Washington: ‘Gutsy’ PM takes on US over hacker McKinnon

By Alex Stevenson

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon’s mother has praised David Cameron after the prime minister raised the issue of his impending extradition in Washington.

The Asperger’s syndrome sufferer, who was accused of hacking into Pentagon computers, looked set to be extradited to stand trial in the US with New Labour in power.

Now the possibility of him either standing trial in Britain or serving part of his sentence in Britain has been raised by Mr Cameron.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the prime minister acknowledged the latter was a “potential outcome”. But he added he did not want to make a prediction because of the “many difficult issues that have to be worked through”.

Mr McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, was quoted by the Telegraph newspaper as saying she was “just so proud of the coalition government”.

“Our government has had the guts to stick up for a British citizen and raise the case with Mr Obama,” she said. “Our hopes are that Gary can be tried in the UK.”

Speaking in a White House press conference after talks with US president Barack Obama, Mr Cameron added: “I’ll be working very hard to make sure that these things are discussed between the two governments and if we can reach a settlement then all to the good.

“I don’t want to make a prediction because there are many difficult issues that have to be worked through.”

Mr McKinnon has admitted hacking into 97 US computers from his North London home in 2001 and 2002. He maintains he was looking for evidence of extra-terrestrials.

The US government claims the incident was the “biggest military hack of all time” and cost $800,000 (£487,000) to remedy.

His lawyers had fought a lengthy legal battle against extradition to the US, where his supporters argue he would struggle to cope with the penal system.