USA versus Love

There is a case ongoing which is known as The United States versus Love. As always when I mention the law on this site, I am not a Lawyer, therefore I will link to all of my sources inline and allow you to draw your own conclusions. I support Lauri Love and I would like to detail some reasons as to why you should too. I also wish to highlight some things you should be seriously concerned amount regardless of your opinion on Lauri or his case specifically.

Lauri Love is a Finnish-BritishComputer Scientist and Activist who has been arrested twice for allegedly breaking in to America computer systems. Firstly he was arrested in October 2013 after three indictments were brought against him at this point he had computer equipment seized by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA). He was again arrested in July 2015 by UK Officials acting on the orders of the US Government. The FBI and Department of Justice allege Lauri broke in to the computer systems of US Federal Reserve, US Army, US Department of Defence, Missile Defence Agency, NASA, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Health and Human Services, US Sentencing Commission, FBI Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, Deltek Inc, Department of Energy, and Forte Interactive, Inc.  Lauri faced three separate extradition requests from the USA and on the 16th September 2016 a UK court ruled in favor of extradition to the US; the Home Secretary Amber Rudd approved this in November 2016.

I’d like to cover a few major items in this piece: The nature of the Extradition Agreement between the UK and the US, the excessive sentences given by the US for non-violent computer crimes and how these compare to the UK and other states, and the post-McKinnon change to the Extradition Act. I’d also like to highlight Lauri’s situation through this article and hope that you’ll consider supporting him in some way.

The Extradition Act 2003 effectively regulates all requests for extradition to and from the UK. There are a number of issues with the Extradition Act and many of them directly apply to Lauri’s case. The first, is the issue of the uneven nature of the agreement with the United States, a Home Affairs Committee Report was published which covered this matter directly. Starting at the beginning the act is inherently unfair as an agreement between two states, specifically in regards to what is require to enact an extradition. As the report states for extradition from the US to the UK there is a requirement to prove “probable cause”, whereas for extradition from the UK to the US this is not a requirement. For this case the test for extradition is only “reasonable suspicion” which is that the request must be accompanied with information which would justify the issue of an arrest warrant – it’s important to note that this may include information which would not be admissible as evidence in court.

Further, as there is no requirement for prima facie evidence a person cannot therefore fight against the information presented to enact their extradition, no evidence requires to be given only the aforementioned “information”.

There is an argument to say that extradition, which extracts a person from their live, jobs, families – often for many years before a trial can be held – is punishing in itself. Therefore this could be considered punishment before fair trial. Furthermore, when it comes to the trial, if a person is extradited and imprisoned awaiting fair trial it may be exceedingly difficult for that person to launch an as effective defense as they could within the UK due to the combination of imprisonment and unfamiliarity with the US legal system.

Further, there is the issue of Forum, or specifically the Forum Bar of the Extradition Act (Schedule 20). This effectively states that extradition may be blocked if (and only if) it appears that a significant part of the conduct alleged to constitute the extradition offence is conduct in the UK, and in view of that and all the other circumstances, it would not be in the interests of justice for the person to be tried for the offence in the requesting territory. This does in fact bring in the requested persons ties to the UK. For Lauri Love, who has been diagnosed with severe depression and Asperger’s, his support network is in the UK. There are parallels between Lauri’s case and the case of Gary McKinnon, at least in as far as McKinnon was a UK Hacker who targeted the United States and was himself diagnosed with Asperger’s; McKinnon successfully defeated extradition and he was not prosecuted in the UK, in part due to difficulties in bringing evidence from the US.

The Forum Bar was brought in, in part, after actions taken by Theresa May to block the extradition of McKinnon. She announced the creation of the Forum Bar at the same time as announcing she will block McKinnon’s extradition. May Told MPs:

“I have concluded that the ordering of his extradition and his subsequent removal would give rise to such risk to his health and, in particular, to a high risk of his ending his life that a decision to that effect would be incompatible with his human rights under article 3”

There is another parallel with Lauri’s case here. Lauri has stated multiple times that extradition will not happen, as it will result in him taking his own life.

The final item I’d like to raise, almost without comment, is simply the difference in sentence given to well known hackers being prosecuted in the US in comparison to the UK. Lauri is facing 99 years imprisonment if prosecuted in the US. Gary McKinnon faced 60 years. Hector Monsegur faced 124 years. Hector “Sabu” Monsegur was hacking along side Mustafa Al-bassam and Jake Davis each of whom received a sentence of 2 years suspended and 2 years imprisonment respectively, in the UK. So on the US side of the equiasion we have sentences that can exceed a century imprisonment and in the UK we have an expected sentence of around 2 years (as per a section 1 offence under the Computer Misuse Act). It’s worth noting, in regards to extradition, that Mustafa and Jake were both tried in the UK even though their attacks, just like Lauri’s alleged attacks, directly targeted US computer systems.

A final note on Lauri: In the UK under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act section 49 which allows law enforcement to compel a person to disclose encryption keys, for reasons of national security, the prevention and detection of crime, or in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.  Effectively meaning that you may be compelled to disclose passwords to enable a Law Enforcement investigation. Failure to disclose could lead to 2 years imprisonment, without the requirement for additional charges to be brought to enable this charge. This could be interpreted as significantly damaging to citizen privacy in the UK. Section 49 was brought in to effect against Lauri after his first arrest in 2013, he refused to comply but was never charged, courts threw out the case.

Hopefully this overview has brought to your attention some serious nuances of Lauri’s situation and others in a similar situation. To quickly summarize this piece, I support Lauri and I do so for many reasons, including: The unfair, unbalanced nature of the Extradition Act. The weaknesses of the Forum Bar and it’s failures so far to protect the health and well-being of a British Citizen. The excessive nature of US sentences for an entirely non-violent crime. The impact extradition can have on an individual effectively leading to it being a punishment before fair trial. The inability for those facing extradition to fight the information used to enforce their extradition and the fact that information does not require to be admissible as evidence in court.

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