Writes Ladar Levinson owner and founder of Lavabit on the Lavabit blog:
"My Fellow Users, 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. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what's going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests."
Lavabit was reportedly the email service of choice for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Then there is this post from Jon Callas of Silent Circle, the "Global Encrypted Communications Service":
"Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they 'be complicit in crimes against the American people.' We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now."
Callas goes on to warn about email as a secure communication method:
"Email that uses standard Internet protocols cannot have the same security guarantees that real-time communications has. There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the email protocols themselves. Email as we know it with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP cannot be secure."
Not only does the U.S. government actively collect data from the private communications of its citizens (aka, "spying"), we make it easy when we use email.
U.S. citizens have little by way of opportunity to access fully secure, end-to-end encrypted email that is not subject to U.S. national security laws. This article at NetworkWorld, now two years old, demonstrates the difficulty of finding such a service and, in fact, predicted the situation Lavabit now endures. That the U.S. government seems to be exploiting the pro-privacy Tor browser is an indication of how far it will go to eliminate private communications altogether.
In short, never, ever, ever, ever, ever send by email anything you do not want read by prying eyes.