NASA hacker makes final appeal to British government

Lawyer says he should be tried on British soil

Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who successfully breached top US government security, has reportedly made a final appeal to home secretary Jacqui Smith to prevent his extradition to the US.

The appeal comes one day after the European Court of Human Rights yesterday turned town McKinnon's bid to prevent the extradition.

McKinnon had argued he should not be moved to the US, because he fears he could be treated as a terrorist, tried in a military tribunal and ultimately imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

He is due to be moved to the US within the next fortnight, and could face up to 80 years in prison for hacking into Pentagon, NASA, US army and navy computers, in what has been termed as the world's largest hack. He faces eight charges of computer fraud.

In 2001, McKinnon, 42, broke into the Pentagon's system from his north London flat and left a message saying "your security is crap". It was in 2002 that a US court first indicted McKinnon for the offenses, although he was not arrested by British police until 2005. The UK government first approved his extradition in 2006.

He has maintained he was only looking for information on UFOs and aliens. The US government has said he caused nearly US$1 million (£550,000) of damage and made key military systems unusable after the 9/11 attacks.

According to newspaper reports, McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, has written to the home secretary requesting his trial to be in the UK. She argues that McKinnon's offenses were committed on British soil and should be tried here.

McKinnon has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, she said, adding that he was "distraught" with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Leo King

Computerworld UK
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