Lavabit, the secure email provider with over 400,000 users (including me as of last month) was unexpectedly shutdown by its founder, Ladar Levison. We don’t know why exactly because it’s a secret and Levison is under a gag order.
It is likely Levison is “gagged” because he received a national security letter, an administrative subpoena used by the FBI, which has an attached gag order which restricts the recipient from ever saying anything about being served with one. The government has issued hundreds of thousands of such NSLs accompanied with gag orders. The gag orders have been upheld in court because they fall under the Patriot Act which, in my opinion, is one of the weakest, constitutionally violating laws ever passed by Congress.
What could Levison say about his instant shutdown of Lavabit?
“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.”
In probably his most obvious (since so many of us now do have knowledge, thanks to Edward Snowden) and troubling statement he added,
“I think if the American public knew what our government was doing,
they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.”
Democracy Now, the internet news organization, snagged an interview with Lavabit founder and owner Levison. Alongside him was his lawyer who was there to ensure Levison didn’t inadvertently cross over a fine-line that would land him in prison for violating the gag order. If you are somewhere that watching a video wouldn’t be appropriate, there is also a transcript of the interview here: Owner of Snowden’s Email Service on Why He Closed Lavabit Rather Than Comply With Gov’t.
Here is the interview: