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Lavabit, Lavabit, wherefore art thou Lavabite?

Trust me. I’ve run startups. After thinking it over, this is Lavabit’s only course of action they can take, just like Putin’s only course is to give Snowden asylum. The reason is that there are traces of the court order(s), so enterprising journalists will out them. They know that this is the age of the porous administration, when people can’t be relied on to keep their yap shut. So they would be likely to be outed for compliance for that reason as well. And they know damn well that if the feds get anything, then it will all get broken open in the courts later. So they are toast if they comply. It’s a non-starter as a pure business proposition – forget about any ideals.

It is also a non-starter as a personal proposition. And that is probably a bigger problem for them. They are ensconced in a society of people who would turn on them as hard as the CIA turned on Kiriakou. They don’t want any part of that backlash.

This also happens to be the only legal way they have of warning their user base, which they are not allowed to do under the court order.  It’s also a form of treason – in spirit, if not the precise letter. So it goes. It is a controversy, this Snowden business. So, this is not a simple case of treasonous action.

The idea though, that Lavabit is ‘pure of heart’ and unmotivated by money is malarkey. All this proves is that they are not motivated enough to catch Snowden that they will destroy their company and destroy their reputations forever in the hacker/criminal/pedophile/paranoids market segment that is their sector.

It is very, very difficult to switch sectors. Trust me on this. I’ve been working on it myself. Market sectors have a subculture, they have secret signs, funding agencies and venture capitalists act totally different. Those guys do not want to switch. And, of course, they may not want to. It is likely that there are some sort of ideals. But you also have to trust me on something else. Do any business for 10 years and you learn who your people are. You get cynical about them. I am totally certain that the people who run Lavabit have their quiet struggles with conscience in the dark of night – knowing that they are helping pedophiles exchange kiddie porn, drug cartels and credit card thieves operate. But they also have families to feed, wives to please. And an ideology of justification.

That the owners of Lavabit did so is no more surprising than to see Paulson side with Goldman Sachs, or Vladimir Putin give Snowden asylum. It was pretty dumb of DOJ to even try it. What did they think would happen? Passive acquiescence?!

That dimwittery at DOJ is, well, par for the course from this excruciatingly dim administration. It’s icing on the cake. Sun in Texas. Rain in Seattle. At catching Mr. Snowden they are incompetent to the point of running the ball for a touchdown for the opposing team. At thinking through to controlling the story, they are blundering to the point of jawdropping. It is … astonishing!

But for Lavabit, there is a big upside to the shutdown! For the individuals who work there, this move puts their cred in lights. Their user base will be more loyal to them than ever, if/when they come back online. Others will flock to them. Their user base is around a quarter million people. Who those people are is anyone’s guess, though Snowden is among them. They could come out of this in the end with ten times the users, in the tradition of “there ain’t no sech thang as bad publicity.”

And if Lavabit doesn’t come back? Those guys can dine out for at least 5 years on it. They’ll get work. They’ll be fine. Better off than they would be if they complied!