Feeds

McKinnon loses Lords appeal

Pentagon hacker takes fight to Europe

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Updated Accused Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon has lost his appeal in the House of Lords against extradition to the USA, but his lawyers have vowed to take the fight on to the European Court of Human Rights.

Gary McKinnon at InfosecIn a ruling this morning, Five Law Lords rejected arguments that the strong-arm tactics adopted by US authorities during plea bargaining negotiations with McKinnon overstepped the mark.

The 42-year-old's lawyers said he was warned that unless he played ball and agreed to voluntarily fly over to the US he would face a longer spell in jail if convicted.

McKinnon's legal team also said FBI legal attaché Ed Gibson (who is now Microsoft UK's chief security adviser) warned the Scot that unless he dropped appeals against extradition and agreed to plead guilty then US authorities would oppose repatriation that would enable McKinnon to serve the majority of any sentence handed down in the UK.

A House of Lords hearing heard that McKinnon was told he'd face a sentence of between three and four years if he pleaded guilty against a possible eight-to-ten years after a US trial.

These tactics, McKinnon's legal team argued, amounted to an abuse of the extradition process. Lawyers for the US authorities denied any impropriety.

McKinnon's appeal to the highest court in England and Wales was heard by five judges including Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the third most senior judge in the UK, and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, the former intelligence services commissioner.

Judicial Office staff in the House of Lords confirmed the appeal had been dismissed. The ruling (full judgment here) is a severe, but not necessarily fatal, blow against the Scot's attempt to avoid trial in the US.

Last chance

Karen Todner, McKinnon's solicitor, said that an appeal would be launched with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg. "We'll be asking for interim relief, a stay in proceedings. We'll know within 10 and 20 days whether the court will hear the appeal. If not then there's nothing else we can do to prevent Gary's extradition," Todner told El Reg.

The appeal to Europe will be made on two grounds: the use of threats made by US authorities during the plea bargaining process and the concern that McKinnon may yet be subject to a military tribunal rather than a civil court if he is extradited to the US.

The Scot is accused of hacking into 97 US government computer systems between 2001 and 2002 in what US prosecutors have described as the biggest computer hack of military systems ever launched. The former sysadmin admits rooting around insecure systems but describes himself as a bungling amateur searching for evidence that the US was suppressing knowledge of alien-acquired technology rather than the ninja cracker described in US court indictments.

McKinnon said he was able to gain access to systems by searching for blank passwords using a Perl script. His use of a remote control tool called RemotelyAnywhere to sift through files on compromised PCs proved his undoing after his purchase of the software allowed investigators to track him down to the north London flat he shared with his then girlfriend.

McKinnon was arrested and questioned by UK police from the former National Hi-Tech Crime Unit in November 2002 but the case lay dormant for years until the US began extradition proceedings in June 2005. The Scot and his lawyers have argued throughout that he ought to be tried in the UK rather than deported to the US. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.