February 14, 2007 11:05 AM PST

Alleged NASA hacker's appeal begins

Gary McKinnon, the U.K. citizen accused of breaking into and damaging NASA's computers, has begun an appeal against extradition to the U.S.

Edmund Lawson, who is defending McKinnon, told a hearing at London's High Court that McKinnon faced up to 60 years' imprisonment if he was convicted in the U.S., where he could be tried under its antiterrorism legislation. The appeal hearing began on Tuesday.

Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnnon

McKinnon is accused of illegally hacking into 97 U.S. government computers in 2001 and 2002, causing $700,000 worth of damage. In an interview with CNET News.com's sister site ZDNet UK, McKinnon admitted accessing the computers as part of his search for evidence of extraterrestrial life, but denied deliberately doing any damage.

In May 2006, a British judge ruled that McKinnon should be extradited to the U.S. to face these charges.

Lawson said that McKinnon had been offered a deal by U.S. authorities, under which he would receive a shorter sentence if he stopped fighting extradition. This offer had been rejected, and constituted an "improper approach" to McKinnon, Lawson said.

Representing the U.S. authorities, Max Summers told the court that the U.S. was not able to refute this claim immediately and would need an adjournment to consider it.

The High Court appeal case was adjourned on Wednesday afternoon, and the judges will now deliberate on whether this new evidence can be considered.

McKinnon was taken ill as his appeal against extradition continued. According to those close to McKinnon, he suffered heart palpitations on Wednesday. "The case has all become too much for him," a friend told ZDNet UK.

If he loses his U.K. appeal, McKinnon may try to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, although this move may be blocked by the High Court.

Colin Barker reported for ZDNet UK in London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Lawson Software Inc., appeal, U.S., U.K., London

10 comments

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Damage....
I'd love to know what "damage" was done, apart from making it obvious that the government's security is less than secure. We should be thanking "regular Joes" like this guy for finding the holes in government systems: better it be them than a terrorist group.
Posted by rshew (44 comments )
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emberassed military officials
I'm sure there where more than a few initially emberassed military officials and with the added publicity, that emberassement has been pushed up the rank structure I bet.

Guess an officer's honor costs $700,000.. as for physical or informational damange.. bahahahahaha.. yeah... sure.. let's see detailed list totaling $700k of how a remote network connection caused damages.

A guy manages to jack into the US military networks from overseas (privately, we're not talking government computer crackers here) to look for evidence of ET and your going to tell me he was just deleting files willy-nilly? For what motivation?
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
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Damage...my foot...
the only damage was to the person in charge of the systems...they messed up and it cost them lots to get it fixed...probably &700k I'd figure...so someone has to pay...get it...

Instead of being grateful it was an ally and leave it there...no...lets teach everyone a lesson...who fault was it in the first place is the bigger issue!...

Dumb Ass US...and why is the whole world jumping to the beat of the US drum...they are not right about everything...
Posted by oceanview_1 (14 comments )
Link Flag
what a dream country - UK
how can country treat own citizens like that. Theres no way my country (not USA) will let me be sued in another and even force me to go there!!! This is just ridiculous and absolutely not acceptable, it is like being a dog of USA, licking their eggs for fun of the owner.
Posted by cocos2000 (37 comments )
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The little hacker'll get what he wants...
I don't care about his "search for evidence of extraterrestrial life" ... Once he's in jail, he'll get all sorts of new information from like-minded people who'll have plenty to teach him about the exploration of Uranus.
Posted by Zunny_Blowsdogs (9 comments )
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No symphathy
Hackers, regardless of their so called curiousity are no better than shop-lifters
(thieves, of a different coat).

Personally, 10-20 years minimun should be a basic sentence for hackers and
identiy thieves.

They should consider themselves lucky really, as a computer is a non-living entity. If someone were to physically break into my house, or steal from me they would most like be going out on a stretcher and straigt to the morgue.
Posted by sandkicker (69 comments )
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you mean crackers
I respond to the mistaken sympantics because you miss-use the term "hacker" with such hate and confiction?

What you actually mean is "cracker" which is the title given to computer folk who focus on breaking systems for profit. (cracking registered games to sell/distribute, cracking passwords to sell/distribute).

Hackers are the overly skilled computer folk that make normal computer geeks look like noobs. These are the hobbiests that tinkered resulting in things like the PC (Steve and Steve where hardware hackers once) and Internet.

Hackers are not criminals by default and it's a load of BS that we keep scaring the computer illiterate by using the term for a modern day boggyman.

Anyone breaking the law by entering a system unapproved is commiting a criminal act. We really should stop differentiating between crowbar enabled and computer enabled crime.

This fellow broke the law and should see legal punishment for that as should any Break and Enter purpitrator but under his local courts. Sending him to the US to be a trophy skapegoat for overzelous laws does not fit the crime. This isn't about punitive damages at all.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Thinking about this over time...
This hacker should not be let off lightly... but on the other hand... was what he did really that malacious?!?!?!

OR

Was what he did simply too easy a task to perform due to NASA's lax security stance?

Should he fully and entirely be held responsible for NASA's lax security?

Personally, I want to say NO!!! But not to the point that his hacking should be allowed!

What responsibility should NASA take in the ordeal? And if NASA had taken the proper measures... could he have still be indicted this far?

These issues have yet to come into print and thus personally... I believe further investigation should be made in this area!

Walt
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
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