Gary McKinnon

Gary McKinnon, also known as Solo, (born in Glasgow in 1966) is a British hacker accused by one United States prosecutor of perpetrating the "biggest military computer hack of all time." Following legal hearings in the UK it was decided in July 2006 that he should be extradited to the United States.

The unemployed computer systems administrator is accused of hacking into 97 United States military and NASA computers in 2001 and 2002. The computer networks he is accused of hacking include networks owned by NASA, the US Army, US Navy, Department of Defense and the US Air Force plus one belonging to The Pentagon. The US estimates claim the costs of tracking and correcting the problems he allegedly caused were around 700,000 USD.

McKinnon was originally tracked down and arrested under the Computer Misuse Act by the UK National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) in 2002 who informed him that he would face community service. The UK prosecution service refused to charge him. Later that year he was indicted by the United States government. McKinnon remained at liberty without restriction for three years until June 2005 (after the UK had implemented a new extradition treaty with the US [which the US congress has not ratified]) when he became subject to bail conditions including a requirement to sign in at his local police station every evening, and to remain at his home address at night. In addition he was banned from using a computer with access to the internet. There have been no more developments in respect of the charges relating to United Kingdom legislation but in late 2005 the United States began extradition proceedings.

If he is extradited to the U.S. and charged, McKinnon faces up to 70 years in jail and has expressed fears that he could be sent to Guantanamo Bay. He has said that he will contest the extradition proceedings and believes that he should face trial in the UK, principally as he argues that his "crimes" were committed there and not in the United States.

In an interview televised on the BBC's Click programme, he claimed that he was able to get into the military's networks simply by using a Perl script that searched for blank passwords; in other words his report suggests that there were computers on these networks with the default passwords active.

During the length of time between his indictment and beginning of extradition proceedings, with a growing media interest in his case, Gary McKinnon has had a number of opportunities to address the media.

At the Infosecurity Europe 2006 conference in London on April 27, 2006, McKinnon appeared on the Hackers' Panel. When asked how his exploits were first discovered, McKinnon answered that he'd miscalculated the timezone — he was using remote-control software to operate a Windows computer while its user was sitting in front of it.

McKinnon has admitted in many public statements to unauthorised access of computer systems in the United States including those mentioned in the United States indictment. He claims his motivation, drawn from a statement made before the Washington Press Club on May 9, 2001 by group of high level ex-military and civilian sources know as "The Disclosure Project", was to find for evidence of UFOs and said that he knows for a fact that the Americans have antigravity technology and the government is trying to suppress "Free Energy", which he did. He has also claimed that his memories of his activities can be vague due to his hacking while drinking beer and smoking cannabis.

Gary McKinnon also claims that the USA is trying to make him a scapegoat by trying to impose an exemplary gaol sentence on him (up to 70 years) extraditing him to the USA for trial. His lawyer also claims he could end up in the notorious Guantanamo Bay used to hold 'terrorist' suspects. His supporters claim that making him a scapegoat will not fend off other hackers as most think they will not get caught.

The charge that he perpetrated "the biggest military hack of all time" is disputed by McKinnon who characterises himself as a "bumbling computer nerd" who worked while using cannabis. He refers to previous documented incidents of hacking including May 2001 when as acknowledged by U.S. government contractor Exigent International one or more hackers broke into a U.S government server storing satellite software and stole code. Evidence led investigators to an e-mail service in Sweden but the culprits were never apprehended. In 1997, two California teenagers and a trio of Israeli hackers were arrested for hacking into Pentagon servers. Israeli hacker Ehud Tenenbaum, then 18 years old, and his two teenage accomplices were not extradited, but were prosecuted by local authorities. McKinnon has also claimed that on many occasions he noticed other hackers unlawfully entering the same systems and suggests that his activities were not unique. The U.S. Pentagon has for example in the past cited as many as 250,000 attacks in a single year.

Gary McKinnon's extradition hearing was determined by the provisions of the UK Extradition Act 2003.

Under this Act there is no requirement for an extradition request from the United States to contain prima facie evidence of the charges. Following earlier adjournments a final court hearing was held on 10 May 2006 at Bow Street Magistrates' Court. The court recommended that he be extradited.

The adjourning of earlier hearings was occasioned by a request from the defence to obtain the following assurances: that Gary McKinnon would not be tried by a military tribunal, will be eligible for parole and will not have to serve his sentence at Guantanamo Bay. At a hearing on 12 April 2006 the prosecution produced an unsigned note from the US Embassy, claimed to be a guarantee that McKinnon would not be tried under U.S. Military Order 1 (November 13, 2001 - 66 Fed. Reg. 57,833 "Military Order"), which allows suspected terrorists to be tried under military law. However, the defence argued that the note was not binding as it was unsigned. The defence called as a witness Clive Stafford-Smith, a US-based lawyer who has defended inmates of Guantanamo Bay. Stafford-Smith argued that the note would not prevent McKinnon from being treated as a terrorist.

However in the final hearing on 10 May 2006 District Judge Nicholas Evans, ruling in the case, said he had received assurances that Mr McKinnon would be tried in a federal court in Virginia. He added that "any real - as opposed to fanciful - risk" of Mr McKinnon being sent to Guantanamo had receded (BBC July 7, 2006)

The final decision in cases of extradition rests with the UK Home Secretary. On July 6, 2006 Home Secretary John Reid decided to allow the extradition "for charges connected with computer hacking". According to a Home Office spokesman: "Mr McKinnon had exercised his right to submit representations against return but the secretary of state did not consider the issues raised availed Mr McKinnon." In respect of U.S. Military Order 1 it has been noted that recently such military tribunals have been ruled illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court, and may conceivably have been an influence in the Home Secretary's decision (Guardian July 7, 2006).Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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