Meet autistic Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon. He may not be a household name, but for the amount of trouble he allegedly has caused, he should be.
McKinnon is facing a Oct. 16 extradition hearing to the United States and, if convicted in a subsequent trial, he could face 70 years in prison for allegedly hacking into sensitive government systems on this side of the Atlantic.
Between February 2001 and March 2002, the self-style “Solo” allegedly hacked into 97 U.S. military and NASA computers, reportedly to find evidence of free-energy and UFO coverups.
U.S. authorities claim he shut down the 2,000-computer network at the U.S. Army’s District of Washington for 24 hours, taunting the government with a post on a military site: “Your security sucks”.
While McKinnon admitted to hacking, he disputed that his work caused significant damage. In various interviews, McKinnon has characterized himself as a cannabis-smoking, “bumbling computer nerd” who the United States is trying to make an example of.
In 2005, McKinnon was told by the U.K. government to check in to his local police station every night and was banned from using a computer with Internet access. Around that time, the U.S. government sought his extradition, and he’s been fighting it ever since, mostly citing health concerns.
McKinnon’s lawyers are hoping that their client’s condition — they say he has Asperger’s Syndrome — is enough to block his extradition. Lawyer Karen Todner says she’s ready to take the case all the way to the High Court (Britain’s equivalent of the Supreme Court). Some autism experts have warned of the risk that the 46 year-old McKinnon could commit suicide if convicted.
Scottish police image courtesy Shutterstock. Image of McKinnon courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.