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Australia Correspondent

Obama says he can’t intervene in British hacker case

Jul 21, 20103 mins

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he can't intervene in the long-running case of a British hacker charged with breaking into U.S. military computers.

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he can’t intervene in the long-running case of a British hacker charged with breaking into U.S. military computers.

Gary McKinnon’s case came up during discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Washington.

The U.K. Home Office is reviewing whether McKinnon’s medical condition is grounds to block his extradition to the U.S., which was approved in 2006.

McKinnon has yet to stand trial in the U.S., where he was indicted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2002 for hacking into 97 military and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002.

He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a neurological disorder related to autism characterized by deficiencies in social interaction. He would prefer to be prosecuted in the U.K., but the Crown Prosecution Service has turned down the case because the U.S. has jurisdiction.

Obama said during a news conference with Cameron that by tradition U.S. presidents do not get involved in extraditions or prosecutions and that his “team will follow the law.”

“I trust that this will get resolved in a way that underscores the seriousness of the issue, but also underscores the fact that we work together and we can find an appropriate solution,” Obama said, according to a transcript.

Cameron, who voiced support for McKinnon’s case last year along with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, said discussions with the U.S. are ongoing and that he didn’t want to prejudice the case.

“We completely understand that Gary McKinnon stands accused of a very important and significant crime in terms of hacking into vital databases,” Cameron said. “And nobody denies that is an important crime that has to be considered. But I have had conversations with the U.S. ambassador, as well as raising it today with the President, about this issue, and I hope a way through can be found.”

McKinnon’s case has raised questions about the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty, which some argue is lopsided and makes it easier for the U.S. to gain custody of suspects than for the U.K.

In May, Home Secretary Theresa May adjourned a judicial review of McKinnon’s case due to take place in the High Court. The Home Office is still reviewing McKinnon’s case, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

McKinnon, who went by the name “Solo,” contends he was merely searching for proof of the existence UFOs and didn’t harm the systems he is accused of hacking. The U.S. military alleges that McKinnon deleted critical files from its computers, which hampered its efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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