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Government Blunder Exposes Snowden as Target in 2013 Lavabit Email Case

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The US government has unwittingly revealed the identity of the person it was investigating in 2013 when it served email service provider Lavabit with a pen register order, and later, demanded it turn over the private SSL key that would allow the FBI to decrypt traffic. Lavabit founder Ladar Levinson shut down the email service shortly thereafter.

Surprising no one, that person is Edward Snowden.

According to a report by WIRED on Thursday, federal authorities recently published a cache of case documents, failing to redact the email of the target: Ed.Snowden@lavabit.com. The documents, dated August 2013, were posted on Mar. 4 and discovered and published online by Cryptome.

“The leaking of classified government practices by Edward Snowden and the ensuing mass surveillance scandal have sparked an intense national and international debate about government surveillance, privacy rights and other traditional freedoms,” the document read. “It is concerning that suppressing Mr. Levinson’s speech and pushing its subpoena power to the limits, the government’s actions may be viewed as accomplishing another unfounded secret infringement on personal privacy.”

“A major concern is that this could cause people worldwide to abandon American service providers in favor of foreign business because the United States cannot be trusted to regard privacy.”

According to WIRED, since shutting down Lavabit, Levinson has been fighting to get more of the court documents unsealed and unredacted, using money raised by supporters back in 2013. In January, a court ordered US attorneys in the case to re-release all previously filed pleadings, transcripts, and orders, with some information redacted, including identity of the subscriber and the subscriber’s email address and other information “that might harm its investigation into the target.”

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