NASA hacker McKinnon spared extradition to the US

Home secretary Theresa May has withdrawn the extradition order for Gary McKinnon, wanted in the US on charges of hacking into NASA and military systems, on human rights grounds.

Gary McKinnon's 10-year fight against extradition to the US to face hacking charges looks to be over, after home secretary Theresa May said she has withdrawn the order on human rights grounds.

Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnon

On Tuesday, May said there is no doubt that McKinnon is "seriously ill" and that the risk to his health was too great to extradite him, according to reports. Earlier this week, Home Office-commissioned experts said the removal of the self-confessed hacker to face charges in the US carries a "significant risk of suicidal behaviour" for McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome.

US authorities began their bid to extradite McKinnon in 2005, accusing him of causing $700,000 of damage by hacking into NASA and military systems. The London resident admitted to the intrusion in 2002, but said he was merely looking for evidence of UFO activity.

Given that McKinnon carried out the hacking in the UK, there is now a chance that he could face trial in a British court. Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer will now decide on that matter, May said.

May said that despite criticisms from MPs and others about "imbalance", the extradition treaty between the US and the UK is "broadly sound". However, she plans to introduce a 'forum bar', which would let British courts decide whether an accused individual should be tried in Britain or abroad.

In a post to Twitter, McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, welcomed Theresa May's decision. "Am delighted by Home Secretary's decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon. The right result after all these years," she wrote.