A Texas-based secure email service that was reportedly used by admitted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden — and others wishing for secure online communication — says it is shutting down, and legally can’t explain why.

lavabit

This note appears on Lavabit’s home page. (Image: Lavabit.com)

In a cryptic note posted Thursday to the Lavabit website, owner Ladar Levison said the company is folding rather than becoming, in his words, “complicit in crimes against the American people.”

Here’s the note in full (emphasis added):

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

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

The message doesn’t elaborate, but Snowden’s disclosures have focused attention on how the U.S. government can secretly compel companies to hand over customer information and gag them from talking about it.

Lavabit’s information may be of interest to investigators chasing Snowden’s leaks. Public records show that someone going by “Ed Snowden” registered three addresses with the Dallas firm over the past four years.

But the closure affects more than just Snowden who might have been using the service. In July, Lavabit was reported to have about 350,000 users. Several users have taken to Twitter to express what they’ve lost:

Lavabit sensation. Well, I guess I'm not getting my lost emails back after all. http://t.co/irtlHi7aED
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
@robertcottrell
Robert Cottrell
Seriously #lost my #lavabit account aint even mad you gotta looked at the big picture #noNSA #spying and #snowden isnt at fault #thanksobama
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
#lavabit, another casualty of freedom's lost decade.
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
@pentomino
Nick Bensema
Comment to my previous tweet. I lost my lavabit email account.
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
@mesirendon
Mesi Rendón
With the shutdown of Lavabit I even lost my email address. There's nothing left now that I haven't lost during the past two years.
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
@__SEDU__
Sebastian Dunkel
That's just great, I lost access to all of my emails since Lavabit got shut down, any alternatives that isn't Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo mail?
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
Damnit! Just lost my lavabit email accounts. Anyone know of a comparable email service? #victim #snowden #lavabit
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
@paulbr
paulbr
So Snowden used Lavabit and now the rest of us lose all our emails as my fave ever email provider shuts down. Big thanks to the free West!
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
@a_page
Andy Page
Major respect to Lavabit right now. Proud to have my account there, even if it looks like I'll now lose it. Worth it.
Lavabit Shuts Down Secure Email Services for Reasons It Cant Discuss Silent Circle Follows
@ajrmurphy
Alice Murphy

The secure email service Silent Circle, which TheBlaze previously highlighted among ways to protect yourself from government spying, also shut down after Lavabit.

In a blog post Friday, Silent Circle explained that in light of what happened to Lavabit, “we see the writing on the wall.” Silent Circle said it had not yet received “subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government,” but decided to go dark before that could happen.

SILENT CIRCLE LOGO

Silent Circle shut down its email service but its other end-to-end encrypted communication services will continue. (Image: SilentCircle.com)

“We’ve been debating this for weeks, and had changes planned starting next Monday,” the post stated. “We’d considered phasing the service out, continuing service for existing customers, and a variety of other things up until today. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that the worst decision is always no decision.”

Silent Circle said that its other services – Silent Phone, Silent Text, Silent Eye — which have end-to-end encryption and on which they don’t collect any metadata, will continue to be offered.

“We are still working on innovative ways to do truly secure communications. Silent Mail was a good idea at the time, and that time is past,” Silent Circle stated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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