Alleged hacktivist Lauri Love faces an uncertain future. Attending University for his Master’s in Electrical Engineering, his studying time has to be juggled with his “checking in with the local police” time, as well as his “preparing for court appearances” time, his “dealing with lawyers” time, and of course there’s the ever-present “being an activist” time to take into account too. While he has the assistance of lawyers to fight a US extradition request, he alone is handling the civil case in which he is suing the government for the return of property they seized in a raid on his home. He has been successful in regaining at least some of the devices, but continues to pursue the case until they have all been returned.
The US government claims that he, with some others, hacked into the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the Missile Defense Agency, Federal Reserve, and the US Army, in retaliation for the suicide of information activist Aaron Swartz, who killed himself rather than face a lifetime labelled “felon” and an indeterminate prison sentence. If extradited to the US to face charges, Love estimates he faces 12 years in prison, although depending on the judge, that may be optimistic.
Love has been successful at getting both cases scheduled for the same court, which simplifies travel arrangements if nothing else; they may even be heard by the same judge. To that end, he has posted an appeal on geek central site Github asking for letters of support. These will be taken into account by the court, whether the sender is personally acquainted with the subject of the letter or, whether the sender is writing from a more generalized position of civic and political interest.
You can write even if you’re not from the UK. Donations can be made on the Courage Foundation FreeLauri support site.
Since Lauri is a sometime contributor here, the least we can do is post the whole thing:
In just a few months, Lauri Love will go before a judge in April at Westminster Magistrates Court, London.
We encourage everyone to write their political representatives to strongly oppose Lauri’s extradition:
Letters should be dated and addressed to your elected official using their full name, honorific, and appropriate office address. If you are a resident of the UK, you can use the websitehttps://www.writetothem.com/ to easily and officially write to your local councillors, MP, MEPs or any member of the House of Lords.
In the body of the letter, briefly discuss yourself – who you are, your position in work or your role in the community. If you know Lauri personally, and can offer some personal observations, you will want to mention this in your letter. If you are not personally acquainted with Lauri, explain why you are interested in his case. Right now, we are not arguing innocence or guilt. We are only asking that Lauri be given every opportunity for a fair trial, before a jury of his peers, which we do not believe is possible in the United States.
You may ask your MP to raise the matter in Parliament, or to write to the Secretaries of State for Home Affairs, Theresa May; Justice, Michael Gove; and/or Security, James Brokenshire, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and the office of the Attorney General.
It would be helpful to include some of the following points:
- Lauri is a citizen of the UK, and resided in the UK at the time of the alleged offenses. Therefore, we feel he should be tried in the country where he resides, and where the alleged offenses occurred. He was arrested by the National Crime Agency in October 2013 under UK law, deprived of various property and data which has not been returned. He was kept on police bail 9 months. At all times the NCA has maintained that their investigation is ongoing. The interests of justice would be best served for any prosecution to be conducted in the UK.
- The UK-US extradition arrangements mean the US does not have to substantiate its evidence against Lauri and he cannot defend against extradition on the basis of the evidence of lack thereof. This is entirely one-sided and a higher evidential bar is required for US citizens to be extradited to the UK, which happens far more rarely than the UK extradites to the USA.
- In February 2014, Lauri was served with a ‘section 49 RIPA’ court order, compelling involuntary disclosure of encryption keys and passwords under threat of a two year prison sentence. Lauri did not comply, but there has been no charge pressed for this or offences under the Computer Misuse Act. Using extradition as a punishment for refusal to subvert personal security and be forced into cooperation with prosecution is a highly troubling tactic.
- On the day of Lauri’s arrest in October 2013, the NCA begged the DOJ in Washington DC not to go ahead with their planned press release, naming Lauri and boasting of a successful arrest, as it would have a “potentially disasterous effect on the prospects of a successful prosecution” in the UK. The DOJ went ahead anyway, leading to weeks of sustained press harassment, resulting in anguish to Lauri’s family and security concerns at their place of work. If the decision not to press charges in the UK was influenced by the refusal of the USA prosecutors to respect UK justice conventions on naming uncharged suspects, then it is especially unjust for Lauri to face extradition as a direct result of DOJ interference with his rights as a defendent under UK law.
- Lauri is a life-long activist, and would almost certainly be treated more harshly because of his political views. Similarly political defendants, such as Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond, and Chelsea Manning, were mistreated before and during confinement, with extensive pretrial detention, solitary confinement and other due process violations. These activists have also been retaliated against in prison, with restrictions on privileges, communications, and visitation rights. There is no reason to believe Lauri would be treated any differently. In fact, the extradition request itself directly introduces Lauri as a member of an activist group that engages in political acts of protest against the US government. The political nature of US prosecutions of digital rights proponents and whistle-blowers is well-documented.
- There are no allegations that any efforts were made to profit from any of the alleged offences, and there is no history or evidence of criminality on Lauri’s part. He is neither violent nor criminal and has spent more than two years under close monitoring and restrictive bail conditions without any further questioning or charges. Money spent on prosecution and incarceration is not in the public interest.
- If extradited and tried in the United States, Lauri would tried under the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which US prosecutors use to multiply offenses and threaten extremely long prison sentences (and expensive, long trials) in order to secure plea deals.
- The extradition request is extraordinary in that three separate court districts have requested Lauri and multiple jurisdiction has previously been used as a bullying tactic by DOJ prosecutors, who will threaten a second or even third prosecution if charges are defeated. This can drag out detention and legal costs and is used to secure guilty pleas. This threat was made to Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide after protracted overzealous prosecutorial bullying.
- The maximum sentence for the offences alleged under UK law, if Lauri were to be prosecuted and convicted, is likely to be shorter than the period of pre-trail detention in the USA, especially if there were resistance to plea-bargaining, and given the chances of successive prosecutions with long delays due to large amounts of digital evidence.
- In pre-trail detention in the USA, Lauri would have very little access to computers to communicate with lawyers and examine the evidence against him. This was evident in the case of Jeremy Hammond, where he was repeatedly denied access to a computer containing his discovery, which left him completely unable to build a defense against the pending charges,
- Solitary confinement is used rampantly in the United States. Lauri has an extensive history of mental health issues that such abusive treatment would only exacerbate. Solitary confinment has been shown to cause psychological harm and has been deemed torturous by various international bodies.
- Lauri has recently returned to full-time education after a long period of sustained ill-health.He is studying to be an electrical engineer and hopes to contribute to essential transition towards sustainable energy and industry. Lauri has also contributed to discussion of computer security and surveillance issues for public-service television media.
It is best to write in plain, everyday, conversational language, as if you were speaking to the reader. If possible, your letter should be typewritten, and, if appropriate, on business stationary.
While it is preferable to write using your full legal name, if you are anonymous and wish to remain so, please give enough identifying information about you to allow the reader to understand who it is that you are and why you care about Lauri and his case. For example, if you use a Twitter handle, you may use that as your identification. Please do not fail to write a letter because you do not want to give your full name and/or other identifying information to government officials. It is more important that these officials see that the public is strongly opposed to extraditing Lauri than it is you sign your full, legal name.