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Lavabit reopening to allow access to recover data

Lavabit, the encrypted e-mail service that suddenly shut down after reportedly being linked to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, announced Monday it will briefly restore access so that former clients can retrieve their data.

The service, which used encryption to prevent messages from being read by anyone other the sender or recipient, will provide former users access to e-mail archives and personal account data on Thursday, Lavabit owner and founder Ladar Levison said in a statement. During a 72-hour period that began today at 5 p.m. PT, users will have the option of changing their password on a Web site with a newly secured SSL key.

The service abruptly closed in August, with Levison mysteriously saying he’d “been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.”

He said at the time that laws prevented him from being more specific, but recently-unsealed court records revealed that the service closed after receiving a search warrant from the FBI demanding that it turn over the keys to its data encryption to further the agency’s effort to trace a single Lavabit user. Lavabit was the service Snowden allegedly used to send a message to a Human Rights Watch representative in July.

Within hours of Lavabit’s closure, Silent Circle, which makes software that encrypts phone calls and other communications, announced that it could “see the writing on the wall” and decided it best to shut down its Silent Mail feature.

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