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.

NEXT: Watch the Best and Worst Moments of the Last GOP Debate Before Super Tuesday

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  1. I pay enough in taxes, the government should provide my encryption for me FOR FREE.

    1. With “special code” for that extraordinary flavor.

      1. One Clipper chip coming right up!

  2. I’ve come to hate the government we have.

    All of those senators and congressmen have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, but how can they successfully defend the Constitution if you won’t give them the tools to do it? They’re not asking for you to not encrypt your information, they’re simply asking for a copy of the keys so they can make certain you are not trying to undermine the Constitution. I don’t understand why that’s so difficult a concept to grasp.

    1. “All of those senators and congressmen have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, but how can they successfully defend the Constitution if you won’t give them the tools to do it? They’re not asking for you to not encrypt your information, they’re simply asking for a copy of the keys so they can make certain you are not trying to undermine the Constitution. I don’t understand why that’s so difficult a concept to grasp.”

      And it is amazing of them to find the time to ask for the tools! They slave away 18 hours a day chipping away at the constitution and still find time to attack private enterprises for daring to put their brand, their principles, and basc common sense, ahead of fighting terror.

  3. Apple’s court order is only 3 pages. The only reason for major media to not link it is so that they can ramble about BS, instead of addressing the actual order. Here:
    Apples court order:…
    13th Amendment:

    1. The gov should spend their own efforts reverse-engineering Apple’s code to accomplish their goals. Apparently, they wish to set a precedent wherein, if you make something that might cause the gov extra work, you may be ordered to work for them.

      1. More likely, this is to encourage tech companies to build backdoors into their systems at the beginning.

      2. That is exactly what they are doing.

        Like ever innovative industry of field of study as soon as the govt gets its fingers in the pie the whole thing grinds to a halt. They are going to drive the tech industry out of the country.

      3. ^This. And Rubio can shampoo my crotch.

        1. And Rubio can shampoo my crotch.

          Really? How come I didn’t get the memo on the free crotch shampoos Rubio’s giving out? You must be one of the inner circle in the Kochtopus army. They never give me nothin’.

          1. It wasn’t free. I had to bang the gang of 8.

            1. And they’re only available in the park after closing.

      4. It’s not causing the government extra work, it’s that the government wants to do more than it has the money and manpower to do. So what does it try to do? Order private businesses to do its work for it, like it does with forcing banks to police their customers for the IRS and DHS. Which of course, if you actually think about it, is a taking/tax, because this is money and effort the businesses would otherwise never have spent. It’s the same thing with asking people to snitch on neighbors; the government doesn’t have the manpower, so if it can, it’ll force otherwise uninterested parties to work for it…for free.

        Because it’s a fucking parasite. But not just a parasite. A parasite that wants to utterly and completely control its hosts.

        1. The fugitive slave hunters agree. Let’s make this white trash go catch that run away negro. It takes a slave to catch a slave.

        2. One word: withholdings… perhaps the most insidious imposition. Besides being work that is forced, uncompensated, on the business, it not only hides from people the tax they’re paying, but often makes them believe (too many times, correctly) that the govt is giving them money, when they get their return.

        3. “A parasite that wants to utterly and completely control its hosts.”

          I could have sworn I’ve seen this B-movie somewhere at some point.

        4. Hell, it’s the same thing with recycling.

      5. The gov should spend their own efforts reverse-engineering Apple’s code to accomplish their goals.

        Not trivial and considering Apple also controls the hardware it may be next to impossible in any reasonable time frame. For the sake of argument assume you were successful in decompiling the code. You still would not be unable to do anything with it (modify it) since you would not have the key to sign it.

    2. The court order is full of legalese and thick with techno gabble. I doubt even the judge understood what the fuck he was mandating. It requires a decent understanding of encryption to understand what many of those terms mean.

  4. One Man Stabbed at Ku Klux Klan Kerfuffle in Anaheim

    Seems like we’ve hit a complete and utter breakdown of civic virtue. You know, where you tolerate intolerant views and let the proponents of such enjoy their right to freedom of speech and assembly.

    I can’t understand why a half dozen jackasses walking around in bedsheets warrants a violent response. Just point and laugh at them!

    1. It’s pisses me off these idiots had to make me side with the Klan.

    2. Brian Levin, director of CSU San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said he was standing next to the man in the Grand Dragon shirt when a crowd of protesters carrying weapons swarmed the Klansmen.

      A brawl broke out and one of the Klansmen was knocked to the ground and kicked. Levin said he later saw the man’s arm bleeding.

      Levin said he pushed the Klan leader away as the violence continued and a protester was stabbed.

      Levin said he asked the man, “How do you feel that a Jewish guy just saved your life?”

      “Thank you,” the man replied, according to Levin.

      Heartwarming moment, people! I see a sit-com pitch in the near future: “Dragon & Levin”.

      1. Fuck, I’d watch that. In a second. And I hate sit-coms.

      2. The myopia of some in academia is something to behold. One of the themes in the study of discrimination, etc. is the idea of “othering.” That is, be creating blacks/Latios/Arabs/Irishmen as the “other” it becomes possible to treat them as less than human.

        So, society “others” the Klan and then is astonished when violence breaks out.

        And, in case you’re wondering, “othering” is different to a public philosophical disagreement.

        1. Not to mention the whole “People without power can’t be racist!” even though plenty of violence has been directed against supposed oppressor groups such as Jews, Tutsis, Black Rapists, Indian Immigrants, Chinese and Korean shopowners, etc.

          1. /reads in shocked horror.

            Stop it, stop it, stop it!

            YOU LIE!

  5. It seems like we might be entering a time of mob violence. I dunno. Maybe it’ll be more dignified. It can’t be all bad, right?

    1. No, it’s all bad. Keep your chin up.

      1. Do you want to get knocked out? Keep your chin tucked and your hands up.


      1. Relax,put the phone down and slowly walk away

      2. Waaaaaaaarrrrereetttttttyttrrttyyyyyy!!!!!

    3. Mob violence definitely seems on the rise. Which only makes sense; when you demonize your opponents/enemies/other TEAMs to the extent that you cease to see them as human, this is a predictable and obvious outcome.

      I look forward to more of it. They might as well thin each others’ ranks out some.

      1. The endgame of tribalism is genocide.

      2. They might as well thin each others’ ranks out some.

        You Know Who Else?

  6. OT: The wife isnt talking to me.

    She was watching Murder She Wrote reruns. I sat on the couch next to her and said:

    Me – I don’t know why no one ever figured it out.

    Her – What’s that?

    Me – Everywhere that woman goes someone gets murdered and then she is the one that pins it on someone. She was a serial killer.

    Her – I am going to watch my show in the bedroom. *turns off TV and leaves*

    1. Hmm, that seems to be an excessive reaction to a moderately amusing comment.

      *Stipulates that he has never been married (yet) and does not know Suthenboy or Ms. Suthenboy.

      1. Marriage? Easy to understand: the man is always wrong and never funny.

        1. Well, I figured out the first part years ago.

    2. Never get between a chick and her flick.

    3. Never get between a chick and her flick.

      1. Never never?

        1. Forever never?

      2. An attack on her favorite program is an attack on her and all women. Treat cautiously.

        I mean, too late, sucker.

        1. It’s not really an attack. More of a slightly amusing comment regarding how ridiculous the premise of a supposedly super serious crime drama is; somebody who likes the show can say the same thing.

          1. Reminds me of this premise-destroying scene.

            Trigger-warning: Big Bang Theory

        2. My wife will pause her stupid shows when I come in the room and wait for me to leave because she doesnt want to hear my smart ass commentary. They’re so stupid though, it’s not like I can’t say something.

          1. You guys sound like real pains in the asses.

            I wait until the show is over.

          2. I will just stay in the other room. Then she calls to me, saying, “you can come hang out with me now; my terrible show is over.”

            1. Well done. Your job as a man is to remind your wife that she is still a woman.

      3. i’m sitting here watching this chick flick;
        cause that’s what my chick wants to see.
        it’s got doubts, it’s got fears, and buckets of tears,
        and lots of infidelity.
        So i’m sitting here watching this chick flick,
        and i’m not even putting up a fight.
        cause if i want to get some butt
        i better keep my mouth shut,
        for my own happy ending tonight

    4. Serves you right for denigrating the good people of Cabot Cove. Good day to you, sir.

    5. I thought it was witty and merited some form of play time.

    6. Holy crap Suthenboy! I must be married to your wife’s long lost twin. Her response is straight out of my own home.

    7. Hmmm….

      I’m trying to decide if this comment relates what actually happened in your living room, or is a parable about government.

  7. “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.”

    As if I needed another reason not to vote for him.

    1. Rubio may have found his own head head.

    2. From: Apple

      Dear Mr. Rubio,

      Okay. We give up. We want to be good Americans, so we sent the FBI the backdoor key to phones. Unfortunately a copy got diverted to Hilary’s server, so it’s now open source.

      By the way, it works on your phone, just like it does on everyone else’s.

  8. Overheard two old ladies debate Bernie v. Hillary.

    The Hillary lady said Hillary was totally a uniter who would bring everyone together in love.

    1. I tried to focus on reading my book instead. Didn’t share it with the ladies, though.

      1. Just the topic for a casual overnight thread. BTW I think the NAP means parents can’t be forced to feed their children.

        1. In most states they have a window when they can leave a newborn at a fire station, etc.

            1. That was aJohn level mistake. Bravo sir!

        1. So, you’re still posting pictures of your puckered-up asshole, are you?

          I see you, baby, shaking that asterisk

  9. A teenage South African boy thought he could have a 38-year-old girlfriend as a “sugar mama” while maintaining a younger girlfriend on the side.

    He didn’t like what happened next.

    You won’t like it, either, so I recommend that you DON’T CLICK THE LINK.

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    1. Did I mention that you should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CLICK THE LINK?

      1. That’s a forever never for me.

    2. I figure she used Vise-Grips instead of the tool depicted in the stock photo. Those pliers aren’t up to the job described.

      1. Still not clicking.

    3. I am not going to share that story with anyone.

      1. Aww… you guys.

        1. Not so bad. To read.

    4. ‘…she refused and told me that she is teaching me a lesson that I will never forget in my life.’
      She was telling the truth!
      Also an important lesson for Suthernboy (see above).

    5. “Next time on Maury…”

    1. I told Florida Man to just sell in bulk and quit accepting new clients.

  10. “Well, let me tell you their brand is not superior to the United State of America.”

    Go fuck yourself Rubio. Apple is successful because it doesn’t force people to buy their stuff, doesn’t send agents to someone’s door because they can no longer afford their phone service. Nor do they eventually confiscate their customers property for freely choosing to opt out of their product or service.

    Apple is more pro liberty and MURICA! than you’ll ever be. It’s sad that Apple is standing up for liberty, while you are hell bent on taking away the liberty of others by trying to keep folks afraid of boogeymen you and your ilk create by intervening all over the world. Claiming it’s in the name of freedom, while stripping it away from folks for some false sense of security.

    1. Apple’s brand is America’s brand. A bunch of hippies start a trillion dollar business in a garage out of nothing but LSD flashbacks, a soldering gun and a dream. If Rubio cannot see that this is fact the weapons-grade distilled essence of America, he has no business running for president.

      1. He seems to forget that HE is supposed to be the servant in this relationship.

        1. My nose is itchy. Let me take of care of that.

    2. Go fuck yourself Rubio.

      Might as well add Trump, Cruz, and Carson. I don’t recall Kasich’s position. Clinton and Sanders haven’t taken a position that I know of, but gee I wonder where those cards will fall.

  11. In Phoenix, the City Council has gone from holding spoken prayers to having moments of silence – so that Satanic Temple people wouldn’t be able to give a scheduled prayer.

    1. The Church Lady must be so confused right now.

      1. No. The Church Lady knows exactly what is going on. It is everyone else who is confused.

    2. marking the end of an approximate 65-year tradition

      Good heavens, how did they survive before then?

  12. By reducing freedoms and propagating fear, aren’t they giving terrorists exactly what they want? Wouldn’t that be called enabling terrorism?

    1. You know who else reduced freedoms and propagated fear?

      1. Pretty much every government ever.

        1. Sorry, the correct answer is “Lrrr, Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8”

          1. +1 Frozen Pizza Boy

  13. Good video. Yes Mr. Levison, I hate our government too. Good luck on the Dark Mail project, I look forward to using your product

  14. “Well, let me tell you their brand is not superior to the United State of America.”


    1. Sounds like something Bernie would say too.

      All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the State.

      1. Leviathan lives.

        In America of all places.

        Bobby-Jo Leviathan.

    2. WLMTYTBINSTTUSA isn’t very catchy.

  15. Kylo Ren? Insert light sabor jokes here.…

    1. The fuck? What is C-3P0, chopped Bantha liver?

    2. Aw, the comments are full of luv 🙂

    3. Luz no tiene sabor.

  16. If Agile truly is calling it quits, we need to find a replacement. It can’t be me since I only know 17 synonyms for cock.

    1. AC ain’t going nowhere.

      1. Good. Just thinking of visitors to this site scrolling the comments and coming across AC makes me smile. If any trigger warning or safe space supporters get a giant rainbow of split cock facials…. I just can’t.

    2. Gerald Corman

  17. Virginia Postrel at Instapundit:

    During the Renaissance, vivid blue ultramarine pigments, often used for painting the Virgin Mary’s cloak, were worth five times their weight in gold.

    I had a project where I used about 50lbs of the modern synthetic stuff. It costs about $15/lb. So, $750 basic materials cost.

    Hey look, 5 x avoirdupois pound of gold price (about $18000) x 50lbs = 4.5 million dollars.

    Holy shit. Thanks, science! Thanks, economic freedom!

    1. Well look who’s kissing up to Big Synth Pigment!

      1. BASF: Biting Assholes Since Forever. Whee!

      2. This is why she hates us.

    2. That’s a fail, since gold is measured in troy weight. :-p

      1. And ultramarine pigment is currently sold in avoirdupois measures. How else are you going to convert that to dollars, by using kilograms? What are you, a fucking communist?

        1. “Stones”, pal. “Stones”.

          1. How much is that in fortnights?

            1. Depends how much you charge per cubic millifurlong.

              1. 1/73 of a rood.

          2. Fine, 3 1/2 stone ultramarine (Renaissance prices) to 3 1/4 million pounds (current). You’ve simplified things greatly, Sevo.

            1. Why aren’t you people using WolframAlpha? It can even compare Pokemon.

            2. “You’ve simplified things greatly, Sevo.”
              Prego. My pleasure.

        2. That’s probably a tenth of a hogshead.

  18. I can find it right now, since looking for a book with that title gets you ALICE WALKER-ALICE WALKER-ALICE WALKER-ALICE WALKER-ALICE WALKER-ALICE WALKER!!!!!!!
    But there’s a book titled “Purple” that covers the development of the synthetic dye in England which made the developer quite wealthy.
    I found it enjoyable.

    1. I’m only lonely when it’s green?

      1. Gracias.
        I’ll look through the shelves to find the book.

  19. Golden State is just amazing. Down by two with two seconds on the clock, they tie it and then win in overtime on OKCs court and only taking the lead with six seconds left in OT after being down by four.

    No quit in these guys.

    1. Curry is hurt? No. He’s not

    2. Never been a hoops fan, but watching Curry just makes you giggle; his behind-the-back, between-the-legs, over-the head passes leaves the defenders looking sideways, and then he jitterbugs down the court in obvious glee.
      And I’ve yet to see a nasty bone in his body.

  20. The comparison doesn’t work. The FBI demanding a backdoor into Lavabit was an outrage because the service was designed to be secure and because such a backdoor would have compromised all of Lavabit’s security. The iPhone 5c never was secure to begin with.

    1. “The iPhone 5c never was secure to begin with.”

      If so, why is the FBI not hacking it?

      1. Dammit, are you arguing with Tulpa again?

        1. You apparently favor protecting companies producing phones that can be hacked into, undermining our privacy and security.

          Fuck off slaver.

          1. Wrong, new Tulpa.

          2. I favor protecting them from government thugs, yes. I favor protecting everyone from government thugs, regardless of how good their security is.

            Don’t you see that they are two separate matters? Just because Apple’s phones have poor security doesn’t mean that indentured servitude is okay.

      2. That’s the wrong question ask. The right question to ask is why you would consider a phone that Apple can hack into secure.

        1. Sure thing, Tulpa.

      3. The iPhone 5c never was secure to begin with.

        Thus saith the idiot that thinks the phone can only use a PIN code.

  21. Trump University: scam…..rsity-scam

    There’s some videos of the victims. Any one of these can be used by Hillary to basically cake walk to the WH.

    1. Hillary Clinton accepted donations from Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and others–while she was the Secretary of State. Last announcement said she’s continuing to accept donations from foreign countries.

      No one gives a shit about Trump’s mafia ties. Why would people care about Trump University?

  22. Trump has called for a boycott of Apple over its not wanting to play ball with the FBI (he’s also called for boycotts on Oreo cookies and Carrier air conditioners and I have no idea if it’s just a throw-away line like his “I get audited by the IRS every year because I’m such a strong Christian”) which ought to be as troubling as his trade protectionism* and his off-handed calls to bomb the shit out of ISIS and take all their oil, his support for eminent domain and universal healthcare, his personal crony capitalism wheeling -and-dealing and his simultaneous vows to end the way GOP politics get done by doing deals and to be a great candidate because he knows how to make deals and his constant denigration of the usual suspects while bragging about what big buddies he is with them.

    1. However much he may be shaking up the status quo and giving the GOP the rogering they deserve for all their years of talking big about making government smaller and utter failure to actually carry through on the talk, he is not in any way, shape, or form turning the GOP in a libertarian manner that I can tell and is in fact doing just the opposite. For all his promises to do “great” things, I see very little specifics about what he plans to do and little to suggest he would actually do what he says he plans to do – and yet I see tons of people just taking it on faith that he’s a-cookin’ something up and it’s gonna be great when we get to see what it is. Trump is a blanker slate than Obama ever was and apparently we didn’t learn a damn thing about electing blank slates we hope will do what we want to think we heard him say even when we’re being told he never said that and he never meant that and he’s never going to do that. Trump is a big-government squishy sort of liberal conservative that is nothing but bad news for anybody who thinks he’s going to make anything better.

      *The trade protectionism is the killer thing for me because it displays a fundamental ignorance of economics that makes me wonder just how ignorant he is about everything else. No matter how smart a guy is, when he tells me he believes in leprechauns it sorta damages the brand for me.

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