UK government reconsiders hacker's pending extradition

The U.K. Home Secretary will reconsider the extradition of Gary McKinnon, a hacker who was charged in the U.S. in 2002 for breaking into military and government computers.

New medical evidence has been submitted to Home Secretary Alan Johnson, said McKinnon's attorney, Karen Todner. McKinnon suffers from depression and Asperger's Syndrome, a neurological disorder related to autism characterized by deficiencies in social interaction.

If the Home Office allows McKinnon's extradition to proceed, he has 14 days to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, Todner said.

The Home Office has received the evidence but does not have a deadline for making a decision, according to a Home Office spokesman.

On Oct. 9, the High Court denied McKinnon the chance to take his case to the U.K.'s new Supreme Court. McKinnon sought to join an appeal against extradition filed by the attorney of Ian Norris, a British businessman facing charges in the U.S. for his alleged involvement in an cartel.

McKinnon was indicted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2002 for hacking into 97 military and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002. He could face up to 60 years in prison.

The U.K. government approved McKinnon's extradition in 2006. The U.K. decided not to prosecute McKinnon since most of the evidence and witnesses were located in the U.S.

McKinnon has fought extradition tooth and nail. His latest appeal to the Home Secretary argues that extradition would be harmful to his overall health, Todner said.

As his case continues, McKinnon has drawn increasing support from members of Parliament as well as from celebrities. His case has also drawn high-profile attention to the U.K.-U.S. extradition treaty, which many argue is unfairly biased against U.K. defendants.

McKinnon contends his hacking did no harm, but U.S. authorities allege his exploits did $700,000 worth of damage, deleting files and causing the shutdown of computers crucial to the military efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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