Feeds

Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers

Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Ladar Levison, owner of the now-defunct Lavabit email service, could be facing a heavy fine after an appeals court ruled that he failed to properly contest the government's attempts to install taps on his servers.

Lavabit was the secure email service picked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as the repository of his personal email. After Snowden went public with his identity, the Feds came knocking on Levison's door, demanding the encryption keys to his servers under US "pen register" and "trap and trace" statutes.

Levison refused, and the government came back with a court order to force the issue. Levison contested the case but lost, was found in contempt, and was fined $5,000 a day. That only lasted for two days before he handed over the keys and shortly afterwards shut down Lavabit, saying he was unwilling to "become complicit in crimes against the American people."

On Wednesday the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, turned down Levison's appeal against the contempt charge – not on the grounds that he was being forced to hand over control of his servers, but because he didn’t seriously challenge the legality of the government's request in court the first time.

"In view of Lavabit’s waiver of its appellate arguments by failing to raise them in the district court, and its failure to raise the issue of fundamental or plain error review, there is no cognizable basis upon which to challenge the Pen/Trap Order," the judgment reads.

"The district court did not err, then, in finding Lavabit and Levison in contempt once they admittedly violated that order. The judgment of the district court is therefore affirmed."

Levison's lawyer said that no decision had been made as yet as to whether to appeal to a higher court, but noted that the court's ruling left open the question of the government's legal rights to place surveillance on servers in this way.

"It does seem like it’s likely to recur," the attorney told Politico. "Hopefully, we’ve laid out a road map or at least one road map for why the government's surveillance theories in a case like this are not correct. That may make it easier for the next person in a case like this to prevail." ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.