LONDON, UK: Britain’s Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has said he
be breaking the law if he blocked the British computer hacker Gary
McKinnon’s extradition to the United States.
Glasgow-born McKinnon, who has Asperger’s
and now lives in north London, lost a court bid on July 31 to avoid
being extradited to the US. McKinnon’s defence team will now be
appealing to Britain’s new Supreme Court - the court of last
which is due to come into operation on October 1, 2009 - in a final
effort to prevent MicKinnon’s extradition.
The US wants to try the 43-year-old for what it
calls the biggest military computer hack ever in 2001 and 2002.
McKinnon maintains he was seeking UFO evidence.
Writing in the British weekly, The Sunday Times,
Johnson said: “It would be unlawful for the Home Secretary to
Johnson's predecessor, Jacqui Smith, formally gave the go-ahead for
McKinnon’s extradition in October 2008.
Johnson said that, after a court had ruled that
there was enough evidence, a Home Secretary could prevent an
extradition only in very specific circumstances, none of which applied
in McKinnon’s case.
In his article, the Home Secretary acknowledged that
it was “understandable” that many would be sympathetic to
appears to be a misguided, vulnerable young man.” But Johnson
that “the crimes he is accused of are far from trivial” and
McKinnon “should be tried fairly for them in a court of law and
country where the impact of those crimes were felt.”
The Home Secretary also denied that extradition law
was wrong, arguing that it was appropriate for “an age where
increasingly indifferent to national borders.”
McKinnon could face 60 years or more in prison if
convicted in the US. He admits hacking by accessing 97 government
computers belonging to organisations such as the US Navy and NASA, but
denies it was malicious. He also denies the allegation that he caused
damage costing $800,000 (£487,000).
To extradite an American from the US, British must
prove “probable cause.” Since 2004, 46 people have been
sent from the
UK to the for trial, and 27 from the US to Britain.
McKinnon has always insisted he was looking for
classified documents on unidentified flying objects, which he believed
the US authorities had suppressed.
He has challenged refusals by the Home Secretary and
the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to try him in the UK. But the
DPP refused to order a UK trial, saying the bulk of the evidence was
located in the US and McKinnon’s actions were directed against
military infrastructure. Two judges rejected his court bid to
avoid extradition, ruling that it was “a lawful and proportionate
response” to his offence, even though they conceded he might find
extradition and prison in the US “very difficult indeed.”
McKinnon has already appealed unsuccessfully to the
House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights. But the case has
led to a political row in Britain, with the opposition Tory leader,
David Cameron, saying it raised “serious questions” about
extradition pact between the US and UK.
The Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, Chris
Huhne, has argued that the American government would not “hang
their citizens out to dry in the same way.”
A letter has been sent to President Barack Obama
signed by 40 British MPs asking him to step in and “bring this
episode to an end.” McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, has
also called on
President Obama to intervene.
Read more about what Professor Simon
Baron-Cohen - who confirmed Gary McKinnon's diagnosis of Asperger's
syndrome in September 2008 - told Looking Up in the print edition of
5 Number 1 of the newsletter.
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