After years of legal persecution, Lauri Love may finally be able to rest easy. Alleged to be involved in #OpLastResort—a series of online protests spearheaded by hacktivists under the banner of Anonymous that followed the persecution and untimely death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz—Love was arrested by Britain’s National Crime Agency in October 2013. A year later, the UK investigation was discontinued. But the British-Finnish computer scientist was arrested for a second time in 2015 for the purposes of extradition to the United States — a threat that was only lifted when he won his appeal at the UK’s High Court in February 2018.
Lauri Love’s case can only be understood with a bit of background information. Most importantly, one has to understand that US prosecutors were anxious to win allowance to extradite UK-based hackers.
Previously, in 2012, as a result of one of the most effective extra-Parliamentary campaigns of contemporary times, then-Home Secretary Theresa May bowed to public pressure, used her discretion to deny the United States their extradition request for hacker Gary McKinnon and promised a change in the law.
Only a few months later, brilliant internet pioneer Aaron Swartz took his own life after being hounded by Massachusetts prosecutors for downloading academic articles en masse in an alleged bid to make the knowledge available to those who could not afford institutional access. According to popular opinion, the aggressive prosecution of Swartz lacked a sense of proportion or failed to exhibit basic decency when considered against his alleged “crimes.” When Aaron died, the internet mourned.
#OpLastResort, which targeted the U.S Sentencing Commission website and other Federal websites after Aaron’s death, was a manifestation of this frustration and anger.
For reasons best known by themselves, the US Department of Justice seemingly believed that targeting an alleged participant in the action would help them overturn the anti-extradition precedent set in the McKinnon case. To Britain’s eternal shame, Britain’s National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service acquiesced to the DOJ’s demand—leading to the re-arrest of Love.
In Lauri Love, the US had definitively chosen the wrong target. Principled, passionate, and articulate—certainly more articulate than Theresa May herself in the clip which accompanies this article—Love v USA would be one for the underdog.
The success of any good campaign should seem obvious in retrospect, and this one was particularly good. It concluded with a memorable victory in February 2018 that asserted, not only that the McKinnon precedent should hold (it had never helped anyone before), but that the US criminal justice system could not be trusted to keep vulnerable defendants like Lauri alive, just as it hadn’t managed to keep Aaron alive. With any luck, we shouldn’t find ourselves here again in a hurry.