Snowden’s e-mail provider is closing, cannot legally say why


(Via Miquel C.)

The e-mail service used by National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden is suspending operations. And they can't tell us why — although this cryptic post heavily suggests it has something to do with a government request for information:

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.

Lavabit was created by a group of Texas programmers who had concerns about privacy protections in Gmail. Snowden used their encrypted e-mail service, and the six-week timeframe suggests that Snowden's own account might be at issue.

It seems likely that the government has requested data under a statute that allows it to enforce a gag order, such as the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Civil liberties groups have argued that these gag orders violate the First Amendment.

We don't have much more information now, but assure you we'll be keeping our eyes out for legal paperwork filed by the company in the 4th Circuit.

More stories:

Another e-mail service shuts down over government spying concerns

Lavabit, Silent Circle shut down e-mail: What alternatives are left?

Critics question NSA’s need to keep database

Special Report: NSA Secrets

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Andrea Peterson · August 8, 2013