Guest Post: Laurie Love’s Asperger Syndrome

I don’t have Asperger’s as far as I know (which is in the spectrum of Autism) but a friend of mine gave me their article to share. They’d prefer to stay anonymous. I really like the topic and it brings up some great points on the UK case around hacker Laurie Love, who may be extradited to the US. It’s of interest especially for the IT industry that contains many people with Asperger Syndrome, so here are their thoughts on the situation:

By Anonymous:

I have Asperger’s. However, I don’t hack the US government infrastructure looking for little green men and such.  Laurie Love is claiming that he shouldn’t be extradited to the United States due to his mental status and partly because he has Asperger’s syndrome.

In the case I find myself truly torn. On the one hand I have no love for the US government, their treatment of whistle-blowers such as Manning, Snowden et al. I fully support the work of the ACLU, EFF and other privacy groups.  I also support the rule of law.

However the computer world now finds itself in somewhat of a “McKinnon II” situation where Mr Love is concerned. Each time this scenario crops up it makes us Aspies look that little bit weirder and therefore having to work that bit harder to not be tarred with the same brush that is used by most uninformed media outlets.

Whilst it is completely understandable that Love wouldn’t want to be sent to the US to stand trial with what most people would see as an extremely one-sided justice system with excessive sentencing in a much maligned prison system, he does a dis-service to other Asperger’s suffers and people with mental illness by using it as a means to avoid what many now see as an inevitable trial in the US.

Let me set the record straight about Asperger’s from a first hand point of view.

Most critically, on a macro scale we (people with Asperger’s) know right from wrong. Sure, we can be a bit more curious than perhaps we should be occasionally but we have the capacity to understand that actions have consequences.

When was the last time you heard someone plead not guilty to GBH because they had Asperger’s? Just because its seen by his supporters as a victimless crime does not mean it isn’t a crime.  Admittedly the GBH scenario is extremely unlikely in an Aspie world because we tend to not be inclined to violence or even much toward social interaction!

We are however programmed to ask why. We take things apart, we fiddle with them and such but to go breaking into military computers invites a world of hurt.

We (Aspies) are not where or how people but Why. Why does this thing “x” work the way it does? We need to find out! We can’t just leave it. This may go some way as to explaining why Love did what he did.

Laurie Love undoubtedly knew that trying to hack the military computers of a super power state was not a wise move and it would have dire consequences if he were to be caught. Although I may not agree with the US sentence put forward, the methods used or some aspects of the prosecution I believe that the US have a reasonable right to extradite him. He (allegedly) broke the law and not in a trivial way.

To now turn around and claim, as his father has, that his son isn’t prepared to go to the US to face charges under any circumstances smacks of blind arrogance. His father, a prison chaplain, claims that he sees people with such illness commit suicide.

As a group, people affected with Asperger’s do tend to look on the negative side of things and have a slightly higher risk profile than then general populace. His family portray him as a suicide risk. Anybody who faced ninety-nine years in the US federal prison would be the same I suspect, Aspergers or no Aspergers.

Most people would have the same mind-set given the situation. The human mind is trained to look for solutions to problems and suicide or taking yourself out of the situation is one solution to a (usually temporary) problem.

The presiding judge, Judge Tempia addressed this issue by noting that she was suitably assured that the US could provide for the medical needs of Love. I do however disagree with the stance that he should be held in solitary. I along with most believe this to equate to a cruel and unusual punishment.

If you want to see the US in action just look at the treatment of Kevin Mitnick. He could launch missiles by whistling down a phone the less IT inclined people repeated in ignorance.

I personally have gotten inquisitive about a site or two that I was asked to provide extremely confidential information to on behalf of another party.  I did some digging with information that was absolutely public domain, if you knew how to use the tools correctly. I stopped before I crossed the line.

There are however alternatives to this US/UK stalemate including a prosecution by the NCA or secondly serving his sentence in the UK. Love obviously would prefer the whole thing to go away. Being prosecuted by the British Government removes the whole question of going to the US to stand trial, the jail, the lengthy sentence. It negates almost all the issues raised by the Love team.

More importantly at a personal level it means the presence of Asperger’s becomes mute in terms of it becomes a get out of jail free card. He could use it in court but at the same time he gets a trial and can be cross-examined on the role of Asperger’s in his situation.

Essentially it somewhat mutes that entire line of questioning. Getting the US to agree to such a deal a high profile case however would not be an easy battle.

No matter which side wins or how it unfolds, it does people with Asperger’s no favours. The whole McKinnon/Love scenario makes us as a group look rather pathetic and unwilling to face the results of our actions.

In reality we are highly motivated, intelligent and we are an asset rather than a liability (Just ask GCHQ. There are more than a few of us that work there!). We as a group don’t all go round breaking into computers then using Asperger’s as a mechanism to try and avoid the long arm of the law.

Only time will tell the real outcome but Love needs to grow up and face up for his actions and not blame it on the condition.