Before There Was Apple vs. the FBI, There Was Lavabit vs. the FBI

Lavabit's Ladar Levison on Online Freedom, Net Neutrality, and Cryptography


Apple's Tim Cook is sticking to his pledge not to write code for the feds in order to enable them to crack into the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter, despite harsh criticism from government officials.

""Apple doesn't want to do it because they think it hurts their brand," said GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio in a recent debate. "Well, let me tell you their brand is not superior to the United State of America."

But before there was Apple versus the feds, there was Lavabit versus the feds. Ladar Levison shut down his encrypted email service that he spent years of his life building after the FBI tried to force him to grant backdoor access to all communications on the network. Their purpose, presumably, was to track the emails of Lavabit's most famous client: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"If we are going to continue to preserve our right to free speech in the electronic age, then we need to use tools like encryption," says Levison.

Watch the Reason TV interview above to learn more about Levison's rationale for shutting down Lavabit, his defense of encryption in an era where it's constantly under attack from governments and hackers, and a preview of the new tech he's currently developing with a team of accomplished cybersecurity specialists.

"I find myself becoming more radicalized," says Levison. "I love this country. But what I despise is the job our government is doing. I've come to hate the government we have."

Approximately 10 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Todd Krainin, Paul Detrick, and Meredith Bragg. Music is "Slow Grind" by Digital Sin.