Alleged hacktivist Lauri Love appeared in a London court on Tuesday in a case that could establish new powers for UK police to compel criminal suspects into handing over encryption keys.
Love, 31, faces potential extradition to the US over his alleged involvement in #OpLastResort – the online protests that followed the persecution and untimely death of activist Aaron Swartz.
US prosecutors want to try Love over alleged attacks against the US Army (Missile Defence Agency), Federal Reserve Bank and the FBI during 2012 and 2013.
During a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, representatives of Blighty's National Crime Agency (NCA) asked District Judge Nina Tempia to order Love to disclose his passwords. Earlier attempts to obtain data from computers seized by using section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to compel Love to hand over encryption keys and passwords had failed after Love refused and the NCA seemingly backed off. The section 49 order expired without further consequences to Love.
Love, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, was arrested at his parents' home in Suffolk back in October 2013 by the NCA for alleged offences under the UK’s Computer Misuse Act. The hacking suspect is suing the NCA for the return of seized computers and hard drives. The NCA claimed officers saw evidence of hacking on Love’s computer screen at the time of his original arrest.
Representatives of the NCA made an application, as part of their response to the civil proceedings brought against them by Love, that would oblige Love to hand over his passwords.
Stephen Cragg QC, representing Love, told Westminster Magistrates' Court that the NCA application, if successful, would be a significant blow against individual privacy.
“There is a concern that the NCA is seeking in this application to access Mr Love's data by the back door rather than by the route sanctioned by parliament in Ripa,” Cragg said, as the BBC reported.
Love was in court alongside supporters from The Courage Foundation on Tuesday to hear legal arguments.
Judge Tempia adjourned the hearing to consider her ruling, which is due to be delivered on 10 May.
Love’s extradition hearing is due to be held on 28 and 29 June.
The case has attracted comparison with the long running Gary McKinnon extradition request saga. McKinnon, who faced a US extradition request over alleged attacks on the Pentagon, was saved from extradition after the home secretary, Theresa May, intervened back in 2012. ®