Security

Hacker McKinnon Loses Extradition Appeal

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Supporters say the eccentric UFO hunter who hacked NASA and Department of Defense systems won’t get a fair trial in the US

Gary McKinnon, the hacker who broke into US military computers in 2001 and 2002, has lost his High Court appeal against extradition to the US.

Forty-three-year old McKinnon, who suffers from a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, hacked into 97 military and NASA systems, during the tense period after the 9/11 attacks, and allegedly caused damage that took £430,000 ($700,000) to repair. He maintains that the hacking was not malicious, and only a bid to find secret information about aliens and unidentified flying objects (UFOs).

The home secretary an d director of public prosecution have denied his plea for a trial in Britain, although Home Office terrorism advisor Lord Carlile has condemned his extradition, describing it as “disproportionate, unnecessary and avoidable”.

The High Court ruling said extradition was ‘lawful and proportionate’, even though US prosecutors are keen to get a high penalty for what they call “the biggest military computer hack of all time”. McKinnon could get up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

McKinnon has freely admitted the hacking, but apparently met with very poor security on the military systems. No connection has been shown between him and any serious terrorist threats, and his lawyers said the idea that he posed a danger to US security was “a complete fantasy”.

“If the law says it’s fair to destroy someone’s life in this way then it’s a bad law,” his mother, Janis Sharp said outside the court, in a BBC report.

The hacker lost appeals to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights, and this latest judicial review is one of two High Court reviews running in parallel.

The National Autistic Society has promised to continue to do all it can to help him stay in the UK. The Free Gary campaign has a song put together by performers such as Bob Geldof and Chrissie Hynde, that can be downloaded for a donation, to Aspergers and Autism causes.

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