In 2013, the US Government sent a court order to a secure email service, Lavabit. The order told the company to assist it in spying on a particular customer. Until now, the identity of the target was unknown.
The owner of what was known as Lavabit, Ladar Levison, was barred from identifying the customer that the authorities wanted information on. If he was to release such information, he would be under the threat of contempt, and possibly be served jail time.
Information on the customer was redacted from all court documents and was never revealed. However, this has now all changed.
When federal authorities were in the process of publishing a cache of documents relating to the case, they forgot to redact one minor detail - the email of the customer they were seeking information on.
The email address was that of Edward Snowdens. Quite clearly the document stated "Information Associated with Ed_Snowden@lavabit.com".
The authorities, who handed down an order on Levison to prevent him from ever releasing information on the person they were seeking, have gone ahead and released it publicly themselves.
Documents for the case were being published to the federal court system, Pacer, on March 4th, after Levisons long battle for transparency relating to the case, as it ruined his business. Transparency site, Cryptome, noticed the documents and published them online, for all to view.
Levisons lawyer, Jesse Binnall, refused to comment on the governmental error, stating that:
Due to the letter and spirit of the court’s January 7, 2016 order, Lavabit has no further comment on the unredacted email address.
The January 7th 2016 order that Binnall mentions, is in reference to a refusal from the court to unseal documents relating to the case, along with ending the non-disclosure order.