Activist Faces Extradition and 99-Year Sentence on Hacking Charges

Michaela Whitton
April 28th, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — A British activist is fighting extradition to the U.S. after allegedly taking part in a hacktivist protest against the U.S. government. Accused of hacking into government websites — including those of the U.S Army, FBI, NASA and the privately-run Federal Reserve Bank — computer scientist Lauri Love now has three U.S. extradition requests with his name on them. Lawyers have warned he could face 99 years in jail.

First arrested in 2013 for alleged offences under the U.K.’s Computer Misuse Act, Love’s equipment was also seized. Britain’s National Crime Agency attempted to force him to hand over his encryption keys, but he refused to cooperate and was released on bail.

He was arrested again last year at the request of the U.S. government, which issued a number of indictments and corresponding extradition warrants. The FBI and Department of Justice accused Love of hacking into websites including the U.S. Army, NASA, the Federal Reserve and the Environmental Protection Agency. Operation Last Resort (#OpLastResort) was a series of online protests in 2013, which Anonymous hacktivists claimed responsibility for. The cyber attack followed the persecution and untimely death of Aaron Swartz and prompted the federal websites to demand legal reform.

Data protection expert Kevin Cahill has described Love’s case as unbelievably ironic, pointing out that the very same people seeking to extradite the political activist have been convicted of hacking in the U.K. “The United States government was convicted on October 6th of the criminal offence of interception of emails in the United Kingdom,” he told  RT’s Harry Fear.

What’s also ironic is that while Big Brother keeps a beady eye on all of us, the very same governments that classify hackers as criminals are secretly exploiting their expertise, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Just weeks away from his June hearing, Love remains on extradition bail and is required to sign on at a police station twice a week. Claiming he wants the court deciding his fate to be a British one, he says he has been informed the British authorities have no intention of charging him. “The U.S. government has attempted to fight a war against information transparency and hacktivism in general, and I’ve become swept up in that,”  said the 31-year-old activist, who has been described as one of the U.K’s most expert cyber-security scientists.

“I believe that if I am extradited to the U.S., my life is effectively over,” he added.

Love has Asperger’s Syndrome, as did British hacker Gary Mckinnon, who escaped U.S. extradition after a ten-year battle. Central to Mckinnon’s eventual win was the risk that his vulnerable health would decline during U.S. incarceration. Naomi Colvin, of the Courage Foundation, said Love’s case will be a vital test of whether the U.K.’s outdated extradition laws have changed since the Mckinnon case.

Tor Ekeland, Love’s lawyer, called the case a draconian and heavy-handed prosecution. Insisting the U.K. authorities are very much acting on behalf of the U.S., he said he fails to see what the major harm is. He added that while the U.S. has a particular “puritanical zeal”  in its punishment of hackers compared with other countries, it doesn’t do much to deter the real bad actors, which are usually nation states and criminal gangs.

“I don’t think I’ve committed any crimes,” Love said, before adding, “Whether I have done anything illegal is something that gets determined in court.”

The computer scientist’s extradition hearing is at the end of June, with a decision expected in July. You can read more about the case and show him support here.

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