A Government Error Just Revealed Snowden Was the Target in the Lavabit Case

It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets for years: the identity of the person the government was investigating in 2013 when it served the secure email firm Lavabit with a court order demanding help spying on a particular customer.

Ladar Levison, owner of the now defunct email service, has been forbidden since then, under threat of contempt and possibly jail time, from identifying who the government was investigating. In court documents from the case unsealed in late 2013, all information that could identify the customer was redacted.

But federal authorities recently screwed up and revealed the secret themselves when they published a cache of case documents but failed to redact one identifying piece of information about the target: his email address, Ed_Snowden@lavabit.com. With that, the very authorities holding the threat of jail time over Levison’s head if he said anything have confirmed what everyone had long ago presumed: that the target account was Snowden’s.