The UK blocked the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the US on Tuesday. He was to face trial for what the US government has called the biggest military computer hack of all time.
UK Home Secretary Theresa May said that McKinnon’s Asperger syndrome and depression meant that “there is such a high risk of him ending his own life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with his human rights.” McKinnon has admitted to hacking NASA and Pentagon computers, but said that he only did it to see whether or not the US was covering up the existence of UFOs, reports CNN.
The 46-year-old hacker has been facing a ten-year battle against extradition, and the UK has said that they will instead investigate whether or not McKinnon should face trial in their courts. The decision to block extradition, in what was called a “difficult and exceptional case,” was made after extensive consultation with legal and medical experts. McKinnon’s lawyer, Karen Todner, praised the UK’s decision, tweeting that she was “delighted by Home Secretary’s decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon. The right result after all these years.”
McKinnon is thought to have acted alone and has no known ties to terrorist organizations. Still, the US says that he hacked 97 computers from his home in London for a year starting in March 2001, costing the government about $1 million.
Due to his Asperger’s syndrome — which causes individuals to suffer difficulty in social relationships, communication, and social imagination — and his great personal interest in ufology, McKinnon is thought to be a curious and largely innocent hacker despite jeopardizing US national security. He has been free on bail in England throughout the extradition process.
Still, the US has indicted McKinnon on seven counts of computer fraud and related activity. If he were convicted, he would face a maximum of 10 years in prison for each count and a $250,000 fine.
A full, in-depth timeline of McKinnon’s life and extradition process can be found at Yahoo.