Owner of Snowden’s Email Service on Why He Closed Lavabit Rather Than Comply With Gov’t

See the video interview and all the Transcription of the interview in Democracy Now

lavabit

lavabit

Lavabit, an encrypted email service believed to have been used by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, has abruptly shut down. The move came amidst a legal fight that appeared to involve U.S. government attempts to win access to customer information. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we are joined by Lavabit owner Ladar Levison and his lawyer, Jesse Binnall. “Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it. I would like to, believe me,” Levison says. “I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.” In a message to his customers last week, Levison said: “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” Levison said he was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision. Soon after, another secure email provider called Silent Circle also announced it was shutting down.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: We turn now to the news an encrypted email service believed to have been used by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has abruptly shut down. The move came amidst a legal fight that appeared to involve U.S. government attempts to win access to customer information.

The owner of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, wrote a message online saying, quote, “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” Ladar Levison said he was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision.

He went on to write, quote, “This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

Later on Thursday, another secure email provider called Silent Circle also announced it was shutting down.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, in a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Ladar Levison, founder, owner and operator of Lavabit. We’re also joined by his lawyer, Jesse Binnall.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Ladar Levison, let’s begin with you. Explain the decision you made.

LADAR LEVISON: Yeah, well, I’ve—thank you, Amy. I’ve compared the decision to that of, you know, putting a beloved pet to sleep, you know, faced with the choice of watching it suffer or putting it to sleep quietly. It was a very difficult decision. But I felt that in the end I had to pick between the lesser of two evils and that shutting down the service, if it was no longer secure, was the better option. It was, in effect, the lesser of the two evils.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you facing? When you say “the lesser of two evils,” what was the other choice?

LADAR LEVISON: Unfortunately, I can’t talk about that. I would like to, believe me. I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore, which is why I’m here in D.C. today speaking to you. My hope is that, you know, the media can uncover what’s going on, without my assistance, and, you know, sort of pressure both Congress and our efforts through the court system to, in effect, put a cap on what it is the government is entitled to in terms of our private communications.

AARON MATÉ: For those who aren’t familiar with what encrypted email is, can you walk us through that and talk about what your service provided?

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