Gary McKinnon, the hacker accused of infiltrating NASA's computers, won't face charges here in the UK, bringing to an end his 10-year legal battle, the BBC reports.
McKinnon was going to be extradited to the US to face charges, thousands of pounds in fines and possibly a 60-year jail sentence. That was until the Home Secretary Theresa May stepped in a couple of months ago. McKinnon suffers from Asperger's syndrome, and medical experts feared he would commit suicide if extradited.
Many will see this as a victory for common sense. McKinnon admits hacking into NASA's computers, but says he was looking for evidence of UFOs. US authorities described his actions as the "biggest military computer hack of all time" that was "calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion." Perhaps a bit over the top, maybe?
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said in a statement yesterday, "The potential difficulties in bringing a case in England and Wales now should not be underestimated, not least the passage of time, the logistics of transferring sensitive evidence prepared for a court in the US to London for trial, the participation of US government witnesses in the trial and the need fully to comply with the duties of disclosure imposed on the CPS."
McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, was overjoyed by the news. "Gary admitted to the intrusion, he always denied the damage. I feel the 10 years have been gruelling, it's been life-destroying. It's difficult to explain how bad it's been," she said.
"To have this over is amazing. Gary's gone through enough. Other people have been accused of more serious hacking in this country and they've been given a £1,000 fine and a very short community sentence.
"Gary regrets what he's done. He wishes he hadn't done it. He wishes he hadn't upset the Americans. We all regret it. But I'm grateful to Theresa May that this is all over now."
However, the extradition warrant is still outstanding, preventing McKinnon travelling outside the UK. His lawyer said they have discussed approaching US president Barack Obama and asking for a pardon.
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