British Hacker Spared Extradition To U.S.

by
Reuters
A British computer hacker accused by the United States of breaking into military systems will be spared from extradition because he is at risk of committing suicide, interior minister Theresa May said on Tuesday.

A British computer hacker accused by the United States of breaking into military systems will be spared from extradition because he is at risk of committing suicide, interior minister Theresa May said on Tuesday.

Gary McKinnon, who has been fighting extradition for seven years, faced up to 60 years in an American jail if found guilty of what one U.S. prosecutor called the "biggest military computer hack of all time".

"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," May told parliament

"I have therefore withdrawn the extradition order against Mr McKinnon."

McKinnon, 46, admits hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers under the pseudonym "Solo" but said he was just looking for suppressed evidence of UFOs.

U.S. officials say the former computer systems administrator accessed 97 military and NASA computers between 2001 and 2002, disabling key naval systems and causing more than $700,000 of damage.

He suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, and has been fighting extradition since British police arrested him in 2005.

May said she had taken her decision not to extradite him after studying medical reports and taking "extensive" legal advice.

"Mr McKinnon is accused of serious crimes, but there is also no doubt that he is seriously ill," she said.

It would now be up to British prosecutors to decide whether McKinnon had any case to answer in a court in Britain, May added.