Hacker McKinnon loses appeal against extradition to US
Gary McKinnon, a computer expert who hacked into dozens of US military computers, lost his appeal to the European court of human rights today and faces extradition to the US in the next fortnight, his solicitor said.
McKinnon has fought a long-standing battle with authorities over his extradition to the US, which has dubbed him the "the world's most dangerous hacker".
The computer expert broke into the Pentagon's system from his north London flat and left a message saying "your security is crap".
Last month, he lost his battle against extradition in a House of Lords ruling. He was granted a temporary delay two weeks later by the European court of human rights, pending the meeting of its chamber today.
Karen Todner, from Kaim Todner solicitors, said her client was "distraught" about the decision and appealed to the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, to intervene.
"Mr McKinnon has recently been diagnosed as suffering from Asperger Syndrome. As a result, we will be writing to the Home Secretary again inviting a prosecution in this country," she said.
"Our client now faces the prospect of prosecution and imprisonment thousands of miles away from his family in a country in which he has never set foot."
"Our client's case highlights a worrying trend where UK citizens are at the mercy of the ever-increasing tendency of overseas prosecutors to extend their jurisdiction to crimes allegedly committed in this country."
Using the codename Solo, the 42-year-old hacked into 53 US Army computers and 26 US Navy computers, including those at the US naval weapons station Earle in New Jersey, which is responsible for replenishing munitions and supplies for the Atlantic fleet.
The US military said he left 300 computers at a US navy weapons station unusable immediately after 9/11.
He was caught in 2002 as he tried to download a grainy black-and-white photograph he believed was an alien spacecraft from a Nasa computer housed in the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.
He was easily traced by the authorities because he used his own email address.
Mark Summers, an official representing the US government, said McKinnon's hacking was "intentional and calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion".
American officials claim he caused $700,000 (Â£354,000) damage and threatened national security.
If extradited, McKinnon faces up to 70 years in prison and his lawyers have argued he could even be given "enemy combatant" status, the same category applied to terrorist suspects interned at GuantÃ¡namo Bay.
After last month's House of Lords decision, McKinnon said the case had proved devastating in the six years since he was arrested. With his bail conditions barring him from using the internet, a return to his previous work in IT is near impossible and potential employers are scared off.
"I've lost two jobs because of this; my bosses just didn't want to be associated with the publicity," he said.
"Gary McKinnon is neither a terrorist nor a terrorist sympathiser," said Todner. "His case could have been properly dealt with by our own prosecuting authorities. Instead, 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 and we will be making an immediate application to the European court to prevent his removal."
McKinnon has consistently argued he was merely a "bumbling computer nerd" who caused no damage but was merely searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Between 2001 and 2002, he scanned thousands of US government computers from his bedroom, looking for loopholes which would help him get inside their networks in order to prove his contention that the existence of aliens had been covered up by the CIA.
He left messages on the desktops of computers he had hacked into, a mistake that allowed the authorities to trace him.
"It got a bit silly," he told the Guardian in 2005. "I suppose it means I'm not a secretive, sophisticated, checking-myself-every-step-of-the-way type of hacker."
McKinnon's lawyers have argued he should face trial in the UK as the hacking raids were conducted in Britain. He would face a much shorter sentence under Britain's more lenient computer crime laws. The defence argued he was being unfairly targeted because his work embarrassed the US security services.
They argued that an attempt by US prosecutors to make a deal with McKinnon - in which he would be offered a six-month sentence for his cooperation - constituted an unfair derailment of British legal procedures. That contention was rejected by the law lords, who said that granting the appeal would "imperil the integrity of the extradition process".
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood said in the written judgment: "The difference between the American system and our own is not perhaps so stark as the appellant's argument suggests."
Computer security experts said it was unlikely US prosecutors would give up their pursuit. "The US is making a clear stand that anyone making any attempts to compromise its computers and data will face the consequences," said Graham Cluley, of IT security company Sophos.
Titan Rain was the U.S. government's designation given to a series of coordinated attacks on American computer systems since 2003. The attacks were labeled as Chinese in origin, although their precise nature (i.e., state-sponsored espionage, corporate espionage, or random hacker attacks) and their real identities (i.e, masked by proxy, zombie computer, spyware/virus infected) remain unknown. The designation "Titan Rain" has been changed, but the new name for the attacks is itself classified if connected with this set of attacks.
In early December of 2005 the director of the SANS Institute, a security institute in the U.S., said that the attacks were most likely the result of Chinese military hackers attempting to gather information on U.S. systems.
Titan Rain hackers gained access to many U.S. computer networks, including those at Lockheed Martin, Sandia National Laboratories, Redstone Arsenal, and NASA.
No Chinese have been extradited to the US Blah blah blah chicken shit.
Last edited by Von Vorschlag; 08-28-2008 at 06:56 AM.