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Arrest and UK investigation

2013 arrest and bail

In October 2013, the United States government unsealed the first of several indictments against Lauri Love, for alleged hacks of governmental agencies. Unusually, these were spread across three separate US court districts – the Southern District of New York, Northern New Jersey and the Eastern District of Virginia.

Love was arrested on 25 October 2013, coinciding with the sentencing of Jeremy Hammond, for alleged offences under the UK’s Computer Misuse Act. The police gained entry to his home when one officer pretended to be a UPS courier. Lauri’s house was searched and his computers and other digital media property were seized. He was then detained overnight at a police station and questioned before being released on police bail.

Before Lauri was due to be rebailed in February 2014, the UK government made an attempt to force him to turn over his encryption keys. Unlike most countries, law enforcement in the UK can issue an order for this to be done, backed up with the threat of criminal sanction. Lauri Love’s refusal to comply with that Section 49 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) Order means that he has committed an offence in the UK and could be imprisoned for up to two years.

Despite Lauri defying the Section 49 order, he was rebailed until July 2014. No charges were brought against him and, after July, a magistrate decided that it was not proportionate to keep him on bail any longer. Notwithstanding their apparent reluctance to bring charges, the NCA still held a number of items of Lauri Love’s property, so he initiated legal action under the Police Property Act to get those returned.

As a result of Lauri’s civil action, the NCA was obliged to reveal that it had found little evidence on Lauri’s devices, but had taken disk images of all the devices it held and shared those with US law enforcement. In May 2015, the NCA returned to Lauri 25 of the 31 items it seized from him, holding on to two desktop computers, a laptop and other devices that they said they were unable to decrypt. With the return of some of his property and the UK investigation against him not appearing to move forward after a year, Lauri decided not to pursue his legal action against the NCA, which he had had to argue himself without the assistance of a lawyer.

Second arrest and threatened extradition

In summer 2015, Lauri Love had been off of police bail for an entire year and had recovered from his depression sufficiently to resume his higher education, embarking on a degree in electrical engineering at the University Campus, Sussex. Then on 15 July 2015, almost two years after he was first arrested, Love was arrested a second time, this time by the extradition unit of the Metropolitan Police. Lauri’s lawyer, Karen Todner, said that her client’s rearrest had come “out of the blue.”

The FBI and Department of Justice allege that Love has been involved in hacking into various governmental agencies, including the US Army, NASA, the Federal Reserve and the Environmental Protection Agency. Speaking shortly after his rearrest, Lauri expressed his fears about being made subject to US criminal justice:

I would say my prospects of due process in America are essentially zero, and the prospect of extradition is tantamount to a punishment worse than any punishment from the UK justice system.

After his arrest, Love appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where he was released on conditional bail. After a three day hearing in summer 2016, a District Judge ruled that Lauri should be extradited – even though she accepted there was a real risk of him losing his life if this happened. Home Secretary Amber Rudd then rubber-stamped the court ruling, opening the way for Lauri’s team to launch an appeal that will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on 29 and 30 November 2017.