NSA

Email Firms Closed Quickly To Deny User Data to Government Snoops

Heading off the surveillance state

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In a note posted on the company's website Thursday, Levison wrote, "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."

The other company took pre-emptive action. Fast-growing Silent Circle, whose clients range from world leaders to human rights activists to special ops operatives, shut down its e-mail pipeline, although it continues to provide encrypted phone, text and video services. Without warning Thursday, the firm not only quit the business, it destroyed its servers. Clients' e-mails vanished without a trace.

"There was no 12-hour heads up," Mike Janke, Silent Circle's CEO and co-founder, said in a telephone interview. "If we announced it, it would have given authorities time to file a national security letter (demanding information). We decided to destroy it before we were asked to turn (information) over. We had to do scorched earth."