UK Law Enforcement Trying To Force Man They've Never Charged With A Crime To Decrypt His Computers

from the see-smoke,-presume-arson dept

British hacker Lauri Love stands accused of causing “millions of dollars” in damages to US government computers — charges he’s been facing for more than two years. These charges originate in the US, but it’s the UK that’s been trying to get Love to give up his encryption keys for the past couple of years.

Under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000), the UK government can charge Love with “failure to cooperate” by refusing to comply with the order to decrypt files. To date it has not done so, despite Love blowing off its demands since the middle of February 2014.

The only charges Love is facing have been levied by the US Department of Justice. He has fought extradition for the past couple of years and the UK government has yet to make any progress on that front. However, UK law enforcement has stepped up its efforts to force Love to turn over passwords and keys. J.M. Porup at Ars Technica has seen a copy of the request and has more details.

In the NCA’s submission to the court, which Ars has seen a copy of, the government demanded that Love turn over the passwords and encryption keys to his confiscated devices. The devices in question include a Samsung laptop, a Fujitsu Siemens laptop, a Compaq computer tower, an SD card, and a Western Digital hard drive. The NCA in particular wants Love to decrypt TrueCrypt files on the SD card and external drive.

This seems like a very severe demand from the National Crime Authority, considering it still hasn’t — despite two years and two arrests — seen fit to bring criminal charges against Love. This is also its second attempt — one using a separate legal authority (not RIPA Section 49, as was used earlier) — to compel Love to comply with its demands.

Meanwhile, Love is (logically) suing the UK government for the return of his devices.

Love’s argument in his civil case is that if the police aren’t going to charge him with a crime, they should return his property. “The problem is that the NCA are effectively arguing that any information that cannot be read and comprehended by the police has a presumption of guilt,” Love told Ars in an e-mailed statement.

As Love points out, equating encryption with guilt has severe ramifications for anyone who uses it.

“This has clear and troubling implications for groups that handle sensitive communications or other data—journalists, advocates, activists and whistleblowers, and members of the legal profession.

“An executive body of the state is saying that any information to which they are not privy… cannot be owned and kept securely but instead confiscated and access denied,” Love added. “This is a fundamental reversal of rights and the potential for abuse is alarming.”

The NCA claims it wants Love to decrypt his devices so he can prove his ownership of any information or data found on them — which allegedly includes pirated film and documents obtained (without permission) for US government websites. Love sees this as nothing more than the NCA trying to help out its American counterparts by using the UK’s more permissive laws to obtain information about Love’s hacking activities. And, it must be pointed out again — the NCA wants to force the uncharged Love to crack open his devices so it can find something to charge him with.

Maybe there’s something incriminating stored on Love’s computers. Maybe not. But either way, UK law enforcement is working backwards from a presumption of guilt. And it’s basing this all on things it can’t see. This belief system is similar to that held by many law enforcement agencies, which have spent much of the last few months claiming an encrypted phone is a “guilty” phone in front of judges, Congress and to members of the media.

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Comments on “UK Law Enforcement Trying To Force Man They've Never Charged With A Crime To Decrypt His Computers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t see the Queen helping matters either, so you CAN blame the Queen.

She enjoys living off the collected taxes of her peasants… she bears responsibility.

You may want to actually do a bit of research before spewing. Take a look at

As things turn out, the royal family does cost about 40 million pounds per year to maintain. But the royal family since King George III has traded the profits from the Crown Lands to Parliament in exchange for being supported by Parliament. Turns out those profits are about 200 million pounds. So it turns out that the queen GIVES 160 million to England in directly measurable cash. That does not include any extra revenue generated from tourism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Soo… You CAN be bought-off of public opinion.

One way or another, be it directly or indirectly her living is supported by the taxes collected by the peasants. regardless of how much she gives away to buy off peoples opinions!

How is it that you can go and expend the effort to find and post this video but not expend the effort to develop any basic common sense?

Please go and shill somewhere else!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Well, King George III didn’t give up ownership of the crown lands. Just simply pledged the income from said lands for an annual salary. Monarchs after him have repeated the same offer. If Parliament decides to stop paying, then the current Monarch would simply keep the income from their own land and effectively be the 2nd or 3rd richest person in the world based upon yearly income. (Bill Gates comes in at #1 with an annual salary of 11.5 billion US dollars and Carlos Slim comes in a distant second at 288 million. At the current conversion rates 200 million UK Pounds comes to about 287 million US dollars so the Elizabeth and Carlos would definitely be neck and neck for 2nd place.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I am not sure you even know what you are talking about.

It’s like saying anyone that is Rich does not have power. Money is power, and the queen could just as easily talk to the press to offer an opinion on any matter and the press would trip themselves running to shove a mic in her face.

yea… no power at all… what was I thinking!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Symbolic? One gets the impression that you have little understanding of the actual rules and what is traditionally done.

The traditional actions are that the majority group choose on of their members to be nominated to the position of Prime Minister. By tradition, the Queen accepts such nomination so that the business of the government (as in legislative control) goes on.

In addition, all legislation as passed by the parliament must be signed into law by her consent.

Now, if she decides that she wishes to choose a specific person as her Prime Minister and she also decides who she wants as her Cabinet, she is fully entitled to do so. It may cause an uproar in parliament and the workings of government may stop because of it, but is entitled to do so.

Not only that, if she decides that a specific piece of legislation is not to be signed into law, she also has that right of refusal.

That she doesn’t exercise these specific functions normally, doesn’t actually remove her ability to do so.

She does have particular restrictions on her powers as per the constitution of the UK, but she has far more powers than one would normally recognise.

She also has tremendous power with her people and if she decided to use that against the ruling government of the day, I don’t know who would actually win.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That she doesn’t exercise these specific functions normally, doesn’t actually remove her ability to do so.

You should see the uproar when there is even the vaguest hint of her actually exercising that power.

No the fact is that the Royal Family has been tolerated only on the basis that they don’t interfere.

The Royal family would be out very quickly if the failed to maintain that neutrality.

They nearly went before Victoria and during the Edward VIII episode.

Tom Cruise Missile says:

Privacy in the UK

is like the Loch Ness Monster or Sasquatch. Claims are made, but no one has verified it.

Also, wouldn’t idiot prosecutors in the US have learned anything from the Gary McKinnon incident? Eh, guess not. Our brightest and best in the gubbment barely qualify as fully speciated, knuckle dragging mouth breathers.

Anonymous Coward says:

it seems to me that the UK is doing this not just to copy the USA or to help it out but to basically take over where the USA has been forced to ease back. in fact, it seems as if the UK has become the new USA and it really all seems to have started with Snowden and Manning. the scary part is the UK has, until now, always been thought of as being fair, open, honest and respecting privacy and freedom, not stamping all over peoples rights like places like Iraq or N.Korea! i wonder how many times the UK has blasted various countries for the way human rights have been trampled on and how the governments concerned have put total surveillance into play? now how is the UK going to do anything resembling that again, considering it is close to doing even worse things to it’s own citizens?

That One Guy (profile) says:

The worst crime imaginable to those in authority: Not grovelling before authority

Under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000), the UK government can charge Love with “failure to cooperate” by refusing to comply with the order to decrypt files. To date it has not done so, despite Love blowing off its demands since the middle of February 2014.

So put simply privacy with regards to digital material is illegal in the UK. If the government and/or police there come knocking, and you refuse to hand over the keys to your files then you get charged for refusing to do so, because nothing is allowed to be out of reach for those with shiny enough badges.

Not to say that the UK is alone in that kind of stupid thinking, as here in the US we get to enjoy similar boneheaded logic by those with their own shiny badges…

“You’re under arrest.”

“For what?”

“Resisting arrest.”

“But you’re only now arresting me, how can I be charged with resisting arrest before I’m actually under arrest?”

“Because I’ve got a badge, that’s why. Now shut up before I tack on contempt of cop for asking questions.”

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s alot of this going on in the UK lately. Not only this absurd law but you’ve not seen the UK’s laws regarding drugs.

They’ve illegalized every substance that can alter your mental state barring alcohol nicotine and caffine. How do they know somthing can alter your mental state. They don’t.

It’s already been criticized as arbitrary and potentially unenforceable is smelling the flowers illegal… Maybe depends on what they feel like enforcing that day.

Shadow Firebird says:

There is no presumption of guilt

The idea of presumption of guilt here is a red herring, because RIPA does not require the police to prove anything. They ask you for your keys and if you refuse, then in theory it’s jail for you. I think they have to ‘suspect’ you have broken some UK law, but as bars go that one is so low it might as well be drawn in chalk.

Worse still , it contains a built-in gag clause, so it’s difficult for anyone to honestly judge how it is being used or how effective it is. (The original draft had it that you couldn’t even tell your own *lawyer* if it was being used against you, but I don’t remember if that one made the final cut.) It’s a dreadful, draconian instrument that scares the f**k out of me.

Now what’s interesting to me here is, if Love has refused to give up his keys, then wny don’t they have him by the short and curlies? Is it that there is something about RIPA that makes it a bit crap as a legal instrument? Or is it that if they charge him them they can’t ship him off to the US?

klaus says:

Re: There is no presumption of guilt

The New Labour era in Britain was essentially a law-factory. Google “Blair’s frenzied law making” and you’ll see what I mean. They were creating over a law per day. Part III of RIPA, which makes failing to decrypt encrypted information a criminal act, was especially insane. It’s victimless.

RIPA gave not just the police, but hundreds of other authorities incredible powers. And it’s been used in thousands upon thousands of cases, oftentimes with vindiction.

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