'Distraught' hacker loses US extradition appeal

Gary McKinnon, a computer expert who is accused of hacking into secret military computers, has lost his last chance to avoid extradition to the US.

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Gary McKinnon, a computer expert who is accused of hacking into secret military computers, has lost his last chance to avoid extradition to the US.

Glasgow-born McKinnon stands accused of breaking into computers belonging to NASA and the US military. In 2001, McKinnon broke into the Pentagon's system from his north London flat and left a message saying "your security is crap". He is charged in the US with unauthorised access to computers and causing damage to a protected system.

The computer boffin, 42, has long fought with authorities over his extradition to the US, where he fears he could be treated as a terrorist, tried in a military tribunal and ultimately imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

He had appealed against his extradition under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights delayed his extradition earlier this month and called for a meeting today to decide whether attempts to try him in the US should be blocked. However, the court ruled this morning that he must face US courts, and he now faces extradition within two weeks.

It was in 2002 that a US court first indicted McKinnon for the offences, committed in 2001, although he was not arrested by UK police until 2005. The UK government first approved his extradition in 2006.

McKinnon has never visited the US, and the offences of which McKinnon is accused were committed in the UK, his lawyers Kaim Todner said.

"We maintain that any prosecution of our client ought therefore to be carried out by the appropriate British authorities," the London law firm said. "UK citizens are at the mercy of the ever-increasing tendency of overseas prosecutors to extend their jurisdiction to crimes allegedly committed in this country."

McKinnon was said to be "distraught" at today's ruling. He faces extradition within two weeks.

Security experts said the high-profile case should serve as a warning to other hackers. "The US authorities will be rubbing its hands together in glee at the news that they are finally going to get their hands on McKinnon," wrote Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"The message is clear - if you hack into computers you have to realize that the legal consequences could be severe. Others should take note of McKinnon's predicament and ask themselves: do I want to end up in his situation?" Cluley wrote.

McKinnon's lawyers said they will make one further appeal against the extradition, to the UK Home Secretary. The appeal will be on medical grounds, as McKinnon has recently been diagnosed as suffering from Asperger Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterised by obsessive behaviour and deficiencies in social interaction.

See also:

NASA hacker's extradition is 'inevitable'

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