Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 18:47 UK

Hacker vows to fight extradition

Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnon could face a long prison sentence

A Briton accused of hacking into top-secret military computers has vowed to fight extradition to stand trial in the US after losing a court appeal.

Glasgow-born Gary McKinnon could face life in jail if convicted of accessing 97 US military and Nasa computers.

He has admitted breaking into the computers from his London home but said he was seeking information on UFOs.

Mr McKinnon says he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights after losing the Law Lords appeal.

Mr McKinnon, 42, first lost his case at the High Court in 2006 before taking it to the highest court in the UK, the House of Lords.

He was arrested in 2002 but never charged in the UK.

The US government claims he committed a malicious crime - the biggest military computer hack ever.

The authorities have warned that without his co-operation and a guilty plea the case could be treated as terrorism and he could face a long jail sentence.

'Moral crusade'

Mr McKinnon, now living in north London, told BBC Radio 5 Live he was "pretty broken up" by the Law Lords' ruling, although he had expected the outcome.

He admitted he had been "misguided" in what he did, but said he believed at the time that he was acting in the public interest.

I'm extremely sorry I did it, but I think the reaction is completely overstated
Gary McKinnon

"It felt like a moral crusade," he said.

However, Mr McKinnon said he did not accept US claims that he caused damage to their systems. Instead he said he maintained a "quiet presence" and actually highlighted security problems.

"I'm extremely sorry I did it, but I think the reaction is completely overstated. I should face a penalty in Britain and I'd gladly do my time here," he said.

"To go from, you know, perhaps a year or two in a British jail to 60 years in an American prison is ridiculous."

A statement by solicitors for Mr McKinnon, who was not at the Lords to hear the judgement, said their client was "neither a terrorist nor a terrorist sympathiser".

"His case could have been properly dealt with by our own prosecuting authorities. We believe that the British government declined to prosecute him to enable the US government to make an example of him.

"American officials involved in this case have stated that they want to see him 'fry'.

"The consequences he faces if extradited are both disproportionate and intolerable."

'Critical systems'

Mr McKinnon's lawyers also claim he could be sent to Guantanamo Bay if he is treated as a terrorist.

Mr McKinnon, a former systems analyst, is accused of hacking into the computers with the intention of intimidating the US government.

Gary McKinnon talks to Huw Edwards on BBC News in July 2006

It alleges that between February 2001 and March 2002, he hacked into dozens of US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Defense computers, as well as 16 Nasa computers.

Prosecutors say he altered and deleted files at a naval air station not long after the 11 September attacks in 2001, rendering critical systems inoperable.

Mr McKinnon, who is currently unemployed, has admitted that he accessed computers in the US without authority.

But he has said he is merely a computer nerd, whose motives were harmless and innocent. He denies any attempts at sabotage.

He said he wanted to find evidence of UFOs he thought was being held by the US authorities, and to expose what he believed was a cover-up.

Repatriated

The Law Lords were told by Mr McKinnon's lawyers that extraditing him would be an abuse of proceedings.

US authorities had threatened him with a long jail sentence if he did not plead guilty, they said.

If the case was treated as terrorism it could result in a sentence of up to 60 years in a maximum security prison, should he be found guilty on all six indictments.

With co-operation, he would receive a lesser sentence of 37 to 46 months and be repatriated to the UK, where he could be released on parole and charges of "significantly damaging national security" would be dropped.

A Home Office spokesman said Mr McKinnon would have 14 days in which to seek appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.

If a hearing is granted, Mr McKinnon's extradition would be halted until the European verdict.

"If refused, arrangements for surrender to the USA will be put in hand," she added.


SEE ALSO
Profile: Gary McKinnon
30 Jul 08 |  Technology
McKinnon's extradition condemned
07 Jul 06 |  Technology
Hacker fears 'UFO cover-up'
05 May 06 |  Click


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