Alleged NASA hacker loses another appeal

British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith holds firm, so despite being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, Gary McKinnon still faces extradition to the U.S..

Tom Espiner Special to CNET News
2 min read

The man accused by the U.S. government of accessing more than 73,000 U.S. military machines has lost his second appeal to the British Home Office against extradition.

Gary McKinnon's recent diagnosis of having Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the autistic spectrum, had not changed Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision that the self-confessed NASA hacker be extradited, McKinnon attorney Karen Todner said Monday.

Protests chant outside Britain's Home Office in support of Gary McKinnon. Tom Espiner/ZDNet UK

"The secretary of state has advised via the treasury solicitors that, despite Mr. McKinnon's diagnosis with Asperger's, she will now be making arrangements for his extradition, pursuant to her order for extradition of 4 July, 2006," Todner said. "We are now considering whether or not Mr. McKinnon has a further judicial remedy, and we are urgently investigating this issue."

The home secretary also failed to make any request to the U.S. for McKinnon to be repatriated to the UK to serve his sentence, should he be found guilty by a U.S. court, Todner said.

The U.S. government has accused McKinnon of hacking into 97 U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA computers, and causing damage costing hundreds of thousands of dollars by deleting files. McKinnon has never denied hacking into U.S. military systems, but he denies causing extensive damage. He claims that he was initially searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life, and he later found evidence of antigravity projects.

The Home Office declined to comment on why McKinnon's appeal had been turned down and why his recent diagnosis with Asperger's syndrome was not sufficient grounds to consider an appeal.

Karen Todner Tom Espiner/ZDNet UK

However, it is understood that the Home Office sent a letter rejecting McKinnon's appeal to his solicitors Monday. ZDNet UK understands that the Home Office believes that its position has been vindicated by several courts, which successively found in favor of the Home Office, before McKinnon's Asperger's diagnosis.

The final representations made to the Home Office gave no basis for overturning the order for extradition, ZDNet UK understands. The reasons for McKinnon's appeal to the Home Office being dismissed were set out in the letter sent to McKinnon's solicitors.

McKinnon's legal team told ZDNet UK in September that, should McKinnon's Home Office appeal be dismissed, the team was preparing an application to the High Court to appeal against McKinnon's extradition. Todner told ZDNet UK at the time that she would also consider a judicial review of the home secretary's decision, should Smith decline McKinnon's appeal.

This is the second appeal to the Home Office in McKinnon's long-running legal battle to avoid extradition. McKinnon lost his first appeal to the Home Office in July 2006, when the then-home secretary, John Reid, dismissed his representations.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.