UK to decide on NASA hacker extradition by Oct. 16

If Gary McKinnon's extradition is approved, the case will proceed to the High Court in November

The U.K.'s Home Office will decide by Oct. 16 whether to block the extradition to the U.S. of Gary McKinnon, who has admitted to hacking into U.S. government computers, McKinnon's attorney said on Thursday.

McKinnon, 46, of north London, was indicted in 2002 at the U.S. District Court in Virginia for hacking into 97 military and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002.

McKinnon's extradition, though approved by the British government in 2006, has been delayed by years of court reviews and legal maneuvering. His case stirred controversy over the fairness of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and U.K., although a legal review completed last October found it was not slanted against British defendants.

In 2010, Home Secretary Theresa May adjourned a judicial review of McKinnon's case that had been due to take place in the High Court. Since then, the U.K. government has been conducting an inquiry into McKinnon's medical record. He suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a neurological disorder related to autism characterized by deficiencies in social interaction, as well as depression.

If his extradition is approved the case will proceed to the U.K. High Court, which has scheduled hearings for Nov. 28 and 29, according to Karen Todner, McKinnon's lawyer.

McKinnon has admitted to hacking the computers but asked that his prosecution be conducted in the U.K. The Crown Prosecution Service has declined to prosecute, contending the U.S. wants jurisdiction and that most of the evidence is held by the U.S.

McKinnon, who went by the name "Solo," contends he was merely searching for proof that UFOs exist and that he didn't harm the systems he is accused of hacking. He used a program called "RemotelyAnywhere," a remote access tool, to access computers, many of which were protected by only default passwords.

The U.S. military alleges that McKinnon deleted critical files from its computers, causing up to US$800,000 in damages, and hampered its efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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