UK hacker faces extradition to US

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

McKinnon took advantage of weak security

Gary McKinnon was today told that he would be extradited to the US pending appeal. McKinnon stands accused of having caused $700,000 worth of damage to US military computer systems. Describing himself as a "bumbling hacker," McKinnon said his intention was to look for UFOs and information regarding technology that he claims the US government is withholding.

Karen Todner, McKinnon's solicitor, explained that "there is power under the Computer Misuse Act to charge him here and he could stand trial here. In fact, had that happened he probably would have been tried, served his sentence and have been released by now." Speaking after the trial, District Judge Nicholas Evans said, "I readily accept, if convicted in the US, the probable sentence is likely to be appreciably harsher in the US than, in comparable circumstances, it would be in the UK. It must be obvious to any defendant that if you choose to commit a crime in a foreign country, you run the risk of being prosecuted in that country."

Judge Evans reported that the US government has made promises that McKinnon will be tried in a civil court, rather than facing a military hearing. Despite these assurances McKinnon still fears what could happen to him, "as one person has said to me, most people in Guantanamo have not been proved to be terrorists but allegedly I directly attacked the military."

Ms. Todner indicated that they intend to appeal against this initial ruling. "We're proposing to appeal this to the Secretary of State, and if we're still refused we will then appeal to the High Court for a decision to allow Gary to be tried here as a British citizen." This seems unlikely to be successful, however, as Struan Robertson, a computing law expert, explains, "the only way out of it is if he faces the death penalty or if he can prove extradition is politically motivated, which he hasn't done. The fact that he may get 70 years in the US is irrelevant. The treaty makes an exception for capital punishment, but facing a harsh sentence is not in itself grounds to block extradition."

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