US abusing extradition says hacker's lawyer
The British computer hacker who cracked the Pentagon system and faces charges that could lead to life imprisonment will take his case against extradition to the House of Lords today. His lawyers claim that the US has abused the process by making threats about what will happen to him if he does not agree to plead guilty.
Gary McKinnon, 42, of north London, hacked into the Pentagon and Nasa systems seven years ago and left messages.
Arrested in 2002, McKinnon was accused of stealing computer files, damaging a protected computer, obtaining secrets which might have been "useful to an enemy" and interfering with navigation equipment. The then home secretary, John Reid, allowed the extradition against which McKinnon is appealing.
His lawyer, Karen Todner, said: "Negotiations took place at the US embassy in which it was said that if he would go voluntarily to the US and plead guilty, they would go for a minimum sentence and allow him to be repatriated, but if he did not agree, they would not allow him to repatriated." McKinnon's legal team will argue that this is an abuse of the process.
McKinnon said yesterday he had had support from members of the US military. "They said I should be congratulated for showing up the weaknesses in the system." Leading human rights barristers David Pannick QC, for McKinnon, and Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Liberty, will make the argument against extradition. The law lords will reserve judgment, expected to be delivered next month.
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