There was never any official evidence that Edward Snowden was the target when the federal government was investigating Lavabit — but it was obvious, considering it was known that Snowden was using the secure email service in the months following the big reveal on the NSA’s surveillance services.
Lavabit’s owner, Ladar Levison, wasn’t allowed to disclose any information about the case, or he could have faced possible jail time, according to Wired. That information, including identifiers of who the government was targeting, was also redacted in the court documents that were unsealed in 2013.
Updated on 03/18/2017 by Julian Chokkattu: Added in a response from Lavabit’s attorney.
— Lorenzo Franceschi-B (@lorenzoFB) March 17, 2016
Lavabit offered encrypted email services. The government demanded that Lavabit provide its private SSL keys, which would give up the data for all its users. Levison shut Lavabit down in defiance. Recently, Levison filed a motion in December of 2015 to have the court documents unsealed, and to remove the gag order that is keeping him silent.
The court denied the motion, but according to Wired, it did order the re-release of unredacted “previously filed pleadings, transcripts, and orders.” Just about the only thing that would still be under wraps is the identity of the government’s target, though the government managed to get other information redacted as well.
But the government screwed up. In those documents relating to the case, which were published on March 4 by federal authorities, the government forgot to redact a crucial identifier of their target — his email. Spotted by Cryptome, “Ed_Snowden@lavabit.com” was left untouched in the court document, and that is more than enough evidence to finally confirm that the government was indeed after Snowden when they approached Lavabit.
Lavabit’s attorney, Jesse Binnall, a partner at Harvey and Binnall, PLLC, still couldn’t say much after the official reveal.
“Our position is that we still can’t talk about it just yet,” Binnall told Digital Trends. “The documents that were unsealed kind of speak for themselves, but we don’t have any other comment about it.”