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Snowden’s Preferred Email Service, Lavabit, Shuts Down Rather than Comply with US Government Requests

DR

Brantly Millegan - published on 08/09/13 - updated on 06/07/17

A letter from the owner of Lavabit does not mention Snowden explicitly or give more information as to why he shut down the service, but explains that he can't give more details due to US law.

The encrypted email service Lavabit shutdown services on Thursday, with a letter from owner Ladar Levison posted on the Lavabit website saying that he was "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." In July, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch said Edward Snowden was using a Lavabit email address.

Levison's letter does not mention Snowden or give more information as to why he shut down the service, but explains that he can't give more details due to US law.

"I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision," Levison says in his letter. "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."

Levison says he is already preparing to take his case to court and hopes to be able to resurrect Lavabit in the future.

Levison concluded his letter with a warning: "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."

Lavabit was founded in 2004 by Ladar Levison as a more secure and private alternative to mainstream email providers which use information from users' emails to target advertising. Ghacks.net reported in July that Lavabit had 350,000 users and was "probably the most secure, private email service" available at that time.

Here is the full text of the letter from the Lavabit website:

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.

Sincerely,
Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

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