After secure email provider Lavabit—famously used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden—shut its services down in an attempt to avoid what its CEO Ladar Levison called "crimes against the American people," Silent Circle said it would terminate its own email service, Silent Mail.
Unlike Lavabit, which suggested it had received a court order to turn over information about its users, Silent Circle hadn't received a warrant or other notice from the government. Instead, in a statement to TechCrunch, Silent Circle CEO Michael Janke said he anticipated the government would come after them given the nature of the clientele who use Silent Mail. Silent Circle offers other, more inherently secure services, but it saw email as the weak link that would give the government leverage in handing information over.
Here's the statement Janke gave TechCrunch:
There are some very high profile people on Silent Circle—and I mean very targeted people—as well as heads of state, human rights groups, reporters, special operations units from many countries. We wanted to be proactive because we knew [the US government] would come after us due to the sheer amount of people who use us- let alone the “highly targeted high profile people." They are completely secure and clean on Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Eyes, but email is broken because govt can force us to turn over what we have. So to protect everyone and to drive them to use the other three peer-to-peer products—we made the decision to do this before men [in] suits show up. Now—they are completely shut down—nothing they can get from us or try and force from us—we literally have nothing anywhere.
The Guardian, one of the publications to first reveal Snowden's claims about widespread government surveillance, points out that other secure email services may soon come under similar pressure.
In related news, the Obama administration is meeting with representatives from technology companies to allay their concerns about government surveillance programs, Politico reports.