NEWS

British Superhacker Fights Extradition to the U.S.

By Matthew Harwood

A British man, known to the country's press as "superhacker," is fighting extradition to the United States before Britain's highest court after he broke into nearly 100 computer systems of the U.S. government after the 9-11 attacks.

Gary McKinnon, 44, a systems analyst, says the United States pressured him to take a plea bargain or face a harsher length of imprisonment if he was convicted of hacking into U.S. government computer systems.

The Independent reports the extent of what is considered the "biggest military hack of all time":

Mr McKinnon is accused of hacking into 97 US military computers – including 16 Nasa computers and one belonging to the Pentagon – from his bedroom in Wood Green, north London, in 2001 and early 2002. He is alleged to have crashed the US Army's Washington network of 2,000 computers for 24 hours, significantly disrupting government functions.

Prosecutors also accuse him of shutting down 300 computers at a US Navy weapons station immediately after the terror attacks of 11 September 2001. Mr McKinnon said he was looking for evidence of unidentified flying objects.

McKinnon has never denied his hacking habit; rather, he says his ability to compromise such systems was due to lax security—which he says the U.S. government is trying to hide by making him the scapegoat.

McKinnon says U.S. prosecutors told him that if he took the plea bargain, he would only face 37 to 46 months in prison, according to the Guardian. Afterward, he would get repatriated and serve his parole in the United Kingdom.

But if he refused, said McKinnon's lawyer David Pannick CQ, "this sentence would be in the region of eight to ten years, possibly longer. This was pressure of an unacceptable degree."

U.S. prosecutors also threatened that they could charge McKinnon under the nation's terrorism laws. If convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison.

Pannick argued before five Law Lords that such U.S. aggressiveness violates extradition proceedings, and as a result, McKinnon's extradition request should be denied.

Acting on behalf of the United States, the Home Secretary's lawyer, Clare Montgomery QC, said the U.S. authorities did not intimidate McKinnon but were merely making statements-of-fact, reports ZDNet.co.uk.

Thus, his extradition should proceed, she argued.

The Telegraph reports a decision is expected in three weeks.

 

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