Lavabit Shutdown and Silent Circle Shutters Its E-Mail Service

Lavabit, the e-mail host that gained recent popularity by being the go to host for Edward Snowden, has been forced to shutdown. By the looks of it the order to shutdown came from the glorious defender of freedom known as the United States government:

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.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

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

Since Mr. Levison wrote that he’s unable, for legal reasons, to discuss why he’s being forced to shutdown it’s likely that he either received a national security letter or the National Security Agency (NSA) demanded he created a backdoor in his service less he be harassed with legal charges for cause harm to national security.

As a preemptive move to avoid suffering the same fate, Silent Circle, another organization that attempts to provide means of secure communications, has shuttered its e-mail service:

However, we have reconsidered this position. We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. Yesterday, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system less they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing on the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.

We’ve been debating this for weeks, and had changes planned starting next Monday. We’d considered phasing the service out, continuing service for existing customers, and a variety of other things up until today. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that in this case the worst decision is no decision.

Shutting down their e-mail service before receiving a national security letter or being coerced into installing a backdoor for the NSA is a smart move. At least Silent Circle is able to publicly discuss their reason for doing so, unlike Lavabit.

These shutdowns go to show how far this police state of a country has gone. An organization can’t even provide secure e-mail hosting without becoming a target of the state’s aggression. I can only hope Mr. Levison and the people at Silent Circle moves their operations to a country that respects a man’s privacy, such as Iceland, so they can continue offering services their customers want.