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Hacker Gary McKinnon Loses Appeal

July 31, 2009

UK hacker Gary McKinnon has lost his latest High Court bid to avoid extradition to the United States.

US authorities want to try the 43-year-old, from Wood Green, north London, for breaking into US military and Nasa computers in 2001 and 2002.

Mr McKinnon admits hacking, but denies it was malicious or that he caused damage costing $800,000 (£487,000).

He had challenged refusals by the home secretary and director of public prosecutions to try him in the UK.

‘Lawful and proportionate’

If the law says it’s fair to destroy someone’s life in this way then it’s a bad law.
Janis Sharp

Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon had asked the court to rule on whether the CPS was right to say he could not be prosecuted in the UK, and also whether his Asperger’s Syndrome meant he could not be extradited to the US.

But, in a 41-page ruling, the judges said extradition was “a lawful and proportionate response to his offending”.

He faces up to 70 years in prison if convicted in the US of what prosecutors have called “the biggest military computer hack of all time”.

Speaking outside the High Court, his mother, Janis Sharp, said her son had been “naive enough to admit to computer misuse without having a lawyer and without one being present”.

“We are heartbroken. If the law says it’s fair to destroy someone’s life in this way then it’s a bad law.”

2003 treaty, agreed in aftermath of 9/11 attacks
Offence must be punishable by one year or more in jail in both countries
US has to prove “reasonable suspicion” for extradition of a British citizen
To extradite an American from the US, British must prove “probable cause”
Since 2004, 56 people have been sent from the UK to the US for trial, and 26 for US to UK
US courts have granted about 70% of UK extradition requests, while nearly 90% of US requests have been granted

Mr McKinnon accessed 97 government computers belonging to organisations including the US Navy and Nasa.

He has always insisted he was looking for classified documents on UFOs which he believed the US authorities had suppressed.

In February the Crown Prosecution Service refused to bring charges against Mr McKinnon in the UK.

The decision followed a ruling last October by then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to allow his extradition.

Mr McKinnon has already appealed unsuccessfully to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights and his latest judicial reviews in the High Court are likely to be his last chance.

His lawyers say the authorities have not given proper consideration to his Asperger’s Syndrome, which could have “disastrous consequences,” including suicide, if he was to be extradited.

They argued he was “eccentric” rather than malicious and should be tried on lesser charges in the UK to protect his mental health.

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