The man who allegedly hacked 97 government computers in his search for UFOs will not be extradited to the US.
Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who allegedly committed what has been described as the biggest military computer hack of all time, will not be extradited to the US for trial. His extradition was blocked by British Home Secretary Theresa May on human rights grounds.
“I have concluded that Mr McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights,” said the Home Secretary in her official statement. “It will now be for the director of public prosecutions to decide whether Mr McKinnon has a case to answer in a UK court,” she added.
McKinnon had been accused of hacking 97 US government machines between February 1st, 2001 and March 19th, 2002. Damage resulting from his hack, according to US prosecutors, left 300 machines at the US Naval Weapons Station Earle, New Jersey, out of action just after the September 11th terror attacks. The same prosecutors also allege that the hacks brought down the US Army’s Washington DC military district network – more than 2,000 machines – for 24 hours.
McKinnon has repeatedly denied causing damage, and claimed he was only seeking evidence that would prove the existence of UFOs. McKinnon suffers from depressive illness and Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that, McKinnon’s family claimed, made him particularly vulnerable to harm if he had been sent to a US prison. McKinnon faced up to 60 years imprisonment, if convicted in a US court. The diplomatic wrangling over his case has kept McKinnon in legal limbo for over a decade.
This decision will please British Prime Minister Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Clegg, both of whom have spoken in support of McKinnon. It will be less warmly welcomed by US officials. Former White House counsel and lawyer David Rivkin has described the situation as “deplorable.” Speaking about the argument that a US prison was not the best place for someone as defenseless as McKinnon, Rivkin said “under that logic, anybody who claims some kind of physical or mental problem can commit crimes with immunity and get away with it.”