When Edward Snowden emailed journalists and activists in July to invite them to a briefing at the Moscow airport during his long stay there, he used the email account “edsnowden” according to one of the invitees. Texas-based Lavabit came into being in 2004 as an alternative to Google’s Gmail, as an email provider that wouldn’t scan users’ email for keywords. Being identified as the provider of choice for the country’s most famous NSA whistleblower led to a flurry of attention for Lavabit, from journalists. and also, apparently, from government investigators. Lavabit founder Ladar Levison announced today that he’s shutting the service down rather than providing information to the government.
Lavabit’s website now displays a message about the shutdown, available in full below, along with a request for help paying the legal bill to fight the government in court.
“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,” writes Levison. “After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations.”
Levison says that he’s under a gag order and thus can’t discuss the government request for information that he has been fighting over the last six weeks. Gag orders like that often come with information requests in national security investigations. Nick Merrill of the Calyx Institute famously spent six years fighting off one of those requests – though the fame only came after the six years were up when he reached a settlement with the government releasing him partially from the gag. …