Email Encryption Services Shutting Down To Avoid Forced Compliance With Government Demands


Last week, the email provider reportedly used by National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden was shut down. The owner cited an ongoing court battle that couldn’t be discussed.

Lavabit, a company specializing in high-security email, launched in 2004. The company provided users advanced email encryption designed to thwart the very kind of government snooping that Snowden revealed.

According to reports, Snowden used a Lavabit email address to invite people to a press conference at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow in July after fleeing the United States to avoid government retaliation for his leaks.

In announcing that he would be shuttering the service, Lavabit owner Ladar Levison posted the following message on the company’s website:

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.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

It’s likely that Lavabit has come under attack by the Federal government for fighting a Patriot Act or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act statute that allows government investigators to force companies to hand over user information without informing them.

Silent Circle — a tech firm that offers to customers in 126 countries a host of encrypted communications options including email, chat and voice calling — also decided last week to do away with its email service to avoid having to turn over confidential customer information to the government.

The company announced on its website:

Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.

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.

Lavabit’s closure and the removal of Silent Circle’s encrypted email service from the market lend credence to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s recent report that the Federal government’s spying not only affects American privacy, but will also hurt the economy.

And some international businesses have already made moves to heed Levison’s warning against “trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.” According to ITIF, the economy could suffer losses of $21.5 billion to $35 billion over the next three years because of government spy programs.

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.

  • enufalready

    You can run but you can’t hide! Big Brother is watching so run baby run!

    • steve

      try canada. just need warm clothing.

      • Debbie Hogan Tate

        Honestly considering that!

  • Offshore-Wealth

    Now that the truth is finally coming out, will the masses of asses wake up, or fall in line and allow the government to further enslave all of us. I think we are finally seeing the answer, we have become a welfare country, where more people are on the dole than are working full time. So does it surprise anyone that we are all being spied on to insure we keep the masses of asses dumbed down. That is the real threat, not terrorists, but the powers that be who want to maintain power over American citizens. Wake Up America.

    • Stuart Shepherd

      The rest of the world is “waking up” to the reality of the completely corrupted american values/socio-political/economic-currency system and is already “jumping ship” or planning to in the near future. When the dollar ceases to be the world’s reserve currency, which it will within the relatively near future- America is toast. America will be toast, definitely, in our lifetimes, and we DID IT TO OURSELVES through our own moral (“liberal”) corruption in every way and there really is no foreseeable way of stopping the Titanic from slipping to the floor of the ocean of history. It is split in half, with the larger and increasingly weightier and water-logged half dragging the other half, with the preacher reading “Revelation” and the band playing “Nearer my God to thee” doing their thing up to the final moment, but even if you’re Rose and Jack at the very back tip- YOU’RE GOING DOWN TOO!!

  • Debbie Hogan Tate

    These sites shutting down is exactly what our government is trying to do so that they can continue monitoring EVERYTHING we do! VOTE THEM ALL OUT! Take back our government!

    • gypsy

      Cant vote out whats already been paid for: the position not the person who sits in it.

  • FreedomFighter

    If you really want to make an extremely difficult to break code — use a book.
    This type of code is almost impossible to break, unless you know what book is being used
    To form words you quote a number for page, line, word/letter. you can even use multiple books with a Book Number, Line Number, Word/Letter Number.
    Just set up the books with whomever ahead of time, agree on the numbering of the books, you can even have a preset scramble of the book numbers every month, —not even super computers or quantum computers can break the code, unless they know the books.
    Laus DeoSemper FI

    • Oldmonkey

      That should only be the 1st level traditional encoding before facing 256 bit strong encryption. The 1st level can be made worse by substitution of Unicode characters from other languages. In essence introducing a phrase and Unicode substitution before using computer encoding. You will need a whole server farm configured for parallel processing, lots of time & money to decipher it. Asymmetrical processing gives machines fits.

      • FreedomFighter

        Ok…but this may be to complicated for most…though I do like the way you think.
        For most a couple of oddball 17th and 18th century books will suffice or esp. if not listed in the library of congress.
        Laus Deo
        Semper FI

        • gypsy

          How about the volumes on Tax Code

          • Vash the Stampede

            How about the Constitution. They’ll never figure that out.

          • chris

            I really love the way you guys are thinking ,keep it up

    • Gregg Weber

      With a book there are rules of what follows what. Notice that that first sentence didn’t have an “e” following “th” as normally happens. There are books:
      The Code-breakers by David Kahn
      The Code Book by Simon Singh
      Codes Ciphers & Other Cryptic & Clandestine Communications
      On the first one in the index under unbreakable there was a reference that I wondered why that would be put out unless the government could read something that we thought was unbreakable.
      There are many ways but the big problem is Brute Force. The government has brute force computers.
      What is needed is what Mary Queen of Scots didn’t have. Code makers that were more inventive than Elizabeth’s code breakers.
      Something that is random and duplicatable by the sender and receiver but unknown to all.
      There are other ways.

      • FreedomFighter

        You don’t have to follow the rules my friend, short hand, gibberish inside, code inside a code etc…some how I doubt they will dedicate that much processing power for an email from Jack Sheet Nobody to find a love letter to his girlfriend.
        Laus Deo
        Semper FI

    • chris

      That is a great idea, your awesome!

  • Gregg Weber

    If not encryption, there is stegenography with many garbage junk messages and “normal” messages for someone to wade through.

  • Cashu

    Have you noticed that there is not even a whisper from any of the brain-dead liberals on the important considerations in this thread? Makes you wonder – since they have such extreme opinions on most everything that touches on American freedom, liberty and rights – just exactly why they are absent on a subject as far-reaching and fundamentally important as this one…



  • ibn insha

    It is a sad day in the life of this country that the government has made it impossible for people to exercise their God given right to speak as they please. Constitution does not mean anything and government can make what ever laws it wants to without being questioned by public for majority of public is addicted to freebies it receives from the government in return for acting like a lapdog.

  • Michael Shreve

    The U.S. government believes its’ RIGHT TO SPY exceeds our RIGHT TO PRIVACY.