Anonymous Love

Oils on 40 x 40 cm stretched canvas.
Oils on 40 x 40 cm stretched canvas.

Brainstorming what to paint, how to sell it to fundraise for legal defense ahead of U.K. hacktivist and alleged Anon Lauri Love’s 10 May forced decryption and 28-29 June U.S. extradition hearings… Probably at this point need to shoot for the latter as an auction deadline. But I’m not sure what platform to use/how to work this (Open Bazaar? other alternatives to eBay/PayPal? fuck PayPal, fuck PayPal, fuck PayPal)… Also, wet paint is wet. 

Wet paint or no, Love’s case matters for politics today. As I wrote for Rebel News in November

...Anonymous’s potential as a platform for direct collective action led to a series of domestic American counter-intelligence responses. One ongoing operation, reminiscent of that proposed by HBGary, seeks to sow mistrust within and between Anonymous and WikiLeaks — following similar such efforts to break Anonymous associates’ trust in each other and support of WikiLeaks in response to the PayPal14’s Operation Payback. Another seeks to undermine the credibility of Anonymous-associated releases through compromised versions of anticipated Anonymous releases— another disinformation tactic prefigured by the HBGary release and numerous counterintelligence handbooks.

Attacks like this fail to recognize that, like democracy itself, the Anonymous platform is vulnerable by design. Anonymous is not a group, in the sense that we are all Anonymous. Anyone can participate in discussion and action on the platforms associated with the group. It’s a platform, not a group or brand. And this distinction is about more than anonymity or anarchism. It’s about the essence of politics itself.

Politics assumes free competition of ideas. Forcing decryption while seeking Love’s extradition—and getting his extradition—would degrade this freedom by creating bad precedent on three counts. 

First, with the U.K. government seeking to force decryption of Love’s inaccessible data on his personal devices that they have seized and refused to return on request, we will either see a new precedent that assumes data itself is guilty and can be forcibly searched and seized like a criminal suspect—or a new precedent protecting the privacy of data and devices, like the American Fifth Amendment protects the privacy of internal spaces (hearts and minds) from forced confessions. Our Fifth was inspired by the reaction against England’s Star Chamber—in particular by public outcry over torture to coerce confessions—so it would be ironic if the U.K. now took the lead on protecting that sacred internal space where no man has a right to demand disclosure (because we only owe our confessions to God). 

Although technically the U.K. already has an encryption key disclosure law—under section 49, part III, of the Regulatory Investigative Powers Act, or RIPA—the bar for police to apply this rule is extremely high, resulting in few annual prosecutions for not complying with a section 49 order. This situates Love’s case in the context of expanding police and intelligence surveillance and other (especially digital) search and seizure powers more broadly. For example, the U.S. Supreme recently amended Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to permit the government to hack and spy on anyone using an anonymizing service, such as Tor or a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This is a far-reaching expansion of police and intelligence agency digital search and seizure powers that, if not stricken by Congress before December 1, will basically let the state break into any digital house with a halfway decent lock (cf the key/crypto metaphor). 

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is seeking to extradite Love for trial when their U.K. counterparts have not made good faith efforts to try him for analogous crimes under his own country’s law. This is invalid under U.K. law, but in an informal way. It’s more poor form than it is illegal—although it makes no sense for the U.K. National Crime Agency to insist both that they need Love’s stuff decrypted, and that their investigation against him is closed… Unless they’re acting as a tool of the U.S. government against one of their own citizens when he’s been convicted of no crime. So in Love’s extradition case, we will either see a new precedent that explicitly privileges the American state’s power to judge subjects (in U.S. client states) worldwide—or one protecting the rights of people in far-flung places to abide by their own laws, and not necessarily ours. 

Finally, there is also a statutory bar on extradition that would be disproportionate or incompatible with the subject’s human rights—a bar that recently kept another high-profile U.K. hacker (Gary McKinnon) from being extradited to the U.S. But from McKinnon’s case in 2012 to Love’s in 2015, we’ve seen a continued, growing backlash in the U.S. and elsewhere against whistleblowers, transparency (for governments)/privacy (for individuals) activists, hackers, and their ilk. The F.B.I’s legal assault on Tor—and recently revealed extrajudicial harassment of one of its core developers and her family—shows how legal and political conditions have become increasingly unfriendly toward the very same tech thought leaders who can best help enhance security. 

Please donate to Lauri Love’s legal defense today to help prevent these potential bad precedents on the horizon from becoming legal and political realities. It’s easier to prevent the U.S. and U.K.’s continued slide into fascism than it is to walk back police state powers. Plus, I’ll give you a painting…