News by VICE

U.K. signs extradition order for British man facing U.S. hacking charges

by Ben Bryant
Nov 15 2016, 12:07pm

The U.K. government has signed an order for the extradition of a British hacker who allegedly stole a large amount of data from U.S. government agencies including the Federal Reserve, NASA, and the FBI.

Lauri Love, a 31-year-old British student and activist who has Asperger syndrome, had hoped to remain in the U.K. to face hacking charges, but his legal battle to do so looks dim after British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in a statement Tuesday that she had signed the extradition order after having “carefully considered all relevant matters.”

“We’re disappointed, obviously, but we did expect it,” Love told VICE News on Tuesday. “We were told that the Home Secretary doesn’t have the discretion to consider human rights. She was only allowed to refuse on very narrow legal grounds, which she deemed not to apply.”

The UK Home Office said Love “has been charged with various computer hacking offense, including targeting U.S. military and federal government agencies.”

Love is alleged to have placed hidden backdoors within networks between October 2012 and 2013, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage to systems.

“The fact that we’re now expecting a Donald Trump presidency makes it a lot harder for me to predict the trajectory of the U.S. in terms of its attitude to law and order,” said Love.

Love, who also suffers from depression, has previously said that imprisonment in the U.S. could drive him to suicide. “I won’t go to the U.S.,” he told VICE News in August. “If, somehow, I was successfully kidnapped and put on a plane to the U.S., then I would entertain no prospect of a fair trial of justice, of being looked after correctly, so at that point it’s very hard to imagine that I would want to achieve anything other than the end of my own life.”

Love’s history of mental health problems and his risk of suicide have formed a key part of his defense against extradition. His case has parallels with that of hacker Gary McKinnon, whose extradition to the United States was blocked by then-Home Secretary Theresa May in 2012, because of the increased risk of suicide the move posed to him.

In the wake of the McKinnon intervention, May introduced measures to enable U.K. courts to decide whether a person should stand trial in the U.K. or abroad — a so-called forum bar. But this did not apply to Love’s case.

During a previous legal challenge to avoid extradition, district judge Nina Tempia accepted that Love suffered from “both physical and mental health issues,” but said she believed provision for his condition was adequate in the U.S.

Several legal avenues remain open to Love. His lawyers plan to appeal to the High Court, with possible further appeals to the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

Love, thus far, has refused to comment on whether he carried out the hacking. “I’m not at liberty to discuss any of the substance of the allegations until the correct procedure is followed through, I’m charged, and I get access to the evidence, and I form a defense against those charges,” he said.