British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has admitted that he has sympathy for the case of suspected computer hacker Garry McKinnon.
Mr McKinnon, 43, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, has been fighting against proposed extradition from the UK to the USA for the past three years where he will be tried for computer misuse. If he is found guilty by a US court, he faces up to 60 years in a maximum security prison.
A systems administrator from north London, Mr McKinnon admits computer hacking and leaving a message in US military systems saying ”I will continue to disrupt,” but his lawyers said that his intention was only to cause ”temporary impairment” not lasting damage to the system.
During 2001 and 2002, he accessed 97 United States military and NASA computers, allegedly causing $700,000 worth of damage, in what one American prosecutor has described as the ”biggest military computer hack of all time.”
Mr McKinnon, who used the alias “Solo” while hacking, claims that the computers were open and unsecured and has asked the High Court in the UK to overturn the refusal by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, to hold the trial for computer misuse in the UK. A written decision is due by the end of the month.
And Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a declared his sympathy with Mr McKinnon’s situation, hinting that the current extradition agreement between the UK and US could be amended.
Asked about the issue at his monthly Downing Street press conference, Mr Brown said: ”The Garry McKinnon case raises a number of issues and anybody who looks at this must be sympathetic to someone who suffers from Asperger syndrome.
”There are court cases pending at the moment, one challenging the Director of Public Prosecutions for his judgment, and I think we have got to wait for the outcome of these court cases.
”I don’t think people want a law which gives the country absolute discretion in who comes in and who comes out of the country by way of extradition.
“I think you have always got to look at what arrangements you have and whether they are working.”