The High Court of England today granted Lauri Love permission to appeal his extradition to the United States. No date has been set for the hearing.
Permission was given because “the High Court acknowledged that the grounds [for appeal] raised some issues of great importance,” according to one of Love’s lawyers, Karen Todner.
In a post on Facebook, Love wrote, “Not getting kidnapped yet.” He also told the Courage Foundation: “Every day you wake up to some good news is a blessing, and we can’t take any blessings for granted these days. Good news comes scantly between crisis and calamity. I’m thankful the High Court have recognized the strength of our grounds for appeal and the great importance of the issues raised by the case.”
Love, 32, is an alleged British hacktivist whom the United Kingdom has agreed to send to the United States to face charges of computer hacking here despite pleas from 114 MPs that he not be extradited. Love is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, severe depression, and other conditions. His health has deteriorated with the wait for each step in is case to unfold. His lawyers have argued that he is unlikely to receive needed care in the American prison system, either while he awaits his trials in the United States or after any conviction and sentencing.
Alexander Love, Lauri’s father, who is a prison chaplain, told a documentary crew last year that Lauri has told his parents that he intends to end his own life rather than face prison in America, and that, “When Lauri says he will kill himself if taken to America, I believe him to be stating something he intends to do.”
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.
The appeal will be the first test of the UK’s “forum bar,” which was instituted in October 2013 to protect the most vulnerable British citizens from extradition to jurisdictions in other nations (the ultimate change of legal forum). Gary McKinnon, a former hacker from the United Kingdom, fought against extradition to the United States for almost a decade and in October 2012, the then-Home Secretary invoked the forum bar to block his extradition. The Home Secretary at the time said in the House of Commons: “Mr. McKinnon is accused of serious crimes. But there is also no doubt that he is seriously ill. He has Asperger’s syndrome, and suffers from depressive illness. Mr. McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr. McKinnon’s human rights.” The Home Secretary who spoke those moving words was Theresa May, who is now the Prime Minister.
The current Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, signed the order to approve Lauri Love’s extradition to the United States in November 2016. The McKinnon and Lauri Love stories are sufficiently similar that Liberty, a British-based human rights group which assisted in McKinnon’s case, will present evidence on behalf of Lauri Love.
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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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