British Government Adjourns Extradition Hearing for McKinnon

The new British government has canceled a court hearing for a hacker who hunted for evidence of UFOs on U.S. military computers while it reconsiders an extradition order that would send him to face a U.S. trial.

A judicial review scheduled to begin next Tuesday in the High Court has been adjourned by the Home Office, which oversees criminal justice affairs, lawyers for Gary McKinnon said on Thursday.

"I hope this may be a signal of a more compassionate and caring home secretary and one that is willing to defend the rights of our citizens," McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, wrote.

The latest turn in the case is a sign that McKinnon may get a sympathetic ear from Britain's new coalition government, composed of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, lent their support to McKinnon last year, questioning the terms of the U.K.-U.S. extradition treaty and the circumstances of McKinnon's case. The new Home Secretary Theresa May is a Conservative.

McKinnon, whose extradition was approved in 2006, has yet to face trial in the U.S. McKinnon was indicted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2002 for hacking into 97 military and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002. He could face up to 60 years in prison.

He is fighting extradition on grounds he has Asperger's syndrome, a neurological disorder related to autism characterized by deficiencies in social interaction. McKinnon, who is rarely seen in public, is also suffering from depression, according to his family.

McKinnon, who went by the name "Solo," contends he was merely searching for proof of the existence UFOs and didn't harm the systems he is accused of hacking. The U.S. military alleges that McKinnon deleted critical files from its computers, which hampered its efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com.

Subscribe to the Today in Tech Newsletter

Comments