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Tuesday, 09 June 2009 17:59

Gary McKinnon's suicidal hacker defence

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Facing up to 70 years in a US prison, self-confessed NASA hacker Gary McKinnon is now getting desperate as extradition beckons.

Between 2001 and 2002, Asperger's Syndrome sufferer and alien obsessed nerd Gary McKinnon somehow managed to find the wherewithal to hack into computers belonging to networks operated by NASA, the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Defence.

Also known as 'Solo' McKinnon has become something of an unlikely hacker hero. A forty-something former systems analyst from London who, according to US prosecutors, was responsible for the biggest single military hacking exploit the country has ever seen.

Standing accused of causing more than USD $750,000 worth of damage and costs involved in tracking him down, McKinnon is said to have altered and deleted files on those military computers leading directly to critical systems at one US Naval Weapons Station being rendered inoperable during the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

It has been claimed that McKinnon was threatened with imprisonment at the now closed down Guantanamo Bay camp. No wonder, then, he has been fighting demands for his extradition to face those charges in a US court.

Mental health issues have been at the centre of his appeals, with the legal team surrounding him arguing that extraditing someone with Asperger’s Syndrome constitutes torture, inhuman or degrading treatment as defined by the European Convention of Human Rights.

His fight reaches the last stages today as once again his legal team argue, at the High Court in London, that McKinnon is at risk of psychosis or even suicide if he were to be taken to the US to face trial there. It has to be said that his chances of success are slim.

McKinnon has already lost appeals to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights in his fight against extradition. But now two senior judges, Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie, must decide if his mental health is in too much peril to allow the removal to go ahead.

The barristers for McKinnon, Edward Fitzgerald and Ben Cooper, have said that the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute him in the UK as there was no supporting evidence is "procedurally flawed and unlawful for it wrongly fails to consider and analyse important expert medical evidence concerning the effects of extradition on the claimant and his mental health."
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