Lauri Love Extradition appeal
Lauri Love, the British hacker accused of infiltrating US government official databases as part of civil disobedience carried out by Anonymous, is appealing against extradition to the US in the High Court of Justice tomorrow and the day after, 29 and 30 November.
If he loses, he will probably spend the rest of his life in prison in a country he’s never been to before.
Lauri, a 32 years old Finnish-British activist who has Asperger’s syndrome, was originally arrested in October 2013.
In October 2014, the Crown Prosecutor Service announced it no longer intended to prosecute Love. His bail was cancelled, and for a while he thought he was free. But in July 2015, Love was arrested again, and found out he was wanted by the US Government.
Love was never told what charges he faced, because the US has never pressed charges against him.
His arrest is believed to be related to Anonymous’ cyber attack Operation Last Resort, which infiltrated US databases including NASA, the US Army and the Missile Defense Agency.
The attack was a protest against the treatment of Aaron Swartz, a prominent US cyber activist, who took his own life January 2013 while awaiting trial for downloading four million academic journals to make a point about public distribution of publicly funded academic research. He faced up to 35 years in prison.
The US government is now pursuing the retribution of Love in the same aggressive way it pursued Swartz.
In 2016, the Westminster magistrates court decreed that he would be extradited; 114 MPs signed a letter to Barack Obama asking that the trial take place in Britain. It was ignored.
There is a precedence of extradition of a British hacker blocked by the Home Office: Gary McKinnon’s case in 2012. His case has parallels to Lauri Love’s. Autistic IT worker McKinnon was accused of hacking into 100 US military and NASA computers in 2001 and 2002, and leaving a note reading ‘your security is crap’.
Theresa May was Home Secretary at the time, and she blocked his extradition under immense pressure to do so by the British public. To prevent similar cases, she created the Forum Bar, a statutory bar to extradition that a requested person can invoke to prevent being made to stand trial overseas, for charges of crimes committed in the UK.
But just one year later, with the 2013 Crime and Courts Act, she allowed an amendment that transferred the decision-making power on extradition from the home secretary back to the courts.
As a result, a year ago Home Secretary Amber Rudd signed papers allowing the extradition of Love to the US. (The Forum Bar is yet to be successfully argued in any legal case.)
Now, all rests on the High Court’s decision in the next two days.
Lauri Love’s legal team will argue that the US prison system is incapable of providing adequate care for someone with acute Asperger’s: therefore to extradite would a denial of his human rights. In his trial, despite the evidence of autism provided by an expert witness, the prosecution insensitively argued that Love was essentially making it all up.
Love has repeatedly said he would try to take his own life if faced with such a harsh and punitive punishment.
Love isn’t protesting his innocence, nor asking to be let off – and nor has he been found guilty. He merely wants a fair trial, which includes being allowed to see the evidence against him, facing trial in the country he committed the alleged crimes, and having his health issues taken into account.
Other than Asperger’s, Love also struggles with depression, has asthma, and chronic eczema.
The US treat hackers very differently to Britain: if found guilty in England, his legal team estimate that he would spend a few months in prison; in the US, he will be at the mercy of the US justice system. Because of the harshly criticized Plea Bargain system in the US, he might not see a trial and be asked to plead guilty without one. If he refused to accept a ‘plea deal’ and is then convicted, he would face a $9 million fine and up to 99 years in prison.
Love is facing trial in three different states – not even the 9/11 bombers were tried in three different jurisdictions. This means he doesn’t stand a chance. If found guilty in one, there would be a ratchet effect on the subsequent sentences, increasing them. Sentences would be served consecutively.
The extradition ruling is deeply flawed and unfair for a number of reasons. It does not require the US to provide and evidence for its claims against Lauri. They can therefore make up ‘costs’ to inflate the seriousness of the accusations.
‘It is likely that the US Government is seeking to make an example of him in order to deter other potential activists,’ says Sylvia Mann, Lauri’s partner. ‘It’s an attempt to save face due to the embarrassment caused by Love's highlighting of their inadequate security, with a catastrophic human cost.
‘Lauri Love deserves to make a living from his unique and undeniable computer skills, not harshly punished for them. Other programmers are now being paid for their services to improve security, a service that Love offered for free in the wake of the Wannacry Virus – the NHS cyberattacks earlier this year.
‘To waste his life locked up for a crime with no actual victims would make a mockery of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and serve as a damning indictment of the continuing misuse of power by the United States Government.’
Lauri Love’s appeal is public. If you would like to get involved, join us at the High Court of Justice on Wednesday 29th in Aldwych, London.