Lavabit, a Texas-based semi-secure e-mail service, has been shut down after refusing to turn over e-mail correspondences between Edward Snowden and unknown others. It was reported in July that Snowden was using the service to communicate with others.
Before it’s closure, the Lavabit website explained its process for securing e-mail messages:
The short description is that for users of this feature, incoming e-mail messages are encrypted before they’re saved onto our servers. Once a message has been encrypted, only someone who has the account password can decrypt the message. Like all safety measures, encryption is only effective if it’s used.
Ladar Levison, founder of Lavabit, released a statement today announcing the closure of his project.
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
If you’re interested in contributing to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund, click ‘here.’