British hacker may face Guantanamo, 60-year sentence

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beleaguered British computer hacker Gary McKinnon has vowed to fight U.S. extradition proceedings through the European Court of Human Rights. This follows on from yesterday's rejection of an appeal to the U.K's Law Lords.

American prosecutors who have pursued the case against McKinnon are offering a stark choice for the ex-systems analyst who allegedly broke into 97 US military and NASA computer systems. Some reports describe his UFO-related hacking efforts as, "the biggest military hack in history"; his lawyers have used alarmist language to describe the attitude of American prosecutors pursing him on six indictments, "American officials involved in this case have stated that they want to see him 'fry'. The consequences he faces if extradited are both disproportionate and intolerable." The plea-bargain offer on the table would see McKinnon face four years in jail if he accepts two of the charges. Estimates on how long a sentence he may face if he refuses this and is successfully prosecuted on all six charges go as high as 70 years. For the 1966 Glasgow-born man this is an effective life sentence.

With terrorism being bandied about as a motivation, and allegations that McKinnon deleted files and disrupted the operation of systems he is alleged to have broken into, an additional concern from his lawyers is that under such circumstances he could be detained at the Guantanamo Bay facility. McKinnon describes himself as a "bumbling hacker" who believed he was working in the public interest to expose a U.S. coverup of files and other information on UFOs.