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United Kingdom: Pentagon Hacker Granted Judicial Review Against U.S. Extradition

(Jan. 30, 2009) A British computer systems administrator, Gary McKinnon, who hacked into 97 U.S. military computer systems in 2000 and 2001 has been granted judicial review of the Secretary of State's decision to extradite him to the United States. U.S. prosecutors have described McKinnon's actions as “the biggest military hack of all time.” McKinnon's lawyers claimed that since the alleged crime was committed on British soil, he should be tried in the British courts, where the maximum sentence he would face would be four years, rather than the up to 70 possible in the United States. (McKinnon reportedly rejected a plea deal that would have provided him with a maximum of 12 months in a minimum security jail in the States). The lawyers also argued that U.S. prosecutors' plea-bargaining attempts amounted to threats and expressed concern that the U.S. is seeking extradition merely to make an example of McKinnon. McKinnon claims that he was merely testing the U.S. military security network to find evidence of the existence of UFOs. The judicial review is based in part upon changing circumstances surrounding McKinnon, including his recent diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, which was not taken into account by the Secretary of State when extradition was ordered, and claims that if he were extradited he might become suicidal. (McKinnon v Government of The United States of America et al., [2008] UKHL 59,
; Hacker Wins Court Review Decision, BBC NEWS, Jan. 23, 2009, available at; Jerome Taylor, Hacker Loses Extradition Fight, THE INDEPENDENT (London), July 31, 2008, available at