Deadline set for Nasa-hacker prosecution decision

Deadline set for Nasa-hacker prosecution decision

Summary: The director of public prosecutions will give a decision whether to prosecute McKinnon in the UK in the next four weeks, according to McKinnon's solicitor

TOPICS: Security

The Crown Prosecution Service will give a decision in the next four weeks as to whether it will prosecute Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon.

McKinnon has been accused by US prosecutors of "the biggest military hack of all time". However, a prosecution in the UK by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would mean the self-confessed hacker would not be extradited to the US, McKinnon's solicitor Karen Todner told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

"I've just received a fax from [the CPS] this morning saying we should have a decision within four weeks," said Todner.

On 23 December Todner sent a letter to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer to say McKinnon would plead guilty if tried in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act (CMA).

Todner told ZDNet UK last week that it is "generally accepted" McKinnon would receive a more lenient sentence if tried in the UK under the CMA.

McKinnon told ZDNet UK on Thursday he was "hopeful" Starmer would decide to prosecute him in the UK. "I'm hopeful because I've heard good things about the DPP," said McKinnon.

The self-confessed hacker, who was also known as 'Solo', is accused by US prosecutors of hacking 97 US army, navy, airforce and Nasa computers, and causing over $700,000 (£430,000) of damage by deleting files. McKinnon has never denied accessing the US military systems, but denies causing extensive damage. He claims he was initially searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life, and later found evidence of anti-gravity projects.

McKinnon faces up to 70 years in jail if found guilty by a US court and, as it stands, would serve his sentence in the US.

In addition to the decision of Starmer, on Tuesday 20 January the High Court will hear oral evidence from McKinnon's legal representation, who contend McKinnon's diagnosis of Asperger's in the summer was not taken into account by the home secretary Jacqui Smith when she turned down McKinnon's second appeal against extradition to the US.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • Some Hope

    As a veteran of the hacker prosecution (or is that persecution?) I hope that with the US Administration going out some new sense will come in regarding Gary - whatever you believe about if what he did was right or wrong.. one thing is clear. for someone to admit to the charges and ask to be dealt with in this country, yet have to wait 6 years being pushed and pulled in all directions, unsure of whether you will be taken to a foreign jail and be subject to who only knows what abuse.. that for this gentle enquiring soul I would say he has served his time.. At least bring this to a closure and let him get on with the life he has left.. make a decision and stop messing him about.
    Gary - good luck to you.

    Mathew 'Kuji' Bevan
  • Mental torture

    To keep this case going for so long is surely using mental torture on McKinnon, in many ways akin to the mental tortures of Guantanamo. There must be a legal limitation on time for such as these to be judicially decided, outside political interference.
  • Decision WAAAy overdue...

    I think he is being subjected to what US lawyers call cruel and unusual punishment in being left in limbo for so long.
    Congratulate the guy for demonstrating the loopholes, and move on.

    NOW, about the "Special Relationship..."