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Lavabit founder could be arrested for not keeping his business going

This is pretty Kafka-esque:

NBC reports that senior US Attorney James Trump sent Lavabit founder Ladar Levison and his lawyer a veiled arrest threat when Levison shut down his private email service (used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden) rather than comply with a secret order to spy on his customers. Nothing more can be said definitively, because the order to Levison came with a gag order prohibiting Levison from discussing it. Everyone is pretty sure that Levison was served with a National Security Letter.

This gives additional context to the decision of Lavabit competitor Silent Circle to pre-emptively shut down its own private email service as well, in advance of any sort of court order. If a secret court can issue a secret order requiring you to spy on your customers, and if shutting down the service will land you in jail, then simply not operating the kind of service that spooks find snoopworthy is the only option.

So where does this stop, exactly?

Suppose Snowden or some other target goes -- or is, by the Stasi, alleged to go, or, possibly, alleged to possibly go at some future date -- to an Internet café and uses their connection. Is the Internet café required to keep their WiFi service going indefinitely? Is the Internet cafe forbidden to shut down? All so the Stasi can throw a tap on the target's mail whenever they want? Are they obliged to run at a loss?

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jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

amazing then again I'm not surprised by this but I'm sure eric the holder will step in and save the day by issuing an arrest warrant for Ladar Levison.

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

No, just until they go bankrupt and become homeless, and go on Medicaid (which is a privatized HMO system). Bingo!

This story, if confirmed, should lay to rest anybody's fantasies that America is a free market economy where companies rise and fall on their markety merits.

I want to be Lava's lawyer. I will raise a bullet-proof defense under the XIIIth Amendment to the Bill of RIghts.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

So, Number One: Lava is a "person" (because corporations are persons). Number One (a): and we know that corporations are Super Persons in our system of justice.

Number Two. The Gov is subjecting Lava to "involuntary servitude" without having been "duly convicted of any crime." The Government's actions against Lava, therefore, violate Lava's XIIIthe Amendment rights.

Number Three. Lava, therefore, is entitled to shut down its operations without interference from the US Government and also to an injunction (subject to the penalties of criminal content and monetary sanctions for violations thereof) against the US Government barring any further action with respect to Lava.

Number Four. The US Government has violated Lava's rights under the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment in a heretofore unheard of use of the threat of arrest to force Lava to remain in business, regardless of Lava's absolute right in a free society and a free market (ha ha) to do or not do business, as it pleases.

(Threshhold question: Does the Constitution apply when DOJ does unconstitutional stuff at the request of NSA and Obama?)

Submitted by lambert on

I wonder what other applications involuntary servitude has.

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

I see great use and benefit for an Occupy Courtroom that would function in parallel to what currently passes for the federal court system. It would, of course, be a venue for burlesque performances with intermezzi (*) consisting of excerpts of oral arguments and trials that should be happening but that, for mysterious and odd reasons, are not.

(*) Recall, that is how the Simpson's got started -- brief cameos interspersed with the Tracy Ullman Show!

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

I had never focused on the full language of section one, which has a clear exception where slavery/involuntary servitude are a-ok if someone has been convicted of a crime. I was a bit shocked actually. But I immediately thought of all the indentured servitude that already, in fact, occurs in US prisons -- presumably convictions make that legal at least under the XIIIth Am) and also in those "disability" programs where (we recently heard, from Rhode Island and one other place, I think) there are actually statutes allowing poverty wages to be paid to the "disabled" who are collected and put to work by non-profits (who get handsomely compensated with our tax money to run these Devil's Island type outfits).

That said, I've never read the case law (or, five dollar word, "jurisprudence") under Am XIII. God, another project on my list!

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

But I wonder, will this be the next free enterprise venture that will find itself ordered to either agree to facilitate Obama spying or, by Gum, keep that service going under penalty of imprisonment or rendition?

The strong point with peer-to-peer is the lack of structure or "key players."

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

>The strong point with peer-to-peer is the lack of structure or "key players."

Exactly. No central servers, no-one that the government can readily order to do anything. Open source (i.e. fully transparent), non-commercial, and fully decentralized.

It can be integrated with Thunderbird or other standard e-mail software. Though it can only be used to communicate in a secure fashion with others who also have Bitmessage running on their computers.

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

so the real achilles heel - as the network seems to function very much on trust -- is that one of the people with Bitmessage is actually a plant and funnelling the whole otherwise private P2P enchilada to PRISM, Verizon, Clapper ... :(

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

Plants don't matter, since they (or whatever organization they funnel content to) couldn't unencrypt the messages intended for other recipients. The nice thing with this setup - which was inspired by Bitcoin - is that it's completely "trustless" (no trust required).

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

Moreover, not just the message content is encrypted, but the metadata is encrypted (snoop-proofed) as well. So an external observer (or a plant) wouldn't be able to determine which people in the network are messaging each other.