February 26, 2009

British Court Refuses Hacker’s Request Against Extradition

British computer hacker Gary McKinnon's request against extradition to the US has been refused after British prosecutors failed to bring charges against him on Thursday.

Arrested by British police in 2002, McKinnon is accused of accessing computers from the Pentagon, US Army, Navy and NASA systems after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. McKinnon's activities resulted in $800,000 worth of damage and left 300 computers at a US Navy weapons station unusable.

McKinnon, 42, insists he was searching for evidence of UFOs. According to BBC News, he has signed a statement accepting that his hacking constituted an offence under the UK's Computer Misuse Act 1990.

In 2006, a British court ruled that McKinnon should be extradited to the US to face trial, where he could face up to 70 years in prison.

His legal team had petitioned Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute McKinnon in Britain on lesser charges, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) rejected their request on Thursday.

"The evidence we have does not come near to reflecting the criminality that is alleged by the American authorities," said Alison Saunders, head of the CPS organized crime division.

"These were not random experiments in computer hacking, but a deliberate effort to breach US defense systems at a critical time which caused well-documented damage.

"They may have been conducted from Mr McKinnon's home computer - and in that sense there is a UK link - but the target and the damage were transatlantic.

"The bulk of the evidence is located in the United States, the activity was directed against the military infrastructure of the United States, the investigation commenced in the United States and was ongoing, and there are a large number of witnesses, most of whom are located in the United States."

McKinnon's supporters, including his mother, Janis Sharp, argues that he suffers from Asperger's Syndrome - a form of autism - and should not be considered a criminal.

"Gary is a gentle man with Asperger's - not a dangerous terrorist," said Sharp.

"His obsessions led him to search US computer systems. Wrong, yes, but extraditing him to a high-security prison knowing he won't survive - surely no-one can honestly believe that punishment fits the crime?

"We've suffered an agonizing seven years which has ruined the lives and health of my family."

In a statement, McKinnon's lawyer Kaim Todner said: "Mr. McKinnon will still remain in the United Kingdom as the judicial review proceedings against the (U.K.) Secretary of State remain outstanding and we are hopeful that those proceedings will be successful."


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