ZDnet reports that
Nasa hacker taken ill as appeal continues
Colin Barker ZDNet UK
Published: 14 Feb 2007 17:06 GMT
Gary McKinnon, the UK citizen accused of hacking Nasa's computers and causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage, was taken ill as his appeal against extradition continued.
According to those close to McKinnon, he suffered heart palpitations on Wednesday. "The case has all become too much for him," a friend told ZDNet UK.
It seems that Gary was taken to hospital.
Is this long running Kafkaesque bureaucratic legal farce, now turning to tragedy ?
McKinnon is accused of breaking into 97 US computers and causing £700,000 of damage in 2001 and 2002. He admits accessing Nasa computers, as part of his search for evidence of extraterrestrial life, but denies deliberately causing any damage.
In McKinnon's absence, his defence lawyer told the High Court that his extradition should be blocked because the US authorities had offered him a shorter sentence in return for agreeing to extradition. Edmund Lawson, QC, claimed that this constituted an "improper approach" to McKinnon.
Representing the US authorities, Max Summers told the court that the US was not able to refute this claim immediately and would need an adjournment to consider it.
Will the High Court seek to take evidence on this point from Ed Gibson, who was, at the time, the FBI assistant Legal Attaché at the US Embassy in London, before he took up the post as Chief Security Adviser for Microsoft Ltd here in the UK ?
The High Court Judges Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr. Justice Goldring are likely to take a dim view of the alleged threats by the US authorities in New Jersey to see Gary "fry", which could be a reference to the electric chair death penalty,
The US civil legal authorities are not calling for the death penalty (which would stop the extradition to the USA under United Kingdom and European Union law), but such a penalty is possible if the case gets hijacked by a US Military Tribunal, once Gary is physically in the power of the US authorities.
As has been argued in court back in May 2006, the US Government assurances that this will not happen, are literally not worth the unsigned diplomatic note which they were given on, and which is not binding on President George Bush, who no longer has to worry about any political embarrassment which Gary's case may cause him electorally.
It could of course, just mean that the US legal authorities were threatening to "throw throw the book" at Gary.
However it is going to be hard to prove, one way or the other, exactly what was said to lawyers at a meeting outside of UK jurisdiction, held at the US Embassy in 2003, unless US Government staff or former staff are willing to testify on Gary's behalf, or the US Government somehow forgets to invoke "national security" or "legal privilege" to ban them from speaking or to forbid the release of any transcripts or video or audio recordings of such conversations.
The recent refusal of the US Military to cooperate with the UK legal system i.e. the Coroner's Court, over the suppressed A10 ground attack aeroplane cockpit video, in the tragic blue on blue "friendly fire" attack on British soldiers in 2003, is indicative of their likely attitude.
The case was adjourned on Wednesday afternoon, and the appeal judges will now deliberate on whether this new evidence can be considered.
The High Court had two days allocated in the busy court schedule for this case, and it would have adjourned on Wednesday anyway, whilst the two Judges made their decision, which will be published at some indeterminate time in the future.
If he loses his appeal, McKinnon may try and appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, although this may be blocked by the High Court.
The next legal step would actually probably be an appeal to the UK House of Lords, who may or may not choose to hear it, like in the somewhat similar Babar Ahmad case.
The current backlog of 30,000 or so cases at the European Court of Human Rights means that any appeal could take 7 or 8 years !