The World’s Clark Boyd reports on the latest in the case of British citizen Gary McKinnon. He stands accused by US authorities of “the biggest military hack of all time.” He’s been fighting extradition to the United States for more than four years. Now, Britain’s new Prime Minister has raised the issue with President Obama.
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MARCO WERMAN: Diplomatic talks of a different sort are taking place here in the United States. President Barack Obama met for a second day with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Among the weighty issues being discussed are the BP oil spill, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Gary McKinnon. US authorities accuse McKinnon, a British citizen, of the biggest military hack of all time. And they want him extradited to the US. The World’s Clark Boyd has been following McKinnon’s story.
CLARK BOYD: Gary McKinnon’s never denied that he hacked into US military and NASA computer systems just after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. But he’s always maintained that he was looking for evidence of UFOs. US authorities allege his actions took down critical computer systems, and caused $800,000 in damages. For four years, they’ve been fighting to get McKinnon extradited to the US. It seemed that was a done deal. But then David Cameron became Prime Minister. His administration put McKinnon’s extradition on hold. And yesterday at a news conference with President Obama, Cameron raised the issue again.
DAVID CAMERON: We completely understand that Gary McKinnon stands accused of a very important and significant crime, in terms of hacking into vital databases, and nobody denies that that is an important crime that has to be considered. But I have had conversations with the US ambassador, as well as raising it today with the President, about this issue and I hope a way through can be found.
BOYD: President Obama pointed out that he won’t get involved in decisions around prosecutions or extradition matters, but that his Administration was open to working with British officials.
BARACK OBAMA: What I expect is that my team will follow the law, but they will also coordinate closely with what we have just stated is an ally that is unparalleled in terms of our cooperative relationship. And I trust that this will get resolved in a way that underscores the seriousness of the issue.
BOYD: What’s unclear is what a cooperative, yet serious solution to the case might look like. In a later interview, David Cameron suggested that perhaps McKinnon could be tried in the US, but serve his time in a British prison. If convicted, McKinnon could face more than 50 years in prison. McKinnon’s lawyers have argued that their client has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. And that there’s a good chance McKinnon could become suicidal if jailed in America. Still, McKinnon’s supporters see new hope.
JANIS SHARP: I couldn’t believe it when I switched on television and actually saw Obama and David Cameron discussing Gary.
BOYD: Janis Sharp is Gary McKinnon’s mother.
SHARP: I mean our hopes are that Gary can be tried in the United Kingdom. And I think there’s much more chance of that now that this has happened. I think the fact that during such landmark talks, BP and so many important issues, that David Cameron has had the guts to actually stand up for a British citizen, is wonderful.
BOYD: Britain’s Home Secretary is said to be reviewing McKinnon’s case, and will issue a decision in the next few weeks. For The World, this is Clark Boyd.
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