Edward Snowden's Apparent Email Provider Goes Offline

"I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot."
More
snowdenhands650.jpg
(Reuters/Bobby Yip)

The secure email service said to be used by Edward Snowden has abruptly shut down.

"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," Ladar Levison, the company's head, wrote in a letter posted on the site. "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."

Lavabit uses encryption to prevent emails from being read by anyone but the sender and intended recipient. Snowden was revealed to be using it when a representative from Human Rights Watch posted a message believed to be from Snowden along with an email address, edsnowden@lavabit.com.

It's not clear what prompted Lavabit to shut down. It had suspended service, supposedly for technical reasons, for some 24 hours before the announcement was posted, leading to a mix of consternation and annoyance among its users on Twitter.

Levison couldn't immediately be reached for comment. But from his letter, reproduced below, it's not too hard to speculate that he was asked by the US government to provide information from Lavabit's servers about one or more of its users:

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

Jump to comments
Presented by

Zachary M. Seward is a senior editor at Quartz. He previously worked at The Wall Street Journal and Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab. He teaches digital journalism at NYU.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In