The Accumulating Crimes of Barack H. Obama


..What the hell does he thing he's doing? What does he think his job is, to destroy the United States single handedly?

Tech is about the only forward looking industry that the US is preeminent in, and while most will not take this following story seriously, many people in the world will, killing our last goose laying golden eggs.

Lavabit has been shut down. Now I don't know who Lavabit is and I've never done business with them in any fashion, but it has been rumored that Snowden has used their servers for his encrypted E-Mail.

One need not read too finely between these lines to know that this business has been shuttered solely for refusing to cooperate with the US government and worse, has been forbidden from speaking about it by formal Federal Court Order.

Let me get this right...Secret Courts & Secret Surveillance Orders were bad enough, but here we seem to have the 4th Circuit complicit in these charades...we have a public court but with secret files and, massive gag orders in effect to prevent any whisper of what is going on.

This is not Orwellian?!?


My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on--the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.
What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

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.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC


Write-up here at the BBC, though you won't be seeing this story in US Media:


For people who honorably but foolishly argue that Snowden should have fought his fight in the United States, this is an object lesson of what would have happened to him.


As further noted by Daniel Ellsberg:

Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.


Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently.


And the last irony, the last shiver, the last spasm of hope is far away because all of us feel a little afraid that I post the two pictures below...


both black men,


one a hero,


the other not so much...not so much that he makes us afraid to read it, me a little afraid to post it.







Best Wishes, Traveller


Edit: Some additional information on my original Charging Complaint:


American technology businesses fear they could lose between $21.5bn and $35bn in cloud computing contracts worldwide over the next three years, as part of the fallout from the NSA revelations.

Some US companies said they have already lost business, while UK rivals said that UK and European businesses are increasingly wary of trusting their data to American organisations, which might have to turn it over secretly to the National Security Agency, its government surveillance organisation.

One British executive, Simon Wardley at the Leading Edge Forum thinktank, celebrated the publication of the information about the NSA’s spying and its Prism data collection program: “Do I like Prism … yes, and god bless America and the NSA for handing this golden opportunity to us,” he wrote on his blog. “Do I think we should be prepared to go the whole hog, ban US services and create a €100bn investment fund for small tech startups in Europe to boost the market … oh yes, without hesitation.”

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Lavabit CEO interviewed on CNET

mmghosh's picture

How do you identify yourself politically?
Levison: I'm a conservative Republican. I believe in small government and keeping our government out of our business. But I'm from California, and if there's one thing we love in California, it's being able to speak our mind. I love God and guns, too. Texans are big on freedom. I'm probably a blend of [California and Texas] at this point.

Silent Circle closes as well.

mmghosh's picture


We see the writing on the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.
We've been debating this for weeks, and had changes planned starting next Monday. We'd considered phasing the service out, continuing service for existing customers, and a variety of other things up until today. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that in this case the worst decision is no decision.
Silent Phone and Silent Text, along with their cousin Silent Eyes are end-to-end secure. We don't have the encrypted data and we don't collect metadata about your conversations. They're continuing as they have been. We are still working on innovative ways to improve secure communications. Silent Mail was a good idea at the time, and that time has passed.

The Not So Amusing Irony is that US Forces and Intelligence....


...Services use Silent Circle for secure communications....HAAAAAHAAAAAHaaaaahaaaaaa ....this is so funny you could


Best Wishes, Traveller


A Pretty Long While Ago I Followed PGP Pretty Closely...

(#307248) I don't think that Phil or PGP has been intentionally compromised. In the end I decided quite correctly that I had nothing important enough to protect, nor any current secrets of sufficient interest to be wanted by what was the point for me?


I prefer hiding in plain sight...I'm out there, I'm up front, everybody knows what I am about politically. My friends object me calling myself a lefty, but I am...and where I am not, I'll work on it.


Eventually everyone will be like me regarding openness and privacy....there will be no choice.


What an interesting thought.



Brave New World


We really are here now. Lavabit was the nail in the coffin of any remaining illusions. Clearly, the NSA will settle for nothing but total surveillance. I am sure that Lavabit would have complied with warrants on specific users, but that's not what they want. They want everything, all the time.


And it really is quite bad. That Brit executive is full of it. The UK is a part of this, while France and Spain showed their true colors with Bolivia's president.


If there is hope, it does not lie in the EU, nor obviously in Russia, for whom Snowden is convenient, but nothing more.


Is there a truly free country left on Earth?

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.



That sounds like you place a lot of faith in Iranian IT competence. I'm not saying they are incompetent but I certainly have no reason to believe that they have any particular level of competence, good or bad. One simple option for machines running such critical tasks would have been an air gap, but apparently they were connected to the network.


So Stuxnet doesn't really prove that no place is out of reach.


Having said that, I think it should be assumed that any connected Windows system can be compromised by the NSA, and very likely any Apple OS since Jobs died (and possibly before then as well, though Snowden's Prism slides imply that he was not entirely cooperative).


So that leaves Linux. It should be possible to put together a truly secure Linux distro and hardware setup, though it would be a lot of work and have a limited feature set. Linux does not have known back doors, but the NSA can, and I imagine does, plant subtle vulnerabilities in innocuous looking code. Thus, a secure distro would have to have user-proprietary monitoring software deep in the TCP/IP stack. It would need to be run on carefully selected hardware as well. Too much work for an individual, but a company or government could do it.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

I meant physical difficulty.

mmghosh's picture

Iran is protected by its inaccessibility from the US.  In the sense that it would be technically hard for the US to get access to its nuclear program IT network.


For Stuxnet to work, the NSA presumably had to get access to Siemens' centrifuge running program - i.e. Siemens probably had to let NSA access its code.  I agree that it is also possible that the NSA might have been able to hack Siemens' code without authority (especially if it was a Windows-based control program), but its more likely that Siemens simply caved, as most companies seem to do with the NSA.  Then there  was the matter of physical getting to the centrifuges themselves which must have been fairly difficult, too.  I worked with IIRC Mettler centrifuges for a few years in the 1990s - our centrifuges ran on an MSDOS control package, but they were not networked, and to corrupt them they would need to have been individually hacked.


To me, the entire Stuxnet episode was amazing.  I can only think, why isn't the NSA doing this at the Khan Research Labs in Kahuta?  The Islamic bomb has already been created, and is in the custody of Sunnis, in one of the most unstable regimes today.  One can only speculate that the Saudis have something to do with this in the form of guarantees, or paying off somebody high enough in the hierarchy.

No need for Siemens to cooperate


Anyone can buy Siemen's executable on the regular market,  run a disassembler on it,  and reverse engineer the source code.  Tedious but not at all impossible,  it's done routinely, sometimes even for legit purposes when source code gets lost or forgotten.   But even that wasn't strictly necessary,  all they really had to do was find which files store the user-set parameters;  that's not even secret, it's likely in the reference manual sold with the software.  Modifying the executable would be more subtle and harder to detect, though.


The Stuxnet virus,  as I saw it explained, was a widespread OS virus,  it's just that it didn't do anything unless it detected a particular Siemens controller and some other particulars to make the damage not-too-widespread outside Iran.


What the NSA did need was someone inside the Iranian enrichment program who could tell them what type of controllers they were running and what control parameters would be enough to damage a centrifuge without making it too obvious. That's regular old-fashion spying.



Of course, and we've had to do that ourselves for older

mmghosh's picture

machines where source code is simply unavailable or lost or the company goes out of business, as you point out.


But imagine the consequences for sales in the industry if it gets out that Governments are doing this!  This is why I think Siemens probably co-operated, and buried the evidence - Stuxnet getting out was an accident, after all.  We weren't even supposed to know. 


Yes, and getting past a normally paranoid Iranian security must have a major feat.  Which leads into my concern about no security anywhere.  


And which in turn leads me into the issue of the Islamic bomb sitting in Kahuta, a much more dangerous place than Iran.  We know about the blowback from actively aiding and abetting fundamentalists in AfPak in the 1980s (the "how were we to know" excuse is wearing thin these days).  Its curious that there is very little discussion in US forums about the blowback from paying for the nuclear programme in Kahuta in the 90's and 00's.  Maybe people think that the chance of the nuclear material getting into the wrong hands is unlikely.  But so did the idea that planes could be made to fly into the WTC.


Many people would be less concerned about snooping by spooks if it could be shown that said snooping led to legitimate results against real terrorists.

Causality arrow runs the other way


I completely agree with you that the real bombs in Pakistan are a much bigger threat than some potential ones elsewhere; however, Pakistan gets (sort of) soft treatment because they have the bomb.  If Iran did eventually get their hands on one the US would still be unfriendly,  but we would probably greatly scale back the threats of preemptive first strikes and the rhetoric about our patience running out.


the "how were we to know" excuse is wearing thin these days


Maybe this is a good excuse to bring up India's Third Way thing and how it led to the US supporting Pakistan.  We were guilty of many excesses in the cold war,  and of course India was a sovereign, independent, and democratic country with a perfect right to not choose sides.  Nevertheless, our behavior at the time was very predictable from dozens of examples, and it was clear that if a country toyed even a little bit with being tolerant of communism,  we were going to arm their adversaries, even if some ugly tradeoffs had to be accepted.


Of course it's not a reasonable policy in hindsight,  and we're paying for it now.   OTOH,  unlike al-Qaeda or Iran,  communism actually was an existential threat,  actually had led to 10's of millions of deaths, actually was bent on world domination,  and at times actually was making some progress toward that goal.   Our current enemies and "enemies" are puny by comparison.

No, It Does Not


Pakistan got the soft treatment because Reagan needed Pakistan to help the future AQ and Taliban freedom fighters. As early as the mid 1980's, well before Pakistan had the bomb, 60 Minutes reported on their bomb program, including the construction of enrichment facilities.


The US knew Pakistan was working on the bomb but turned a blind eye about it before the bomb became real. It was all about Afghanistan.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Oh, I agree


That's why they got the soft treatment then,  but we're long past that.

We Are, Now


But you claim to care about causality.


Now they have the bomb, and we don't have good options.


It's a cautionary tale against distorting foreign policy around a single objective, like fighting the Soviets (then), or fighting terrorists (today). It leaves a lot of collateral damage, much of it irreversible.


Terrorism should not be the top foreign policy or even military driver today. Foreign policy needs to be a series of balancing acts, pretty much by definition, in a world with over 200 countries in it and hundreds of important entities such as multinational companies, large NGOs, ethnic groups lacking a proper country (Kurds, Palestinians), regional trade blocks, etc.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

It looks like


we don't actually disagree on anything except my unclear writing.


However,  I think that subordinating every other foreign policy consideration to fighting the Soviets was a mistake,  but doing the same for al-Qaeda and Iran is ridiculous.  The threats aren't at all comparable.

I Have To Say


That's a fair and important distinction.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.



I had a business contact who had previously installed machines in Iran for processing the mailing of exam results from the university entrance exams. The whole processing of he results happened in a bunker complex and it was explained to him that on certain date exam marking started. On that date the doors would close and nobody would get in or out. If he was in there installing his machines then so be it. He could enjoy 30 days of bunker living with no contact with the outside world.


Did I bore you all already with that one? I'm starting to feel a bit like that old guy.

Not at all


If anything you're behind on your anecdote quota.


Someday I'll get 90 minutes free with a decent speed internet connection and then give my considered response to your fructose totalitarianism.

I Am Glad this Forvm Diary Pressured Obama Sufficently...!

(#307240) address these issues.


Yet, I feel he spoke with a forked tongue. A commission to re-juggle this? A lawyer (?!?) to over see these programs....I sense that the established Security Bureaucracy is of sufficient size and weight that no one, to include the President of the United States, can freely stand against it.


Of course I cannot say what this might mean going forward in some larger context...but it is all spooky.


And of course the problem isn't enough data, the problem is lacking the honesty and will to act on data...the Boston Bombers were given to us on a platter by the Russians and all the NSA spying on all of America was...useless.


Someone has to say this and no one asked this question during the News Conference.


Best Wishes, Traveller




It's Not About Terrorists


Terrorism could end tomorrow, but they will not give up on the surveillance state.


I kind of sympathize with the spooks. I've seen the effect. You add a camera to a building, and soon enough you want to add another to fill in the blind spot of the first one. Before you know it you have cameras everywhere. Then you need to have IR lighting for the night. Then you need to record. Then record more time, then color, them HD, then sound. It's insidious and has no natural limit.


Which is why the spooks shouldn't be the ones deciding what they need. They will need everything, and this causes damage elsewhere, the cost of which is just an abstraction to them.


This is where political leadership should step in. But Obama has either failed in his efforts or, more likely, entirely lacks the imagination or intelligence to grasp the implications of this way of doing business. Or, possibly, understands but simply does not care.


The justice system should be the backstop, but the Roberts secret court has taken care of that too.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.