Search

Hacker speaks out over terror accusations

PUBLISHED: 17:41 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:17 07 September 2010

THE self-confessed computer nerd who hacked into US military secrets has told how his life has fallen apart and how he lives in fear of being sent to Guantanamo Bay. Gary McKinnon, 42, allegedly caused $700,000 of damage when he hacked into Nasa and nav

THE self-confessed computer nerd who hacked into US military secrets has told how his life has fallen apart and how he lives in fear of being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Gary McKinnon, 42, allegedly caused $700,000 of damage when he hacked into Nasa and naval networks in 2002.

And last week the former Crouch End resident and Highgate Wood School pupil lost his fight against extradition to America, where he faces up to 60 years in prison and prosecution under the President's Military Order, which sets out the treatment and detention of terrorists.

Speaking exclusively to the Ham&High this week, Mr McKinnon revealed:

o His plans to appeal to the highest available authority, the European Court of Human Rights.

o His fear that he will never receive a fair trial in the US.

o How he has turned to alcohol to escape his nightmare.

o How the six-year battle has made him slump into depression.

Mr McKinnon said: "There's no way I'll face a fair trial in America. If I'm prosecuted under the Military Order, it would be at a military tribunal and I couldn't speak to the press. The thought is really scary. God knows what will happen.

"Guantanamo is the worst case scenario. You see how they are treated and I've heard the things that happen. Solitary confinement would drive me insane. It's a reality I'm told."

Mr McKinnon feels his life has turned upside down since his flat in Hillfield Avenue was stormed by police in March 2002.

"I would describe myself before this all happened as happy-go-lucky, friendly and a hard worker," he said. "Now I'm just depressed. When the allegations were first brought by the British police, I held my hands up and said I had done some unauthorised access.

"But when the Americans brought their allegations, that's when it started getting really serious. I knew I wasn't the one who had damaged their systems, like they alleged. I was just snooping around."

Mr McKinnon claims he was searching for evidence of UFOs. But just as he discovered what he believes were images of a non man-made aircraft, his access was abruptly cut off. The six years since then have clearly taken their toll.

"It's surreal to be considered a terrorist," he said. "I feel hung, drawn and quartered. I've lost every legal fight. I was coping really well until recently. I've done the typical bloke thing and bottled it all up. But it's like the worst day of my life, every day for six years. I'm constantly jumpy. I walk around with a constant feeling of fear and dread.

"I've been drinking lots lately. I'm not an alcoholic but this tension manifests itself as a permanent pain in the chest."

Mr McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, said: "I'm very hopeful that he will have a full hearing in the European courts. The next 10 days are crucial."

Ms Todner will cite human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay in her application, as well as arguing that American prosecutors have attempted to bargain with Mr McKinnon by offering him only one to three years in prison if he admits guilt.

If Mr McKinnon is granted his right to appeal next week, he may have to wait up to two years before being heard in the European Court.

Meanwhile Mr McKinnon's mother fears he will die if he is extradited to America.

Janis Sharp, 59, who used to live in Muswell Hill and Crouch End and now lives in Enfield, said: "I'm petrified of him going to America. My main concern is that they seem to have come after Gary more than any other terrorist.

"The thought of a Military Order scares me. It won't be an open trial and there will be no access to the press or public. It will all be in secret or he might even be sent to Guantanamo which is terrifying. They could do what they wanted with him.

"I fear he would end up dying in a US prison. They are out to get him and throw the book at him.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express