Nasa hacker loses second Home Office appeal

Nasa hacker loses second Home Office appeal

Summary: Gary McKinnon has lost his second Home Office appeal against extradition to the US, where he could stand trial for hacking US military systems, including those of Nasa and the Pentagon

TOPICS: Security

The man accused by the US government of accessing more than 73,000 US military machines has lost his second appeal to the Home Office against extradition.

McKinnon's recent diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome, a condition on the autistic spectrum, had not changed home secretary Jacqui Smith's decision that the self-confessed Nasa hacker be extradited, said McKinnon's solicitor Karen Todner on Monday.

"The secretary of state has advised via the treasury solicitors that, despite Mr McKinnon's diagnosis with Asperger's, she will now be making arrangements for his extradition pursuant to her order for extradition of 4 July, 2006," said Todner. "We are now considering whether or not Mr McKinnon has a further judicial remedy and we are urgently investigating this issue."

The home secretary also failed to make any request to the US for McKinnon to be repatriated to the UK to serve his sentence, should he be found guilty by a US court, said Todner.

The US has accused McKinnon of hacking into 97 US army, navy, air force and Nasa computers, and causing damage costing hundreds of thousands of dollars by deleting files. McKinnon has never denied hacking US military systems, 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.

The Home Office declined to comment on why McKinnon's appeal had been turned down, and why his recent diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome was not sufficient grounds to consider an appeal.

However, it is understood that the Home Office sent a letter rejecting McKinnon's appeal to his solicitors on Monday. understands that the Home Office believes its position has been vindicated by several courts, who successively found in favour of the Home Office, before McKinnon's Asperger's diagnosis. The final representations made to the Home Office gave no basis for overturning the order for extradition, understands. The reasons for McKinnon's appeal to the Home Office being dismissed were set out in the letter sent to McKinnon's solicitors.

McKinnon's legal team told in September that, should McKinnon's Home Office appeal be dismissed, the team was preparing an application to the High Court to appeal against McKinnon's extradition. Todner told at the time that she would also consider a judicial review of the home secretary's decision, should Smith decline McKinnon's appeal.

This is the second appeal to the Home Office in McKinnon's long-running legal battle to avoid extradition. McKinnon lost his first appeal to the Home Office in July 2006, when the then home secretary John Reid dismissed his representations.

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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  • Change his religion

    Surely the simplest route would be to change his religion. If he gets the right one there is no way they would let him be extradited.
  • Political or Judicial Decision?

    This smacks very much of being a political decision with scant regard to common sense or practical justice. Such decisions as this must NOT be allowed to be made by politicians or civil servants, they must always be made by the judiciary who are (we trust) independent of politics. Such a decision by the present untrustworthy government smacks so much of political collusion that it not acceptable.
    The American government is pushing for this, not for any justice in this comparatively minor offence, but to cover their embarrassment at having so vulnerable a system.
    The hacker should be congratulated in showing the weaknesses in the system rather than sacrificed to the US penal system.
  • Totally Weird

    Does anyone else feel that there are some glaring oddities surrounding the Gary Mckinnon case?

    For example, we are led to believe that he accessed over 73,000 computers belonging to various military and aerospace organisations (this seems to have risen exponentially from the 90 odd he was accused of back in 2002). Now let's assume he only took 2 minutes to hack into each machine and spent 5 minutes trawling around looking for little green men and (if the various organisations are to be believed) deleting top secret files. Without any breaks in between for the mundane things in life like food, sleep and relieving bodily functions that would have taken him A WHOLE YEAR to achieve. I mean what the hell?
    Are we meant to believe that in all that time no-one cottoned onto the files going missing or the intrusions themselves?
    And let's not forget that this incredible accomplishment was made by a man who is a self confessed habitual cannabis and alcohol abuser. Are security measures so bad over the pond that even stoned drunkards can penetrate their most closely guarded systems?

    The subject matter itsself is similarly incredible. If Gary himself is to be believed he actually found evidence of anti gravity technology, UFO's and "free energy". Precisely the kind of things people using marijuana have been accused of seeing and believing for years anyhow!

    Then there's the tenacity of the American judicial system in its attempt to extradite him and the inability of the British system to protect him. The Americans don't usually make too much of a fuss when they have their systems compromised, they usually patch them quietly and let it all slip under the carpet. Why the huge fuss now?
    And why are the Home Office and everyone else involved over here just rolling on their backs and showing their belly's?

    It's all very odd and I doubt we will ever get to the bottom of it.
    On one hand you have a foreign governent virtually dictating policy over here and calling this guy the biggest cybercriminal in history, on the other, a drunk stoner who claims that it's a knee jerk reaction to him blowing apart the biggest cover-up ever perpetrated using nothing more than an outdated PC and a 56k modem.

    To quote Shakespeare, "something is rotten in the state of Denmark".
  • Maybe he found something?

    Nicely put Sean! lets hope your kind of observation is used by whoever is going to defend him over there. Maybe he really did stumble upon something that the U.S. wants to keep hushed. Indeed maybe they'll employ him. It looks as though he's going over there now, so I think it will be important to keep an eye on events across the pond and keep this story from fading out of view. I also hope that they don't keep him on some kind of indefinite remand, and that he gets a fair trial!
    roger andre
  • Distinct lack of intelligence in UK Government

    This woman is so bright that someone has probably told her that with him locked up in the US, the ID system will be totally safe from hacking.
    What's even sadder is that they, and her, probably believe it.
  • Sounds like they want to recruit him or....

    they want to interrogate the crap out of him to find out what or how he did some of his hacking. My guess is that they don't really have a clue how many systems he got into. The 73,000 number could only have been a botnet type of infection. Maybe he dumped a rootkit on a bunch of boxes inside their firewalls. The 97 or 73 or whatever were systems they could tell for sure he'd been into.

    No matter what he did. He screwed up big time and he picked the absolute wrong political climate to do it in.

    It also could be that they think he's part of a larger group of hackers and they want to find out who he's been pals with. I'll bet you a nickel his girlfriend is a hacker or a wannabe as well. That would explain what they had in common.

    Doing grass and alcohol sounds more like he suffers from depression than Aspergers but its consistent with Aspergers as well.

    Wonder if he's been messing around with some jihad sites? Is Babblefish good enough to read Persian or Arabic and translate it into English? If he ends up coming here, he might get to dry out and de-tox at a "Caribbean island resort" with a long-term lease!
  • UFOs not jihad!!

    No, I really don't think he had anything to do with jihad! Conspiracys and UFOs is what I've read he's into. And some of the conspiracy freaks I've come across believe the Terrorists and those at the top of the US government are the best of pals! Well, it takes all sorts doesn't it?
    roger andre
  • Guilt by Click-Association

    I was thinking more like if he's clicked through to or typed into his browser window a URL for a jihadist website, as far as Homeland Insecurity is concerned that's proof enough to make him a terrorist! The jingoistic paranoids running Homeland (In-)Security think that anything goes when "protecting" the US.

    They'll say: "The Constitution doesn't apply to him! He's an alien!" Well guess what? Other countries are expecting us to operate as if it does.

    I think he's mentally ill. Most hackers are likely mentally ill to some extent. They all seem to think they are the best at what they do and that they won't get caught. (Teenagers seem to share that same problem! Most of them grow out of it though!) Its the same "illness" or attitude that puts a lot of adult criminal types in prison.

    The obsession with UFO's counts as a mental illness as far as I'm concerned! As far as I know its not a defense that can get you out of jail though. I think he's able to understand what he did was wrong, he confessed to it after all. In the US, if you are able to understand the charges, know right from wrong and can contribute to your own defense, you are able to stand trial even if you are somewhat mentally ill. What I think is that he should have kept his mouth shut and gotten an British attorney immediately. That is where he screwed up.

    He probably thought he could talk his way out of the charges and that's why he "confessed". That was what sealed it. If he hadn't confessed, the Home Office would say that the US hadn't any proof that would stand examination in court and the extradition action wouldn't have happened. Of course the way he did his "hacking" was pretty lame considering that they tracked him straight to his home ISP account. Duh! That alone tells me he's not much of a hacker. My guess is that they want to make an example out of him or the trace logs on all of his "hacking" might have something of interest. The way to get the trace logs is to extradite him and the logs will come with him.

    The trace logs from the US side of the pond would point to the ISP but not necessarily to him. The final "last mile" would have to be covered by the ISP he had his service with. The only way to get those is to get him extradited and get them from the ISP. In US courts, that "last mile" is the proof they need to show a jury that he's guilty.
  • Interesting..

    Very interesting article! I hadn't read about this before.