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Lavabit founder goes to court for control of encryption keys

Has already suspended its email service
Wed Jan 29 2014, 10:51

EMAIL SERVICE Lavabit is in court defending its right to retain encryption keys and offer a secure system.

Lavabit was Edward Snowden's email service provider of choice, and its founder Ladar Levison shutdown the service last summer in the wake of the NSA whistleblower's revelations when the US government demanded its encryption keys, exposing all of its users' communications.

Earlier this week Levison said that his day in court was coming. "My day in court is almost upon us," he said. "It's [Tuesday] in Richmond and the first public hearing so I'm wondering... [who's] going to show up?"

Earlier when he shuttered the service the owner of Lavabit said that he was constrained by a US Congress that limited his right to speak. Then, during the summer he spoke of the Kafkaesque nightmare that he had been plunged into by the US authorities.

"I had to choose whether or not to compromise my ethics and my moral code to stay in business or do what I thought was right and shut down the business," he said last autumn.

"If it's illegal to offer a private way to communicate to Americans, I didn't want to remain in the email business. I think our constitution guarantees our right to communicate privately without fear of government surveillance. But the fact is Congress has passed laws that say otherwise."

In the early stages of his campaign he said he planned to go to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and a fundraising campaign raised the plus $100,000 that he needed for legal expenses.

Papers from the appeals court show that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) pushed for the service's encryption keys under cover of a pen trap order that would let it access all of the service users' communications. Levinson resisted this and shut down the service before complying.

A Kickstarter campaign to release Lavabit secure code to Darkmail development raised its cash easily last November. µ


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