Support Lauri Love, Computer Expert and Activist, Who Faces Extradition to the US in a Life-Threatening Betrayal of Justice

27.11.17

An image created by the campaign to prevent computer expert Lauri Love from being extradited to the US.This Wednesday and Thursday, November 29 and 30, a hearing is taking place at the High Court in London to assess whether Lauri Love, a computer expert with Asperger’s Syndrome, should be extradited to the US for acts of online activism —  allegedly targeting US government websites in the wake of the suicide of computer expert and activist Aaron Swartz in January 2013, along with many other online activists.

There is no evidence that any harm was caused in the US, Lauri has never set foot in the US, the British government has brought no case against him in the UK, and yet, under the terms of the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty, the US is able to demand that he be sent to the US to be imprisoned (in isolation in a maximum-security prison) and subsequently tried (in a broken, punitive system in which huge pressure is exerted to accept a plea deal and a 10-20 year sentence rather than fight and lose and be imprisoned for life). Worryingly, Lauri Love has been openly stating that he could not bear punitive isolation in the US, and would kill himself rather than be extradited, and those closest to him do not dispute this intent.

I have some experience of the chronic unfairness of the US-UK Extradition Treaty, because, back in 2012, I worked to oppose the injustice of the treaty with reference to the cases of Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, who ended up being extradited in relation to a UK website encouraging Muslim resistance to oppression, which was run from the UK, but had, at one point, involved a server in Connecticut — enough, apparently, for extradition to take place.

Both men had been imprisoned for six and eight years respectively in the UK, without charge or trial, while they resisted extradition, and in neither case was there any sign that they would or could have been successfully prosecuted in the UK, but in October 2012 home secretary Theresa May allowed their extradition to take place, and then boasted about it to the Conservative Party Conference.

After a few years imprisoned in the US, both men’s cases were settled with plea deals, and Talha Ahsan was released, while Babar Ahmad was given a short sentence. Both men are now back in the UK, and free men, although what was abundantly clear at the time was that Theresa May had a blatantly racist attitude to extradition, and, while allowing the extradition of Talha Ahsan, a talented poet with Asperger’s Syndrome, and a Muslim, blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon, who had hacked into US websites, and who also had Asperger’s Syndrome, but who, crucially, was white.

For my articles from this time, see, in particular, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan: Why It’s Time to Scrap the US-UK Extradition Treaty and America’s Extradition Problem. For more on Theresa May’s racism, see As Theresa May Becomes Prime Minister, A Look Back at Her Authoritarianism, Islamophobia and Harshness on Immigration.

Because of criticism of the extradition treaty, with relation to Gary McKinnon, the rules changed in 2013, when a “forum bar” was introduced. The Free Lauri website (very highly recommended) explains that the “forum bar” is meant to be “an additional statutory bar to extradition that can be invoked by a defendant to question whether the UK is in fact the proper place to hear a case,” although the site also notes, “The effectiveness of the forum bar has been questioned by legal commentators and it has not really been tested in court.”

Last year, Lauri challenged his extradition in court, but lost. This week’s hearings relate to the appeal that he launched in response to that ruling — the last chance for his extradition to be stopped. If you can come along to the court, please do. You can also ask your MPs to make their voices heard, adding to the 114 MPs who opposed Lauri’s extradition last year.

For an amazing summary of Lauri’s case, please watch ‘The Rhyming Guide to Lauri Love,’ by the talented spoken word artist — and Lauri’s friend — Potent Whisper, via YouTube:

Please also read the following article by Lauri’s partner, Sylvia Mann, published by the Independent yesterday.

My partner Lauri Love could be saving the world from cyber attacks but instead he faces a 99-year prison sentence
By Sylvia Mann, The Independent, November 26, 2017

Lauri’s Asperger syndrome is a gift. It gives him his genius and it gives him his logical outlook on the world, from which his stubbornness arises. He will fight for what’s right even if it kills him.

Lauri Love is an activist, a physicist, a computer scientist, an angel and the person I want to spend my life with. He is stubborn and smart, near to the point of arrogance, and he fights every battle he can against injustice. Next week Lauri will be in court appealing against extradition to the United States where he faces a 99-year prison sentence on allegations British authorities investigated and decided not to charge him for.

Lauri is a much nicer person than I am and he is a much more positive and hopeful person. Where I see climate destruction and oppressive regimes, he sees opportunities to overcome. His hacker mind is hard-wired to solve problems and this world has many.

When you spend time with Lauri, you realise that it is much harder for him to fight against the injustices he is facing personally. He would much rather be fighting for someone else and helping to create a better world.

Most of the time Lauri either is, or would rather be, at home reading papers on quantum physics and cryptography and all the other similarly abstruse subjects that his brain is uniquely configured to solve. Lauri should be in a university working on inscrutable mathematical problems but, because of his Asperger’s, he does not have the luxury of seeing the political problems of the world as separate from him.

Lauri was studying physics and computer science at Glasgow University in 2010 when he got involved in the Occupy movement. This started a spiral of events which culminated in a mental breakdown and him having to return to his parents’ house in Suffolk. A social conscience combined with mental health problems has always been Lauri’s Achilles’ heel.

Lauri’s Asperger syndrome is a gift. It gives him his genius and it gives him his logical outlook on the world, from which his stubbornness arises.

Lauri won’t do anything that goes against his ethics or how he sees things should be. He will fight for what is right even if it kills him. His neurodiversity presents him considerable problems in the world as it is currently calibrated. This is not a kind world to those who are different and the criminal justice system especially so.

US prosecutors accuse Lauri of being part of #OpLastResort, the round of online protests that followed the death of American internet pioneer Aaron Swartz.

The internet wept when Aaron died. There was an enormous public outcry and calls to reform America’s hacking law, the notorious Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Questions were asked in Congress and new laws proposed. #OpLastResort was part of that public outcry.

The US government know that their claims against Lauri will never be tested in court. The way extradition works means that prosecutors do not have to show any evidence to the British authorities. And because those US prosecutors reserve the right to try Lauri three times, in three different districts, with a potential sentence of 99 years, they know he would be under enormous pressure to accept a plea bargain.

Ninety-seven per cent of federal defendants in the United States never get a trial because they are offered a choice of either accepting years in prison if they plead guilty or risking decades to have their day in court. What Lauri is being offered in the United States is not a trial but blackmail with a potential life sentence attached.

Lauri would not be granted bail if he were extradited and there is no doubt that his human rights would be violated in US custody. All the experts testify to it and even the district judge who approved Lauri’s extradition last year accepted that his life is at risk if extradition goes ahead.

What would Lauri’s life have been for if that happens? The US wants his life to be an example to scare anyone who might embarrass the government or launch an enthusiastic campaign to reform draconian laws.

I can see that Lauri’s life is worth more than that, not just to me but to the public at large. The UK judicial system can see it too. All the members of hacking collective LulzSec were prosecuted here in the UK and are now pursuing very fulfilling lives contributing to society, getting PhDs, teaching and working in computer security. At least 13 people have been tried in the UK in the past few years for computer offences that involved foreign servers, including American ones.

Lauri Love cannot become the first UK citizen extradited to the United States on extraterritorial computer crimes charges. He should be able to continue his work improving online security, and be able to finish his university studies.

Earlier this year when the Wannacry virus affected the NHS and closed hospitals, Lauri and his hacking compatriots worked on analysing the malware and compiling a fact sheet. (Another security researcher, Marcus Hutchins, who activated a kill-switch curtailing WannaCry’s spread, is now being prosecuted by the US, who waited until he was on holiday in Las Vegas to arrest him, seeking to avoid the “headache” of extradition.) Lauri is currently working to formalise this process as a social enterprise, Bogaty Hack, to create a volunteer reserve of people to fight the next major cyber-attack which could take lives.

All we are asking for is a trial in the UK, a trial at home. Lauri’s life is worth more than to be a casualty of the US vindictive “justice” system, another young life like Aaron’s with so much potential thrown away for nothing.

Note: For a detailed account of Lauri’s story, see ‘Keyboard warrior: the British hacker fighting for his life,’ a Guardian article from September.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Donald Trump No! Please Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2017), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, an urgent call for support for the British computer expert Lauri Love, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and who faces extradition to the US for allegedly hacking into US government websites in 2013 – although there is no evidence that his supposed actions ever caused anyone any harm. As I know from my work on the case of Talha Ahsan back in 2012, the US-UK Extradition Treaty is one-sided and profoundly unfair. if Lauri committed a crime, he should be tried in the UK, instead of being sent to the US for isolation in a maximum-security prison followed by a trial in a biased system, something that causes him so much fear that he is threatening to commit suicide if it goes ahead. Please watch Potent Whisper’s video about the case, included here, read Lauri’s partner Sylvia Mann’s Independent article (also cross-posted here), and come to support Lauri at the High Court on the Strand this Wednesday and Thursday, November 29 and 30.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Hoping my contribution here helps a little bit. It was great meeting Lauri at the No Social Cleansing in Lewisham gig at The Birds Nest two weeks ago. So difficult when someone is walking around free to comprehend that there are dark forces trying to extradite them.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Sylvia Mann wrote:

    Thanks so much Andy. It was good to see you. Hopefully we’ll see you again on the other side and be able to get back into activism, apart from just Lauri’s case. xx

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    I very much hope so, Sylvia. This whole situation is so disgraceful.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Don’t forget to check out the Free Lauri Love page, and also the page for the hearing. Do come if you can!
    https://www.facebook.com/NoLove4USGov/
    https://www.facebook.com/events/296545204085684/

  6. It’s also about whether the UK is de facto US colony http://www.and… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊) says...

  7. Andy Worthington says...

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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