Gary McKinnon

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Gary McKinnon

Gary McKinnon
Born 10 February 1966 (1966-02-10) (age 43)
Glasgow, UK
Nationality Scottish
Other names SOLO

Gary McKinnon, also known as SOLO (born February 10, 1966), is a Scottish hacker facing extradition to the United States to face charges of perpetrating what has been described by one prosecutor as the "biggest military computer hack of all time."[1] Following legal hearings in the UK it was decided in July 2006 that he should be extradited to the US. In February 2007 his lawyers argued against the ruling in an appeal to the High Court in London,[2] which was turned down on April 3.[3] On July 30, 2007 the House of Lords agreed to hear the appeal[4] and on June 17, 2008 the Law Lords began hearing the case.[5][6] This Judgment was delivered on July 30, 2008 with the Law Lords judging that Gary McKinnon could be extradited to the United States.[7] He was given two weeks to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights before extradition, but the Court halted the extradition for an additional two weeks to allow time to hear his appeal on August 28,[8] which was subsequently rejected.[9][10] His legal team subsequently decided to lodge another appeal, which was granted, based on the fact that McKinnon has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.[11][12] His diagnosis was made in August 2008 by the eminent psychologist Prof Simon Baron-Cohen,[13] and has attracted criticism.[14]


[edit] Background

The Glasgow-born systems administrator who attended Highgate Wood Secondary School in north London, is accused of hacking into 97 United States military and NASA computers in 2001 and 2002. The computer networks he is accused of hacking include networks owned by NASA, the US Army, US Navy, Department of Defense, and the US Air Force. The US estimates claim the costs of tracking and correcting the problems he allegedly caused were around $700,000[15] but he has always denied causing any damage, argued he accessed open, unsecured machines, and disputes the financial loss claimed by the US as concocted in order to create a dollar amount justifying an extraditable offense. While it did not constitute evidence of destruction, he did admit leaving a diatribe on one computer:

US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days... It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 last year... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels. [15]

McKinnon was originally tracked down and arrested under the Computer Misuse Act by the UK National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) in 2002 who informed him that he would face community service. The Crown Prosecution Service refused to charge him. Later that year he was indicted by the United States government. McKinnon remained at liberty without restriction for three years until June 2005 (after the UK had implemented a new extradition treaty with the US) when he became subject to bail conditions including a requirement to sign in at his local police station every evening, and to remain at his home address at night. In addition, he was banned from using a computer with access to the Internet. There have been no more developments in respect of the charges relating to United Kingdom legislation but in late 2005 the United States began extradition proceedings.

If he is extradited to the US and charged, McKinnon faces up to 70[16] years in jail and has expressed fears that he could be sent to Guantanamo Bay.[17][18] He continues to contest the extradition proceedings and believes that he should face trial in the UK, principally as he argues that the destruction allegations are fraudulent and that any alleged crimes were committed there and not in the United States.

[edit] Appeal

Representing McKinnon in the House of Lords on 16 June 2008, David Pannick QC told the Law Lords that the prosecutors had said McKinnon faced a possible 8-10 years in jail if he contested the charges (there were seven counts), but only 37-46 months if he co-operated and went voluntarily to the US. McKinnon also claimed that he had been told that he could serve part of his sentence in the UK if he co-operated. He had rejected the plea bargain offer as no guarantee had been given by the Americans.

Pannick said that the Law Lords could deny extradition if there was an abuse of process: "If the United States wish to use the processes of English courts to secure the extradition of an alleged offender, then they must play by our rules."[19] The House of Lords rejected this argument, with the lead judgement (of Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood) holding that extradition proceedings should "accommodate legal and cultural differences between the legal systems of the many foreign friendly states with whom the UK has entered into reciprocal extradition arrangements".[20] McKinnon appealed to the European Court of Human Rights,[7] but the appeal was rejected.

On 23 January 2009, McKinnon won permission from the High Court to apply for a judicial review against his extradition. [21]

[edit] Civilian efforts in support of McKinnon

In early November 2008, a total of 20 British MPs signed an Early Day Motion calling for any custodial sentence imposed by an American court to be served in a prison in the UK.[22]

In mid-November the rock group Marillion announced that it was ready to participate in a benefit concert in support of Gary McKinnon's struggle to avoid extradition to United States. Organiser of the planned event Ross Hemsworth, an English radio host, has also inquired such names as David Gilmour of Pink Floyd[23], The Rolling Stones, U2 and David Bowie. No date has been set yet.[24]

In a major Op/Ed in The Herald newspaper of Scotland Joseph Richard Gutheinz, Jr.,a retired NASA Office of Inspector General Senior Special Agent, joined the chorus of support for Gary McKinnon. Gutheinz, who is also an American criminal defense attorney and former Member of the Texas Criminal Justice Advisory Committee on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments, opined that Gary McKinnon could not find justice if extradited to America from England, because of America’s poor track record in choosing to aggressively prosecute offenders with mental impairments. Gutheinz was especially concerned that McKinnon affliction with Asperger's syndrome would not be dealt with sympathetically by the American criminal justice system. Gutheinz said, that as an attorney, he represented a young defendant with Asperger's syndrome in the past, in an American criminal case. [25]

[edit] Statements to the media

During the length of time between his indictment and beginning of extradition proceedings, with a growing media interest in his case, Gary McKinnon has had a number of opportunities to address the media.

In an interview televised on the BBC's Click programme,[26] he claimed that he was able to get into the military's networks simply by using a Perl script that searched for blank passwords; in other words his report suggests that there were computers on these networks with the default passwords active.

At the Infosecurity Europe 2006 conference in London on April 27, 2006, McKinnon appeared on the Hackers' Panel. When asked how his exploits were first discovered, McKinnon answered that he had miscalculated the timezone — he was using remote-control software to operate a Windows computer while its user was sitting in front of it.

McKinnon has admitted in many public statements to unauthorised access of computer systems in the United States including those mentioned in the United States indictment. He claims his motivation, drawn from a statement made before the Washington Press Club on May 9, 2001 by the "The Disclosure Project", was to find evidence of UFOs, antigravity technology, and the suppression of "Free Energy", all of which he claims to have proven through his actions.[27]

In his interview with the BBC he also claimed that "The Disclosure Project" says there is "extraterrestrial in origin and [they've] captured spacecraft and reverse engineered it." He said he investigated a NASA photographic expert's claim that at the Johnson Space Center's Building 8 images were regularly cleaned of evidence of UFO craft, and confirmed this comparing the raw originals with the "processed" images. He claimed to have viewed a detailed image of "something not man-made" and "cigar shaped" floating above the northern hemisphere, and assuming his viewing would be undisrupted owing to the hour, he did not think of capturing the image because he was "bedazzled", and therefore did not think of securing it with the screen capture function in the software RemotelyAnywhere at the point when his connection was interrupted.[28] McKinnon stated the image was approximately 256 megabytes in size, yet that the craft's details were still distinct in the greatly inferior 4-bit color and low resolution he had to reduce the viewing image to to appear across his mere 56k modem connection (approximate transfer rate 5 minutes/megabyte).

The charge that he perpetrated "the biggest military hack of all time" is ridiculed by McKinnon who characterises himself as a "bumbling computer nerd" who undestructively accessed open, unsecured machines while under the influence of cannabis and beer, and that the destruction claims were manufactured by embarrassed US authorities after the fact in order to meet a dollar amount requisite to seek an extradition, in order to make him a poster child and intimidate any snoopers, especially those interested in the alien technology subjects he believed the public had a moral right to be aware of. He contrasted his viewing of unsecured information with incidents of real, non-passive security-disrupting or destructive cracking, including when in May 2001 as acknowledged by U.S. government contractor Exigent International one or more hackers broke into a U.S. government server storing satellite software and stole code. Evidence in that case led investigators to an e-mail service in Sweden but the culprits were never apprehended. In 1997, two California teenagers and a trio of Israeli hackers were arrested for cracking into Pentagon servers. Israeli hacker Ehu Tenenbaum, then 18 years old, and his two teenage accomplices were not extradited, but were prosecuted by local authorities. McKinnon stated that on many occasions he noticed numerous other users from various global IP addresses accessing the same machines at the same time. The U.S. Pentagon has for example in the past cited as many as 250,000 hostile attacks in a single year.

[edit] Advantages of trial in the UK

One significant advantage of a trial in the UK from McKinnon's perspective would be the availability of jury equity, that is, a decision by which a jury of peers absolves a defendant from all criminal liability, irrespective of whether criminal law would dictate a different result. McKinnon's controversial statements about the existence of 'publicly sensitive' information on hacked US servers would be one strategy of winning the favour of a prospective jury in the UK. For a successful application of the legal stratagem refer to the Clive Ponting case.

[edit] NASA documents

In 2006, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed to NASA for all documents pertaining to Gary McKinnon. NASA's documents consisted of printed news articles from the Slashdot website, but no other related documents. This is consistent with NASA employees browsing internet articles about Gary McKinnon, the records of which are public domain.

The records have been uploaded to the internet for review, and can be downloaded from

[edit] Radio play

On December 12, 2007, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 45 minute radio play about the case, The McKinnon Extradition by John Fletcher.[29] It was rebroadcast on September 2, 2008.

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Boyd, Clark (30 July 2008). "Profile: Gary McKinnon". BBC News. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  2. ^ "British hacker fights extradition". BBC News. 14 February 2007. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  3. ^ "UK hacker loses extradition fight". BBC News. 3 April 2007. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  4. ^ Campbell, Duncan (31 July 2007). "Lords to hear 'hacker' appeal". The Guardian.,,2138351,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  5. ^ "Law Lords consider UK hacker case". BBC News. 17 June 2008. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  6. ^ "Hacker Indicted Under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act For Accessing Military Computers". U.S. Department of Justice. 12 November 2002. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  7. ^ a b "Hacker loses extradition appeal". BBC News. 30 July 2008. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  8. ^ "by : Yahoo! Tech". 2009-01-05. Retrieved on 2009-01-16. 
  9. ^ "European Court of Human Rights refuses request for interim measures by Gary McKinnon". European Court of Human Rights. 28 August 2008. Retrieved on 2008-09-01. 
  10. ^ "Hacker loses extradition appeal". BBC News. 28 August 2008. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  11. ^ Campbell, Duncan (29 August 2008). "British computer hacker faces extradition to US after court appeal fails". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ "Hacker appeals to home secretary". BBC News. 1 September 2008. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  13. ^ "Hacker wins court review decision". BBC News. 23 January 2009. Retrieved on 2009-01-23. 
  14. ^ Crawford, Ted. "McKinnon to use Asperger's defense?: Critics polarized over diagnosis". Daily Mail. 3 September 2008.
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^ 'Hacker' extradition case reopens, BBC News, 14 February 2006
  18. ^ British 'hacker' fears Guantanamo, BBC News, 12 April 2006
  19. ^ Thurston, Richard (18 June 2008). "NASA hacker appeals to House of Lords to overturn extradition". SC Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-09-02. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Judicial review
  22. ^ "MPs want UK jail time for hacker". BBC News. 4 November 2008. Retrieved on 2008-11-15. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Ballard, Mark (14 November 2008). "Marillion to play gig for McKinnon". The inquirer. Retrieved on 17 November 2008. 
  25. ^ ( ) I fear Gary Mckinnon will not find justice in America, Joseph Gutheinz. The Herald, UK, February 6, 2009
  26. ^ Transcript of the interview, BBC Click
  27. ^ "UFO Hacker" Tells What He Found, Wired News, 21 June 2006
  28. ^ The NASA Hacker, BBC Click
  29. ^ "The McKinnon Extradition". BBC Programmes. Retrieved on 2008-06-21. 

[edit] References

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