Alan Johnson can't stop McKinnon's extradition

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said it would be illegal for him to intervene in the extradition of hacker Gary McKinnon to the US, while McKinnon's mother has called on President Barack Obama to stop the legal proceedings.

Share

Soon after a British court ruled that it wouldn't stop the extradition of Gary McKinnon, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said it would be illegal for him to intervene.

But the hacker's mother has made a plea to President Barack Obama to stop the legal proceedings.

Last week, self-confessed hacker McKinnon, 43, lost his latest appeal to be tried in the UK for hacking into official US computers, after the High Court refused to halt his extradition.

McKinnon, who reportedly suffers from Asperger's syndrome, is alleged to have hacked into 97 NASA and Pentagon PCs in 2001, very soon after the September 11 terror attack on the World Trade Centre. McKinnon admits to the hacking, but has maintained he was looking for evidence of aliens rather than causing damage.

The High Court ruled that the UK simply doesn't have enough evidence to reflect the seriousness of the charges being levelled by US federal prosecutors, leaving it unable to hand down a sentence that matches the seriousness of the charges, the BBC.com reported.

The US government alleges that McKinnon caused $900,000 in damages to computers in 14 states, and that he caused the shutdown of critical military networks and diverted much-needed investigatory work, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He faces a sentence of 60 years or more in the US.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson wrote in a newspaper article he does not have the power to halt McKinnon's extradition, and it would be illegal for him to intervene.

"I can make no pronouncement of McKinnon’s guilt or innocence, wrote Johnson in the article published in The Times. "But the crimes he is accused of are far from trivial and he should be tried fairly for them in a court of law and in the country where the impact of those crimes was felt. As the High Court judgement makes clear, if convicted McKinnon will not serve any of his sentence in a 'supermax' prison."

But Cabinet minister Peter Hain has become the most senior Labour figure to break ranks and call for hacker Gary McKinnon to be tried in Britain.

As McKinnon committed an offence on British soil, Hain, the Secretary of State for Wales, told the Daily Mail that it would be better for him to be prosecuted in a "British context".

Meanwhile, McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp has appealed to President Obama to stop the prosecution.

Speaking to reporters outside of the courthouse, Sharp said: "I think Obama probably doesn't know about it and he's got so many things to consider."

She said she has been "desperately" trying to get in touch with the president. "It's a holdover from the Bush era and it's not from Obama. He would not want this to happen."

Sharp also said she fears that US prosecutors will go for the death penalty for her son. "Obama, please hear about us," Sharp added. "Stand by us and make this world a better place, a more compassionate place. Please hear us, Obama. I know you'd do the right thing."

It's not clear whether McKinnon, who was an unemployed systems administrator in the UK at the time of the 2001 hacks, will be able to appeal his case to the UK Supreme Court, reports in BBC.com have noted.

NEXT PAGE: McKinnon case has taken on a new level of cause celebre