(courtesy huffpost.com)

“Two major secure e-mail service providers on Thursday took the extraordinary step of shutting down service,” nytimes.com (not wnd.com) reports. “A Texas-based company called Lavabit, which was reportedly used by Edward J. Snowden, announced its suspension Thursday afternoon, citing concerns about secret government court orders. [Statement after the jump.] By evening, Silent Circle, a Maryland-based firm that counts heads of state among its customers, said it was following Lavabit’s lead and shutting its e-mail service as a protective measure. Taken together, the closures signal that e-mails, even if they are encrypted, can be accessed by government authorities and that the only way to prevent turning over the data is to obliterate the servers that the data sits on.” Which Lavabit has done. Equally worrying, Lavabit can’t reveal the circumstances surrounding their decision to cease operations. So now what? Are gun rights liberty’s last bastion? Are we there yet? . . .

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.

Sincerely,
Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

96 Responses to Question of the Day: The Fourth Amendment is Dead. The First Amendment is in Peril. What Does That Mean for Gun Owners?

    • When queries on who searched for “pressure cooker” turn into data mining searches, URLs, social networks, chats, and more for anything gun or ammo related, then yes.

      I’d say its inevitable given enough time with an unaccountable, extra-legal, secret, and apparently permanent monitoring apparatus. They just need to work through the backlog of terrorists, pedophiles, drug users, and other personae non gratae first.

  1. Getting active and mobilizing people is the optimal way to win.

    Gun rights and civil liberties need to be a nonpartisan issue.

    Gun rights groups also need to tailor their message for different audiences. When speaking to a left-leaning audience emphasize how gun control only allows the wealthy to defend themselves.

    Conduct outreach at Military and LEO cultural events.

    This is a battle for hearts and minds.

  2. The First Amendment died (or is so close it is almost indiscernible) many years ago. FCC did a doozy to it. Also, have you ever considered that contempt of court is an outright infringement on the 1st? You gotta call your honor, be mindful of what you say else, you offended someone important and must pay. There have even been a tiny amount of blasphemy laws. The IRS gets to dictate what is or isn’t a religion and for the egregious purpose of giving tax breaks to those deemed worthy. The U.S. government has saw fit to shove Christian references where ever it could since 1864 (and probably earlier).

    Basically, none of our rights are secured. Why? Cause not enough people give a damn and agree on all the rights available to stand up to those who would deny/abuse them.

  3. It’s time to recognize that we live in the sneakiest police state that’s ever existed, where all our rights are being corrupted “under the radar.”

      • Agree 100% , the Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves, go back in time and Surrender to the British if they knew what America would become.

    • The sneakiest, I agree. Though only the willfully blind and/or ignorant can be totally unaware of it. Forget those people; they’re useless and can’t be trusted anyway. Focus on those you can wake up, forget the rest. No advice for you on what to do; that won’t be the same for everyone, anyway.

  4. Generally, what it means is that the people who keep claiming “you’re paranoid, it could never happen here” are the delusional ones.

  5. I guess it’s easier to burn a book from a shelve and shut down a server with a threatening letter than it is to reach out and grab a gun from someone.

  6. We can’t yet replace tyranny with chaos – there must be a plan of leadership and rebuilding first. ICan we ever trust anyone to be that leader?

  7. As someone in IT….. No real surprise here. It’s sad, yes, but also completely expected.

    My answer? TrueCrypt is your friend. Learn to love it, and it will help take care of you.

      • —–BEGIN PGP MESSAGE—–
        Version: GnuPG v2.0.20 (MingW32)

        hQEMA48VFCHNHdsVAQgAmv3FOfYXyCjp1DO0zvZsVLi9H/wW5EQPvKZtQVwHmzv3
        QqNrw4QE4Z7O+U3xpuBaXezS2s4BpuGVA6vZ3OX7CeepCgLAx5fhDNgagnyY4eoy
        YHdvgfMVpTcvlDJL5JRUPBHPb+Fx6WVJEQNGB0e3QX7y9hrZ38o3sjbUwBV0jtth
        xTfdBJ0WT1y5dpppE7zXEcxLjrev60/iISJuDHFkaf/EEVFtjnSQqgs73KQPGuJM
        HgCwZHKu90EoR2EOfUQbNG3GWzzqtybYE1CKJrXNWwCn2b34dz1fmzghgt9ttnz7
        lkenOE5gBDaR3Ama330O2SNs0gyUHOTfBk421nsRd9JEAfgUKB4DBePTHEC+2bEc
        j2atyDbb7xsACjBjZledHOqQmDS7vOJCpF5RcAxgNvA8IlGxvi7bh1OL6atGT34G
        Bl2HiYk=
        =gX/B
        —–END PGP MESSAGE—–

        • If one has PGP and the key — i.e. is the intended recipient — it’s no sweat.

        • “Now how do mere mortals read it?”

          That’s the point. They don’t. Nobody does, except the intended recipient.

    • Disk and private mail encryption only gets you so far when, unless you’re a hermit, enough of your life is online to be at risk anyway.

      When XKeyscore slides imply even a VPN can simply be MITM’ed, and SSL roots willingly prostitute themselves to the USG, there’s a certain futility in wishing local disk or mail encryption really amounts to much anymore. FWIW, I still encrypt what I can, but let’s not think what we encrypt is much more than a statement – it’s rather depressing.

  8. The US Constitution has been toilet paper for decades. It’s just now starting to come to a head. The powers that be have made it clear. They make the rules and we follow them. I fear we have passed the point of no return–and the majority of the populace is ignorant of the fact.

    This nation is dying, and there is nothing you or I can do now to stop that. Prepare for the end.

    • Ancient Rome died, and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened. I beg you to look past the apparent end, to new possibilities and opportunities. Don’t be so short-sighted! It’s always darkest before the dawn.

      But I’m not gonna bullshit you; HELL ON EARTH lies not too far ahead, and many of us aren’t gonna get through that.

      See you at the barricades?

  9. It means, keep stocking up on guns and ammo. It means, if you have lots of guns, think about giving some to good friends who don’t have one; it’s more difficult to take 100 guns from 100 people than 100 guns from one person. It means keeping politically active and voting good people in and bad people out. And, it may mean being part of that 3% who would actively support revolution if, God forbid, that became necessary to bring back that America that our Founders envisioned.

    • Sorry. Your list is much too brief. FOOD. WATER. MORE WATER. BLANKETS. TOOLS. MEDICAL SUPPLIES and Vitamins, and if you have the wherewithal, gasoline and motor oil. If you have to get moving, you need what your vehicle eats.

  10. I use the strategy of the buffalo herd. Don’t be big, don’t graze on the edge of the herd.

    But I guess commenting on TTAG does put you in the outer ring in range of the NSA Sharps’ shooters.
    And there aren’t many buffalo left. Hope the past is not our future.

  11. It’s scary to think the government currently has the constitution in the shredder. This needs to stop immediately.

  12. They got what they voted for. And so did those who sat it out in protest against [whatever]. Learn from history.

  13. It’s clear that the 4th amendment is dead for all of us, at least for the time being. Not that I’m getting my hopes up of seeing any significant testicular fortitude from the GOP on the subject, but I do get the feeling that people are growing a bit furious. If we start seeing the Peter Kings and John McCains getting the boot and replaced by libertarian types the rest of the pack might actually put a stop to it out of concern for their own necks. I also think we’re about to see a whole lot of convictions overturned because of the DEA fabricating reasonable causes for searches and lying to prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges about it. Good for felons, bad for bureaucratic law enforcement agencies that think they are above the law.

    As far as the other 9 amendments, they are not so much dead as gravely ill. We’ve made a country where the laws have piled so high that anyone who pisses off the wrong politician or bureaucrat can be selectively prosecuted. Now we’re moving toward selective recognition of constitutional rights. You have a right to free speech as long as your speech isn’t conservative in nature, then you have the right to be harassed by the IRS. You have the right to possess a firearm unless you’re erroneously placed on a terrorist watch list because you have the same last name as someone 1500 miles away who once sent an email to Yemen. It becomes far too easy to deny any individual their fundamental human rights because in most cases the rest of us just move on, happy it didn’t happen to us.

    • Reminds me of a story (made into a short film), the title was “The Lottery”.

      Everything is all fun and games until you’re the one that gets picked by the lottery.

      • A great short story by Shirley Jackson. It’s been made into a movie several times. She also wrote “The Haunting of Hill House.” If you read the first lines of that book, you’ll read the rest with every light on throughout your entire home.

  14. Here’s a thought. Defund the beast. The ultimate irony is that we’re paying for this.

    Come October, like any addict the Federal Government will have smoked its entire stash as if there’s no tomorrow–it will have reached the debt limit.

    All the republicans in the house have to do is . . . nothing. If they simply sit on their hands and refuse to raise the limit, then all of this comes to a screeching halt.

    Of course, like any addict, our the Government and ITS representative (they really can’t be called OUR representatives, can they?) will say that they’d love to quit, they plan to quit, they WILL quit . . . just not today, you see, the time just isn’t right.

    If you live in a republican district, call the representative appointed to that district EVERY DAY and tell them that if the debt limit is raised, you will support their primary challenger.

    If you live in a democrat district, write an open letter for the local paper asking the representative:
    1) Isn’t $17,000,000,000,000.00 enough debt?
    2) When you passed the last limit, why didn’t you act like the limit was a limit?
    3) Will you treat the new limit like a limit?
    Also, throw dead cats at them.

    • Sadly, there are better uses for dead cats. Fur hats and slippers! Throw SHIT at them. Yes, I know there’s another use for it, BUT THERE’S SO MUCH OF IT!!!

    • My fantasy is a huge crowd storming the capitol, grabbing every politician and upper level government employee they can find, dragging them to the Potomac, and giving them a little swim. Don’t have to kill them, or even seriously hurt them. See if that gets the message across.

      If that doesn’t work, then tar and feathers.

  15. i thinks what is eventually goig to happen is one of these companies is going to blow off the secret court orders, and go public with the whole mess. It will go hard on them which is why no one wants to be the first to do so, but until it happens, until americans see the unedited full releases of these data requests, the public as a whole will not reach the level of outrage necessary to force changes

    • That’s an interesting notion. Let’s say AT&T decides “Screw it, we’re not going to play” and tells the FISA Court or FBI to take a hike. What will hapen? You can’t put all x,000,000 employees in jail. And if you fine them too badly or jail the worker bees the Government comes to work one morning to find no phone or Internet service…

      • No, but I could see the government jailing the entire executive board for aiding and abetting terrorists.
        I mean, clearly, they’re denying the government data that would LEAD TO TERRORISTS.
        They’re in on it! They’re accomplices to murder! Treason! Hang them!
        I’m only partially joking.
        Do you really think a bunch of corporate fat cats want to go to prison for protecting the peasant’s data?
        They’re already data mining the heck out of everything you do. Sharing it with the Government isn’t a big deal to them.

      • They were warned not to even say they were required to give any information to the Government.
        Can you imagine the consequences to AT&T or Verizon that would result if they did not “fully and freeely co-operate” with the “request” from the “authorities”? IRS would be on them, the FCC, the SEC, and the whole alphabet soup of D C.

  16. I don’t know what you people are talking about, the 1st Amendment was created to protect quill pens and parchment. Nobody ever said anything about email. /sarc

    I don’t care if you lean left or right on the political spectrum, the erosion of our liberties must stop before we have none. When gun owners have said that the fall of 2nd Amendment leads to the fall of the rest of the constitution, it was not joke.

    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. … Benjamin Franklin

    Old Ben was right, little by little the government will take everything away in the name of “safety”

    And of course, how ironic this happening today

    Obama meets with tech execs on surveillance, privacy
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/08/09/obama-apple-google-privacy-surveillance/2635601/

    The meeting, which was first reported by Politico, was not on the president’s public schedule.

    “The meeting was part of the ongoing dialogue the president has called for on how to respect privacy while protecting national security in a digital era,” said the official, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Yes, the most OPEN administration in history — NOT!

    • “The meeting was part of the ongoing dialogue the president has called for on how to respect privacy while protecting national security in a digital era.” HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA – that’s a good one!

    • Obama, earlier this week on Jay Leno (find it on YT): “We don’t spy on Americans.” NOT A TWITCH. NOTHING!! The man is a CRIMINAL PSYCHOPATH.

      • We already knew he is a liar. He’ll say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. What worries me more is how few people are calling him on it.

  17. It’s great for gun owners. Seriously. There is no Left in American politics anymore. Choose your policy – Labor, Trade, civil liberties, equity, so on and so forth – the Democrats are to the Right of Republicans thirty years ago. And Richard Nixon would be a Communist by today’s standards. That’s why the Stansfield Turner and the Church hearings in the 1970s were the last pushback by any President or the Senate against our Police State

    The Right really doesn’t care about civil liberties for the most part. They practically begged for the USA PATRIOT Act, the end of habeas corpus and Posse Comitatus and the acceleration of the Surveillance State during the Bush years to Keep Us Safe. All you had to do to get them to bleat in terror was watch Tom Ridge pull a plaid M&M out of his bag at the end of the week.

    But as long as you can hold up a gun with a manly tear in your eye the righties will give you a pass and let you do whatever they hell you want. So while the powerful take away everything else you thought you had they will let you keep spending money you can no longer afford on guns. It’s a cheap, easy substitute for real rights. And it puts money in the hands of the gun manufacturers.

    Enjoy the toys, sheeple.

    • Would you rather we try to stop their tanks by hurling our bodies at them? We’re not China, we don’t have that many people.

    • A. Nuran,

      I just want to understand your post. What is it that your spectrum measures?

      Given your statements re: right and left, it’s difficult to understand exactly what those terms mean to you.

      • Count me among the severely confused by that, too. He seems to think the Church Committee was a “push back” by the Nixon Administration “against the police state”. The administration WAS the police state. But it was a minor annoyance compared to what we face today – the spectre of Full-Spectrum Dominance. The Borg would be envious.

  18. the first amendment has been dead, “hate speeeeach” laws killed it, “terr-istic threat laws” put it in the collin , and the “felony to lie to law enf officer” nailed the lid shut and put it in the ground.

    the war on drugs killed and creamated the 4th.

    the second is actualy dead , but we are coing desperate CPR. there are so many things you can become a “prohibited” person for almost everyone could be found prohibited with enough looking. .

    Every e-mail you ever sent, website you visited, financial transaction you ever made that was not in cash, every phone call you ever made can be pulled up by various gvt. agencies.
    every piece of mail sent to or from your house has been photographed.

    Where we are is a strange and unfamilar place . I have a bad sense of forboding ,

    I think that the government is coming to realize thje scope of control they now have, but has yet to decide what to do with it. It will be a bad time when they finaly decide.

    have a nice day.

  19. He received a ‘National Security Letter’. Look it up. Gag order, preventing the recipient from disclosing that it was received.

    That’s why he can’t talk about it.

    • How can that trump the Constitution? I cna understand a stock broker being confined to not discussing insider info or a doctor having patient confidentiality but they sign up for it. The gov’t can’t just say “you’re 1st Amendment right is suspended becuase we want it to be”…

      • That’s what the Patriot Act did for us, among other things. An NSL is ridiculously easy to get; sort of like a hall pass.

        • Even FBI internals audits have said the FBI does not follow its own internally drafted rules restricting the use of National Security Letters. Yes, they make their own damn rules, AND THEY CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO FOLLOW THEM.

    • EXACTLY. And the gag order specifies he can’t use the words “gag order” or anything else to describe what they did!

      We didn’t step into the Danger Zone; it moved to encompass us.

  20. It’s interesting to note how the authorities don’t seem bothered or hindered by any constitutional issues. They seem to have an answer or rule for everything that trumps it all. Show me a SWAT team that respects the 4th or any other amendment. The First is easily subverted with a contempt charge and the Tenth is long ignored
    It’s going to be everyone for themselves

  21. God save the Queen? Too late…
    Liberty and Justice for All? Post mortem…
    Thank God for me? Sounds about right.

  22. OK, I don’t like the process by which the government got a FISA warrant to scoop up all the phone and E-mail metadata but even without the Patriot Act it was legal under the 1978 FISA law. You do not own the meta data, the carrier/provider does so a warrant served to the provider meets the requirement of the Fourth Amendment. You might not even own the contents depending on the provider. (see the FACEBOOK terms of service.)

    The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was written before the digital revolution and we need to revise it because of the expansion of modes of digital communications. Monitoring communications is an essential part of intelligence operations and criminal investigations. It has to be done in secret or else the intended targets will go dark. FISA has cut both ways in the past decade. While people are outraged at the government collecting data under warrant from Verizon at the same time the FISA court have required that the monitoring of intelligence targets outside the United State be done under FISA warrants even though the targets are non-US persons operating outside of the United States just because their conversations or E-mails could be routed via the United States. The need to get FISA warrant interfered with a search and rescue operation conducted in Iraq in I believe in 2005 resulting in the loss of the flight crew. So I consider the statement the the Fourth Amendment is dead is not just hyperbole but flat out wrong..

    • Thanks Mr McCain

      Any terrorist dumb enough to use electronic medium is dumb enough for Shotgun Joe to find.

      Obuma having a presser on Snowden/NSA as I type this. Promising reforms. What??? A week ago all was roses. Perhaps issue is killing him in the polls. What a useless mornic windbag.

      • Instead of talking points gleaned from some Libertarian or Progressive blog why don’t address the actual law instead?

        Some of you people seem to believe a mythical past where the Fourth Amendment was strictly adhered to. Get a clue, it was the Warren Court in the 1950s and 1960s that extended the Fourth Amendment beyond what it was prior to the Civil War, in the heyday of Constitutional government. Before the Warren Court ruling a police officer could enter your premises on “a hunch” and take whatever evidence he found or planted. Learn a little history.

        As far Snowden goes, he is no hero. He was clearly working for Russian intelligence. The release of PRISM was part of a diversion and and his exit strategy. Do you really believe that every “defender of your right to privacy” goes first to PRC-controlled Hong Kong and then on to Moscow? You’re pretty gullible if you do..

        • Meh. I don’t care if Snowden was, or wasn’t a traitor. He isn’t the first traitor to defect to Russia with Government secrets, and he won’t be the last. I’ve used all the outrage I had left on this current administration and it’s steady transformation into Big Brother. I’m just glad Snowden flipped the bird to Obama on the way out the door by shining a light onto the hypocrisy of the most open administration in history.

        • You are only entitled to your righteous indignation if and only if you voted against the guy twice. Anybody who paid attention knew that Obama was Red Fascist and a liar even before he got the nomination in 2008.

      • I forgot one thing. Before the Warren Court it was Probably cause? What’s that? The Cops or the prosecutor went to a Judge and the warrant got issued just because.

  23. I’d say speak what you want…anyone who comes to arrest you is in violation of their oath to protect the Constitution and is no longer functioning as an officer…therefore they are trying to kidnap you. Act accordingly.

    “When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are ruled by criminals.” – Anonymous

  24. All is not lost.

    Look at the Amash amendment. Sure there were probably a few that only voted ‘Yea’ once they knew it wouldn’t pass, but it still came very close. So close the official media was shocked.

    The key is that representatives on the Left and the Right put down their labels and voted as Americans. Can we do that? Can we reach out to people outside of gun culture and say, “The Bill of Rights is under attack. The only way to defend it is to cross party lines and defend the whole thing. I’m committed to the whole BOR, not just the parts that I like, not just the parts that serve me when I’m in power. What do you think?” Then listen and try to find the broadest common ground that you can.

    Otherwise their playbook will be divide and conquer. Identify the activists, the committed ones, brand them as extremists, trouble makers. Separate them out from the herd, the mushy middle and eliminate them. It’s a toss up whether the gun owning right will get picked off before the anti-corporate left.

  25. The argument I make to my lefty friends, many of whom are ambivalent about gun issues, is that we all benefit from a liberal interpretation of the Constitution, including 2A. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a backlash against the authoritarian Corporate/National Security State, but both Left and Right are going to have to let go of some of their dogmas and pre-conceived notions about their political “adversaries.”

    Historically speaking, the State has abused its power far more often to crack down on leftist radicals than conservatives, but now that a lot of conservatives are leaning Libertarian, that will likely change. The Left might have to tolerate the smell of gun oil, the Right might catch a whiff of patchouli, but it’s going to take some kind of political cooperation to turn this thing around. Electing a president from the other party will make zero difference.

  26. I’ve read in news articles that the NSA database has copies of all state gun registries (of states that have them) and all background check requests from the ATF. Isn’t it against the law for a federal agency to create and maintain a gun registry?

  27. This isn’t even the most obvious sign the nation’s core legal structure is near collapse.

    If you have the political connections you can get away with crimes. MF Global (google it!) and various Wall Street frauds (google “high frequency trading” which is fancy-speak for “whoever has the biggest computers can see what the other guy’s cards look like in the stock market) and international frauds (LIBOR and worse!) have proven that.

    Well now we know that the NSA isn’t the only critters poking into our online privacy. Not by a mile. Private contractors with NSA connections are being allowed to sell NSA-class exploits to the highest bidder. I’m not kidding at all – this is what happened when I walked right up to their offices with multiple cameras:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr5LIgZvx_8

    …and here’s the entire backstory:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6Fh3F6hufhDMGVjMUgxdXEwMzg/edit

    What Endgame, HBGary and other “security consultants” are openly doing would result in immediate Federal hacking charges if anybody else did it – but these guys, like former Governor and US Senator Jon Corzine at MF Global, have the connections to avoid criminal charges.

    This total collapse of the rule of law for a political elite is a final warning that the collapse of the US as a functional country is a significant danger.

    If you want to know more about the world’s financial scams, start here:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6Fh3F6hufhDenAxT0VSdnptSjQ/edit?usp=sharing

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