Nasa hacker appeals to Bush for pardon

Nasa hacker appeals to Bush for pardon

Summary: Gary McKinnon has appealed to the out-going president to grant McKinnon a pardon for accessing US military systems

TOPICS: Security

Self-confessed Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon is appealing to outgoing US president George W Bush to halt McKinnon's extradition to the US.

McKinnon's legal team has requested that foreign secretary David Miliband press for a pardon from Bush, McKinnon's solicitor Karen Todner announced at a press conference on Thursday. "We have asked David Miliband to seek consent to ask for a pardon," said Todner.

The solicitor added that McKinnon's defence team had already applied for a pardon from Bush, but had been rejected on the grounds that McKinnon was not a US citizen.

McKinnon is also hopeful that president-elect Barack Obama will drop the extradition after his inauguration on Tuesday 20 January. "A lot of us have looked at Obama as a new hope," McKinnon told the press conference in London.

The US government has accused McKinnon of "the biggest military hack of all time". US prosecutors claim that between 2001 and 2002, McKinnon accessed over 73,000 army, navy, air force and Nasa computers, causing $700,000 (£430,000) damage by deleting files.

McKinnon has admitted hacking US military systems, but denies causing damage. He claims he was initially searching for data about UFOs, and also found evidence of anti-gravity projects.

The appeal to Bush coincides with an attempt by McKinnon to halt his extradition by pleading guilty to UK computer offences. Todner sent a confession signed by McKinnon to director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer on 23 December. In the confession letter McKinnon gave assurances that he would plead guilty to offences under section 2 of the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) in an attempt to secure a UK jail term. Section 2 of the CMA deals with "unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences."

McKinnon told ZDNet UK on Thursday he was hopeful Starmer would agree to prosecute in the UK.

"[The confession] makes [Starmer's] job easier," said McKinnon. "It gives him a home run."

Starmer will reach a decision within four weeks, Todner told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

In addition, on Tuesday 20 January the High Court will hear oral evidence from McKinnon's legal team. McKinnon's defence contend that McKinnon's diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome in the summer was not taken into account by the home secretary Jacqui Smith when she rejected McKinnon's second appeal against extradition in October.

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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  • 73000 computers in a year - how can anyone believe this rubbish

    Assuming Gary was hacking EVERY MINUTE of EVERY DAY for the ENTIRE YEAR WITHOUT ANY SLEEP then this would translate into hacking 1 computer EVERY 7.2 MINUTES.

    I think we can assume he did have some sleep and that makes the figures even more ridiculous even before you add on eating/washing and doing any other activities (like working!).

    Conclusion - whilst it is clear he did hack into some computers, the numbers (and therefore damages) that the US has come up with are false and incredulous.

    Isn't anyone in the press/government challening these allegations or has every journalist just become the mouthpeice of the US Government???
  • Defence

    If their defence security is that bad, then he deseves a medal for showing it up.

    Why isn't he staying here, in the UK, quoting his 'Human rights' like that recent Muslim Terrorist managed to do?
  • 97 to 73,000 computers in 2 months

    ... see zdnet news story in November (,1000000189,39539057,00.htm ) where it was stated that 97 computers had been accessed.

    Two months later ZDNET report it is 73,000 computers.... ???

    Who is inflating the figures here?

    I think there should be some accountability for reporting the facts and checking the facts here? a persons life is at stake and it really IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH to simply disengage the brain when writing stories.

    Even if the US government is fabricating and exagerating the facts, it is NO EXCUSE for reporters/news sites to become part of the propaganda machine and publish rubish.

  • Yes...

    Yes, the 73,000 number is unbelievable. However, that is what the US prosecution alleged. Whether you believe the claim or not is another matter.

    Journalists in news articles report what other people say, whatever the journalist might personally think or believe. If you want my opinion, read my blog.
    Tom Espiner
  • See my previous reply

    Please see my previous reply about the difference between news articles and opinion pieces.

    97 is the number of computers the US prosecution alleged that Gary McKinnon _hacked_. Individually, at different times. 73,000 is the number of computers the US prosecution alleged that Gary McKinnon _accessed_, through those 97 computers.

    Again, as I said before, whether you chose to believe those allegations is entirely up to you.
    Tom Espiner
  • Fair Comment

    I accept that this is what the USA are saying (and probably they have some fluffy definition for "accessed" in that perhaps they were scanned or pinged and they call that "accessed") but will readers really analyse the story in detail or take on face value? I still have to say that surely within a news story the claims can be questioned/challenged. Will people read your blog (couldn't find item on this story by the way)

    If the 73,000 is unbelievable and plain wrong, then what about the alleged damages? Can they be believed? Surely then the story becomes a credibility story on the USA rather than giving credance to US Propaganda.

    Question is what negative effect do stories like these have and how much harder does it make it for the Mckinnon defence team in trying to achieve a balanced hearing and getting the truth out when faced with a US propaganda campaign which is willingly propagated?
  • Blog post

    Here's one of the blog posts I was thinking of:,1000000567,10009656o-2000331828b,00.htm
    Tom Espiner