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Britain blocks extradition of hacker who broke into Pentagon computers

LONDON — In a case that has dogged Anglo-American relations for a decade, Britain said Tuesday that it would not send a confessed computer hacker to the United States to face charges relating to a spectacular break-in of Pentagon databases and other sensitive networks around the time of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Home Secretary Theresa May also said that the British government, Washington's closest ally, would re-examine its controversial fast-track extradition treaty with the United States to see how some suspects might be kept in Britain for trial rather than shipped across the Atlantic.

Speaking in Parliament, May told lawmakers that 46-year-old Gary McKinnon would not be extradited to the United States because of his mental health problems, which include suicidal thoughts and Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Handing McKinnon over for prosecution would breach his human rights, even though he stands accused of "serious crimes," May said.

The politically fraught decision is likely to rouse the ire of U.S. officials, who have sought for years to get McKinnon onto American soil. They say that his hacking of nearly 100 U.S. military computers, which he admits to, caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and sparked a disruptive network crash soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.

McKinnon maintains that he broke into the computers to look for secret government evidence about UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

His case has become something of a cause celebre in Britain, where many see him as a misguided, eccentric but ultimately harmless computer nerd up against a prosecution-happy American judicial system. Members of Parliament, civil liberties campaigners, lawyers and other activists have championed his cause.

"It was an incredibly brave decision" not to hand McKinnon over to the United States, said his mother, Janis Sharp, who has led the fight against his extradition. "To stand up to another nation as strong and powerful as America is rare."

Murdoch aide got $11M

LONDON — Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper group, received about $11 million when she resigned last year in the midst of the scandal over phone hacking and other malpractice at two of the company's tabloid newspapers, people familiar with the terms of her severance agreement say. A former employee of News of the World, the paper at the heart of the scandal, said the figure of about $11.3 million that was reported in the Financial Times on Tuesday was consistent with the figure being discussed within News International at the time that Brooks quit. The former employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a confidentiality clause in his own severance agreement with the company, said that rank-and-file journalists at News of the World, which Murdoch shut down shortly before Brooks resigned, were "as angry as the general public" was likely to be at the size of Brooks' severance benefits.

New York Times

Britain blocks extradition of hacker who broke into Pentagon computers 10/16/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:35pm]
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