Gary McKinnon will not face any criminal charges in the United Kingdom.
Dubbed the “NASA hacker,” McKinnon hacked into 97 computers belonging to the United States military and NASA between February 2001 and March 2002. The U.S. government alleged that McKinnon’s hacks caused roughly $700,000 in damages to government system in what has been called “the biggest military computer hack of all time.”
For his part, McKinnon has confessed to hacking into U.S. military computers. However, he claims that his intentions were not to wreak havoc but to look for evidence that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) exist.
According to a 2005 profile by The Telegraph, authorities discovered McKinnon when he was trying to download an image of what he believed to be an alien spaceship from a NASA computer.
The U.S. government was in the process of extraditing him to face seven counts of computer-related crimes, with each counting carrying a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, the U.K.’s Home Secretary Theresa May blocked his extradition on Oct. 16, 2012, out of concerns for McKinnon’s personal well-being. In 2008, McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and clinical depression.
May’s decision to not extradite McKinnon meant that the only way he would face criminal charges would be in the U.K. On Friday, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer announced that British officials were not planning on bringing charges against McKinnon because the chances of getting a conviction were low.
“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 U.S. to London for trial, the participation of U.S. government witnesses in the trial, and the need fully to comply with the duties of disclosure imposed on the [Crown Prosecution Service],” Starmer said.
“The prospect of a conviction against Mr. McKinnon which reflects the full extent of his alleged criminality are not high.”
With Starmer’s announcement, McKinnon’s decade-long saga comes to a close.
“I feel fantastic, it’s just wonderful,” Janis Sharp, the hacker’s mother, said upon hearing the news. “The next thing I would like to get, impossible though it seems, would be a pardon from President Obama.”
She added, “I think it’s possible because I think Obama seems like a good person and so does his wife.”
Photo via pressassociation/YouTube