McKinnon loses Lords appeal
Pentagon hacker takes fight to Europe
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.
In 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.
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. ®
Re: Armchair Defence Solicitors
All of those who've commented that McKinnon is blameless because of the poor security at the Pentagon have clearly lost the plot. You've seen one too many TV drama in which some slick solicitor blames the victim in an attempt to confuse the issue. Blaming the victim completely ignores the obvious issues of right, wrong and personal responsibility. It is of necessity that each person in an ordered society exercise adequate judgment about what's right and what's wrong and to self-impose such behavioural controls as to not cause harm to others.
Your sleazy ilk try this all the time in rape trials - "She was askin' for it, she was. Lookin' all female and alluring like that, and tryin' to look pretty on top of it all, She shoulda known that my client was a man of modest success wif wimmen and likely to crack at the sight of one sittin' alone in her flat like that. She shoulda known that if he was able to peek through her windows and see her stretched out on her sofa beguiling as she was, she had to have known he'd crack." Or in breaking and entering cases - "Obviously, the plaintiff wasn't really tryin' to keep others out of his house 'cause he hadn't installed any but the most common of locks on his doors, why it was practically an invitation to come in, I tell ya. If he'd really wanted to keep people out, he'd have put in an alarm system, or hired security, or kept guard dogs, wouldn't you think?" Or the ever-popular 'honeypot' defence for theft - "Ladies and gentlemen, how could the plaintiff expect his car not to be stolen? He bought the most stolen car in the land, in the most popular colour and with the most popular accessories. Why those chrome wheels my client's accused of taking were the single most stolen item from cars in the tri-city area for the past five years running. Then he had the gall to keep it in plain sight in his drive. It was as though he was taunting the lads in the neighbourhood."
Whatever screwball excuses you come up with to explain away his behaviour or obfuscate his actions are naught but red herrings drawn across the trail in a poor attempt to disguise the fact that he broke into computers that weren't his and caused problems. He admits to such; he acknowledges that what he did wasn't legal; he knew right from wrong at the time and did wrong in spite of it. Now he's created a cottage industry dedicated to saving his hocks from the fire of punishment. In spite of his mouthpiece's eloquent defences with regard to jurisdictional issues and his motivations, it comes down to a rather simple question - did he do it?
All of you standing in defence of him, no matter what your country of residence, need to ask yourself - would I defend him so passionately if it was my system he broke into?
It's a well known fact that if you use a computer and the internets you're a pedophile, so good riddance to bad rubbish I say..
As for the sentence, my guess is he'll be handed over to aliens for a spot of anal probing.. and while they'll prolly be Mexican aliens, it'll still be somewhat ironic.
Since I own a PC that relies on an Intel processor and an AMD/ATI graphics card, I think it's safe to assume that intelligent and creative people can be US citizens too.
Quite right, I thought that when buying HF radio kit from "Radioshack" (Tandy) until i opened some up for mods and saw where the PCBs were made!! Yup, another Chinese Take away! Gary