Lauri Love, a British man charged by the US Justice Department with multiple counts of hacking US military and government computer systems, has finally won a protracted battle against extradition. Today, the UK’s High Court declined to certify a motion by the Crown Prosecution Service to overturn Love’s successful February 2017 appeal of the extradition on human rights grounds, effectively ending the extradition effort permanently.
Love was originally arrested in the UK in October of 2013 after using an automated scanner to locate servers within a large range of IP addresses for SQL injection and ColdFusion vulnerabilities and then breaching vulnerable systems and installing Web shells to give him remote administrative-level access. He allegedly managed to compromise servers belonging to the US Missile Defense Agency, the US Army, the Federal Reserve, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Love’s attorneys fought the extradition on the grounds that Love—who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, severe depression, and antibiotic-resistant eczema—would not get appropriate medical attention in a US prison and would be at risk of suicide if he faced the potential 99-year prison term associated with the charges.
There was precedent for this sort of appeal, but not in the courts. In 2012, Theresa May—then Home Secretary—decided to halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US to face trial for a similar hacking campaign, citing concerns that he would commit suicide in US custody. McKinnon was accused of scanning tens of thousands of US government computers for vulnerabilities and then gaining access to a total of 97 military and NASA computers, which McKinnon said he did to find evidence that the US government had obtained extraterrestrial technology. May made that decision based on input from medical experts, who determined he was likely to commit suicide if he faced life in a US prison.
The US had already essentially dropped efforts to extradite Love, but the ruling by the High Court now sets legal precedent that may bar future extraditions of British citizens on hacking charges. In a statement e-mailed to Ars, Naomi Colvin—acting director of the Courage Foundation, an organization that has assisted Love in his extradition appeal—said that as a result of the ruling, “there is now very little prospect of any British hacker ever finding themselves in the same position as Lauri Love or Gary McKinnon. Fifteen years of terrible public policy in which British hackers were left open to the vindictive instincts of US prosecutors have now been brought to an end.”
Love himself said in an e-mailed statement, “The forum bar has now met its first successful test case. US detention and health care provision have been rightly shown to be unjust and oppressive. The era of the US Department of Justice as world police is over.”
Love may still face charges in Britain, but, Colvin said, “We will cross that bridge when we come to it. The Courage Foundation will continue to support Lauri and his family until his legal situation is fully resolved.”