The news came in the form of a letter from founder Ladar Levison (full text below), who said he had to decide between being "complicit in crimes against the American people" or "walking away after nearly ten years of hard work."
He chose to walk away.
Levison said in the statement that he rejected a US court order to cooperate with the government in spying on users, and slammed Congress for trashing the first amendment of the US Constitution.
The news follows confirmation that US President Barack Obama cancelled his planned one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladamir Putin over Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum. Snowden has been charged with espionage, theft and conversion of government property after releasing details of the US's extensive surveillance program on its citizens.
Lavabit claimed to have 350,000 users and is seemingly the first company to have publicly closed down in protest rather than co-operate with state surveillance programs.
The message from Lavabit's founder and operator Ladar Levison reads as follows:
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.
For more information on the ongoing NSA scandal see iTWire's coverage here.