The waiting is torture enough. Any individual placed in confrontation with the legal system knows that the process somehow moves too quickly in the most painful ways and then too slowly in other, equally painful, moments.
Lauri Love, the British hacktivist who the United Kingdom has agreed to send to the United States to face charges despite pleas from over 100 MPs that he not be extradited, reported earlier today (April 21) that he is becoming ill from the stress.
But in this moment of profound tension, almost in a recognition that this moment is no different than the one immediately before or the one that will follow because no news has been announced, he wrote of his hopes for the rest of us, for his ambition that the fight will continue: “Mostly though I’m worried about the world and whether we can rise to the challenge that we find ourselves in, at this crux of history and generational crisis-cum-opportunity. Show me the courage and strength I need to maintain, and I’ll try to show you the same.”
It is typical of Lauri Love that even in his darker moments he finds hope in his plight, shares that hope (albeit with plenty of sarcasm and wit), and then brings it out to the world.
Love wrote today:
My health is deteriorating fast.
I have been hemorrhaging blood for a while. Last night I woke up to violently vomit my guts up.
This morning after having blood taken I passed out from hypotension and went into shock.
Probably need week-long ECG recording to check for cardio-electric irregularities and someone to figure out why my insides are bleeding.
Fully intend to survive and recover but may not be able to endure more than another year of this stress and trepidation.
The waiting is torture enough.
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 here in the U.S. is known but how the U.S. justice system 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 was sent to President Obama, the U.S. ambassador in London, and the British ambassador in Washington. It asked President Obama to withdraw the extradition requests. (The link in the previous sentence is to a PDF of the letter.)
David Burrowes, a Conservative MP for Enfield, spoke about Lauri Love with Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions in October 2016. 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 that same month with the nation’s Solicitor General, Robert Buckland.
In both of these official conversations, the questions were specific and pressing because the case is pressing, but the answers were not.
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Background about the Lauri Love case, from my June 2016 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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In February 2017, Finnish Broadcasting Company TV1 broadcast a 50-minute documentary about Lauri Love and his family and he and they fight the charges against him together. The film, titled Citizen Love, was direxted by Lauri Danska and Raimo Uunila and received positive reviews. Here is a clip:
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