The Guardian ran a piece today about the Lavabit secure e-mail service, which has just been shut down by its owner, Ladar Levison, who said that he wouldn’t be “complicit in crimes against the American people” (here); ie, he wouldn’t hand-over customer’s data to the American security services. Lavabit is the only tech company I know of that has refused to roll over to the likes of the American National Security Agency (NSA). All the rest of them, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, et al, give the NSA free reign to their customer data (here), and in the case of Microsoft and Apple, they’ve also given the NSA a backdoor entrance into their customer’s computers via their operating systems (wave at your webcam: they might be watching you right now).
Of course, the implications of all this are huge: no tech company that comes under US jurisdiction can be trusted. The business world is already starting to realise this. It’ll be interesting to see what percentage of Joe Public will come to realise it as well. Whatever happens, US tech companies are going to lose huge sums of money through lost customer confidence (the ‘cloud data’ concept that these companies have been pushing is a surefire goner), and it seems likely that many of them will go bankrupt.
Edward Snowden has now been granted one year’s political asylum in Russia and has left Moscow for an unknown destination. Today, Snowden commented on the Lavabit shut-down (Snowden was one of their users), saying that the decision by Lavabit’s owner to shut it down rather than comply with US court orders to provide access to its users’ content was “inspiring” and asked why internet titans like Google and Facebook “aren’t fighting for our interests the same way small businesses are” (here). The answer to this is both complicated and simple. Let me begin by citing just three US laws that have been passed recently:
Citizens United, which effectively stated that corporations have the same rights under law as citizens.
The NDAA 2012 (and following NDAAs) which states that American citizens can be held in indefinite detention without trial.
The HR 347 anti protest bill, which “potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in America a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison”
In legal terms, America is now a fascist police state. If the human race survives, our ancestors will look back at this period in history and ask how the people could have let this happen (just like we now do with the Nazis), particularly since it’s so obvious it is happening. The laws passed by Congress over the last decade should have frightened the horses; but no, there’s a kind of madness – or blindness – that overcomes the populace. A recent edition of the Piers Morgan Show on CNN shows a very good example of this mindset. The guests on the show were Glenn Greenwald and New York Times journalist James Risen. In the studio were Piers Morgan and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Listen to what Toobin says about Snowden and the NSA scandal, and also to a lesser extent what Piers Morgan says about it. Both Toobin and Morgan are successfully rebuffed by Greenwald and Risen, by using a quaint concept called logic. Toobin is probably a nice chap, but what you have to understand is his ‘world view’, which is now widespread in American society (and in places like the UK as well)…