Should accused hacker be extradited?

August 14, 2008

hacker.jpgA European court has stepped into the extradition battle centred around a Briton accused by United States prosecutors of hacking into military computers.

The European Court of Human Rights said Gary McKinnon should not be extradited until it has had time to consider his complaint that that he could face inhumane prison conditions if convicted in the U.S.

He could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted of illegally accessing computers, including the Pentagon, U.S. army, navy and NASA systems, and causing $700,000 (375,000 pounds) worth of damage.

Britain’s highest court last month turned down his appeal against extradition.

He says he is just a computer nerd who wanted to find out whether aliens really existed and became obsessed with trawling large military networks for proof. The Americans say he caused havoc.

Do you think he should be extradited?


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Absolutely not. What damage has he actually done, apart from pointing out the gaping holes in security? If anything he’s done them a favour. On top of that, were the situation reversed, and it were the UK that was seeking the extradition of a US citizen, the request would be flat-out denied (indeed, this has already happened with regards to a friendly fire incident).

Posted by George | Report as abusive


As for the European Court Of Human Rights, who are these people?

Did anyone in the UK vote to have them interfering in our affairs?

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

I expect the Americans will want to extradite him, make an example of him, as it happened the day after 9/11, incarcerate for a long enough time so that he would readily accept to work for their security services, which would be better than his skills being wasted in prison.

Posted by james Franklin | Report as abusive


Firstly, the extradition arrangement with America is one-sided – whatever British politician allowed THAT idea was barmy; secondly, if secure American computer systems are sufficiently insecure that they can be hacked, that’s the fault of the systems’ administrators/designers, surely.

Posted by Dane Aubrun | Report as abusive

This bloke should definitely not be sent to the US. He should be sent to a plastic surgeon as he is one of the ugliest bloke I have ever seen. No wonder he played on his computer so much.

Posted by nick | Report as abusive

Definitely not, he should be promoted to a position within IT working for the British Government.

Posted by raggedytrouseredphilanthropist | Report as abusive

No, he should be given a medal for exposing the security hole. They should prosecute themselves for having such a hackable system! It was probably due to a Microsoft product anyway.. Should go open source and encourage hacking to improve the security.

Posted by Simon Whomsley | Report as abusive

No he should not be extradited. How typical of subservient Britsh politicians to sign a one-way agreement with the USA, if a reversed scenario, the USA would unlikely extradite one of their own.
He did the Military a favour by identifying weakness in their system.

Posted by Jonny C | Report as abusive

Apparently when my house was broken into the burglar was merely pointing out my security weaknesses, lol.
Of course he should be extradited, he committed a crime. Would everyone who said no above hold the same view if he had accessed their bank account details?

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

A good analogy to use, Alan. However, a likely more accurate rendition would be leaving the front door open, having a stranger wander in and tell you of the problem before having him arrested. And yes, had he tried to steal account details or commit some other fraudulent activity, then I would have no qualms sending him off, but he didn’t.
He had huge access to the system, and potentially could’ve caused havoc. Instead, the worst he did was write and anti-war rhetoric on a few web pages. Is that really worth decades in prison?

Your hypothetical situation with bank account details holds little relevance, as in this case there is no real victim other than McKinnon himself.

Posted by George | Report as abusive

The guy should be let free and we use some of his grey matter costructively.

Posted by wachira | Report as abusive

This guy is a computer terrorist and should be treated as such. NO FREE RIDE. However, I would pay for his flight to his trail here in the U.S,A.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

Oh, ya. Off with his computer.

Posted by Ed L | Report as abusive

This guy clearly should not be allowed to continue doing what he did, but what he has really done, it seems, is gone around the major US military computer systems and left comments about how they can improve their security. They should put him on a salary

Posted by Hughie J | Report as abusive

Wow! dont the yanks get in a sweat when they get shown up for what they , a bunch of hot air wankers. The British justice system is just as bad to sanction the extradition , the yanks would certainly not recepricate in a similar situation, but then thats the british goverment for you ,all wind and water!! boy! these goverments really go well together.

Posted by Tony Martini | Report as abusive

Why do good people keep getting hammered by my (American) government? It is bad enough that over 50% of our taxes go to the military budget, that we have more people incarcerated than ever before, that the American public was deceived to start a war, and that our civil liberties have largely been stripped from us on the grounds of “national security” against broadly defined “terrorists”. Now they are taking the few intelligent people left in our country doing good things and trying to put them behind bars, too? When will my country wake up and realize what is going on?

Posted by UNCLE BENJI | Report as abusive

12 out of the 16 comments posted to date make some kind of excuse as to why this guy should NOT be extradited to answer for his crimes.

Is it any wonder that the UK is awash with yobs, terrorists and assorted other criminals walking the streets without a care in the world?

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

No he should not be extradited, it was the US DoD fault of not securing their systems, and he only used backdoors that were left wide open for him to walk through.

Now let’s look at what the US has said about this –

1. A US official said he should FRY for what he did.
2. They have said they want him tried in a Military court
3. They want him to spend at least 70 years behind bars with NO repatriation to the UK after time served!

Sorry guy’s I’m not anti US but the above proves he will not get a fair trial, it was your DoD fault he was allowed to walk in the back door. How about stop giving cash to the lowest bidder and get some decent IT security for once?

Ohh and Andy comments like that just show how ignorant you are, how about give us the pilots that killed our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan then we might give you a guy that exploited a weakness your country is too cheap to block!

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

The man did wrong…computer crime is as punishable as any other..whether the systems were not up to scratch is irrelevant. If Tesco’s door was only half locked & he wandered in to look around he would be done for breaking & entering.

Posted by Derek | Report as abusive

No – he should be dealt with in the UK.

It was in fact the problem of, yet again, lax US security that was the real culprit and this guy PROVED it!

The US authorities need to smell the coffee and stop using scapegoats.

Posted by The Truth Is… | Report as abusive

Yes, he should be extradited.

He is a self-confessed criminal and should be tried in the place where he did the damage. His so-called defence is akin to a thug saying that he mugged an old lady because she allowed him to see that she had money in her handbag.

The fact that the extradition treaty is one-sided in favour of the Americans is irrelevant (Jonny C, et al). The UK government signed up to it and the Americans are entitled to expect that it is honoured. The really dangerous element in this saga is that the ECHR has seen fit to interfere in an agreement that was freely made beween Great Britain and America, outwith the remit of the EU.

Attempting to equate McKinnon with American pilots involved in “friendly fire” incidents is childish nonsense (Pete). The pilots may have made mistakes in the confusion of war, but they are certainly NOT criminals who set out to do something that they knew was wrong.

I’m 100% with Andy on this one. There is a terrible sickness in the UK – a collective mindset created by government ministers and extending down through all levels of society to schoolchildren – that sees criminal behaviour as something to be excused or pandered to instead of being punished, with the victims of crime being either totally ignored or blamed for contributing to their own misfortune.

The country has lost its collective sense of the difference between right and wrong and is declining rapidly accordingly.

Posted by Mike T | Report as abusive

Time for some basic human and legal rights, that would be “Democracy 101″ to some of you.

1. No country should extradite one of their own citizens to a country with which they DO NOT have a mutual and reciprocal extradition treaty. Until you ratify such a treaty, the best you should be able to expect is a local trial under local laws.

2. No country should extradite ANYONE who has not violated their laws, or is a local citizen until the country requesting the extradition has proven to the satisfaction of local laws and at least one local court that there actually is a case to answer, and that it is appropriate that it be tried in the extradition requesting country.

3. The charges brought must be commensurate with the alleged offences. By that I mean that a felony is a felony and a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor. Where there is a conflict of interpretation then local law should apply to local citizens.

4. The requesting authorities must supply their own prosecutors and witnesses without diplomatic immunity or exemption from local legislation on perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. If found guilty of such activity, they should receive the maximum penalty for such offences; to be served in the local country and without remission, or repatriation.

I wonder how this case would have progressed if those were the rules?

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Nicely put John,

It is clear that this man should not be extradited. The current treaty with the US is a perverse joke. Even if he had committed this act with criminal/terrorist activities in mind his trial should take place in the country that he committed the act and of which he is a citizen. I do not buy into the idea that because the servers he hacked into happened to be US owned that this crime occured on American soil. The US should trust the UK (the only country stupid enough to sign an extradition treaty so one sided it probably is null and void under the unfair contracts laws of the UK and the US) it’s “special” partner to deal with this. If our judicial system decides he is guilty under UK law then he will be punished, unfortunately an enormous dereliction of duty by said system has meant that the European Court of Human rights has had to step in. As said before if this situation was reversed there is no way a US citizen would be extradited, add to that any other member state of the European Union. If he is extradited what we are basically saying is that being a citizen of the UK has no meaning.

Posted by Graham | Report as abusive