Lavabit, the email service used by Edward Snowden, has shut down for “undisclosed” reasons. Those undisclosed reasons seem to hint at the fact that they were being pressured by the NSA to hand over Snowden’s email traffic. Of course, that’s just speculation because, by law, Lavabit isn’t allowed to say what the government is or isn’t requesting of them.
Lavabit is quite possibly the last free web-based email provider that’s not wholly owned by a major corporation. The shutdown came suddenly and without warning. Ladar Levison, owver of Lavabit, posted this statement on the site earlier today:
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
Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.
It’s not just Lavabit that is going through this. Both Google and Microsoft have been actively petitioning the government to allow them to let their users know precisely what requests have been made of their user’s data, all of them have been denied. Levison decided he would rather shut down the entire operation than be forced to comply with actions he felt were illegally invasive to American citizens. Now that’s called standing up for your beliefs.