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Lavabit.com owner: 'I could be arrested' for resisting surveillance order (nbcnews.com)
248 points by ghosh on Aug 16, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 110 comments

"Because the government has barred Lavabit from disclosing the nature of its demands, we still don't know what information the government is seeking, or why it's seeking it," said Ben Wizner, a national security lawyer for the ACLU. "It's hard to have a debate about the reasonableness of the government's actions — or Lavabit's response, for that matter — when we don't know what we're debating."

So there we have it, a modern-day Geheime Staatspolizei in the USA.

I wonder what lunacy will pop up next.

>"It's hard to have a debate about the reasonableness of the government's actions — or Lavabit's response, for that matter — when we don't know what we're debating."

I'd say that actually simplifies the situation quite nicely. It is unreasonable. Period. The end.

It's pure evil, not "unreasonable".

Not only you have to suffer from a person holding a gun, you also should not even try to ask for help. You are a hostage in the hands of an armed sadistic monster. That's what it is.

There's only one way to fix things: voting and participating in a political process. You solve nothing by calling government a sadistic monster. The fact that each new politician elected turns out to be a scumbag and nothing really changes, doesn't mean there's a better way to run society than a democracy. The fact that they use everyone's tax money to kill and detain innocent people all over the world and spy on everyone doesn't really mean it's a bad system. You know, the world is not all black and white, you radical.

I can't believe this post was downvoted. The sarcasm in the last sentence ought to have been obvious to all.

>you radical

I wonder how words like "socialist", "radical", or "reactionary" become insults. are these trends cyclical like fashion and seasons or perhaps not accurately predictable like day-to-day weather?

Reactionary has always been an insult.

If you are referring to its origins in the French Revolution, then you could say the same for "conservative" and "right." I personally don't consider any of the aforementioned terms as derogatory. They are sometimes useful categorizations of views on specific topics.

I don't think anyone has characterized their own views as "reactionary" unless it was part of a self-deprecating joke, sarcasm, or rhetorical flourish. It's like Chauvinism - implying that you are a thoughtless defender of something.

You've obviously never read any Mencius Moldbug [1].

[1] http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com

Downvoters didn't notice sarcasm.

Or thought that he was using sarcasm to register opinions that would have been better supported by actual arguments.

There is one argument only: violence is being hidden under lies that supposedly justify it without any proof. Therefore it's evil. The ideas of government, democracy, monarchy and obedience to the pope are all evil for one simple reason: those who invested in them want you to blindly believe "it's for your own good" while instead of peacefully arguing with you, they bully and threaten.

Mathematicians would never accept bullying as a proof. Scientist with an opinion does not expect that people would simply believe him and follow his ideas. He has to waste as much time as needed to prove he's right. And if he cannot make people voluntarily trust him, he'd simply go home, not to the Congress to pass a law.

Politician, pope or abusive parent do not do that. They bully you directly, bribe people around to bully you, bully other people to discourage you from following their steps and so on. Then, after enough bullying and brainwashing generations of children in state-organized schools, folks have impression that "that's how we signed our social contract". The usual response to this red-pill knowledge is "you are too radical, the world is not black and white".

So here I am. The world is indeed not black and white. And that's precisely why we cannot have any blind beliefs in a centralized violent institution. You don't trust random unarmed stranger. Why would you EVER trust a group of well-motivated trained, and armed, and protected professional killers?

The only way out of this hell is to acknowledge that violence is never justified. Even in case of a self-defense. In the latter case, the most you can count on is being understood and forgiven by people around you. But both you, they and your victim would be better off if you didn't end up in that situation. That's why people use insurance, locks, video cameras, boycott, identification, thick walls instead of training for being all-powerful supermen. We prevent issues to avoid "solving" them by force. Plain simple.

Government is entirely opposite of what methods we use in our private lives with our fellow friends and neighbours.

... or maybe they like the idea of democracy, and recognize the fact that voting isn't the only democratic power they have to control their government.

Except that it is their political process, one for which they've designed all the rules and systems in place to carry it out. It is prone to the "rigged game" phenomenon.

Well, said. This simply can't be allowed to continue, especially in America which holds liberty as its central value.

"America" doesn't not hold anything.

There are actual individuals out there. Some of them believe they live in a magical part of the globe with some values within its geography. Others use abstractions like "liberty", "democracy", "national borders" etc to justify bullying some people at expense of other people (and never at their own expense - which is important!).

"America", "Russia", "government", "police", "justice", "court", "nation" - all are made-up words used to justify kicking everyone's ass. People can agree on more peaceful ways to define property rights and protect each other and their environment, then simply believe that existing mafia has a mandate to solve all these problems under "public watch".

If you compare modern pro-government rhetoric with theology of 13th century, you'll find a lot of parallels. Simply replace "god" with "society".

"Without religion and church there's no morality" => "without government we'll have anarchic apocalypses"

"You must trust pope because he's set here by God" => "You must trust mr. president because there is society that elected him"

"If god does not exist, who created everything?" => "Without government how would we build roads and fly to the moon?"

"The Bible says what's good and what's bad" => "The constitution defines our rights."


He hasn't actually been arrested yet for not cooperating with a secret court order. This case has much higher profile than the CEO who got in trouble a while ago. Lots of international newspapers have written stories about Lavabit after the shutdown.

I think if Levison was arreted, it would be a turning point in the political implications of this case. From the slow response, it seems like the authorities are worried about doing this. And rightfully so.

He hasn't actually been arrested yet for not cooperating with a secret court order.

I have to suspect that's because he was willing to shut down his company and make a big stink. It he hadn't done that, I think it would have been much easier for the feds to arrest some random guy in a Dallas apartment, suggesting that he's a nefarious hacker in league with Snowden and possibly other nefarious people. With 10k users, I'm sure they could find something to say that there were, say, "suspected drug dealers" using the service.

It was very smart of him to get out front of the story. Now if the Feds go after him, he's the businessman taking a principled stand.

Once he's shut down the business, the ability of the judge to gain compliance by imprisoning him has been sharply narrowed. That is the point of many contempt proceedings.

Levison poisoned his well, and every other well like it.

> It was very smart of him to get out front of the story. Now if the Feds go after him, he's the businessman taking a principled stand.

This has been my argument with Snowden, too. It's damning that people have to raise a huge fuss in the media by deep-sixing themselves before the government gets to spin their story in order to not get railroaded.

> I have to suspect that's because he was willing to shut down his company and make a big stink

Why so many are stuck on the fact he "shut down the company" and did a good dead. I been downvoted about this before and its fine, I just didnt get my answer.

The Feds did not ask him to shut down; it wasnt Government mission. Their mission was to get access to Lavabit data. Said that, regardless if he shut down or not, Government will or already did get full access to Lavabit data. Its even worse that they shut down; if they were online you could go and clean up your mailbox (not necessarily from anything illegal, but for example your own naked pictures you sent to your wife). But since they are offline, nothing can be done. Government won.

Shutting down the company alerted users to possible surveillance. Government wanted to snoop in secret. Now their secret is out, and they may or may not get to snoop on their target(s) via other channels. Levison loses the proceeds of his business, but he has behaved ethically by discontinuing his service since he can no longer deliver what was promised. Levison took the closest thing he could get to a win.

Levison gets extra karma because he put everyone's interests ahead of his own short-term financial interests. By shutting his business in the manner that he did, he has poisoned the well for gov't snooping at other similar services. If he is lucky, he may suffer little or no further gov't retribution.

Lavabit claims they encrypted email on receipt and only decrypted when you logged in and gave them a password they could unlock the encryption key with. If the feds required lavabit to retain the clear text copies of received mail longer than they did for AV/Spam filtering, shutting down the service solves this. Similarly, it prevents anyone from getting the decrypted copies when someone accesses the server.

On the other hand, if Lavabit merely got a warrant of Edward Snowden's email, shutting down the service and claiming they can't talk about it is just a publicity stunt since secret or not, it's pretty clear the government has a legally valid reason for that warrant.

Not just past, but also future data: "He likened the demands to a requirement to install a tap on his telephone. "

Hmm, so enforcement of our secret laws is determined by the political implications. They seem less like "laws" and more like whims.

This is completely obvious to anyone who is making an effort at observing what's going on right now. The big problem is that is isn't obvious to a casual observer.

From my perspective, as a foreigner, the US Government is currently doing a ridiculous chicken dance to avoid overt similarities to any famous totalitarian government. But at the same time, it seems very obvious that it is systematically sidestepping many principles of democracy and the rule of law. You won't be able to say something like "The US Government agencies are acting like the Stasi" and have all your facts intact. But there are plenty of dodgy things happening that would fit smoothly into the policy of many previous totalitarian governments.

I think that pointing out all these small details in a credible fashion is one of the necessary actions to get more popular support against these policies. Things aren't looking very good.

It's not just the secret laws that are like that. I think it's an exaggeration to say that most people commit "three felonies a day", but someone running any sort of business or organization probably does something that could be interpreted as breaking some federal law or other regularly. Or the feds can just question someone until they contradict themselves on something, then bust them for lying to a federal official.

this is why you never talk to the police


The chilling effects of the threat of arrest for secret crimes should be even more concerning than if he has been arrested or not.

The middle-class public generally isn't against arrest and/or execution by the government for secret crimes. What they are against is the arrest of people that they relate to, and who share their values. The only principled stands that they can understand are standing for children, animals, personal possessions, and customer service.

IMO, by doing all of these interviews where all he can be specific about is that he has had to close down his modestly successful independent business in order to protect his customers, he's made himself pretty safe. That is, until some child-porn ring bust gets press released as using lavabit as a crucial means of communication.

While I hope no harm comes to Levison, part of me wishes the gov't would charge him. I'd like to think they couldn't find a jury that would convict him, and I wouldn't be surprised if it incited a large public reaction. So I bet they don't charge him; since Levison has made it obvious that he won't be bullied.

“One must lie low, no matter how much it went against the grain, and try to understand that this great organization remained, so to speak, in a state of delicate balance, and that if someone took it upon himself to alter the dispositions of things around him, he ran the risk of losing his footing and falling to destruction, while the organization would simply right itself by some compensating reaction in another part of its machinery – since everything interlocked – and remain unchanged, unless, indeed, which was very probable, it became still more rigid, more vigilant, severer, and more ruthless.”

― Franz Kafka, The Trial

For anyone interested, that's these guys: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestapo

I think that it's in the 'The Gulag Archipelago' where Solzhenitsyn says that by contrast with the NKVD/KGB, the gestapo look like gentlemen.

Solzhenitsyn may be right. But he was biased, having been prosecuted by NKVD.

> It's hard to have a debate about the reasonableness of the government's actions

It's not hard at all. A government mandating people do things that they can't tell anybody is not reasonable by any measure.

Anything short of a very clear revolution (regarding the NSA and the political system in general) won't solve the real basic issues.

I just hope it will be a rational and calm revolution, not a bloody one.

There will be no revolution any time soon... Most people are to busy trying to catch up on their TV shows on their DVR. The few issues people do get fired up about are stupid ones (who can get married, fake IRS scandals, justifying shooting kids in the street, etc).

"Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious."

-George Orwell, 1984

> Most people are to busy trying to catch up on their TV shows on their DVR.

Bread and circus.

I think you're right, there will be no revolution. But there's a good chance the US Empire will gradually dissolve and collapse in on itself. For example, Congress seems intent on making the governement non-functioning.

Perhaps the NSA has a sense of history, and are trying to delay our eventual collapse, thinking that the institution and empire itself is rotten and calcified. But I'm often charitable that way.


> The first two centuries of the Empire were a period of unprecedented stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana ("Roman Peace").[6] It reached its greatest expanse during the reign of Trajan (98–117 AD). In the 3rd century, the Empire underwent a crisis that threatened its existence, but was reunified and stabilized under the emperors Aurelian and Diocletian. Christians rose to power in the 4th century, during which time a system of dual rule was developed in the Latin West and Greek East. After the collapse of central government in the West in the 5th century, the eastern half of the Roman Empire continued as what would later be known as the Byzantine Empire.

Laws concerning marriage equality and use of deadly force are not "stupid" issues.

Relevant to your point, Rage Against the Machine had it right a while back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_-QGNUYL5g

"They load the clip in omnicolour Said they pack the 9, they fire it at prime time"

That version is blocked in Germany. This one isn't: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0j0GCbMC7A Say about RATM (fans) what you will, but this song, and this video of it, still gives me goosebumps. They had it right indeed.

Words cannot describe the restraint I'm exercising right now, to not just post lyrics and generally endulge. I know HN is not the place for that, but I still want to leave this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljQ2DM8Mve4

Here is my hypothesis of the meaning of this story.

What the government wanted was to trojan the code (collect passwords because the encryption was based on them), and do so invisibly to the users.

Levison prevented this by shutting down the service - that is the real offence. The technicality on which he could be arrested is that he indicated the reason for the shutdown in the message to users on the front page - albeit only by implication.

The importance of this, which I think that even many techies may be missing, is that service owners no longer have a choice of what code to run on their own servers. If you run a service that enables secure communications, you can be forced to subvert the code to the detriment of users and effeectively lie about it and deceive the users. You can refuse to participate by quitting the job (unless the 13th Amendment is also being trampled) - but according to the new, defacto US policy, you have to allow the service to continue in trojaned form, otherwise you're subject to prosecution for revealing the government wiretapping to the targets.

Seeing as Lavabit handled encryption and decryption server side, the order could have required them to retain messages after decryption. Or, less insidiously, just required them to retain messages they received prior to encrypting them. In both cases, they wouldn't have forced Lavabit to put in a backdoor, just keep what they had already. (though if they only stored decrypted emails in memory, that distinction is small).

Remember, Lavabit voluntarily complied with other court orders, so they likely have the technical means to comply with what the feds want.

You have no idea what the feds want, and the previous "comply" was probably just turning over the information it had readily available including the raw cipher text which would be useless with out the key

I do not believe for a second the NSA was looking simliar information.

those "other court orders" could have been for accounts that were not encrypted, like the free accounts.

Putting aside this story for one minute and looking at the larger picture one thing I find fascinating is how the protagonists are absolutely winning the PR battle. The irony here is that when Snowden or this owner go public the overly secretive government can't or won't reply in an effective manner. That secrecy, so effective when operating in the dark, is suddenly impotent when the light is shined on it. The only attempts at any type of rebuttal have come from Obama and have had little to no effect to change the tidal flow here.

So we just get this one sided narrative with a "fresh" new story every 2 or 3 days. It may be disturbing that he can be arrested but is that really news to anyone here? What's the point of a surveillance order if you can't back it up? We lock people up for contempt of court. You have to have a stick if you want folks to comply. Yet here is this story a few days after the main story and just as Lavabit was falling off the global media front page. This keeps the issue alive and hammers the government again. All trademarks of an excellent PR campaign. This narrative is having a withering effect upon those driving these programs as politicians see their constituents slowly turn from understanding of the need for these programs to alarmed by them.

That the government has been unable to mount any sort of credible counter story is pretty amazing to me and somewhat a relief. After all, true police states have amazing propaganda machines. This one feels reminiscent of an intern running marketing at a startup!

The government has a very effective methodology for protecting things it deems important.

Congress got a little feisty about these programs, and for a week we started hearing about "chatter" that was threatening US embassies. We closed embassies and said scary things. Then we bombed some Al Queda in the Arabian Peninsula folks in Yemen. The next day, with much less fanfare, it was reported that it wasn't "chatter" (which implies stuff from the NSA monitoring), but a specific warning from an official in the government of Yemen.

These sorts of things are very effective at controlling Congress, especially House members. Nobody wants to be the Congressman who pushed to shutdown programs that thwart terrorists. At the end of the day, what you think doesn't matter. It's what your Congressional representatives think -- and the ability of the administration to manipulate the general public's sense of fear makes it difficult to dismantle these programs.

The political backdrop for the US embassy closing was more the traditional Democratic vs Republican back and forth. The right and Fox news hammered this administration on Benghazi (depending on your POV that was entirely justified or horrible partisan politics) with pretty good effect. Therefore, at the slightest threat of another attack on an embassy the administration goes into PR panic mode. No WAY can we have a second attack on a consulate within 12 - 18 months - our opponents will have a field day in the press for weeks. So you have the over reaction of closing down so many embassies.

The thing I find scary about that, is the idea that the only reason he probably hasn't been arrested is for PR concerns. If nobody had heard of Lavabit and he pulled this move, I believe they would have went after him without mercy. His profile is big enough right now that it would just add to the NSA scandal, prolonging the headlines, so they're debating on a political basis what to do with him (if anything).

It'll be interesting to see if he ends up in jail over something similar to to the former Qwest CEO was charged with...

It does seem like publicity (and public opinion) is the only defence, that works, to a certain extent:

- William Binney (NSA) - "tricked" FBI to record evidence of malicious prosecution

- Bradly Manning - got publicity, but was under military jurisdiction

- Snowden - got publicity - is still(?) alive

- Joseph Nacchio (qwest ceo) - was first indicted, then tried to claim being framed (not commenting on the truth of this, just the (public perception of) sequence of events

- lavabit - early publicity, rides "Snowden"-wave. Hopefully that'll work.

[edit: formatting]

Joseph Nacchio (qwest ceo) - was a crook. not sure what he is doing in this list here. He got caught in a pump and dump, and did a lot of desperate things as CEO to enrich himself at the expense of other... Not really alot of mystery to that one.

Well, maybe. I've seen some commentators that aren't as sure, that the case is quite so clear cut.

Assuming that he is guilty of the charges against him, it would still be interesting to know if he became a target of investigation as a result of refusing to cooperate with the NSA. I'm not saying that is the case, but that it could be the case.

It was not (remotely likely) the case that the NSA made him do the illegal and unethical things that he did do. He was only convicted on a portion of those. In any event.

That being said, It may have <likely> been the case that (1) Nacchio may have had access to information that (if made public) could have compromised/damaged the NSA's institutional interests and/or the reputation of its principals; and (2) he may well have threatened to make such information to become public. But (1) comes with the territory or running a bell operating company (US west); and (2) comes with the territory of being a desperate, CEO about to be thrown in Jail. Since these alternative explanations are alot simpler and easy to make sense of, Its not worth walking out on a limb to support the alternative hypothesis that the NSA somehow framed Nacchio. It would be (at best) like framing al capone for tax evasion, understanding it also to be a fact that he did evade taxes.

I don't think NSA framed him. I'm saying NSA might have had a role to play in him being investigated/indited.

Similar to how intelligence services (allegedly) watch "targets" with the aim to use any illegal/questionable activity to leverage them into assets. The activity might be fully illegal -- but an intelligence service might not care about that -- just about having something to hold over a potential asset.

As I understand it -- the idea is that Qwest said no to implementing tapping in their NOCs, and that the investigation/charges of fraud/pump'n'dump etc were filed afterwards.

I think the reason he hasn't been arrested is that the bureaucracy works slowly. I'm sure they're going through their decision processes and evidence gathering processes.

If you were going to open an encrypted email service today -- one that would work like Lavabit -- where in the world would you move to before opening it?

Obviously, the USA is impossible. I'd suspect that the five Anglosphere nation secret police alliance countries are bad places, too ('Five Eyes': gb, oz, ca, us, nz). That leaves a lot of world to consider.

Is Ireland better? It's the only first world English-speaking nation that retains some suspicion and independence toward the Washington Empire, but only because of the ugly history with Britain.

Japan and Korea seem like bad choices because they're so close to and dependent on US military operations. Hong Kong and Singapore are subject to police state rules but usually operate extremely liberally; I wonder how it would go in those cities for a private communication service.

Germany is making noise about resenting Anglosphere spying, and you could use an affordable Hetzner server. Looks more and more like that resentment is feigned and German secret police are probably learning Stasi tactics from the NSA.

What do people think about Iceland or Switzerland. Is there anyplace in the FUSSR to consider? What other country would you nominate?

Edit: How about Chile? There's a first world nation that welcomes net startups and has good reason to cooperate very little with the US secret police. After all, the current government is made up of moderate lefties that survived the CIA coup and political murder spree in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, I feel more and more afraid to leave even a comment on any swoden related articles. This is not normal.

Say what you think and say it loud. If everyone stays quiet, nothing changes.

Yes, or everyone that said something is simply getting arrested, barred from speaking about his charges, and possibly thrown into one of those cozy off-shore facilities with unclear legal status.

There is an understandable fear that a large bureaucracy is simply going to go through with whatever they think 'is the law' no matter how many people state their request. This isn't some irrational fear out of the blue, people see it happening in their daily lives on much less threating topics and history has seen it happen on an existential level. Not everybody is important enough to be granted temporary asylum by some adversary of the 'Big Satan' and some of us life in countries that have already handed over their own citizens to some of its torture facilities without asking questions.

Simply encouraging people to say things out loud when the system has already spun out of control so much is endangering them. We should rather educate people on forms of protest which are not going to be subdued so easily.

Let a hundred flowers bloom, right? You would have done well under that policy.

I'd like to see a little more public noise before we get to the point where the government can have everyone who's publicly backed a certain viewpoint summarily executed, though. If you're too afraid of that endpoint, you end up actually helping to bring it about. We can provide enough background struggle that it never comes within the government's power to remove it all.


"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. " A .Einstein

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." M.L King

"So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. "

In Soviet Russia first they went after people at night, without shoes so no noise was heard. It only became easier after that.

If you're that paranoid, I don't know how you can bring yourself to look at the articles. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Ah, but you can read the articles and be in agreement with the government, rather than a dissenter. Commentary (i.e. dissent) makes you a marked man, reading does not.

The Guardian Blocked By The Army After NSA Stories http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/army-blocks-the-gua...

Army Blocks Entire Guardian Website For Troops In Middle East And Asia http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/02/army-guardian-block...

Why a Government That Collects Everyone's Private Data Won't Let Its Employees Access Public Information http://reason.com/blog/2013/06/28/why-a-government-that-coll...

Ban on federal staff reading WikiLeaks hampering work, says US official http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/dec/10/us-ban-staff-wi...

US air force backtracks over WikiLeaks ban http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/08/us-air-force-wi...

Only a miscreant would read such articles, no?

What about the NSA reading these articles from a critical viewpoint? Surely they couldn't classify themselves as dissidents.

Negative indicator, potential dissident miscreant in NSA ranks. Anyhow, they are more likely to store url history than parse comments.

Don't they know what websites you visit, how long you stay on there, what links you click? You bet reading only is dangerous.

I don't get it. Why doesn't someone just speak out on principle. Out of everyone who "can't" speak I would expect at least one to come out and do it even though it might get them into "trouble."

One factor is that the individuals forbidden to speak are just regular people, going about their lives. The people applying the pressure, on the other hand, are professionals at scaring the shit out of people. And when they aren't doing that, they ruin lives. Justifiably, we hope; that's what the rule of law is about. But regardless, ruin.

A long time ago, when I was in high school, the FBI dropped by my house to ask some questions about things involving computers and phone lines. When they arrived, the friend who happened to be with me was very smart, very mouthy, and always up for an argument. I'd never seen him back down. He started giving the FBI agent static, and the agent shut him down in about 5 seconds. My friend sat quietly on the porch steps for the rest of the encounter.

In this case, the "'trouble'" is substantial, and most of the people who are forbidden to speak are leading the comfortable life of middle-class professionals. It's not shocking to me that most people aren't willing to throw that away. Especially since the people making the threats will surely talk up how many lives are being saved. And, frankly, because until recently it looked like the public didn't give a damn anyhow.

>And when they aren't doing that, they ruin lives. Justifiably, we hope; that's what the rule of law is about. But regardless, ruin.

I'm not sure there's any justification for ruining lives. Note, I don't believe in the death-penalty. I think it's unfortunate that we ruin lives with excessive jail-time and almost permanent criminal records. I think society would be better served by always giving people a challenging recovery path. A way to clear criminal record, at least from employers' background checks. Excessive jail-time, since it pretty much ruins a life, should only be used in the most extreme cases - maybe only if the crime ruined someone else's life.... maybe...

"excessive jail-time"

Excuse me, which amount of mental and physical torture is "not excessive"? I may understand keeping beasts in the cages (crazy murderers and the like), but 99% of the laws are not about beasts, it's about compliance with whatever "rules for benefit of society". Be it anti-drug rules, anti-pron rules, anti-gay, anti-blacks, anti-foreigners, anti-rich or anything else. And of course, you have to fork over money to IRS for sponsoring this mafia.

Does it fix anything and not ruining one's life if a person refuses to give to IRS and being held under a gun as a prisoner for even 1 second? Would any of your friends do that to you, or you - to them if does not "pay taxes"? I highly doubt that. We all are being brainwashed to believe that violence is "for our own good" and "without it, it would be much worse". It's a religious nonsense of 13th century. "Without religion there's no morality."

1.4 million Americans have 'TS/SCI' clearance, but only Manning and Snowdon felt inclined to suffer the consequences of speaking out of principle.

I think it's easy to imagine you would speak out when you don't have access to anything secret - but when it's you and your family that will be put at risk I can understand the disincentives looming large.

It's also quite telling that neither Manning nor Snowden have a young family to take care of - no wife or kids.

It is easier (although still monumentally difficult, of course) to take a stand when you are not taking down an innocent wife and children with you, who you might never see again.

Having the clearance does not mean you have access to everything at that clearance level, just that you can be given access should you need it.

In other words, the number of people who have access to material showing wrongdoing of any sort is likely a tiny fraction of those 1.4 million.

Having some kind of clearance also means: power over other people.

Having power over other people can corrupt any human being and s/he may start to actually like it.

From what I've read the 'trouble' they can get into is serious prison time. I'm sure for most of these people it's not worth the risk considering how brazen the US government has been recently.

well someone has got to do it. Like Rosa Parks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_Parks

"On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake's order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled... NAACP organizers believed that Parks was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her arrest for civil disobedience in violating Alabama segregation laws though eventually her case became bogged down in the state courts.Parks' act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. "

Sure, but you have to look at how many people got arrested, beaten, or lynched for equivalent actions to no benefit at all. For centuries.

I admire Rosa Parks immensely; her action was the spark that lit a great fire. But there were plenty of sparks before her that made no immediate difference.

Exactly. Take Snowden for example. He has given up a hell of a lot and provided proof of serious government wrongdoing and the government has done nothing to remedy it, very few people in government have spoke out against it, and although the general public is aware and cares about it to a certain degree they are doing nothing about it.

Why does everything think reactions should be immediate and overwhelming? These things take time for people to digest, discuss, rationalize, prioritize, and finally internalize their stance on. History has shown repeatedly what people will eventually do, all those on the internet calling everyone a coward or ignorant should get off the internet and go start talking to their neighbors about it.

Hard to tell if you're talking to everyone of me as you're responding to my comment but I didn't call anyone ignorant or a coward.

My comment was in response to the larger issue of such sentiment being overly prominent on the net.

you would speak out against the surveillance of a government that likes to torture people, put people into inhuman prisons without trial, kill people without trial, kill people outside war, etc etc.

How do you expect one little guy to stand up and speak out on principle, when all the big guns just roll over and get in bed with the government? We've heard recently of possibly Yahoo and Google resisting to some extent, but imagine the outcry if tomorrow Gmail or Ymail was shut down. What if they did it just for a day, SOPA style?

The typical response is that they are a business, they have shareholders to report to etc. but these guys have much more clout, money and media influence to fight this kind of thing.

Someone did precisely that. His name is Edward Snowden; you may have heard of him.

they would need to be so high in the chain of command as to have even a modicum of protection from those who would come after them. The mindset of the America public as a whole has not reached the point where most individuals are not willing to risk their freedom

There has to be at least one player rich and powerful enough to stand up to them.

Now it is just question of time when FBI finds child porn on his computer :-(

Related: here's an interview with the owner of an ISP who went through something similar. He was under a gag order for 6 years. The interview also has comments from the Lavabit owner and his lawyer.


I hope he is, he knew what he was playing at.

There's one positive outcome of this sad story. We now know for a fact that NSA didn't (yet) break the encryption algorithms, that's why they need to perform these insane acts.

Or: they did, but don't want to demonstrate that fact unless it absolutely necessary (memento Pearl Harbour...).

Still, yeah, I think (hope) you're right. Another indication of this is what we know of what they recommend US Government/Military do wrt. encryption/information security ...

Or they are too lazy to wait for the decryption to finish...

Or maybe the NSA is a very large organization with many departments so secret that their capabilities and existence are on a need to know basis and not flaunted around unnecessarily just to save some time or effort?

Right, or they could be a bunch of incompetent idiots, which is way hilarious.

Or maybe they'd just prefer instant clear text access rather than waiting however long it takes to break an encrypted text.

This guy's credibility was shot down pretty well here on HN and elsewhere earlier in the week. I wouldn't place much credence into anything he says.

Downvoted for challenging the credibility of a political dissident without providing evidence. I'm perfectly willing to hear a case if you want to make one (links are fine), but simply asserting that his "credibility was shot down pretty well" is a sloppy debate tactic. In a case like this, I think it's important for people to actually examine the evidence on their own.

Otherwise we become too susceptible to propaganda (on one side) and mistaken outrage (on the other).

the only thing i can think that you're referring to is https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6199050

if that's what you remember then i think you misunderstood that thread. what i took from there was:

- there is no good, clean, technical solution for encrypted webmail (and people have been saying this for ages)

- the final security guarantees for encrypted webmail depend on the operator

- lavabit's operator held up their side of the bargain and refused to cooperate when they felt it was wrong to do so.

so lavabit's operator's conscience was all that stood between the users and the nsa. that's how it has to be from a technical viewpoint. and people with technical smarts understood that (unfortunately, not everyone did). so it's to the credit of this guy that he took the stand he did.

when he was the last line of defense, he held his ground. respect. much respect.

(and i upvoted you just because i find it frustrating that downvoted comments get greyed out so no-one can see what is being discussed)

This guy is keeping the story on the news agenda loud and clear. I'm sure he doesn't care about the opinion of some Aspieish idiots on a discussion group. What's your credibility?

This story was originally published on Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:44 PM EDT

To be fair, the article is from 3 days ago. More likely someone just posted the link on HN. Also, it's not the guys fault is NBC News are a little slow in reporting a story...

I don't understand how the publication date of this article correlates to the subject of the article lacks credibility.

Do you care to cite specific examples of how Lavabit's founder should not be trusted?

This guy is keeping the story on the news agenda loud and clear.

I was referring to this part of the comment, nothing else.

No, actually, it looks like YOUR credibility was shot down pretty well here on HN 13 hours ago. Or do you always write in light gray text, not provide references, misunderstand earlier postings, and not answer direct questions? (Not that I expect an answer...)

Care to elaborate?

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