British hacker loses High Court extradition appeal

Gary McKinnon, a British hacker who is accused of hacking into secret military and NASA computers has lost his latest High Court bid to avoid extradition to the United States.

Appeals

Gary McKinnon is alleged to have illegally accessed computers belonging to the Pentagon, NASA and the U.S. Army and Navy in 2001 and 2002. The US wants to try the 43-year-old for what it claims to be "the biggest military computer hack of all time". McKinnon has lost series of appeals varying from the European Court of Human Rights right up to appealing directly to the British Home Secretary. It will now be decided whether the appeal can be heard at the UK Supreme Court.

McKinnon is appealing against being extradited to the US to be tried for the charges. His lawyers argue the extradition is un-necessary and avoidable. McKinnon suffers from asperger's syndrome and had argued this should be taken into consideration against his extradition.

Hacking

McKinnon first began his hacking into US Army and Navy computers between 2001 and 2002. During this time it is argued by McKinnon's defense that he was only trying to find information on UFO discoveries. If extradited to the US he could face up to 70 years in prison. US prosecutors claim he has caused $800,000 worth of damage from his hacking attempts.

Calling out to Obama

Speaking outside the High Court this morning, his mother, Janis Sharp, said ""Obama wouldn't have this. He doesn't want the first guy extradited for computer misuse to be a guy with Asperger's, a UFO guy. He wouldn't want this. I'm just praying, please hear us, Obama, because I know you would do the right thing," she added.

It's likely that this was the last appeal for McKinnon, he has appealed unsuccessfully to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights. Unless the UK government or Barrack Obama step in then it's likely that McKinnon will be tried in the US.

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48 Comments

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okay this is crazy you have to look at it like this, obviously the guy has a disorder. However broke into very sensitive government computers of another country, not his own country.. not a friends computer... but U.S. government computers. Now disorder or not at some point in him doing that either he should have known he was doing something wrong or if his disorder is that bad off he should be closly monitored at what he does and someone else should be accountable. If he cant tell the difference from right and wrong then he should be treated as that and his mother whose begging for him to be excused should be charged. Point being, if he didnt know it was wrong the first time whats to stop him from trying again later after he gets his slap on the wrists from his government. Now i agree 70 years in prison is completely outrageous but he targeted the U.S. so the U.S. should be the ones to set punishment reguardless of if he was looking for UFO information or not. The information he was seeking was secret and is hidden for a reason he has no right to go off looking for it and although its been years since 9/11 he's very lucky they havent pushed this as a terrorist type crime. No one truely knows if he was only looking for UFO information or if he would have stopped after getting that information for sure, I think its a coverup. My opinion alone is that this disease he supposedly has is probably a coverup as well to guilt the U.S. out of thier rights to charge him. If the same guy with the same disease broke into the U.S. computers under the same circumstances yet said he was plotting a terrorist attack rather than looking up 'UFO information' would those of you defending him due to his illness still defend him?

oh please dont try to use aspergers syndrome as a defense as he knew it was bad yet trying to avoid punishment with something that he could control and i know what aspergers syndrome is and he should face the music for what he did and hacking is bad and should face the full 70 years behind bars and with no computer use whatsoever as he abused it to the point of doing a bad act with it unless they give him some options like get him a security job but do it in jail somewhere.

soldier1st said,
oh please dont try to use aspergers syndrome as a defense as he knew it was bad yet trying to avoid punishment with something that he could control and i know what aspergers syndrome is and he should face the music for what he did and hacking is bad and should face the full 70 years behind bars and with no computer use whatsoever as he abused it to the point of doing a bad act with it unless they give him some options like get him a security job but do it in jail somewhere.

Clearly, you know nothing with regards to the physiological impact a condition such as his has on his ability to reason - he stated that he acted out of "moral obligations" - he really believed that what he was doing was right.

Indeed, his actions were wrong, he admitted that he should not have 'hacked' and apologised. He didn't actually hack, but used "blank password checking", as he stated.

Again, a possible sentence of 70 years is completely over the top, and certainly not deserved. It was wrong for him to 'hack' but at the same time, extraditing him to the US would have a severe impact on his mental health; it is far better to sentence him in the UK, where a fairer trial can be held.

His condition should be further taken into account.

Yes he should be tried in the UK for crimes under the computer misuse act. The crime took place from his computer, at his property in Scotland, wasn't aware that was in the US!??!?!? It's not as if the guy was a terrorist planning on stealing military data and selling it on for gain, or using that knowledge to blow stuff up safely :)

Was what he did illegal yes, do the charges and the probable prison sentence he'd get if he was tried i the US match this crime?? - Hell NO!! The sentence will be completely disproportianate, there is no way a US Government agency (as big as this one) is going to allow any person to not be prosecuted within every letter of the law and pushed hard too.

Yes he was wrong but no way should he be tried in the US. The post 9/11 extradition treaty is biased against the UK and it's ******** basically. What's happening is the US are saying this man did it he admitted it hand him over. But according to the treaty they don't have to prove it, they have an idea someone did something, hand them over. On the flip side hey US, Scotland Yard have reason to believe that Joe Bloggs from Kansas has been hacking UK Govt systems can we have him please? - US DOJ do you have any proof, no f*** off then!

We don't belong to the US and shouldn't bow to this bully boy tactic, he broke a law yes, aided by pi** poor security, he looked at files, he caused no damage, he didn't delete files, users access or generally cause chaos, the $800k USD claims is crap. Everyone knows when a company is breached they can practically slap any figure on they like. There is no way someone looking at files they are not supposed to cost that much.

I seriously don't understand why he can't be tried in a UK court under the computer misuse act. The illegal act took place in the UK against the US.

I'm sick of hearing about this guy and his stupid mental "condition." The longer they keep dragging this crap out and making news of it, the sweeter it's going to be when he finally gets locked up in an American jail.

He wasn't the first to do it and by no means will he be the last, instead of looking to unjustly prosecute this man, how about they work on improving there apparently lapse security? just a thought

TSO said,
He wasn't the first to do it and by no means will he be the last, instead of looking to unjustly prosecute this man, how about they work on improving there apparently lapse security? just a thought :)

oh come off it. everyone visiting a site like neowin knows that the more they try and full proof it, the more people will poke, prod, and attempt to break it. you're right, there should be no unjust prosecution (not that chugworth has any say), but a system being broken does not mean it wasn't a good one.

Chugworth said,
I'm sick of hearing about this guy and his stupid mental "condition." The longer they keep dragging this crap out and making news of it, the sweeter it's going to be when he finally gets locked up in an American jail.

What you fail to see here, is the significant impact a condition such as his has on his physiological state.

I am certain if you learnt more about the condition, you would not wish it upon yourself.

No one but the US are 'dragging' it out; they decided to file for him to be extradited relatively late in the case.

The US government is not going to hire an international, especially with the down economy at the moment. Plus all he did was try to gain access to accounts which had no password attached (see article). Its like logging into the Admin account of your machine while in safe mode... no password. Anyone could do this.

Conjor said,
The US government is not going to hire an international, especially with the down economy at the moment. Plus all he did was try to gain access to accounts which had no password attached (see article). Its like logging into the Admin account of your machine while in safe mode... no password. Anyone could do this.

You can set a password..

Think he deserves to face the music. Won't happen anytime soon though, there are at least two more appeals to go through which will likely take another few years.

As for the US never extraditing, according to the BBC they do in about 70% of cases v 90% from the UK to the US.

m.keeley said,
Think he deserves to face the music. Won't happen anytime soon though, there are at least two more appeals to go through which will likely take another few years.

As for the US never extraditing, according to the BBC they do in about 70% of cases v 90% from the UK to the US.

Heck, we just sent an old guy back to Germany to be tried. He had much more serious medical conditions than this man

ncoday said,
Heck, we just sent an old guy back to Germany to be tried. He had much more serious medical conditions than this man

He is alleged to be a German Nazi scumbag, and have murdered 1000's of innocent people. Not expose massive weaknesses in the most powerful Country on Earth's computer system!

artnada said,
Not expose massive weaknesses in the most powerful Country on Earth's computer system!

Most powerful what? they wish.

Good luck with that appeal for Obama to intercede...he may have a better chance of being abducted by the aliens or the UFOs he was supposedly looking for then getting a commutation from the President

I don't understand why it took 3 years after he got into their networks for the U.S to file for extradition. They should be honouring him for exposing their slack security procedures, would they have preferred if a terrorist had snuck in

JJ_ said,
I don't understand why it took 3 years after he got into their networks for the U.S to file for extradition. They should be honouring him for exposing their slack security procedures, would they have preferred if a terrorist had snuck in

Hear hear!

I don't think he deserves maybe more than a few years in prison or a crapload of hardcore community service or the like. He needs to be extradited back here and needs to admit/confess in court over the crime(s). Yes he has already admitted to doing it, but it needs to be done in a court of record. It *still* kills me that people think it matters what he was looking for -- it doesn't change the fact that he broke/hacked/accessed/whatever into those systems, systems he had *zero, z-e-r-o, 0* legal reason/access to be in. It wouldn't have mattered if he was looking for a cookie recipe.

He's been on the run for 8 years now. If he'd just pled out he could have served two and been done with this nonsense for six years!

Red Dragon said,
He's been on the run for 8 years now. If he'd just pled out he could have served two and been done with this nonsense for six years!

He did. He pleaded guilty, even without a lawyer.

The point is not whether he is guilty (he is) or whether he should be punished (he should), but whether he should be extradited based on his medical condition (he shouldn't)

Ok, the message is pretty clear, the "US court" have jurisprudence in every single state and not just in third world countries.

Or, he's a conspiracy theorist so hell bent on proving his ideas he'll break whatever laws and cause whatever damage necessary to do it. His own country doesn't want em, who would.

He's not the kind of person you slap and award on and hire for some security firm, you can't trust him because his motives were purely selfish and not of some desire to help others or fighting some "wrong" in the world.

thornz0 said,
Or, he's a conspiracy theorist so hell bent on proving his ideas he'll break whatever laws and cause whatever damage necessary to do it. His own country doesn't want em, who would.

He's not the kind of person you slap and award on and hire for some security firm, you can't trust him because his motives were purely selfish and not of some desire to help others or fighting some "wrong" in the world.

If you watched the interview, he stated that he acted out of "moral obligations" - he really believed that what he was doing was right. Because of his condition, he did not understand that what he was doing was wrong.

And your first sentence isn't even worth a reply.

What you all seem to fail to understand is that he has Asperger's Syndrome - I know someone with this condition, and it is not by any means pleasant.

If you'd actually pay attention, he caused no damage, admitted that he should not have "hacked" and apologised. He didn't actually hack, but used "blank password checking", as he stated.

It is frankly stupid that someone with a condition such as this, should be taken away to the US, and face up to 70 years in prison. I hope his next appeal is more successful.

Just because he has a disorder the law does not apply to him? Just because someone has a medical issue DOES NOT excuse them from the law. If he did something wrong, he should face the consequence. PERIOD!

Conjor said,
Just because he has a disorder the law does not apply to him? Just because someone has a medical issue DOES NOT excuse them from the law. If he did something wrong, he should face the consequence. PERIOD!

Your forgetting that he said he would happily face the charges in the UK; his condition should be taken into account.

Blaze42 said,
Your forgetting that he said he would happily face the charges in the UK; his condition should be taken into account.

Yeah, of course anyone would rather face the punishment in his home country if he has good reason to believe it would be a slap on the wrist or even just probation

So let me get this straight, just because he has this Asparagus Syndrome he should be let go with just pat in his rear end and a "Don't do it again"? Hell if that's the case maybe I will go to the nearest shopping mall and start shooting everyone in sight with my rifle and then claim I have some rare mental disorder which doesn't let me understand that killing innocent people is bad. This guy should stop whining and take his punishment like a man and serve prison time for what he did.

Biotoxic_hazard_835 said,
So let me get this straight, just because he has this Asparagus Syndrome he should be let go with just pat in his rear end and a "Don't do it again"? Hell if that's the case maybe I will go to the nearest shopping mall and start shooting everyone in sight with my rifle and then claim I have some rare mental disorder which doesn't let me understand that killing innocent people is bad. This guy should stop whining and take his punishment like a man and serve prison time for what he did.

You don't seem to know or understand anything about this condition, let alone how to spell it.

Your example of shooting people in a 'shopping mall' is completely over the top, and has no relation to the actual situation. Once again, he stated that he would be more than happy to serve his time in the UK and be sentenced in the UK; you can't just ignore his condition, but at the same time, it was/is not an excuse.

A possible sentence of 70 years is completely over the top, and certainly not deserved. It was wrong for him to 'hack' but at the same time, extraditing him to the US would have a severe impact on his mental health; it is far better to sentence him in the UK, where a fairer trial can be held.

I have two thoughts on this:

1. He deserves to be be sent to the US courts. I'm dick of hearing his pathetic excuses, and please, that speech from his Mother is beyond cheesy. Now she claims to know what the American President wants or doesn't want?! Spare me...

2. I just know that if things were the other way around, the US would not extradite one of their own, and we Brits would just accept it. Pathetic really.

SniperX said,
I have two thoughts on this:

1. He deserves to be be sent to the US courts. I'm dick of hearing his pathetic excuses, and please, that speech from his Mother is beyond cheesy. Now she claims to know what the American President wants or doesn't want?! Spare me...

2. I just know that if things were the other way around, the US would not extradite one of their own, and we Brits would just accept it. Pathetic really.

Point #2, precisely. The extradition treaty we have with the US really needs to be looked at, its to beneficial to the US.

I'm wondering on the damage US claims $800,000??? now what kind of information is that valuable? Guns? Weapon Technology source?

It was most likely the after math - like changing everyone's passwords, reinstalling software or something - Salaries for people to fix the flaw exploited. Probably no damage that he cause, but things that he discovered that they wanted to fix.

Conjor said,
It was most likely the after math - like changing everyone's passwords, reinstalling software or something - Salaries for people to fix the flaw exploited. Probably no damage that he cause, but things that he discovered that they wanted to fix.

You mean salaries for the people who f*@cked in the first place!!!!! McKinnon showed them how bad thier work was. Simple as that.

his a$$ should be extradited and tried for his crimes...seriously, using UFO's as an excuse. c'mon give me a break, man up to your crimes!

maybe, but look at it this way.... if he goes to 'prison' he has ZERO chance in there with all those hardened criminals that would eat him alive. he's a computer hacker for christ sake not some rapist or murderer etc etc.. NO ONE deserves to go to prison with those types of people if all you did is hack some computers.

just making a point is all... as it might ruin his life if he goes in there and has to do sexual 'stuff' etc etc

andrecat112 said,
his a$$ should be extradited and tried for his crimes...seriously, using UFO's as an excuse. c'mon give me a break, man up to your crimes!

The guy has Asperger's for crying out loud.

andrecat112 said,
his a$$ should be extradited and tried for his crimes...seriously, using UFO's as an excuse. c'mon give me a break, man up to your crimes!
Asperger's is not an excuse.

There was a thread about this in the forums, but I don't believe it included the latest appeal being denied

What will likely happen is that everyone will decry saying that he he should not be tried or that he will have to serve 70 years

Both of those statements are bogus. One, all he needs is to be able to understand the difference between right and wrong, which I think has been established

Secondly, there is no way he will spend 70 years in prison. He will be offered a plea deal and I'd be surprised if he spends more than 2 years in prison, if even that.