NASA hacker McKinnon to hear extradition fate tomorrow

NASA hacker McKinnon to hear extradition fate tomorrow

Summary: After a 10-year legal battle, home secretary Theresa May will reveal whether the UK will send Gary McKinnon to the US to face court charges over hacking NASA and military computers.


NASA hacker Gary McKinnon will learn on Tuesday whether his 10-year legal fight to avoid extradition to the US has been successful.

Home secretary Theresa May will reveal her decision to parliament on Tuesday afternoon, McKinnon's solicitor Karen Todner confirmed in a post to Twitter on Sunday.

NASA hacker Gary McKinnon will hear the UK government's decision on his extradition on Tuesday. Image: Tom Espiner

The US began its extradition efforts against the London resident in 2005, on charges that he had caused $700,000 in damage by hacking into NASA and US military systems. In 2002, McKinnon admitted breaking into the systems, but said he was looking for evidence of UFOs and that his aims were not malicious.

Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mother, welcomed the news but stressed her fears about the reaction of McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome, if he is sent to the US.

"My terror is that Gary would not last five minutes away from home," Sharp told the BBC.

Efforts to keep McKinnon in the UK got a boost on Friday, after Home Office-commissioned medical advisers produced a new report into his health. Two experts, Declan Murphy and Tom Fahy, said the extradition carries a "significant risk of suicidal behaviour" for McKinnon, according to reports. The assessment is a change of tune for the experts, who in July described the risk as "moderate".

McKinnon's health concerns and the long-running legal battle have prompted calls from British politicians for the overhaul of the extradition treaty between the US and the UK. The 46-year-old's fight has seen him appeal to the European Court of Human Rights and be turned down for a hearing in the British Supreme Court.

Before the general election in 2010, the Liberal Democrats vowed to halt McKinnon's removal to the US, and the Conservatives said he should be tried in the UK. However, the coalition government has so far not made any moves toward this, though prime minister David Cameron has raised the question of imbalance in the extradition treaty with President Obama.

"We hope that our elected government will uphold the promises they made whilst in opposition and will prevent Mr McKinnon's extradition to America," Todner said in a statement.

Topics: Security, Legal, Nasa / Space, EU, United Kingdom

Karen Friar

About Karen Friar

Karen Friar is news editor for ZDNet in the UK, based in London. She started out in film journalism in San Francisco, before making the switch to tech coverage at Next came a move to CNET, where she looked after west coast coverage of business technology, and finally a return to her homeland with ZDNet UK.

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  • "Nasa" is an acronym.. it should be NASA

    (Actually, technically it should be N.A.S.A. but dropping the periods has become commonplace).

    Stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

    Oddly, it's used incorrectly three times, then it's finally used correctly the last time it's mentioned.
    The Werewolf!
    • picky bit...

      While we're at it, I suppose we should point out that an acronym is a word made from initials (like AIDS, if we cheat a bit on Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome). If the initials don't make a word, then they are an initialism. As NASA is not a word, it's not an acronym.

      And not one person in a million knows or cares!
      Jude the obscure
      • Acronym vs initialism

        Actually Jude, you are wrong, NASA is an acronym.

        An acronym as defined by most dictionaries is basically an abbreviation that you actually pronounces as if it's a word and not just as individual letters. The "word" doesn't have to be a pre-exisiting word. For example, laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It was not a word before its invention. But it's such a common acronym that people probably think it's a word now and not an acronym any more. Other examples of acronyms that are not a pre-existing words are NATO, SCUBA, NAFTA, and yes, NASA.

        A true initialism is an abbreviation that you spell out when you say it, something like: FBI, CIA, SAS, KGB, NSA, NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC, UK, USA, FYI, CYA, DIY, etc. You spell those out instead of trying to pronounce them.

        There are of course hybrids which are hard to classify. Examples are CD-ROM, IUPAC.

        There are also partial abbreviations like Radar and Interpol.
    • Like what? That's important but....

      the fact that the English language is B.S. to the bone and needs to be crap canned as Old English 2 isn't? "I" before "E" except after "C" my ass.
  • Thanks for your comment

    We've fixed it so it's NASA throughout.
    Karen Friar
  • Hardly seems fair

    This guy, registered disabled with a known condition snoops around what should be secure systems for evidence of aliens is pursued by a country that has actually been found out engaging in cyber terrorism against foreign powers - student, flame.
    another fine example of Team America World Police.
    • 'Registered disabled'

      'Registered disabled'? He hadn't even been *diagnosed* at the time he committed the crimes in question, let alone registered as disabled with anybody!

      Yes, his motives were apparently stupid rather than evil, but he still committed a serious crime repeatedly - he should NOT get away with it.

      Yes, the US government has apparently written a computer virus; they dropped bombs on Berlin, too, but I don't think I'd be able to use that in my defence in court if I do the same.
      • His disability didn't "cause" him to do anything

        And the fear of many neurologically disabled (such as myself) is that it will be used as an excuse. If we start on how it has hurt people us, it isn't a quantum leap to how it hurts people around us. We don't want HR departments to start thinking like that but unfortunately, they are run by human beings,
        Dave Keays
    • I wouldn't go so far as to call this form of Asperger's a disability

      The mathematically gifted type of Asperger's is quite common among engineers. In many cases, having Asperger's might have made it possible for such people to be engineers in the first place.

      Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson may well have had Asperger's. Bill Gates might too.

      While in some people Asperger's should be considered a disability in others, I'd say not. In fact, many with Asperger's don't want to be considered disabled. They want to be considered gifted.
  • amendment

    damm auto correct - stuxnet.
  • No sympathy here

    you left out that at the time he was a systems administrator and that it took place "From the bedroom of his girlfriend's aunt's house" which kinda points out that his "ASD" isn't, most people with ASD lack the ability to have interpersonal relationships and deal with authority and there for maintain employment.
    #8 Pursuant to the request for mutual legal assistance, Mr McKinnon was interviewed under caution in London on 19 March 2002 and again on 8 August 2002. During those interviews he admitted responsibility for the intrusion into US Government computers and networks and the installation of "remotely anywhere" on them. This included the Army's Military District of Washington network and the Naval Weapons Station Earle network. He stated that he had copied files from the American computers onto his home computers and had deleted log files on the American computers so as to conceal his activities. He stated that his targets were high level US Army, Navy and Airforce computers and that his ultimate goal was to gain access to the US military classified information network. He admitted leaving a note on one Army computer that read:

    "US foreign policy is akin to Government-sponsored terrorism these days … It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand down on September 11 last year … I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels … "

    #13. Having gained access to these computers the appellant deleted data from them including critical operating system files from nine computers, the deletion of which shut down the entire US Army’s Military District of Washington network of over 2000 computers for 24 hours, significantly disrupting Governmental functions; 2,455 user accounts on a US Army computer that controlled access to an Army computer network, causing these computers to reboot and become inoperable; and logs from computers at US Naval Weapons Station Earle, one of which was used for monitoring the identity, location, physical condition, staffing and battle readiness of Navy ships, deletion of these files rendering the Base’s entire network of over 300 computers inoperable at a critical time immediately following 11 September 2001 and thereafter leaving the network vulnerable to other intruders.
    • Hardly a real terrorist.

      Worry about real terrorists, not people who show up lamentable security you have been paying for.
      • Amen to that!

        Exactly what i thought! THEIR I.T. should be hanged by the balls for leaving open what should be THE HIGHEST SECURED NETWORK IN THE WORLD.

        Just face it USA, you are embarassed, and that's why you act like a bunch of douche bag!
        Christian De Bellefeuille
        • Hang the IT team by the balls... along side the perp. (NB)

          Dave Keays
        • WHy would you expect NASA to be highest secured?

          NSA, perhaps, but hardly NASA. I disagree that the guy's condition be used as an excuse, if it's wrong for one, its wrong for all. But is it wrong?
          • NASA?

            I thought he had broken into government security installations or something- most of us in the UK would consider that NASA deals with space travel and not national security, a place we visit on a Florida holiday, not a high security fortress - makes me scared to think about how many innocent sounding organisations in the US have more sinister sides to their activity.
          • Rockets !!

            Because they are rocket scientists, and rockets plus nuclear material - !!NUKES !!

            See Iran/North Korea.................

            Bit of a stupid question ain't it ?
      • not prosecuting would be stupid and irresponsible

        When someone does what he did, you never know how far it will go especially when a fanatical threat is left behind. It was obviously not for the thrill or out of curiosity, but for potentially malicious purposes. Not stopping it while it is small would be irresponsible.
        Dave Keays
        • G'tmo

          Whereas the dozen's of potentially real terrorists who have been languishing around doing next to niothing in Guantanamo Bay for years is OK with you is it ?

          Slower wheels of justice than getting Abu Hamza out of the EU.
          • Guantanamo

            Potential terrorists. Where has innocent untill proven guilty gone ?
            America/World Police don't comply with their own laws. I reckon that place is a centre for Military experiments in brainwashing. 10 years of isolation, then they bring to trial ?. I am surprised that those guys can still think, never mind carry on a conversation.
            As far as the hacking charge is concerned, I would rather have that guy find the weaknesses than extremists in and religious/political fanatics. As someone else said .. "how many of the IT security people have been even disciplined ?"