Is NSA Killing USA Internet Business?

To Pamela Jones, undoubtedly, what’s supposed to be a war against terrorism has become an evaporation of

privacy. On August 20, PJ as she’s known on her site, announced the shutdown of Groklaw-dot-net, an

award-winning1 resource for journalists and others interested in laws pertaining to the tech industry. In a

farewell post, Ms. Jones explained that she was influenced by the closure two weeks earlier of Lavabit-dot-com,

an email service provider whose services Edward Snowden, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower,

has used in recent weeks.

 

The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop

too,” Ms. Jones wrote in a farewell post. “No matter how good the motives might be or collecting and

screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how ‘clean’ we all are ourselves from the

standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere.” 

 

While there seems to be a daily cascade of revelations of NSA surveillance activity, at the time of this

post the Wall Street Journal reports that roughly three-quarters of all U.S. Internet activity is –

potentially, at least – monitored by the NSA. “In some cases it retains the written content of emails

sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with internet technology,”

the WSJ report stated, attributing its information to current and former NSA officials.2

 

Started with Snowden

 

The surveillance, or some say spy saga, started in May when Snowden, a computer specialist under

contract at the NSA, leaked sensitive information to a British publication about the U.S. program.

As a whistleblower now charged with espionage and theft of government property, Snowden is

likely seeking help such as can be found on the website of the Goldberg Kohn law office, should he

ever return to the U.S. He has received temporary asylum in Russia. 

 

It may be too early to claim the Internet is unraveling, but U.S. government surveillance practices

are toppling some mighty timber. In addition to Groklaw and Lavabit, Silent Circle ceased providing

encrypted email, although not its mobile video and voice service.

 

Ladar Levison, owner of Lavabit, has been dealing with federal authorities over Snowden’s use

of his service. The post on his site explains: “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.”

 

As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I

have twice made the appropriate requests,” the Lavabit post continues. “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 to resurrect Lavabit 

as an American company.”

 

Made Mark Reporting Tech Litigation

 

Taking its name from a neologism meaning “to understand completely,” Groklaw started as a blog

in 2003 and gained prominence for its coverage of litigation involving SCO Group versus Linux, 

the European Union anti-trust charges against Microsoft and creating Open XML standards.3

 

Emery Jeffries, a longtime newspaper reporter and cable news journalist in Central Florida posted

the Groklaw news on Facebook and later explained:

 

Groklaw is the place to learn how to cut through the legal mumbo jumbo when some lawyers use

the Internet to shake down consumers. It will have a chilling effect on news gathering. If writers

can't safeguard sources, exposing corruption will be difficult on many levels. The American Bar

Association gave Groklaw the designation of being one of the top 100 websites.”

 

Ms. Jones also said of her shutdown: “They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside

the US, it will be read. If it's encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech

advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge. Groklaw has readers

all over the world."

 

Her post supplied a link to cyber security laws posted by Harvard’s Berkman Center.“Not that

anyone seems to follow any laws that get in their way these days,” she wrote. “Or if they find they

need a law to make conduct lawful, they just write a new law or reinterpret an old one and keep on

going. That's not the rule of law as I understand the term.”

 

About the Author

 

Like many Americans Terry Duschinski doesn't know if NSA programs keep us safe or make us

serfs. But he's fascinated with whistleblowers and suggests if you know of questionable deeds

being done in secret, you might want to consult the Goldberg Kohn law office website for a vast

assortment of helpful resources.

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