Following up on previous coverage (here and here) of alleged British hacker Lauri Love, a 31-year-old British citizen who has Asperger’s syndrome, UK judge Nina Tempia ruled yesterday that Love can and should be extradited to the US to face charges filed in three federal courts.
In her ruling, Tempia said:
Mr. Love has not shown it will be either unjust or oppressive to extradite and there will be a real risk to Mr. Love of being severely ill-treated.
Had the judge decided that such conditions were met, Love could have avoided ever being prosecuted in the US, where he can face life imprisonment for his alleged crimes. His extradition is not yet a concrete reality, however, as Love still has time to appeal the ruling by Judge Tempia. The case will be referred to Home Secretary Theresa May, who ultimately will decide whether or not the UK should extradite one of its citizens. In the past, the UK has chosen not to extradite alleged hackers who suffered mental illness, most notably Gary McKinnon, who never faced trial in the United States.
Love’s alleged activities against the US Federal Reserve and other systems in the US were part of an operation by the hacktivist group Anonymous. The particular operation was called #Oplastresort and was in response to the treatment of Reddit creator Aaron Swartz, who eventually killed himself as a result of being charged for redistributing information from a closed-source educational database. Love is perhaps one of the most notable alleged hackers to be charged with crimes related to the group since the group first became active. Love’s lawyers believe that his treatment in the US prison system would be harsh at best. Tor Eckland, his US-based attorney, said of the matter:
I think, along with almost everything in the US penal system, the mental health care is sub-standard at best. It’s kind of atrocious to throw somebody who is suicidal into solitary confinement, but that’s what they do.
While no UK charges have been filed against Love to date, there is a chance that if he were to win against his extradition, the UK government would come up with charges in relation to the same activities. Love has continually pressed for the return of his computer equipment since it was seized.
Love has a great deal of grassroots support. A group called Courage Love has been supporting him and raising funds to pay for his legal fees. The group believes that chief among grievances with Love’s case is “an unfair extradition treaty with the US.” Tor Eckland downlplays the actual severity of the alleged crimes, telling the press recently:
It’s important to note that none of this information was top secret. I don’t really think any of it was that sensitive. It mainly, as far as I can tell from the indictments, consisted of names, phone numbers, email addresses and a couple of instances where there were credit card numbers which don’t appear ever to have been used anywhere.
US laws against hacking are particularly harsh and have been since before the advent of the Worldwide Web, with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act handing out mandatory minimum sentences for crimes which are outlined in very vague, antiquated terminology.
Whether Lauri Love is ultimately extradited or further harassed by the UK government remains to be seen, but Hacked will follow the case and report accordingly.
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