Lauri Love has not yet set foot in the United States. Certain parties in America—the NSA and the U.S. Justice Department—want to change this for the 31-year-old Briton. They want to extradict him to the U.S. to face an as-yet unknown number of charges, which have been filed in three districts.
It is a complicated legal case that involves different laws in two different countries, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Lauri Love is a hacker who in the late fall of 2012, according to the U.S. Justice Department, “hacked into thousands of networks, including many belonging to the United States military and other government agencies … [and] stole military data and personal identifying information belonging to servicemen and women.”
He was arrested in October 2013 by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which seized 31 digital media items from his home, where he lives with his parents. (Lauri has Asperger’s Syndrome and does not live on his own.) Among the items were computers and external hard drives and SD cards, on which the NCA found … files that were password-protected and otherwise encrypted.
Because Love may have been a part of the hacks against the U.S., which led the U.S. to charge Love with “stealing confidential data,” and because he had files that were password-protected, the authorities assume that the protected files have something to do with the hack. Britain’s NCA served him with an order to compel him to turn over his encryption keys. Love ignored the order. The NCA also sent screenshots of the encrypted files to the United States, which led to the extradiction request. In 2015, the authorities returned materials to Love but held six: a desktop computer, two laptops, two external hard drives and a SD card.
One of the many ironies in this case is that Love and his representatives have not been shown the evidence against him, because that so-called evidence is password-protected and no one has seen it. If Love were to give the authorities the encryption keys and passwords, and the files turn out to be photos of rainbows and puppy dogs and nothing more, he might free himself but he will have injured the centuries-long fight against self-incrimination. As things stand, he is facing charges that can only be given legal merit through self-incrimination.
In a brilliant move, Love filed a civil suit to get his property returned to him. The NCA took this as an opportunity to compel him to give them the encryption keys. In essence, their court filing read that they would be happy to supply him with his property but the only way they could be really, really certain it was his property was if he would be kind enough to supply the passwords and encryption keys that they needed to coincidentally use to charges him with other crimes.
On May 10, the judge, Nina Tempia, rejected the NCA’s arguments. She wrote that the NCA was officially requesting “the applicant [Love] to explain his interest in the property. The NCA submits this ‘lends some support to its submission that Mr. Love should in this case be required to provide the encryption key or password as only thus will the court be able to adjudicate fairly upon the complete contents of the devices.’ I am not persuaded by this argument.”
Love’s suit to force the NCA to show its hand was a brave stand on behalf of privacy and against self-incrimination. Judge Tempia declined to set the precedent that would have established self-incrimination is the legal means to prosecuting whistle-blowers, journalists, and reporters’ sources.
The extradiction request from the United States remains, and tomorrow the same judge, Nina Tempia, will hear arguments. A ruling is expected this week.
The Courage Foundation, which has been aiding Love in his legal fight for his life, estimates that if Love is sent to the U.S. to face the charges (the number of which remains unknown), and if he is “convicted of all charges and the sentences are served consecutively, he faces a maximum sentence of 99 years in jail in the United States.” An argument against sending him here on humanitarian grounds is being filed.
The Courage Foundation also put together this poster, which explains things quite well:
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