Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked details of the NSA's controversial PRISM surveillance program, reportedly used a secure email service called Lavabit to send messages from Russia. Now, Lavabit has abruptly shut down, in what its owner says was a difficult decision. Ladar Levison says he's shutting down the service to avoid becoming "complicit in crimes against the American people."
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.
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC
Clearly, Lavabit is suggesting that the US government attempted to access its data in some fashion, perhaps even to secure Snowden's email, but we don't currently have any proof of that, nor any information beyond the vague Lavabit memo. In fact, we don't know for sure that Snowden regularly uses the service, only that Snowden invited rights workers to a July meeting from the address "email@example.com," according to a human rights specialist who attended the meeting.
Lavabit owner Levison says he intends to fight in court, and is asking for contributions to his legal defense fund at this PayPal link.