Hacker McKinnon will be extradited to US

Home Secretary John Reid approved a US request for McKinnon's extradition in July

A UK hacker has lost his battle against extradition in the High Court this morning. Accused of carrying out the "biggest military computer hack of all time", 41-year-old Gary McKinnon looks certain to be sent to the US for trial.

Last July, Home Secretary John Reid approved a US request for McKinnon's extradition. But McKinnon argued that he deserves to be tried on British soil as any crimes he committed were perpetrated in the UK.

McKinnon's solicitor, Edmund Lawson QC, said his client would most likely have to spend an unknown amount of time in pre-trial imprisonment with little chance of bail or serving any part of the subsequent sentence in the UK.

The hacker is accused of hacking into 97 computers belonging to The Pentagon, NASA , the US Army , US Navy, Department of Defense and the US Air Force during 2001 and 2002.

McKinnon has never denied that he hacked into the networks, instead maintaining his intentions were not malicious and that he was motivated more by curiosity than anything else.

The Glasgow-born man previously said he was able to access the US military networks simply by implementing a 'Perl script' which scanned for computers with default passwords. He was interviewed by our sister magazine .net - you can watch the interview online .

McKinnon could face a jail term of anywhere between 45 and 70 years.

Improper threats

To prevent the extradition, McKinnon's legal team tried to highlight flaws in the US case. They wanted McKinnon's case to be referred back to Home Secretary John Reid, or even to the European Court of Human Rights. However, the odds never looked good - usually the Court of Appeal will only make a verdict for or against the subject of the case; referral is rare.

During the case, the court heard McKinnon's legal team allege he had been subjected to "improper threats". The accusation surfaced because of threats allegedly made after a plea bargain was offered by the US prosecution.

McKinnon's lawyers have now said he was offered a plea bargain in 2003 by US prosecutors - a reduced sentence in return for co-operation. The US prosecutors had allegedly threatened the defendant that if he did not agree to the bargain, he would be "turned over to New Jersey authorities to see him fry".

Some commentators have seen this statement as a 'death threat', although New Jersey has not executed anyone in 20 years. European laws dictate McKinnon should not be extradited if there is any risk of execution. However, the deal was still a sentence "of three years or less", and McKinnon would have to serve the sentence in the US rather than the UK as he had hoped.


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site T3.com. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.