Lords to consider Nasa hacker appeal

Lords to consider Nasa hacker appeal

Summary: Law lords are considering whether to hear Gary McKinnon's appeal against extradition to the US on hacking charges

TOPICS: Security

Gary McKinnon, the Briton who has admitted hacking into Nasa's computer systems, may be able to appeal to the House of Lords against his extradition to the US.

According to a firm of solicitors acting on behalf McKinnon, the law lords will consider whether to grant leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

"There's been a bit of ambiguity about what they agreed to, but yesterday the House of Lords let us know they are considering whether to take the case," said Jeff Anderson, assistant to McKinnon's solicitor, on Wednesday. "They are still considering the case, and haven't concretely agreed to a hearing. They have confirmed a committee hearing to discuss whether they will hear the case."

McKinnon lost his Court of Appeal case in April, but his lawyers said at the time that the judges in the appeal court "definitely left the door open" for a further appeal to the law lords.

At the time, the Court of Appeal took a dim view of alleged coercion applied to McKinnon by US prosecutors, saying that it "viewed with a degree of distaste the way in which the American authorities are alleged to have approached the plea bargain negotiations" with McKinnon.

According to McKinnon and his counsel, during the plea bargaining negotiations, a US member of the prosecution team "threatened" McKinnon that, if he did not agree to the bargain offered, the prosecutors would push for the highest possible penalties and that he would be "turned over to New Jersey authorities to see him fry".

McKinnon's defence further alleged that the US said that, if he did not agree to the deal, there would be no chance of him serving his sentence in the UK near his friends and family.

McKinnon learnt on Tuesday that the law lords have agreed to listen to arguments by McKinnon's defence that the US authorities "acted in an oppressive and arbitrary manner" during the plea bargaining, according to Anderson.

McKinnon's hopes of avoiding extradition through proceedings in the UK now almost certainly rest on the outcome of the House of Lords appeal, said Anderson. "This probably is the end of the road in the UK. If things don't go Gary's way in the House of Lords, there's not really another avenue in the UK," he said.

If the Lords appeal fails, the European Court of Human Rights "could be a place to apply", said Anderson.

While he has accepted that he hacked into US government sites, McKinnon has consistently denied causing serious damage, maintaining that he was searching for evidence of UFOs.

According to McKinnon's friends, he was taken ill on 14 February with heart palpitations due to stress. Anderson confirmed that McKinnon had been "much better since" although he was still "under huge amounts of stress".

Topic: Security


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. 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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  • Is America Today a Suitable Place to Extradite to?

    I wonder why this is necessary?

    I was led to believe we would not extradite our citzens to countries that practice torture, imprisonment without trial, or even degrading treatment, the death penalty, etc.

    The US unquestionably actively pursues all of these activities, these practices are now part of US Federal and/or State Law and instances of all the above documented by Amnesty International.

    Plus the US cannot be trusted to honour inter govermental agreements as recent review documented.

    The US government have already betrayed the trust of the UK security services by using security information we provided which embargoes its use for rendition and similar activities against individuals under the caveat system applying to such exchanges for 20 years. They used such information to kidnap, torture and place UK citizens without charge in Guantanamo via Afghanistan - all documented by a recent Parliamentary committee report.

    How long will our establishment cosy up to this obnoxious bully regime? Blair has gone, thank god. Time we treated them with the comtempt they have treated us.

    Demonstrably this American regime acts unilaterally in its own selfish lynch mob style and cannot be trusted to behave according to civilised democratic principles or proportionality and the buirden of proof - all the justice you can afford is closer to the rule.

    Give this morally failed state one of ours over a hack that should not have been possible with no real evidence of material damage?

    No. No. No.