
Imagine you have to dump your loved one (against your wishes).
Of course, it's better for him to stay in Russia then going to Equador as he planned, at least he will get a good job there. Certainly he will dislike St. Petersburg climate when the winter falls (very cold and humid), but there are places with decent climate and still good jobs.
So no he hasn't sacrificed his life, just his home, country, family and friends
He was willing to risk his liberty and possibly his life for his country. That makes him a hero by any reasonable definition.
Don't be this naive, please.
I very much doubt it's as glamorous as you seem to be imagining.
care to back that up?
I merely recognize his extreme sacrifice and thank him for it.
If we are supposed to thank the people who ran and signed up for the military to invade Iraq and empowered the insanity of the last administration, we most certainly can thank Snowden for showing us that not only has the insanity not stopped, it may have gotten far worse.
That is an unreasonable standard. I guess Gen. Douglas McArthur should have stayed and faced the Japanese in the Philippines?
Why would hero status require being stupid about your situation?
I am glad Greenwald has cottoned on to this and also made pointed remarks on the use of the abuses of others to question the ethics of Assange and Snowden in their "choice" of destination.
It's reminiscent of the cold war retort from the soviets.
Indeed, they must. Your move Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple.
In the end the base unit of society is still the human, no matter how many layers we place around them.
A CEO/Chairman hurting a public companies profit via protest against NSA would result in shareholder lawsuits. Another good example of the the legal constructs around corporatism and public stock markets hurting the inherent protectionism from abuse free markets offer society.
Corporatism often prevents large companies from acting morally, whether by being protected from real repercussions for acting maliciously via being a single legal entity (resulting in mass settlements not individual employee liability) or their legal obligations to only care about short-term profits (post-IPO), not long term gains or societal benefit.
Google already bowed out of one major market due to ethical disagreements, asking them to do that again with their home market is unrealistic - lobbying to mend the laws is the more sensible approach and one that scales better to businesses of that size.
Besides despite disagreements with US policy it's still not China.
now there's a campaign slogan for 2016.
Well, before a few weeks ago, I couldn't really expect my government to spy on all its citizens, use secret courts to bully companies into giving them access to my data, share it with law enforcement for "parallel construction" (intelligence laundering) purposes, and lie to congress about what they were doing.
If you had told me a few decades ago that this would be the situation in the United States at the start of the 21st century, I would have laughed in your face and called you a crackpot, a lunatic, a conspiracy theorist. Absent something like losing World War III, there was no way the United States could become a totalitarian state in my lifetime.
Yet here we are.
And nobody says they have to immediately shut down.
Lobbying scales better than shutting down or suspending service.
I wonder what his favorite food is? What is his favorite band? Where is his favorite place to shop? What does he think of the architecture of St. Basils?
A few more weeks and it will be 'Privacy Expert Snowden says...' and no one will remember why he's even famous.
I personally felt it this morning when I was getting ready to reply to an email to a friend with a cold-war joke that in times past I would have never thought twice about sending. I didn't send.
I don't know where I stand on this. I feel like the NSA can't respond because they're trapped by the same secrecy that they operate in from speaking out, although the lies and backtracking don't help, so this echo chamber is just amplifying itself to the point people are making big bold moves that hurt themselves (and their customers) when anyone has yet to demonstrate a single instance of where the NSA has misused their information (if you don't assume the DEA parallel reconstruction is using NSA data, which is maybe speculative or not).
Well at least Obama is meeting with Tim Cook about this, because that makes sense. I've been thinking, why doesn't Tim Cook go talk to the president about this. Because...yeah.
i) Lavabit's provided a communication service (email) that was uniquely designed so as the content's literally did not touch their servers. Therefore, if the NSA came to them wanting to look at communications by their users they would literally be told "It's impossible to do that"
ii) NSA (or government in general) says "We cannot allow you to have a service that is completely untraceable. You need to begin having a way to trace this.
iii) Lavabit's understands that this is their commercial value proposition. Should they be forced to do this they literally go out of business.
iv) They fight it hard for a while but realize it's futile so shut up shop vs slowly go out of business.
Is that right?
As a side note I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the Greenwald/Snowden circular loop. It's very close to a propaganda loop and not all that different to other media outlets who get two like minded people and thus really just have a mutually agreeable conversation vs a reporting role. The danger being of course it's passed off as news by being positioned as such.
It only touched their servers in encrypted form, never plaintext.
They would have had to wiretap their customer to retrieve content (for example, client side JS monitoring the next time the user accessed their email on the server) since all email was encrypted on the server harddrives and only accessible via the user.
Instead if it wasn't encrypted they could have used a normal search warrant which would have given the police access to the plaintext content immediately.
What was unique about Lavabit is that they never had the ability to decrypt the content without involving the user, since they never had the "private key".
 RetroShare, BitMessage, I2P Bote, Freenet + Frost and some others, which haven't tried yet.
I'd think, people would end up speaking out when they're threatened by the NSA to shut up, but they have nowhere to go for legal advice.
I wonder if the government or the NSA could manage to shut down a class action if there would be one.
So yes, if the NSA and CIA already have proof that Lavabit serves some minimum amount of customers in those states then it would be proper to bring it in that federal district.
But it seems like they a) wouldn't have the proof needed until they got access to lavabit's assets or b) if they had the proof, they wouldn't need formal access to lavabit's assets
Kind of a circular problem but of course since we don't know what he's appealing and why...
Edit: Actually they could just use credit card information to establish customers so nvm
Edit2: Now that I've read a copy of the search warrant linked by someone else in this thread, I see what's going on
The public need to hold these people accountable in some fashion, criminally is probably out of the question. Whether it be by some investigation committee by congress, supreme court intervention, or simply voting the current incumbents out.
We need to stop the Govt from just abiding by the letter of the laws and not by going with the Spirit of the law. The Government shouldnt be finding loop holes in their laws or playing games about the meaning of words when the are questioned by officials.