Friday, 16 September 2016

Policing The World

A man with the hacker name of "Guccifer" was convicted in a Romania of hacking email accounts in 2014, and given four years imprisonment. Then the USA comes along in March 2016, and says that the man should be extradited to the USA to face further charges, because some of those hacked email accounts were Americans. He was duly extradited, and pleaded guilty in May 2016 to charges of aggravated identify theft and unauthorised access of a computer, and was then sentenced to a further 52 months in an American prison.

Extradition Is Rarely Voluntary ...

Now to me this is hardly just or fair .... he had already served two years for the same offence in a Romanian prison, which is hardly a honey hole by any description ... then the US decides that this is not punishment enough, and extradites him at about the time he might have expected to be released on probation, for what was after all was a white collar crime.

They then give him a much harsher prison sentence of four and a half years (with a lot less probation in the US system), to start from scratch in the US penal system.

There used to be a law against double jeopardy - which forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges in the same case following either a legitimate acquittal or conviction. Indeed in the United States, the guarantee against being "twice put in jeopardy" is a constitutional right. Now admittedly the first trial was in another sovereign country, but that country is one which the US recognises and has friendly relations with (as well as being an EU state).

So surely there must be a good argument that as the criminal had already been found guilty of the same offences in another country, and got a similar tariff at 4 years (as opposed to 4.5 years), then at the very least, the time served in Romania should be counted against the US tariff. However as his lawyer I would have argued that his double jeopardy right was being flouted, and that he should be sent back to Romania to finish what (if anything) was left of his original sentence.

However there is another element to this whole affair ... he had inadvertently uncovered Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's private email account in 2013 (after hacking the account of her former political adviser, Sidney Blumenthal) ..... So the penny drops.

Double jeopardy defence can't stop you being punished for embarrassing the next (likely) President of the United States. Especially as it was later found that Mrs Clinton had against all precedence and security advice, exclusively used her personal email account, which was connected to a private server at her New York residence, while serving as US Secretary of State!

'Guccifer' Found that It Ain't How You Hack, Its Who You Hack

That smoking gun aside, actually this whole story has some disturbing over (or is that under) tones with questions about US assumed hegemony over the legal systems of other countries. I still recall the Foxy Knoxy affair in Italy .... the pressure the US put on the Italian judicial system, and the point blank refusal of the US to extradite her back again. It appears that the US is happy to demand the extradition of people of interest to their judicial system, regardless of whether they have served their time elsewhere for the same offences.

However the US rarely if ever, allows a US citizen to be extradited to a foreign country for offences they have committed whilst in the US. Only if they committed the offence abroad is the extradition usually permitted.

Extradition between the United States and the UK is set out in a 2003 treaty, and is backed by a legal statute in both countries. The latest figures I could find for US and UK citizens extradited (as opposed to people who had fled to either country to escape arrest in the other country), were for between 2004 and 2012, and show that while around 35 British nationals had been extradited from the UK to the US, as few as five US citizens had been extradited from the US to the UK in that same period.

The US Embassy puts a spin on the figures, but essentially backs up the figures given for US citizens i.e that between January 2004 and December 2011, they said that 7 US citizens were extradited from the US to the UK (but crucially only where the person was in the UK when the crimes were committed). No US citizen was extradited for an alleged crime committed while the person was based in the US .... The U.S. embassy in London updated these figures in April 2013, saying that in total, 38 individuals have been extradited from the US to the UK (but around 30 of these were not US citizens).

For the same time period of January 2004 to December 2011, 33 known UK citizens (including 6 with dual nationality), were extradited from the UK to the US. Again in April 2013 the U.S. Embassy in London updated the figures as being 77 individuals having been extradited from the UK to the US (but including some non UK citizens, and including US citizens). The U.S. has argued that this difference in numbers is not disproportionate, mainly due to simple logic that the US population is about five times larger than the UK population, and that in fact they are requesting a lower number per head of population than we are.

And in fact the US has very similar extradition agreements with other countries, and they are probably even less likely to extradite US citizens to them than to us, but this idea that the requirements of the US Justice system trumps all others, is a form of colonial hubris that the US can ill afford, in world where it needs friends more than ever.

NB: In all, up until the US Embassy update, the US had made a total of 130 extradition requests from the U.S to the UK, of those 130 requests, the UK has refused just 10. During the same time period, the UK submitted 54 extradition requests to the US, of which none have been refused (but the majority remained with the US courts).

Oh, and the very first US extradition agreement was with Great Britain in 1794. It was not a full treaty (It only mentions the crimes of murder and forgery), and was but a single article in a broader treaty which sought to settle outstanding issues between the two countries that had been left unresolved since the American revolt.


  1. It appears that everyone of the UK hackers who the US try to extradite claim that they have Aspbergers. However they are mentally alert enough to have jobs and wives or girlfriends.

    It's a bit of a joke really and we can hardly criticise the US authorities when we offer this as a defence against criminal acts again the US.

    1. Actually, it does seem to be the case that the same defence is offered for every UK hacker who attacks the US I.T. security systems. Good comment.

  2. Romania should have been more protective of their own and refused extradition on the grounds that he had already answered for that crime.

    1. Exactly the point I was making ... the US justice system fails to recognise any others jurisprudence over cases involving US nationals interests.


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