The United States and the United Kingdom are strategic allies, but when it comes to extradition of hackers, there is a bumpy history.
In 2002, the US charged British citizen Gary McKinnon with hacking US military computers, but after a decade-long legal battle the British government decided not to extradite McKinnon for prosecution in the United States.
This makes friends of Lauri Love, who presently faces felony hacking charges in three US states, optimistic about his future. According to authorities, Love used the following handles online: “nsh,” “peace,” “shift,” “route,” and “Smedley Butler.” The government claims that Love compromised numerous highly sensitive government computer systems, including the Chicago Federal Reserve, the Army, and the EPA, between the three indictments.
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According to a New York indictment, Love was brazen in his activities, bragging to other hackers about breaking into the Chicago Federal Reserve and disclosing pranks he intended to play from there. It also accuses Love of a “sequel injection,” which is clearly the indictment author’s interpretation of SQL injection, the database compromising methodology. From the indictment:
Love used his unauthorized access to locate and steal certain confidential information residing on the Federal Reserve servers, including the names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of users of the Federal Reserve computer system. Love then disseminated that information publicly by, among other things, posting the information to a website that previously had been hacked and that he controlled.
New Jersey is the latest to request extradition of the 29-year-old prankster, but they may run into the same obstacles Virginia and New York have in the past. The UK, an EU member state, has very particular policies when it comes to turning over citizens for computer crimes. Moreover, many Europeans, including officials, have a categorical distrust of the American justice system.
Love’s British lawyer Karen Todner has said in the past that all attempts to extradite Love will be “vehemently opposed.” In the case of Gary McKinnon (who was looking for proof of UFOs), the extradition was ultimately denied because McKinnon suffered from serious mental illness, and UK Home Secretary Theresa May believed that McKinnon would likely commit suicide if he faced the charges.
In the case of Lauri Love, it is unclear what the extradition fight will center around, but even if the UK decides to extradite, Love can appeal to the European Union. It could be several years before Love sees the inside of an American courtroom, if ever. In the meantime, he is out on bail on all three arrests and not responding to media requests. A grassroots Facebook group has organized in support of Love calling itself “No Love for the US Government.”
Here is a video of a younger Love addressing Glasgow University about two years before he was first arrested.