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Thursday 21 October 2010

SuperHacker Under Siege: Gary McKinnon

SuperHacker Under Siege

Change Gary McKinnon extradition law, Boris Johnson urges Lords

Gary McKinnon
Extradition: Gary McKinnon is being sent to the U.S. and faces 60 years in jail

Boris Johnson has urged peers to vote today to change the law to prevent a repeat of the 'blunt and brutal' extradition of Gary McKinnon.
Tories and LibDems in the Lords are expected to support the introduction of an amendment which would prevent those who commit crimes in Britain being sent overseas to face trial. 

Asperger's sufferer Gary, 43, is being sent to the U.S. under the controversial 2003 Extradition Act. 

He faces 60 years in jail for hacking into computers from the bedroom of his North London flat to search for evidence of the existence of aliens. 

London mayor Mr Johnson, who wrote to all peers last night, said: 'It is scandalous that under the current laws the UK has so little influence over extradition. 

'There are a number of serious flaws in the Extradition Act in its current form. As we have seen with the case of Gary McKinnon 

it can be a blunt and brutal law. Gary's appalling situation is just one high profile case we are aware of, but a number of other UK citizens are also in similar positions and are currently awaiting their fate. 

'I urge the peers to take the wellbeing of the people of this country seriously and use this opportunity to change this cruel law.' 

The introduction of the amendment has been delayed since 2006, when the Government approved the law but said it could only be enacted after a new vote. It has since frustrated attempts to hold such votes. 

Gary is being backed by a Daily Mail campaign. LibDem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said yesterday: 'These amendments should have been enacted by the Government years ago but their craven attitude towards the United States has got in the way. 

'It is only fair that people are tried here for crimes committed here unless a judge rules it is in the best interests of justice to extradite them.' 

On Saturday Home Secretary Alan Johnson halted Gary's extradition process to examine new medical evidence about his psychiatric health. Experts have warned he could commit suicide. 

The Government will oppose today's vote. A Home Office spokesman said the amendment 'would place the UK in breach of its international treaty obligations'. 

 By James Slack Last updated at 12:38 AM on 20th October 2009

Some background:

Hacker's appeal to go to new UK court


Gary McKinnon...fighting extradition.
Gary McKinnon...fighting extradition. Photo: Getty

SUPPORTERS of the autistic British computer hacker Gary McKinnon are rallying support for the man who is fighting extradition to the US to face federal charges for penetrating dozens of government computers.

His family and supporters are taking the case to the newly formed Supreme Court, which replaces the House of Lords as the highest appeal court in Britain. If that fails, they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a supporter said.

Sitting in his bedroom in north London shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr McKinnon exploited security problems in a variety of computer programs to tap into dozens of US government computers, including at NASA, the Pentagon and more than a dozen military installations in 14 states.

Paul McNulty, the then-US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, called it the ''the biggest hack of military computers ever detected''.

Mr McKinnon was indicted in Virginia and New Jersey in November 2002 on eight counts of computer fraud. He explained his actions by saying he was looking for UFOs. But he has yet to be brought to the US.

In February, British authorities refused to charge him or have the US charges heard in Britain. The Crown Prosecution Service said it would be best to prosecute Mr McKinnon in the US and that his actions were not ''random experiments'' but ''a deliberate effort to breach US defense systems at a critical time which caused well documented damage.''

Mr McKinnon has admitted to hacking into 97 US government computers between February 2001 and March 2002.

His supporters argue that he should not be extradited to face the US charges because he has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that he was diagnosed with last year. They say the diagnosis explains his obsession with hacking.

Rather than being America's worst cyber-terrorist, his family says, he is a vulnerable eccentric who could become suicidal if removed from his family.

The Washington Post August 29, 2009

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