Courage our network

On NCA malfeasance and US government incompetence – Lauri Love’s encryption victory in the international media

Lauri Love’s victory over the NCA on Tuesday made the biggest headlines in his case thus far, bringing long-due British and global attention to his legal battles and their potential ramifications.

The landmark ruling, in which District Judge Nina Tempia rejected the NCA’s attempt to circumvent RIPA and invent an entirely new, permissive mechanism for compelled decryption was featured on BBC news bulletins and by every national newspaper in the UK, many of them in their print editions.

London Evening Standard

The Guardian

The Sun

The Telegraph

The Times

As the ruling was announced, #LauriLove was also the third-highest trending hashtag on twitter in the UK.

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The ruling was warmly received by British politicians with an interest in surveillance issues, who recognised the threat the NCA’s application presented to statutory privacy protections at a time when Parliament is trying to exercise scrutiny over the British government’s new Investigatory Powers Bill:

Legal commentators also recognised the importance of the ruling for human rights in the UK and were highly critical of the NCA’s legal manoeuvre.

In a subsequent blog post, McKay – a leading expert on police law – noted that, since the NCA had already obtained, but not enforced a section 49 RIPA order “the application was on the face of it duplicitous (in the legal sense) and abusive.”

In his long article for the Financial Times’ website, lawyer and legal blogger David Allen Green provided a narrative of the NCA’s abuse of legal procedure in Lauri’s case, concluding:

There are important questions for the NCA to answer on its conduct of this case, though it is currently “not commenting on an ongoing case”. This is not the first time the NCA has been criticised for a flawed approach to its enforcement activities.

Of all public bodies, the National Crime Agency should not be abusing the law. It is there to uphold the law, and it should be seen to be doing so. But there are also important questions for those who make surveillance and interception law and policy more generally, especially as a comprehensive investigatory powers bill is currently before the UK parliament.

There is no point having elaborate safeguards and protections, when those with public powers casually avoid being subject to such inconveniences. Provisions that exist to check the misuse of legal powers are not mere window-dressing to a legal regime for surveillance and interception; they are its foundations.

An important skirmish in the encryption wars

Lauri’s ruling marked a rare victory for encryption in a UK courtroom and received blanket coverage in the technology press from, among others, the Intercept, Ars Technica, Vice Motherboard, the Register, Wired and Computer Weekly.

Reflecting the influence that UK digital policy has internationally, Lauri’s case was also covered by Der Spiegel in Germany, El Diario in Spain and L’Espresso in Italy.

Looking forward: moving on to Round 2

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Lauri Love has scored an important victory for British privacy rights against unchecked policing powers. The NCA’s misuse of procedure against Lauri Love is now firmly established on the public record, setting the scene for his extradition battle to come.

While the substance of the US allegations against Lauri Love will play no role in the extradition hearing on 28-29 June – that’s one aspect of the unfairness of UK-US extradition arragements – the indictments point to US agencies’ incompetence in basic information security, and a desire to obscure that by identifying, and persecuting, a scapegoat.

Lauri’s US attorney Tor Ekeland explained some of this in an interview for RT on Tuesday evening:

I think the prosecutions in the United states are over the top, given the fact that nobody was really really harmed. The only damage that they’re alleging is the amount of time and money that it took to investigate this. It’s important to realize that the alleged hacks in the United States were done with exploits that were publicly available for months. So the government should have known about it — there were public presentations given on these security flaws.

If what the US indictments say are true, the United States government should be embarrassed at their sloppy information security, and they should be thanking my client for pointing out their security flaws and not doing anything with the information like perhaps a bad state actor would do.

Although missed in the majority of news coverage, on May 10 Lauri’s lead counsel Ben Cooper also announced in court that UK civil rights organisation Liberty, who advocated for Gary McKinnon during his extradition battle, have applied to make submissions in Lauri’s extradition case too. The US government is currently opposing Liberty’s involvement in Lauri’s case.

We won Round 1, but Lauri Love still needs your support as we enter Round 2. You can help Lauri by spreading the news about his case on and offline, by making a donation to his defence fund and – if you’re in the UK – do consider expressing concerns to your MP.