His business of providing email was sabotaged by the NSA–and by law, he was forbidden to talk about it. This week, Lavabit founder Ladar Levison told Reason TV why he decided to shut down his company, and delete the emails of 400,000 customers, rather than comply with the government's demands to compromise their privacy.
The video, "Lavabit's Ladar Levison on Snowden, Why He Shut Down, and How to Beat the NSA," was first released on Feb. 28, 2014. The original text follows:
"Let me put it this way: If one year from now, you're not using Dark Mail, it's because you enjoy knowing the NSA is reading your emails," says Ladar Levison, founder of Lavabit, the email provider used by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
After Snowden's identity became known, Levison shut down Lavabit, posting the following message on the company website:
"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. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot."
Levison was prohibited from discussing any details of the case until last October, when the court unsealed a portion of the documents. The unsealed records reveal that the FBI was demanding access to Lavabit's Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) keys, which would essentially allow the agency access to all messages on Lavabit's server. While the FBI was ostensibly targeting only a single user, Levison was unwilling to sacrifice the privacy of his other 400,000+ users.
He is still not allowed to discuss the identity of the user the FBI hoped to target.