Nasa hacker: I'll plead guilty in the UK

Nasa hacker: I'll plead guilty in the UK

Summary: Gary McKinnon's lawyers tell the Crown Prosecution Service that he would plead guilty if tried under UK law, a move that could help him avoid extradition to the US

TOPICS: Security

Self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon has told UK prosecutors he will plead guilty to charges in the UK, a move that could help him avoid extradition to the US.

McKinnon has been accused by US prosecutors of "the biggest military hack of all time", after entering Nasa and Pentagon systems. His solicitor, Karen Todner, sent a letter to Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, to say McKinnon would plead guilty if tried in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act (CMA). The letter was sent on 23 December, Todner told ZDNet UK on Monday.

"Gary has committed offences under the CMA, and has been diagnosed with Asperger's," said Todner. "I think it's time the DPP recognised that. Gary will plead guilty."

Todner said that under the CMA, McKinnon would receive a different sentence from the one he would receive if tried under US law, as in the US he would be prosecuted on charges of causing damage to military systems. She added that it is "generally accepted" McKinnon would receive a more lenient sentence in the UK. The Londoner currently faces trial in the US, pending the outcome of an appeal to the High Court.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told ZDNet UK on Monday that it had received Todner's letter. "We can confirm we received the correspondence, and are considering that correspondence," said a CPS spokesperson, who added that no timescale could be given as to when Starmer would make a decision about the prosecution.

At the time of writing, 80 MPs have given their support for an early day motion that the government request repatriation for McKinnon should he be tried and found guilty in the US. Prime minister Gordon Brown in November spoke publically about McKinnon, boosting hopes he would serve any sentence in the UK.

The self-confessed hacker, who was also known as 'Solo', is accused by the US government of hacking 97 US military computers and causing over $700,000 (£430,000) of damage by deleting files. McKinnon has never denied accessing the US army, navy, airforce and Nasa computers, but denies causing extensive damage. He claims he was initially searching for evidence of extra-terrestrial life, and later found evidence of anti-gravity projects. McKinnon faces up to 70 years in prison if found guilty by a US court and, as it stands, would serve his sentence in 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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Genious

    He should be awarded and agencies should improve the security, moreover the agencies should hire him as security adviser :)
    Amit Sharma-e18f2
  • ...I agree

    Agreed. It appears that their system were no very well secured. How many people have been in them and never got caught. They are trying to exert their might in the wrong place. They should be securing their systems and preventing real threats, not wasting their time on on this and expecting this will solve their problems.
  • Maybe they did

    It's entirely likely that this prosecution is the result of refusal to cooperate in exactly this way. Of course that offer couldn't be made public without inviting a lot more attempts.

    As for securing their systems, I'm sure they are working on that as well, but not pursuning identified hackers is just an invitiation.

    Moreover, he's lucky that he did this in the US and not to UK systems where the 'Official Secrets Act' would apply. Key? what Key?
  • ...the key

    We are not letting you even speak to a lawyer until you provide the key. It's no good saying you don't have it. We are keeping you captive until you provide a key to unlock the encryption. ...good luck !!
  • The Key

    Actually I was thinking more of "locking up and throw away the key," but yeah, you have the idea.