Friday, August 9, 2013

What the Hell is Happening to My Country, Part 49,924...

Yesterday, a tiny little company providing encrypted email services, called Lavabit, rather abruptly shut down.  Their web site now has just this message:

Lavabit gained some notoriety recently because allegedly Snowden used it.  There's lots of speculation in the press about what provoked Lavabit's shutdown.  I think it's likely they were the recipient of a National Security Letter (NSL) requiring them to turn over metadata they thought should be private.

I want to focus on something other than Snowden's use of it, and the probably-not-coincidental appearance of an NSL.  I want to focus on the wrongness – the un-Americanness – of a mechanism like the NSL.  I (and many others) think it's a step way, way over the line between privacy and security.  It's also a gold-plated invitation for abuse, as the victim has no recourse at all – he can't even tell anyone (not even a lawyer!) what his problem is.  That's just wrong.  Even if you believe that Snowden was a traitor, even if you believe our government needs a way to snoop on this's still wrong.  It's the wrong way to solve the problem, even if you believe there is a problem.

The existence of NSLs is one of the (unfortunately) many things happening to America in my lifetime that have started to make me wonder if this really is the best country for my family and I to be citizens of.  Before about 10 years ago, I had never had such a thought in my life...

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