Lavabit, the encrypted email service used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, has abruptly shut down under mysterious circumstances possibly related to an investigation of Snowden.
Ladar Levinson, owner of the Dallas-based Lavabit LLC, announced on Thursday that Lavabit would shut down for the foreseeable future in order to avoid becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people.” Throughout the message, Levinson implies that the United States government was in some way responsible for the shutdown, though specifics on the situation are scarce.
Levinson offered few other details, claiming that he was unable to legally explain the reasons behind Lavabit’s closure. However, given last month’s revelation that Edward Snowden has used a Lavabit email address in the past, tech outlets like The Verge have reported that the U.S. government may have tried to access Snowden's data through the service.
In July, Snowden invited several journalists to a meeting using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. While it is unknown if Snowden used his Lavabit address to contact the Guardian with sensitive data on NSA surveillance, Lavabit is known for its extremely secure encryption process, which have led many to insinuate that Snowden may have relied on the service for more than invitations.
Levinson claims that he is working on taking his case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and is soliciting funds for legal fees through a PayPal link.
Read Levison’s full statement on Lavabit’s shutdown below.
My Fellow Users,
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. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on--the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.
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 resurrect Lavabit as an American company.
This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.
Ladar Levison Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC
Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.
Eric Brown is an IBTimes political reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.