Lavabit is (was) a secure email service that became a figure in the public eye following details that Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor and PRISM leaker, used the service. Unfortunately for users of the service, Lavabit's founder and operator Ladar Levison announced today that the service has been shut down following a behind-the-scenes legal issue that he is not allowed to discuss.
Edward Snowden, who first leaked PRISM to the media and later fled to Russia, where he'll now be staying for at least the next year or so, reportedly used a Lavabit email account as "firstname.lastname@example.org." Whether such a revelation led to Lavabit's troubles or the company was targeted before that is unknown, but the end result is the same. The announcement was posted on Lavabit's website today, with the rest of the service being inaccessible.
Said Lavabit's owner:
"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.
He then goes on to say that the company is in the process of submitting paperwork that will appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Should the court respond in its favor, Lavabit could then be brought back "as an American company." Unfortunately, no details about the reasons for the decision to close the service was made known, nor what, precisely, Lavabit's founder is pursuing in court.
One can speculate about possible reasons it was shut down, but unless more information is divulged - or leaked - nothing official is known. Given Levison's current efforts, we'll likely be hearing updates in the relatively near future, and as always we'll update you when we do. Until then, Lavabit's founder offered a rather ominous warning: "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."