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May 10, 2006
British Judge: Hacker Should Get Extradited

A Scotsman who hacked into US military and government computers in the wake of 9/11, causing damage and creating a security scare while America tried to defend itself from terrorism, has lost a battle in avoiding extradition from the UK. Gary McKinnon faces 70 years in a US prison for what the Department of Justice calls the "biggest military hack of all time":

A SCOTS-born computer hacker who has been accused of the "biggest military hack" ever detected should be extradited to the United States to face trial, where he could face up to 70 years in jail, a judge has ruled.

Gary McKinnon, 40, who said he had hacked into NASA and US military systems to check for material on UFOs, has six weeks to submit evidence to John Reid, the Home Secretary, who will make the final decision.

McKinnon was arrested last June following charges by US prosecutors that he illegally accessed 97 government computers, including Pentagon, US army, navy and NASA systems, causing £375,000 damage. He admitted hacking into the systems, but denied causing any damage.

McKinnon's backers say that he should face trial in Britain instead of the US, and politicians unhappy with the wide latitude in the bilateral extradition treaty have chimed in on McKinnon's behalf. Some of them argue that McKinnon did nothing to harm the US war effort. A few argue that McKinnon, who says he hacked the computers to find out what the US knows about extraterrestrials, did Washington a favor by revealing the security holes in our systems.

Well, count me among the ungrateful for Mr. McKinnon's assistance. He attacked US military computer systems on at least 97 occasions after knowing we had been attacked and needed to focus on terrorist attacks. No one asked McKinnon to provide his security expertise, and the intrusions used up resources that could have been applied elsewhere.

The British judge made the right call. McKinnon attacked American computer systems; we are the wronged party, the systems are on our soil, and McKinnon should face trial here in the US. I doubt he will get 70 years or end up with Zacarias Moussaoui as a next-door neighbor, but we cannot treat computer hackers like recalcitrant children in need of a time-out. McKinnon committed a crime by the admission of his own supporters, and did so at least 97 times. The acts were deliberate and McKinnon should face the consequences of those choices.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 10, 2006 10:36 PM

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