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Pentagon hacker could face life beind bars of a US prison

PUBLISHED: 11:42 12 April 2007 | UPDATED: 14:30 07 September 2010

By Marijke Peters A COMPUTER whizz kid who hacked into the American military s computer systems from a Crouch End flat has lost his fight against extradition. Gary McKinnon is accused of causing $700,000 of damage when he broke into Nasa and naval network

By Marijke Peters

A COMPUTER whizz kid who hacked into the American military's computer systems from a Crouch End flat has lost his fight against extradition.

Gary McKinnon is accused of causing $700,000 of damage when he broke into Nasa and naval networks and was told by the High Court this week that he will be sent to America to stand trial.

The former Highgate Wood school pupil faces life behind bars if he is convicted of the crimes, which American lawyers have said will be treated as terrorism.

Dismissing an appeal against the Home Secretary's decision to extradite him, Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Goldring said: "On any basis there is a prima facie case against Mr McKinnon and no one could sensibly have thought otherwise.

"We do not find any of the grounds of appeal against the decision of the district judge or the Secretary of State to have been established."

McKinnon was caught by British police in 2002 and accused of carrying out "the biggest military hack of all time" for allegedly breaking into army, navy and Pentagon computers using specialist programmes.

He said he was looking for evidence the US government had covered up information about UFOs but furious authorities said his hacking had shut down an entire army network and disrupted government functions, including the ability to send weapons to troops.

They believe the hacking was politically motivated and claim McKinnon left a message on an army computer that read: "US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days...I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels."

Much of the High Court case rested on the question of whether US authorities had abused due process by offering McKinnon a plea deal then threatening to punish him more harshly after he rejected it.

The High Court criticised the way the US authorities handled the case and the judges said: "We make no secret of the fact that we view with a degree of distaste the way in which the American authorities are alleged to have approached the plea bargain negotiations."

In a statement his lawyers said: "Gary McKinnon will apply for leave to appeal to the House of Lords. In order to coerce his voluntary surrender, Mr McKinnon was subjected to threats by the US authorities during the course of plea bargaining negotiations. The US sought to coerce the appellant into consenting to his extradition without a formal request being made to the UK authorities.

"It is submitted that the conduct of the US in this case can be properly characterised as oppressive and vexatious such that the House of Lords should allow Mr McKinnon's appeal."

Mr McKinnon did not appear at the two day appeal and his lawyers said he was suffering from severe stress and panic attacks.

marijke.peters@hamhigh.co.uk

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