The Justice Department’s statement lauded U.S.-British cooperation on extraditions and appeared aimed at lowering any potential tensions with Britain over the matter.
To be sure, though U.S. officials were unlikely to be pleased by the decision, observers said the move to leave the treaty otherwise largely intact could assuage concerns at the State and Justice departments.
The rule changes, however, would not be retroactive and, therefore, would not have affected McKinnon’s case — hence May’s move to unilaterally block his extradition.
McKinnon has admitted to hacking into 97 U.S. government computers between February 2001 and March 2002, including those at NASA and the Pentagon. McKinnon, who has fought a 10-year-long legal battle, admits that he exploited security problems in U.S. government computers from his bedroom in a North London apartment but says he was looking only at files that would prove the existence of UFOs.
“He’s a classic computer nerd. He was looking for UFOs,” McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, told the BBC on Tuesday morning. She later publicly thanked May for blocking her son’s extradition, saying: “Thank you, Theresa May, from the bottom of my heart. I always knew you had the strength and courage to do the right thing.”
May said British prosecutors would decide whether McKinnon would face trial in Britain.
But May also offered details about the announcement Monday of a dramatic overhaul to Britain’s policy on international extradition requests, saying Britain would opt out of more than 100 criminal justice measures with the European Union and then rejoin selected ones. The move appeared aimed at satisfying Conservative lawmakers who have grown increasingly skeptical of the E.U.’s reach in British affairs.
Yvette Cooper, who leads domestic affairs for the opposition Labor Party, said Monday that May’s decision put “internal party management” ahead of “crime fighting and the interests of victims.”
“Theresa May needs to explain why she wants to ditch the European Arrest Warrant, making it harder to stop criminals who flee abroad and harder to send home foreign criminals who have fled here,” Cooper said in Parliament. “And she also needs to set out clearly what she will guarantee in its place and whether she will just end up opting back in again in future.”