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Alleged hacker ‘will kill himself’ if he is extradited to the US, court told

Lauri Love ANL-160628-154121001
Lauri Love ANL-160628-154121001

An alleged hacker will kill himself if he is torn away from his parents and extradited to the US, his vicar father told a court.

Aspergers sufferer Lauri Love, from Stradishall, would be in greater risk of suicide if he is placed in solitary confinement by the US authorities, an extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.

If we are not around I believe he would be at risk of suicide.
Rev Alexander Love

The 31-year-old is fighting his extradition on human rights grounds after being accused of stealing 23,000 personal details of government employees from the US Federal Reserve, the US Army, the FBI and NASA.

He could spend upto 99 years behind bars if convicted on 12 counts of consecutive sentences for accessing the sensitive data from government systems.

He allegedly worked with online hackers around the world to steal the sensitive information including credit card numbers, telephone numbers, passwords and commercially sensitive data of private companies.

Peter Caldwell, representing the US authorities, said: “This is slightly unusual in that it relates to three requests from three states in the US, including New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

“It is alleged the requested person worked with others conducting cyber attacks on US federal agencies and private companies in order to steal and publicly disseminate financial information.

“This was not politically inspired activity on federal agencies, but where personal details were made available in a way they should not have been.

“Most of the matters follow similar methods, exploiting vulnerabilities known as Adobe Cold Fusion, which allowed a person with know-how to infiltrate websites and extract personal data or whatever data they can find.

“They also left backdoors in networks which allowed them to return later to steal more data.

“This data was taken from government employees, security personnel and heath care workers, including credit card number, email addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers.”

The court also heard Love used online aliases to chat with other hackers.

The home Love shares with his parents was raided on October 2013, where computers in his bedroom were found with open online chat rooms using these aliases.

The 12 counts he is accused of include two committed in New York against the Federal Reserve, two counts in New Jersey where data from the US Army, the US Department of Defence, the Missile Defence Agency and NASA were stolen.

It also includes eight counts in Virginia in which the FBI and Department of Environment, as well as private companies and a not-for-profit organisation in Florida were targeted.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard Love currently works offering companies advice on how to guard against cyber attack and has even appeared on Newsnight and other current affairs programmes as an expert on Internet security.

Ben Cooper said his client challenges his extradition on human rights grounds - article 3, prohibition from inhumane treatment, and article 6, the right to a fair trial.

Mr Cooper said: “Mr Love wants to make it clear these are allegations and assumptions which have not been proven.

“The evidence has never been submitted to support this case, as this is not necessary with the United States.

“He says there are factual inaccuracies in these assumptions put across on behalf of the US Government.

“Mr Love does suffer from serious mental health difficulties, he suffers from autism that was undiagnosed for a number of years.

“These would be exacerbated if he is taken from his home environment and sent to the US, where there is the possibility he may not be given bail.

“There is a very real danger he is at greater risk of suffering from depression and committing suicide if not given the right support.

“If he is placed in a country in which he has no ties and possibly put in solitary confinement it would have a detrimental effect on his state of mind.

“The United States prison system has a much less well-funded system that offers less help for vulnerable prisoners.

“We submit he would not have a fair trial as he would not have time to gather information whilst in custody.”

Rev Alexander Love told the court his son was not diagnosed with autism until he was an adult after suffering from a breakdown whilst on national service in his mother’s home country of Finland.

He had another breakdown at university.

Rev Love, who works as a prison chaplain at High Point Prison, in Stradishall, said his son could not read or write until he left school and found Christianity.

His son gets very ill when stressed, even getting skin conditions such as eczema alopecia, shingles as well as asthma and scarlet fever during bouts of anxiety, he added.

The prison chaplain said: “As a child he was not diagnosed and I really blame myself in that regard as I was so dazzled by his brilliance, he was at ease with adults and so expressive,

“As a young child we moved from Wiltshire to Lowestoft and he got very stressed and his hair began to fall out, he had alopecia through stress.

“After he left school it was clear he was falling apart.

“He decided he wanted to do national service in Finland and as we were sending him off at the airport when he said ‘please don’t make me go, I want to stay with you and mum’.

“I told him to get on with it and pull himself together. That fell apart and he had to come home.

“I had such ambitions for him, I was sure he was going to change the world, I had his life mapped out for him, I didn’t realise what was happening.

“Now he is using his knowledge and skills for the betterment of others I find that quite gratifying.

“But if we are not around I believe he would be at risk of suicide.”

His mother Sirkka, who works at the same prison, said: “It is my believe he would commit suicide if he was sent to solitary confinement.”

The court heard Love has obsessive behaviours and suffers from severe anxiety and depression brought on by autism.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a psychologist who assessed Love, said: “Lauri has obsessive behaviours around computers and politics.

“He is a man with several severe disabilities, he suffers from depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings as well as autism and he is highly intelligent, way above the average, but he is at the high end of the autism spectrum.

“When I met him in his lawyer’s office he made the beautiful pieces of origami art and showed me his laptop and he had some 2,000 tabs open, he is able to absorb a huge amount of information.

“Lauri is aware that the authorities will try to stop him from committing suicide and so he has planned out in great detail how he will do it in a way that will evade detection.

“He doesn’t want to die but his mental health is such that the thought of being ripped from the support network of his family is unbearable.

“He is at even higher risk of suicide if he is put in solitary confinement.

“The situation in American prisons is that they have severe staff shortages, they would not be able to react to someone as vulnerable as Lauri and meet his complex needs.”

The extradition hearing continues.