UK Pentagon hacker can challenge U.S. extradition
A British computer expert accused by the United States of the "biggest military hack of all time" won the right Friday to launch a new legal challenge against plans to extradite him.
Gary McKinnon was arrested in 2002 after U.S. prosecutors charged him with illegally accessing computers, including the Pentagon, U.S. army, navy and NASA systems, and causing $700,000 worth of damage, reported Reuters.
He has been fighting attempts to extradite him ever since a British court ruled in 2006 that he should be sent to the United States for trial.
In the latest round of his legal battle, two judges at London's High Court ruled that he could seek a judicial review of Home Secretary (interior minister) Jacqui Smith's decision to approve the extradition, the Press Association news agency reported.
Lawyers for McKinnon, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, argued his health would suffer and he would be at real risk of suicide if he was handed over to U.S. authorities.
"It is the right decision," his lawyer Karen Todner said. "This case has been going on since 2002 and finally we have got the first right decision."
McKinnon is accused of causing the entire U.S. Army's Military District of Washington network of more than 2,000 computers to be shut down for 24 hours.
At the time of his indictment, Paul McNulty, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said: "Mr McKinnon is charged with the biggest military computer hack of all time."
He could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted by a U.S. court.
McKinnon told Reuters in 2006 he was just a computer nerd who wanted to find out whether aliens really existed and became obsessed with trawling large military networks for proof.
He had used his own computer with a 56K dial-up modem at his London home with no password protection.
Britain's new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer is considering a request from McKinnon for him to be prosecuted in Britain where his legal team believe he would receive a much shorter sentence.
He has signed a statement accepting that his hacking constituted an offence under Britain's Computer Misuse Act and the High Court was told Smith had agreed not to extradite him until the DPP's decision, due in the next four weeks.