News Release

Snowden’s Email Provider Shuts Down to Avoid “Being Complicit in Crimes Against the American People”


Boing Boing reports: “Remember when word circulated that Edward Snowden was using Lavabit, an email service that purports to provide better privacy and security for users than popular web-based free services like Gmail? Lavabit’s owner has shut down the service, and posted a message on the home page today about wanting to avoid ‘being complicit in crimes against the American people.’ According to the statement, it appears he rejected a U.S. court order to cooperate with the government in spying on users.”

The statement from Lavabit owner Ladar Levison also says: “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. … 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.”

An update from the Guardian states: “Silent Circle, another provider of secure online services, announced … later Thursday night that it would scrap its own encrypted email offering, Silent Mail.”

Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian reports Edward Snowden — who, it was recently revealed, used Lavabit’s email service — as saying: “The President, Congress, and the Courts have forgotten that the costs of bad policy are always borne by ordinary citizens, and it is our job to remind them that there are limits to what we will pay.

“America cannot succeed as a country where individuals like Mr. Levison have to relocate their businesses abroad to be successful. Employees and leaders at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren’t fighting for our interests the same way small businesses are. The defense they have offered to this point is that they were compelled by laws they do not agree with, but one day of downtime for the coalition of their services could achieve what a hundred Lavabits could not.”

KADE CROCKFORD, kcrockford at, @aclu_mass
Crockford is director of the Technology for Liberty project at the ACLU of Massachusetts. She said today: “That a privacy-centric email service would shut down instead of disclose information about one of its users, as appears to be the case with Lavabit, speaks incredibly highly of the company, and reminds us that even in the face of a seemingly all powerful surveillance state, each of us can bravely refuse to submit. The incident also shines a bright light on a pernicious tool of government surveillance — the National Security Letter — that violates the spirit of every democratic value and the Bill of Rights itself. That Lavabit cannot speak clearly about what actually happened here is chilling. If the United States government is seeking to alienate technologists and people who care about their privacy, it is doing a great job.”

BRIAN DUGGAN, bcduggan at
Duggan is a technologist at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. He said today: “Lavabit’s closing demonstrates a commitment to protect privacy that the U.S. government abandoned long ago and recently began actively attacking. Its shuttering makes it clear that even if a service provider cannot read its customers’ data, they cannot continue to operate in the U.S. without complying with illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens.”