Scottish computer scientist Lauri Love may be extradited to the United States in order to stand trial for reportedly hacking into the United States (U.S.) government’s servers, in accordance with a British judge’s ruling on Friday, 16 September.
Love, 31, is a native of Stradishall, England and a University of Glasgow alumnus. The US. government requested Love’s extradition under the accusation that he, in coalition with the hacking group known as Anonymous, had hacked several of the nation’s agencies’ servers including those of the FBI and U.S. Department of Defence between 2012 and 2013.
Love could face trials in three different states in the US, with a maximum sentence of 99 years, if convicted.
Conversely, the same charges in England would carry a maximum sentence of just two years and eight months.
Whilst the Human Rights Act is often used to prevent cases of deportation, it is scarcely used to prevent extradition to the U.S.
If UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd approves Love’s extradition, he will have 14 days to file for appeal to a higher court.
Prior to the ruling, Love, who suffers from both depression and Asperger’s Syndrome, stated that the heavy penalties he may face from a US court would prove significantly damaging to his mental health and could ultimately drive him to suicide, according to a court document released by the Judiciary of England and Wales.
The document states that Love’s father further emphasised the gravity of his son’s claims, expressing in his statement: “The only thing that keeps Lauri from killing himself is me and my wife and having him at home with us. He has told me very clearly he would kill himself if there was an order for extradition.”
It further states that Love’s mother fears that imprisonment may also affect her son’s physical health, as she stated that Love has both asthma and eczema and exhibits more intense symptoms when under mental stress.
Throughout the case, Love has accumulated a network of supporters who are determined to stand for what they see as not criminal activity, but ‘hacktivism’.
The Courage Foundation, an organisation that raises money to defend whistle-blowers, journalists, and “the public’s right to know”, has adopted Love as one of its beneficiaries, placing him in the company of individuals such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.
“I know that Lauri’s legal team will apply to appeal this ruling, and the Courage Foundation will continue to support Lauri until his safety is assured”, Sarah Harrison, director of the Courage Foundation, said in a statement released on the Foundation’s website.
In spite of this show of support, district judge Nina Tempia stood by her ruling at Westminster Magistrate’s Court, stating in her decision that Love “faces extremely serious charges.”
She continued: “I accept Mr Love suffers from both physical and mental health issues but I have found the medical facilities in the United States prison estate on arrival and during any sentence if he is convicted available to him, are such that I can be satisfied his needs will be comprehensively met by the U.S. authorities.”
Love is not the first British hacker to face extradition charges to the U.S. In 2012, Glasgow-born Gary Mckinnon won his 10-year legal battle against extradition following Theresa May’s decision to block any further proceedings.
Mckinnon was accused of hacking into U.S. computer systems in an attempt to bring them down in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Whilst admitting to hacking into the computer systems, Mckinnon claimed to have been in search of classified documents about UFOs.
Like Love, Mckinnon has Asperger’s Syndrome. Many of his supporters claimed this factor resulted in a high level of social naivety for which he could not be held criminally responsible.
In an article published by The Guardian, Mckinnon’s mother has called for new safeguards to be put in place to protect those with Asperger’s, calling Love’s extradition a “cruel punishment.”