High Court could delay McKinnon's extradition appeal

Lawyers for self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon will ask the High Court on Tuesday to postpone its hearing into whether Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision to extradite him to the US should stand.

Lawyers for self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon will ask the High Court on Tuesday to postpone its hearing into whether Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision to extradite him to the US should stand.

They will argue that the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has indicated he needs four weeks to consider a fresh appeal to try Gary McKinnon in the UK. The delay would give Starmer that time.

McKinnon has been fighting extradition charges since 2005, when the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, acceded to a US request to extradite him.

The US charges McKinnon with hacking into US government and military computers and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage. It claims McKinnon's exploits, between 2001 and 2002, were the greatest military hack of all time.

McKinnon has written to Starmer to admit to the hacking, but denied he caused damage. According to Karen Todner, McKinnon's lawyer, the National High Tech Crime Unit had found no evidence on McKinnon's computer that he had damaged US systems.

Messages he left on US computers accusing the US of political terrorism in the run up to the invasion of Iraq were "cyber-graffiti," his mother Janis Sharp, told a press conference today.

McKinnon indicated at the press conference that he regarded the US charges as absurd. He questioned whether it was really possible for a single person using a dial-up personal computer could, in 2001, bring down entire military networks, as alleged.

Responding to questions, he said it was true he had received letters from US authorities in effect thanking him for showing up vulnerabilities of the US networks.

"Some thought I'd done the country a service," he said. "Perhaps they were thankful it was me and not Al Qaeda."

He said the computers he had hacked originally had no password or firewalls to protect them, at least to start with. In earlier interviews, he admitted writing scripts to harvest and test passwords. Even then, he said, once one US computer "trusted" him, most of the others on the same network did too.

This allowed him to search for information about unidentified flying objects and new technology that produced free energy that he believed the US was hiding from the world. He said he had found evidence of UFOs but not of the energy technology.

In evidence to the House of Lords, which heard McKinnon's appeal against extradition and refused it, lawyers for the US said the former systems administrator had hacked some 73,000 computers.

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