The email service allegedly used by "NSA leaker" Edward Snowden is no more.
The owner and operator of Lavabit, which encrypts communication between two people, shut down the site and left a cryptic message on its homepage.
"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 wrote. "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."
How do we know this is the service Snowden used? As Quartz reports, a representative from Human Rights Watch posted Snowden's email address on Facebook. Also, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian journalist who has been in contact with Snowden, said so on Twitter earlier today.
As to what could be going on: Businesses are sometimes served with either Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders or a National Security Letter that usually come with a gag order. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an explainer. Bill wrote about Google's request to the FISA court to lift the gag order; and back in March, we wrote about a constitutional challenge to National Security Letters.
Update at 4:52 p.m. ET. Lavabit Has Complied In The Past:
Wired reports that the the pro-privacy Texas company has complied with search warrants in the past:
"Court records show that, in June, Lavabit complied with a routine search warrant targeting a child pornography suspect in a federal case in Maryland. That suggests that Levison isn't a privacy absolutist. Whatever compelled him to shut down now must have been exceptional."