BRITISH AUTHORITIES are attempting to force a man accused of hacking the U.S. government to hand over his encryption keys in a case that campaigners believe could have ramifications for journalists and activists.

England-based Lauri Love (pictured above) was arrested in October 2013 by the U.K.’s equivalent of the FBI, the National Crime Agency, over allegations that he hacked a range of U.S. government systems between 2012 and 2013, including those of the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and NASA.

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking the extradition of Love, claiming that he and a group of conspirators breached “thousands of networks” in total and caused millions of dollars in damages. But Love has been fighting the extradition attempt in British courts, insisting that he should be tried for the alleged offenses within the U.K. The 31-year-old, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, has argued that he would not get a fair trial in the U.S., where his legal team says he could face a sentence of up to 99 years in jail.

The issues raised by Love’s case, however, are not limited to hacking. In recent weeks, his case has taken on a new dimension — opening up another potential battleground in the ongoing international debate about encrypted data and the power governments should have to access it.

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