The US has ruthlessly persecuted hackers and digital activists for years, and nobody expects that to improve under President Trump. Theresa May set a good example by protecting Gary McKinnon back in 2012. For a Home Secretary in her government now to willingly send a brilliant and vulnerable UK citizen [Lauri Love] to Donald Trump’s America beggars belief.—Sarah Harrison, Courage Foundation Acting Director
On Monday, Amber Rudd, the United Kingdom’s Home Secretary, signed the order to approve Lauri Love’s extradition to the United States. From that day, Monday, he and his legal team have fourteen days to file an appeal. The team reports that it intends to do so.
Love is accused of stealing data from U.S. government agencies in 2012 and 2013 as a part of a hacking protest known as #OpLastResort. Because he is in Great Britain and the data breach took place in the United States, the fact that indictments have been filed against him in three district courts is known but how the U.S. plans to proceed is not known. His lawyers estimate that Love faces—if he is extradited, charged with the crimes that they think he is to be charged with, tried, and convicted—up to 99 years in prison.
Love and his lawyers have yet to see any evidence against him.
If the request to appeal is granted, the appeal will be heard in the spring of 2017. The Courage Foundation, which is helping fund Love’s defense, reports that this appeal may not be the final legal step, as there are motions that can yet be filed on Love’s behalf with the U.K. Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
More than 100 members of Parliament, across party lines, signed a letter in October on behalf of Love that is to be sent to President Obama, the U.S. ambassador in London, and the British ambassador in Washington. It asks President Obama to withdraw the extradition requests. (The link in the previous sentence is to a PDF of the letter.) MPs continue to add their names to the letter.
David Burrowes, a Conservative MP for Enfield, spoke about Lauri Love with Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions last month. She did not reply with specifics. Barry Sheerman, a Labour MP from Huddersfield, spoke of Love’s case on the floor of the House of Commons during a debate two weeks ago with the nation’s Solicitor General, Robert Buckland. In both official conversations, the questions were specific and pressing because the case is pressing, and the answers were not.
Sheerman told the Guardian after this week’s news, “We won’t give up.”
* * * *
Background about the Lauri Love case, from my June column:
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 extradite 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 U.K.’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 extradition 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 charge 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 ruling came on September 16, 2016. See above.
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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