Attorneys for recently shuttered email service provider Lavabit have asked a federal appeals court to unseal records in the case between the company and the US government so that interested parties may file amicus briefs, according to reports.
Lawyers for Lavabit filed a motion Tuesday with the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, asking that the records in the case be unsealed so the public can be informed about the case and so that parties wanting to filed amicus briefs with the court have a better factual basis to do so. The name of the company and what appears to be that of Lavabit owner Ladar Levison were deleted from the public filing, but the circumstances surrounding the case make clear it pertains to Lavabit.
Lavabit abruptly shut down in August, citing a decision to avoid becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people.” A cryptic message posted on the company’s website by owner Ladar Levison at the time indicated that the most likely underlying trigger was a government request for user data (one that fell outside of a typical law enforcement request). A subsequent public interview with Levison and his attorney seemed to support such speculation.
Since the shutdown of Lavabit and in the the wake of reporting on NSA surveillance, others have taken various similar actions over privacy concerns.
Silent Circle, which offers several secure services, decided to shut down its Silent Mail product in August. The company noted that it had “not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government,” but said “we see the writing [on] the wall” and referenced Lavabit’s shutdown.
Pamela Jones, the editor of legal and technology site Groklaw, also posted a goodbye message last month, citing her own privacy concerns over the dependence on email.
The Lavabit case has drawn much public interest in the subject because of the potential impact to other similar companies and services. The document filed Tuesday indicates that “several organizations and entities have expressed an interest in filing amicus briefs.” Without access to at least some of the details in the case outside of what’s been publicly reported, it would be difficult for supporting organizations to file such briefs.
Mike Scarcella of the National Law Journal and Legal Times posted a tweet earlier today indicating that the DOJ was given a deadline of October 2nd to reply to the Lavabit motion.
— Mike Scarcella (@MikeScarcella) September 25, 2013
Politico also offers this interesting observation at the conclusion of its post:
Records of the cases at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. remain completely sealed. But docketing information made public by the Fourth Circuit indicates that a search warrant and some type of surveillance order were requested on July 16 and granted on August 1 and August 5 of this year. The orders were formally entered on August 16 and appealed on August 28, the docket says. Senior Judge Claude Hilton presided. He also issued the warrant for Snowden’s arrest in May.
A copy of the motion can be read here.
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