UK blocks extradition of alleged hacker to US (Update)

Oct 16, 2012 by David Stringer
In this Wednesday May 10, 2006 file photo Gary McKinnon, accused of mounting the largest ever hack of United States government computer networks, listens to a reporter's question outside the Bow Magistrates Court in central London. Britain's Home Secretary is set to rule on Tuesday Oct. 16, 2012, whether to extradite a British hacker to America to face charges for breaking into sensitive computer networks at U.S. military and space installations. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, file)

(AP)—A British computer hacker's decade-long struggle to avoid trial in the U.S. over alleged breaches of military and NASA networks ended in success Tuesday, as the U.K. government ruled he was unfit to face charges there.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she had blocked the U.S. request to extradite Gary McKinnon after medical experts concluded he was seriously depressed and that there was "a high risk of him ending his life."

The 46-year-old unemployed computer administrator, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, was accused of one of the largest ever breaches of military networks, carried out soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

"He literally couldn't speak, he cried, then we hugged, then we cried again," his mother Janis Sharp said, describing the moment she and McKinnon learned of his reprieve.

Officials in Washington expressed disappointment at the outcome, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the decision meant McKinnon would not "face long overdue justice in the United States."

British prosecutors will now decide if he should face charges in the U.K.

WHAT DID THE HACKER CLAIM?

McKinnon insists that he was scouring sensitive U.S. computer networks in an attempt to uncover concealed evidence of extraterrestrial life. Known online by the handle SOLO, McKinnon also claimed to have been attempting to expose security weaknesses.

He described how in 2001 and 2002 he spent about a year attempting to crack U.S. military systems - spending up to eight hours a day at a computer in his girlfriend's aunt's house while drinking beer and smoking marijuana.

McKinnon has since claimed that his hacking uncovered photographic proof of alien spacecraft and the names and ranks of "non-terrestrial officers."

He had offered to plead guilty to a hacking charge in Britain in order to avoid extradition. Prosecutors turned him down, insisting the U.S. was the correct venue for a trial.

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, following a cabinet meeting. Britain's Home Secretary is set to rule on whether to extradite a British hacker to America later today, to face charges for breaking into sensitive computer networks at U.S. military and space installations. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

WHAT WAS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT'S CASE?

U.S. officials said McKinnon's hacking shut down the U.S. Army district responsible for protecting Washington, D.C., and caused about $900,000 worth of damage. He was also accused of clearing logs from computers at Naval Weapons Station Earle in northern New Jersey, which tracks the location and battle-readiness of U.S. Navy ships.

At the time of McKinnon's indictment, prosecutor Paul McNulty said he had pulled off "the biggest hack of military computers ever, at least ever detected."

Prosecutors rejected the hacker's claim to have been hunting for signs of UFOs, pointing to a note McKinnon left on an Army computer, in which he derided U.S. foreign policy as "akin to government-sponsored terrorism."

McKinnon was caught in 2002 when investigators traced software used in the attacks to his girlfriend's e-mail account.

WHAT DID MCKINNON'S DEFENDERS SAY?

Supporters of McKinnon had insisted that he was unfit to be extradited to the U.S., because he has suffered with depression and is a suicide risk. They had argued that McKinnon was an eccentric but harmless man who had no malicious intent. "Gary is a classic computer nerd," his lawyer Karen Todner told BBC radio Tuesday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron—who had championed McKinnon's case since before taking power—raised the issue repeatedly with U.S. President Barack Obama, most recently during talks in March.

"It was an incredibly brave decision to stand up to another nation," Sharp, McKinnon's mother, told reporters.

Lawmaker David Burrowes, who represents McKinnon's London neighborhood, said May should be credited with "saving my constituent Gary McKinnon's life." Burrowes had threatened to quit his junior government post if the extradition was approved.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF HIS CASE?

In light of the McKinnon case, the U.K. government said it would seek major changes to rules governing extradition between Britain and the U.S.

Lawyers have complained that under "fast track" extradition procedures introduced after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. is not required to offer substantial proof of an allegation when seeking to extradite a suspect from Britain.

May said she will seek to grant British courts new powers to refuse U.S. extradition requests. If the alleged crime involved took place mainly in the U.K., a court could decide that a prosecution should take place in Britain, rather than the U.S.

But in Washington, a Department of Justice spokeswoman stressed that McKinnon's case was exceptional and does not set a precedent for future cases.

"Our extradition relationship with the United Kingdom remains strong," spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael said.

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User comments : 20

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ccr5Delta32
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 16, 2012
A victory for justice
Ophelia
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 16, 2012
@ccr5Delta32
A victory for justice

Gary McKinnon allegedly hacked into military computers without authorization and caused over $500,000 in damage. If someone broke down the door to your home and stole your wallet with cash and credit cards and then was not made to stand trial, would you consider that "a victory for justice"?

Or do hackers get a "get out of jail free card" in your world?
ccr5Delta32
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 16, 2012
Bear in mind Ophelia , The perceived enemy's of the USA today are terrorists who do not consider any standard rules of war obligatory (understatement) . Back in the days when the Ruskies would play ball and everybody understood the rules 'there was an incident " I think they made a film about it called " War Games"" ,Some truth behind the presentation ,so I'm led to believe
So a guy obsessed with Aliens could be rivaled to another obsessed with the will of Allah or Thor or ,,,,,, Point being . These systems are supposed to be secure and they are not .So who's fault is that ?
" Hacked in without authorization" How else would one hack ?
Ophelia
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 16, 2012
@ccr5Delta32
These systems are supposed to be secure and they are not .So who's fault is that ?
So, if I accidentally leave my door unlocked and someone walks in and sprays paint all over the walls, its my fault? Isn't that a blame the victim mentality?

Someone ends up paying for the damage. Why should it be the innocent party?
Ophelia
1 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2012
@ccr5Delta32
" Hacked in without authorization" How else would one hack ?

You can hack in with authorization. Companies allow it all the time to test their security.
kochevnik
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 16, 2012
@ccr5Delta32
These systems are supposed to be secure and they are not .So who's fault is that ?
So, if I accidentally leave my door unlocked and someone walks in and sprays paint all over the walls, its my fault? Isn't that a blame the victim mentality?

Someone ends up paying for the damage. Why should it be the innocent party?

IF you leave your door wide open and install a flashing neon sign on the roof advertising "free stuff-grab yours now" I doubt the justice department would see things the way you do. That's exactly what you do when you run toy Apple and Winblows systems. You knowing operate a system with over 100,000 exploits and yet you expect a pleasant result. And you come off as the kind who would brand the 9yo kid down the block a TERRORIST for poking his nose in. In fact you are just another silly consumer unwilling to take responsibility for your own life.

All McKinnon ever did was walk into open doors and poke his nose around in unsecured areas.
A2G
2.9 / 5 (8) Oct 16, 2012
The us gov is pissed because this guy made them look bad and he is a UFO weirdo who is not all there to boot. Really great security. I continue to be amazed at the inept us gov is and the lengths they will go to hide that and/or blame it on someone else.

Remember to vote. Yeah right. Like we actually have a choice. The election has already been decided. But the show keeps the people occupied with fighting the other side whether dem or rep. Neither side truly does the right thing for the people.
kochevnik
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 16, 2012
Notice how the USA always brands Muslim and English retarded halfwits as MASTERMINDS. It reminds me of that quote about Bush: "A idiot is a genius to another idiot."
Ophelia
2 / 5 (4) Oct 16, 2012
@kochevnik
IF you leave your door wide open and install a flashing neon sign on the roof advertising "free stuff-grab yours now"
That wasn't done and you know it. Hyperbole isn't a valid response.
And you come off as the kind who would brand the 9yo kid down the block a TERRORIST for poking his nose in.
More hyperbole. We aren't speaking of a 9 year old juvenile without an adult sense of right and wrong, which McKinnon has never been said to lack.
In fact you are just another silly consumer unwilling to take responsibility for your own life.
Interesting that you would state that. I guess you feel that McKinnon is taking responsibility?
All McKinnon ever did was walk into open doors and poke his nose around in unsecured areas.
What's your address? How many locks on your door? Steel door? Reinforced door frames? How far do you have to go to protect yourself before it isn't your fault? How much security is required before the hacker is responsible?
ccr5Delta32
2 / 5 (4) Oct 16, 2012
Softly softly Ophelia now it is I who has championed humanity and not regiment and this is an odd place for me to live .Not with any particular attachment to regiment but rather I wonder if there's any future at all for a species like us -Delicate balance , Speak softly Ophelia and be all my sins be remembered
kochevnik
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 16, 2012
IF you leave your door wide open and install a flashing neon sign on the roof advertising "free stuff-grab yours now"
@Ophelia That wasn't done and you know it. Hyperbole isn't a valid response.
That's exactly how your cheap, unsecured toys advertise themselves on the net. You should poke around your office LAN. I bet you will be surprised at all the advertisements.
How much security is required before the hacker is responsible
If your security failed, then it wasn't enough. Failing that, pull out the coax cable and switch off the wireless. US military belongs in meatspace not cyberspace.
Ophelia
2 / 5 (4) Oct 16, 2012
@kochevnik

Hopefully, you'll never serve on a jury where the accused crime is rape and the victim was wearing a short skirt, because obviously she was responsible, not the rapist, according to your view, right?
kochevnik
3 / 5 (6) Oct 16, 2012
@kochevnik Hopefully, you'll never serve on a jury where the accused crime is rape and the victim was wearing a short skirt, because obviously she was responsible, not the rapist, according to your view, right?
That is laughable coming from someone who would have the neighborhood kid molested at Gitmo without charge based upon suspicions of "Terrorism," because she is too cheap and shiftless to bother taking responsibility for her own security. Rather she prefers a police state to do all the dirty work so she can live an ignorant lifestyle based upon consumption and superficiality.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2012
Alienz. Holy Shit.
muggins
5 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2012
I think he should be tried on the soil he committed the crime i.e. in the UK. Deporting your citizens to be tried in a country that has no jurisdiction over UK citizens is ridiculous. He hacked into a server which is illegal in the UK albeit a foreign server, thus punish him in the UK. I doubt we would be sending him off to Iran had it been their military servers.
EBENEZR
1 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2012
How often are people with disabilities put on trial?

Funny how nobody here has factored in his disability. The autistic spectrum is renowned for deteriorating capacity for understanding social norms and what is acceptable and unacceptable.

It is highly unlikely he will be trialled here in the UK. I don't see how he was able to get away with doing it without anyone noticing, unless he managed the whole task in one night. In which case, kudos to him and the US is looking pretty silly that one man could gain access in a night. Otherwise, did his mother not think to be aware of what her son, with severe Asperges, was doing in the evenings?
alfie_null
not rated yet Oct 17, 2012
I imagine both sides would rather this issue just go away.

The U.S. is constrained to prosecute. Lack of security doesn't excuse an intruder from responsibility for his actions. Spare me the analogies. We should vigorously defend our possessions through all available avenues. That being said, there are a whole bunch of more serious threats that should have priority over this media event.

With all this publicity, the British government is pushed into this "you can't push me around" position. But it's just one person. It would be a mess if large numbers of individuals, each in trouble with foreign countries, had similar influence on British foreign relations.

Regarding McKinnon and his supporters; I'd treat all they say with suspicion. Mentally ill? There are degrees of mental illness, and he doesn't impress me as being that ill. Depression? - Yeah, I'd be depressed too if I were in his position - but it's completely irrelevant.
Ophelia
3 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2012
@kochevnik
That is laughable coming from someone who would have the neighborhood kid molested at Gitmo without charge based upon suspicions of "Terrorism," because she is too cheap and shiftless to bother taking responsibility for her own security. Rather she prefers a police state to do all the dirty work so she can live an ignorant lifestyle based upon consumption and superficiality.
Wow. You know absolutely nothing about me. Where can you get anything out of what I wrote that I want to send children to Gitmo as a terrorist? You continue to go back to 9 and 13 year olds. That's irrelevant. McKinnon wasn't and isn't a child.

Deflect much?
Ophelia
3 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2012
@kochevnik

Afraid to address the point of who is responsible here? Nothing I've read said McKinnon doesn't understand the difference between right and wrong - which is usually how we determine whether someone is responsible for their actions. I just want him to be responsible for his actions. Why shouldn't he be? You still want to blame the victim, rather than the criminal. But for Mckinnon's acts there would be no problem. I repeat, but for Mckinnon's acts there would be no problem. But to you, it isn't his responsibility, is it?

You wouldn't be a hacker, would you? Committing similar crimes all over the place? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2012
He described how in 2001 and 2002 he spent about a year attempting to crack U.S. military systems - spending up to eight hours a day at a computer in his girlfriend's aunt's house while drinking beer and smoking marijuana.


This guy knows how to live, and again ALIENS! HOLY CRAP!

I doubt he's handicapped enough to not know the difference between human and alien. Sure he could have seen classified aircraft but why would he assume they are alien unless there was direct evidence or mention of extra terrestrials. You gotta admit the evidence for them is growing on all fronts. Disinformation will only work for so long.

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