Last week, Lavabit, the privacy-conscious email service, suspended operations by its owner Ladar Levison while he fights the US government over Constitutional rights in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. In his letter to his customers, Mr. Levison wrote
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
Lavabit allows its customers send highly encrypted emails that even if intercepted by a third party could not be opened without a password. Based in the US, it is the e-mail service that was allegedly used by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In an exclusive interview with Amy Goodman on Tuesday’s Democracy Now!, Lavabit owner Ladar Levison and his lawyer, Jesse Binnall discuss why the decision was made to shut down rather than comply with a government order
Transcript can be read here
“I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.
“I mean, there’s information that I can’t even share with my lawyer, let alone with the American public. So if we’re talking about secrecy, you know, it’s really been taken to the extreme.
“And I think it’s really being used by the current administration to cover up tactics that they may be ashamed of.”
Another encrypted service, Silent Circle has also announced it has shut down. Although it had not yet received any government requests for data, Silent Circle told Tech Crunch that it knew the government would come after them because of the high-profile nature of its users.