Yesterday, encrypted e-mail service Lavabit closed its service. Lavabit is an e-mail service that was reportedly used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and a somewhat cryptic message from Lavabit owner and operator Ladar Levison suggests the service had to shut down due to pressure from the US government. In his farewell message, Levison explains that he did not want to become complicit in crimes against the American people and that he decided to walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by closing his e-mail service. Additionally, he strongly discourages anyone from trusting private data to any company with physical ties to the US.
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.
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC
Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.
Less than 24 hours after the closure of Lavabit, encrypted communications firm Silent Circle announces that it's shutting down Silent Mail, its encrypted e-mail service. Silent Circle apologizes to its users , they claim they see the writing on the wall and note it's no longer possible to provide safe e-mail. Silent Circle claims they decided that it's best to shut down Silent Mail now because they don't want to wait until they receive subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government:
We’ve been debating this for weeks, and had changes planned starting next Monday. 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 Phone and Silent Text, along with their cousin Silent Eyes are end-to-end secure. We don’t have the encrypted data and we don’t collect metadata about your conversations. They’re continuing as they have been. 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.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Silent Circle CEO Michael Janke reveals they wanted to be proactive because they knew the US would come after them and because they didn't want to continue to offer an e-mail service that had become insecure:
“It goes deeper than that. There are some very high profile people on Silent Circle- and I mean very targeted people- as well as heads of state, human rights groups, reporters, special operations units from many countries. We wanted to be proactive because we knew USG would come after us due to the sheer amount of people who use us- let alone the “highly targeted high profile people”. They are completely secure and clean on Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Eyes, but email is broken because govt can force us to turn over what we have. So to protect everyone and to drive them to use the other three peer to peer products- we made the decision to do this before men on [SIC] suits show up. Now- they are completely shut down- nothing they can get from us or try and force from us- we literally have nothing anywhere.”