Gary Mckinnon Extradition To US Blocked By UK Home Secretary

from the hacker-stay-home dept

Way back in 2002, Gary McKinnon made his Techdirt debut when he was caught hacking into NASA and Pentagon computers from the UK in an apparent attempt to find evidence that America was covering up evidence of UFOs. Since that story, subsequent stories were done on how he basically went on an appeal-losing-tour to avoid being extradited to the United States. But now, despite all those losses, it appears the United Kingdom's version of Fox Mulder will indeed be staying in the UK and not be trotted off to the States.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that McKinnon will not be extradited due to mental illness and a fear for his safety. McKinnon reportedly suffers from both depression and Asperger's Syndrome, and experts consulting with May believe that he is a significant suicide risk if extradited.

Mrs May said: “After careful consideration of all of the relevant material I have concluded that Mr McKinnon's extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon's human rights. I have therefore withdrawn the extradition order against Mr McKinnon.”

Mrs May also said measures would be taken to enable a UK court to decide whether a person should stand trial in the UK or abroad – a so-called forum bar.

This move is immensely significant, as it represents the first time an extradition was blocked by a Home Secretary under the Extradition Act of 2003. As extraditions over alleged computer and IP crimes have come into vogue, with the United States leading the charge, it's a welcome sign that the UK wants to be able to review cases in which their citizens would potentially be carted across the world to face massive prison sentences (or worse). One would hope similar scrutiny would be applied in the case of Richard O'Dwyer, though Theresa May has thus far failed to do so. Instead, she has so far bowed to the will of the United States and MPAA sock puppetry in extraditing him.

To be clear, none of this suggests that McKinnon will not face a trial at home. In fact, according to May, the UK will now decide whether to bring a case against him at home.

She said it was now for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, to decide whether he should face trial in the UK.

Where he can be tried without the added threat to his well-being. A foreign national, accused of computer crimes against the United States facing trial in his home country. How refreshing.


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Comments on “Gary Mckinnon Extradition To US Blocked By UK Home Secretary”

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Zakida Paul says:

This is very good news and one would hope that this prompts a review of the very one sided extradition treaty. I suspect, however, that a closed door deal as been struck over another UK citizen (like Richard O’Dwyer) in order to appease the Americans.

What’s the betting McKinnon will now get a job with MI5, MI6 or GCHQ?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So one wonders if an adviser clued her into the idea that if he committed suicide it would be the end of her career.
That appeasing the US government hasn’t really done much for their standing, and each and every overreach chips away at what little credibility they have left.

Should he be punished for his “crimes”, most likely but one really needs to honestly assess the situation. He has issues that drove this “crime” and those are the same issues that could lead to his death if they continue.

It is nice to see that the idea of human compassion isn’t completely dead in the UK, but it seems to take the possibility of more bad press to bring it to the foreground.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hmm...

No it’s a spectrum – evryone is on it somewhere.

At one end there is extreme autism at the other is so called “normal” – but most people are a few clicks off that end.

The question of how the brain “should” work is not a clear one. If everyone was at the “normal” end of the spectrum we would have fewer geniuses and humanity would not have advanced as far as it has.

Donglebert the Lengthy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hmm...

Define “working as it should”?

It is working as it should, just working differently. Given the subject matter of this site, I’d suggest a substantial number of contributors would figure somewhere along the autistic spectrum.

I’m not denying that Aspergers can fit within some definitions of mental illness, but in that the effects can, in some instances, have an overall positive effect (e.g. less empathic to others, but significantly better at mathematics) the word ‘illness’ becomes redundant.

Voting for Romney would be a better indicator of mental illness.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hmm...

Pfft prison rape is child’s play.. Don’t believe me? Go buy a airline ticket and you’ll see. God bless the TSA right?
It’s not like hey you get to meet Bubba at lunch. Who’s Bubba? Oh he is the guy that rapes all new inmates.

People need to wise up and realize in this era of technology about 90% of TV is bullshit.

Still the USA needs to drop this case because the guy is an obvious head case before someone makes an ass of their self again… It might be very hard to just drop the ego and let it blow over but it’s not impossible..

With a little practice anyone can make a big change in their outlook on life and learn to show a little compassion. It’s something my government is lacking… If the guy was normal sure I’d say fight it but he is obviously not.

I say the UK should stick to their guns on this one and tell all of us here in the USA to fuck off.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Of course, there’s talk also of ‘streamlining’ the future extradition process. Call me a cynic but it wouldn’t surprise me if a backroom deal had been done to let this little fish go with a promise that the spineless UK goverment will conduct a favourable review of the process and make it more efficient.

Quick and easy PR win for May, easier assimilation of US law into UK for the World Police. Everyone’s happy, go back to sleep people!

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh sure, so when someone says something disrespectful about a certain prophet, you can get criminally tried on behalf of Saudi Arabia, even though it’s not a crime in the UK. Or get tried for posting a swastika on behalf of Germany, even though it’s not a crime in the UK. Or a 16-year-old marrying her Army sweetheart finds him tried because he’s under the (criminal) age of consent in the US. Definitely a good thing…

To be fair in this situation, Gary McKinnon *did* effectively commit a crime in the US, insofar as the internet can be locational. Certainly couldn’t argue that US Gov’t computers are in the US (hopefully)! However, this could easily get stretched ridiculously very quickly (“It was on the Internet so it was in my country!”) – witness the daftness of libel tourism.

Digitaurus says:

Forum Bar

The article doesn’t mention the biggest news which is the introduction of a forum bar. From now onwards, if the US (or another country but, let’s face it, it’s always going to be the US) accuses a UK citizen of committing a crime whilst in the UK and wants to extradite the poor sap to the USA in order to face trial there, a UK court can prevent extradition by determining that the person could stand trial in the UK instead. This should limit the USA’s ability to decide how bad it thinks a computer crime is and then impose that rule on UK citizens residing in their own country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Forum Bar

It should be the case for the UK citizen to stand trial in the UK rather than be extradited to another country for a crime that they commit but what happens if what they did is not a crime in the UK or not enough evidence to be charged with a crime in the UK but the country that is seeking the persons extradition is saying that they have committed a crime in their country even though the person has never set foot in that country. Should the person still be extradited to the country to stand trial for a crime that they have never set foot in such as O’Dwyer. Where do you draw the line as to who goes and who stays? Hopefully this forum will make those decisions. I thought extradition only applied to terrorists and very serious crimes of murder etc. being sought by the country that the wanted person has fled from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Forum Bar

“I thought extradition only applied to terrorists and very serious crimes of murder etc.”

umm sharing 30 songs came with a fine of $675,000… I don’t know anybody with that much life insurance. I’m sure there are lots of people in the US with that much life insurance coverage, but I’m also sure most(by most i mean well over half… being very conservative in my opinion here) Americans come no where close to that figure if they even have life insurance at all. Long story short, our government, along with agreement from our Supreme Court, find 30 songs more valuable then most peoples lives.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Forum Bar


The word people always seem to miss in these arguments. Songs can *potentially* make that money if marketed properly. That is, it’s possible but not every song does, not by a long shot. It is not guaranteed in any way, and it’s extremely unlikely that the specific copies on Jammie Thomas’ hard drive halted that potential in any realistic way.

“The humble bundle for a a very few books is well over $500,000 of income. That says it all.”

Yes it does. Content that’s already available both elsewhere (apart from one book, IIRC) and for free either legally or illegally still makes over half a million through that one venue. Actually more, because looking at it today it’s over $800k and still has 6 days to go. Isn’t that just another hint that “free” doesn’t mean “can’t make any money”?

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not that unusual to see this happen, many countries are hesitant to extradite to the US because of concerns for the safety of inmates in the US.

That being said, I think that “being depressed” isn’t a valid reason to block the extradition, and in fact, sets a horrible precedent. Don’t be shocked if Julian Assange is suddenly depressed and diagnosed with some genetic issue that makes his extradition somehow the same.

He is charged in the US, the charges stand. The UK is not doing themselves any favors here by standing up for this guy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, I understand that. What do you think the chance is that Assange suddenly is is diagnosed with the same, in an attempt to curry favor with this politician?

PS: I don’t consider “aspies” to be handicapped or anything, and I think it’s a poor excuse not to treat this guy as any other person would be treated.

Duke (profile) says:

A really bad day for the rule of law

This move is immensely significant, as it represents the first time an extradition was blocked by a Home Secretary under the Extradition Act of 2003

There’s a reason for this; the Home Secretary has very limited grounds for blocking extradition (for good reasons). The law is pretty clear; there is no free-standing power for the Home Secretary to block extradition purely on human rights grounds, meaning that this decision may be illegal.

Now, obviously McKinnon isn’t going to complain and I imagine this was all cleared with the US first, but it is still a very worrying ruling; it seems far too political. Theresa May has campaigned on this sort of situation for a while, and her decision has been pretty popular (both with the xenophobic right, who like her “standing up” to foreigners and the left, who are grateful she has finally discovered the importance of human rights law). Plus there’s the suspicious timing – she has been putting off this decision for over 2 years, and yet finally announces it a week after the UK extradited a few high-profile terrorism suspects to the US, ignoring human rights issues. There are also no signs that Theresa May will use this magical new power in a couple of other, very similar current cases (where the defendants have less media support, but the facts are remarkably similar).

Under UK law, extradition is supposed to be a judicial/legal decision, with the government only intervening on matters where state-to-state negotiations may be needed and there are good reasons for this; under the old law (where it was a political decision) you had ridiculous situations such as mass-murdering dictators being allowed to walk free (over court objections) because senior politicians didn’t want to set a precedent for senior government officials being held accountable for their actions while in power… And yet here we have a Home Secretary making a decision that appears to be illegal, for political reasons.

It may be the right result (and possibly for the right reasons), but it’s a pretty terrible indication of our government’s willingness to ignore the law (or exploit vague laws) when politically convenient.

Anonymous Coward says:

this whole episode basically showed how poor the security was at the places McKinnon hacked into. it made the US dpts concerned look bloody stupid and that isn’t liked at all! the only reason the US is so upset over this decision is because, finally, for once, the UK has had the balls to say ‘NO’ to the US, and about time too. like everyone else, i have no idea whether the guy would have killed himself if extradited, but why take the risk over what is really a poultry amount of money? if he is prosecuted in the UK so be it. i would have thought, however, given the length of time this fiasco has been going on, he would now be left alone

Anonymous Coward says:


One can argue that a lot of things — pedophilia, e.g. — are spectra. That does not mean that they aren’t *also* disorders.

Now that I’ve done a Godwin’s equivalent, everyone’s going to whine ‘straw man’, but the truth is, certain behavioural defects are intrinsically characteristic of Asperger’s; those defects by their very presence necessitate the judgement that Asperger’s is a disorder, albeit not a profound one.

Anonymous Coward says:


Of the two, I’d rather protections for the hacker.

This may sound horrid, since the college student is arguably more ‘innocent’, but hackers work to change the world, liberate important information, and generally undermine totalitarianism and censorship as a simple function of their very natures, while most college students end up as mindless button pushers.

In the big scheme of things, it’s clear which is more important.

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