back to article Pentagon hacker McKinnon earns extradition delay

Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon has been granted a short reprieve from possible extradition to the US while a European court decides whether or not to intervene. Law lords rejected McKinnon's appeal against extradition last month, leaving the European Court of Human Rights as his final avenue of appeal. McKinnon's solicitors …


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  1. h4rm0ny


    Personally I care less about whether he is innocent or not, than I do about where he is tried. If he's guilty of something let him face a court in our own country where we can ensure judicial oversight. It's not right that the UK should have agreed with the USA to hand over anyone accused by them so they can put them on trial (and especially it's not right when the USA has no such agreement with the UK).

    And taking someone away from their country - i.e. their home, their family and friends and their job for the duration of a trial is a sentence being passed in itself, before any establishment of guilt takes place.

    An alien, because maybe he *did* find evidence...

  2. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Two Wrongs do not make a Right.

    "while a European court decides whether or not to intervene."

    A decision which a request to intervene and reverse a [bad] Law Lords ruling absolves them from having to decide, surely.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    tit for tat

    I bought a computer off some American bloke. Gates I think his name was.

    Anyway, complete pile of crap, slow, vulnerable, unstable, infected within hours. I was offline for days trying to sort out the last infection. Do you think we can extradite him here to face charges?

  4. paul

    Quick blame someone

    He should be handed a medal - it doesn't sound like he was that much of hacker - just proving that US DoD didnt have the right setup to protect their national security.

    But they cant be made to look foolish can they now.

    The laws are not going to protect some determined cyber attacks from a forign power when at war.

  5. David Simpson

    stop wasting legal aid on confessed guilty people.

    He hacked US military computer networks , what did he think would happen ?

    He has already turned down a bargain with the US that would have seen him in minimum security for a few years then sent back to the UK for the rest.

    The man is an idiot, lets deport him as a warning to others


  6. Anonymous Coward

    And since 'UFO' was mentioned again...'s the link again. Even _if_ fake, it should make one think a little...

  7. Nano nano

    Jury service

    Maybe he should (if extradited) select the military jury that Osama bin Laden's driver got - they seemed to have a clue about who was and wasn't a serious threat.

    After all, Michael Jackson (no, not the programming methodology guy, that singer) got to choose his jury .

  8. Mike


    @tit for tat

    Please do, and in that particular case, considering the breadth and depth of the crimes against humanity I believe an execution is in order.

    @ everyone else

    The people who should be on trial here is the military for allowing this kind of thing to take place. Heck, my home machine is probably more secure the machines this bloke supposedly hacked into. I say you guys should keep him and do what you will with him, but don't send him over here for what would surely be a biased and unfair trial. I would suggest a change of venue to a disinterested 3rd nation-state that has no stake in it either way. Or even better yet, is just give him his walking papers if it really matters (politically) that much.. (we have all heard it before, "we don't care where you go, but you can't stay here")

  9. Justin Smith
    Thumb Down

    @ h4rm0ny

    The US-UK extradition treaty is bilateral: the UK can request extradition of someone in the US under roughly the same terms as the US of the UK. (The difference in terms have much more to do with differences in the US and UK laws and legal systems than with the terms of the treaty itself.)

    US - UK Extradition Fact Sheet, courtesy of the US Department of State:

    Of course the US can drag its feet, or even outright refuse, extriditing someone... not unlike the UK is doing with McKinnon right now.

  10. Dave

    @ Justin Smith

    Of course the US can drag its feet, or even outright refuse, extriditing someone... not unlike the UK is doing with McKinnon right now.

    The UK isnt dragging its feet or refusing to extridite him, the accused is using all open legal channels to challenge the extradition order. Its nothing to do with the UK gov whatsoever, or would you like us to ignore laws just so you can hang, draw and someone who essentially did the US a favour especially when you consider the increase in cyber attacks in the last few years.

    Just to mention while you saying the US/UK treaty is fair. for the US to extradite someone they just have to accuse the person of a crime, vice versa the UK hhas to provide prima-facia evidence a requirement that doesnt apply to US requests

  11. Andy Bright

    Tax Payer

    I'm a UK citizen paying US taxes, my choice of course and no complaints about that.

    What I don't appreciate is that the money I do pay in taxes is being wasted by a/incompetent hackers and b/incompetent IT staff.

    For the case of the hacker, whatever, slap on the wrists, fine for being a pillock seems fair enough. Anything else is wasting my money on a pointless legal procedure. I have no desire to see my tax dollars wasted on keeping a harmless twat in prison.

    For the IT staff, it depends. First of all was the money I donated to the US government properly handed over for them to purchase the software and hardware required to keep incompetent hackers at bay? If not, they're blameless, and no longer incompetent in my view. If it was, and they wasted it on shite software and hardware, they should be standing in the dock instead of McKinnon. Not the plebs in the field mind, I mean the people that actually make decisions and for internal political reasons, fuck around.

    They're the ones wasting my money in a criminal manner. I don't pay them to fuck around, no matter what the reasons. I don't pay them to hold back on purchasing decisions to make people look bad, which might enable them to gain more control over a department. I don't pay them to fuck with computers to make people look bad so they can gain promotions. I pay them to purchase the correct tools to protect the computers needed to do the work required for that department. If they're deliberately fucking about instead of doing that, they're stealing my money.

    If it turns out the plebs in the field were to blame - either fire them or train them properly. Preferably the latter.

  12. Mark

    @Justin Smith

    Our survey said:


    Nope, the treaty has not been ratified by congress therefore has no legal power in the US.

    Please try again.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ Justin Smith

    The extradition treaty is largely bi-lateral, with some core differences (constitutionally, someone cannot be extradited from the US without showing some evidence). However, the treaty has never been ratified by the US, and as such a UK prosecutor can't use it to get their hands on someone wanted in the UK who has moved to the US, they have to use existing treaties. Therefore, until ratification, the treaty is unilateral. Check your facts before you have a rant at someone please.

  14. Dazed and Confused

    @Justin Smith

    US-UK extradition.

    as far as I remember you can't be extradited from the US to the UK for being a convicted terrorist and admitting shooting soldiers in cold blood.

  15. Daniel

    @Justin Smith

    You'd be bang on - IF the U.S. Senate had ratified the treaty. Of course, they haven't, so it has no legal force in the U.S.

    Personally, considering how long the U.S. has dragged it's feet on this, I'm surprised - and somewhat disappointed - that Britain doesn't exercise Article 24 and terminate the treaty. That's not to say that I think the U.S. should ratify it - I'm actually against extraditing our citizens - I just think that the current situation is fundamentally unfair.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ amanfromMars

    'A decision which a request to intervene and reverse a [bad] Law Lords ruling absolves them from having to decide, surely.'

    The remit of the Law Lords was to decide if the extradition request was compliant with our legal system - *NOT* on the facts of the case itself.

    The ECHR has to decide if the Law Lords ruling is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights - at the moment that is still a matter of legal dispute. If the ECHR conclude that the Lords decision contravened one of the principles of the Convention then they will hear the appeal. If they can find no conflict with the Convention then there will be no hearing and the extradition will proceed.

  17. Frederick Karno


    The guy has already confessed and could be tried here ...........

    There is no need for extradition the fact that US prosecutors have already set foot on our soil plea bargaining to me stinks .....They are only taking him to the states to do a showpiece trial .

    The US has been made to look fools for being unable to keep hackers out so they are going to set an example with this guy,the Law lords were wrong and he should only be extradited to a country with reciprocal arrangements.

    mines the one with 51st state intern on the back.

  18. Justin Smith
    Thumb Down

    @ Daniel et al, treaty ratification

    Really? Someone might want to tell "Britain's official website for the USA" (maintained by the British Consulate-General, no less) that it didn't really happen. Oh, wait, *was* ratified *and* signed by the President in 2006. Oops.

    As for the prima facie imbalance, I'm afraid you have that backwards. Before this new treaty, it was the UK what only had to show probable cause, not the US.

    So much for "checking the facts."

  19. Anonymous Coward

    @Justin Smith

    "Before this new treaty, it was the UK what only had to show probable cause, not the US."

    Oh, so now it's the other way around (i.e. the US does not need to present evidence to a British court to request extradition, but the UK still needs to present evidence to an American court), that makes it okay then?

    Of course it doesn't you dick.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plea bargaining...

    Is that what they call doing deals with terrorists these days?

  21. Dave

    @ Justin again

    before this treaty both the US and UK when extriditing a citizen from each other had a hearing in court to prove a probable cause, part of those hearings was the presentation of prima-facie evidence. Since this treaty has been in use the US has only had to accuse (Not show any evidence whatsoever) whereas the UK still have to show prima-facie evidence even with this treaty

    Now do you see the imbalence?? It might not be written like that in the treaty but that is how it works in the legal system. Paper promises look good but rarely ever happen, the treaty is one-sided, biased and it could even be said that the UK leadership at the time of signing has a case to answer of treason over it if you want to be really extreme. To put it bluntly the treaty rides roughshod over the protections for UK citizens against malicious prosections while providing the US even more

  22. Anonymous Coward


    Justin, take your head from your ass and read and comprehend;

    Which part of "The treaty has not been ratified by congress so is not in force" do you not understand. Dichead.

    Personally I am disgusted that the UK allows its citizens to be extradited to the US in this way. We all know how the US treats prisoner

  23. Anonymous Coward


    OOOh, forgot What do you call a man with a one inch dick...........(-:

  24. Hud Dunlap

    @ justin smith

    Document no longer available.

    I still don't that the treaty was ratified.

  25. GF

    If He Did the Crime, He Should Do the Time...

    I'm sure I will be the minority based on the results of this blog, but he should be extradited. If an American committed a similar act against British systems, I expect the reverse would be the same and the American should be extradited to GB.

  26. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Jokers in the Pack ...... and just as effective as they are in the Game of Poker

    "The remit of the Law Lords was to decide if the extradition request was compliant with our legal system - *NOT* on the facts of the case itself." ..... By Mike Richards

    Posted Tuesday 12th August 2008 20:19 GMT

    Thanks for that info, Mike, and what a cop out it is too. Heaven forbid that the Law Lords should actually Lead with a Progressive Legal Opinion. Gutless Wonders springs immediately to Mind making a Mockery of the Guardianship of ......... Natural Justice?

    No Wonder the Establishment System is in such Terminal Decline whenever such Responsibilities are Abdicated/Abrogated.

    The deliberation is now transferred to a Higher Court not even in a Foreign Land, is it, being as that Court would be a Mish Mash of Foreign Opinions? How very Alien.

    So GB is a Cuckold ...with the Case being Proven? I do Believe it is.

    Of course, that Presents a Mutually Beneficial Opportunity for .Alt Wild Card Play which will Lead in Engaging Desirous Directions.

  27. Geoff Mackenzie


    Nice one, lucid enough to get a serious reply :)

  28. Andus McCoatover

    @ Justin, et. al.

    Don't you remember Lotfi Raissi?


    US gov. created a web of lies to try to get this man. Thank the Lord Harry that Justice Timothy Workman had more sense.

    "Lie and Deny" - the New American Way.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Don't mess with the Evil Empire!

    F****g stupid ex-student messing with Darth and his Evil ones. Which part of that does he not understand? If he is such a bright guy, how come he missed the part that the UK is part of the Evil Empire and sure to extradite him to the Masters? Extradition treaty status means didly squat when it comes to playing with Darth and his boys.

  30. Sam Radford
    Jobs Halo

    Wot, no Macs

    So the US military don't use Apple Macs then?

    Definitely grounds for prosecution! ;-)

    It reminds me of when my eldest son was a teenager. I received a letter from his school announcing that he would attend detention for hacking the school computer system. I questioned him about it then wrote this brief reply:

    Dear Headmaster,

    I understand that you think my son should attend detention for accessing some teachers' private files by entering the word "password", when requested to do so, by the on-screen prompt "Please enter password".

    I will be happy to oblige my son to attend your detention classes, provided that the teachers concerned attend a computer literacy course and learn how to password-protect their accounts. I await your confirmation.

    (No confirmation was ever received and nothing more was said about detention!)

  31. Damian
    Paris Hilton

    @ All those who disagree with Justin Smith

    Well, that just about wraps that up. I have been following the whole McKinnon saga, on el reg, since it started. I have heard people whining time and again that the US wouldn't extradite its citizens due to non-ratification of a treaty, and the American Constitution, etc, ...and I actually believed all that rubbish!

    I hope that all of you who have been dissin Justin Smith feel well and truly pwned - you should! It just goes to show that I am not the only one who should have actually 'checked the facts' before believing this non-ratification tripe.

    I am glad that at least one el reg reader thought to actually do some fact checking, and suggest that this serve as a lesson to others before they spout out regurgitated claptrap.

    I bet even Paris knows how to do a quick search on the internet for 'UK/US Extradition Treaty', which would indubitably demonstrate that she is less of an airhead than all the 'regurgitards' on here.

    Hey, did you notice that? I just invented a new word. All you regurgitards know exactly who you are....

  32. heystoopid


    @justin surely you jest , my book of numbers first published in 2004 show the Pentagon 's computer security is so perverted and an absolute joke at the best of times ,so that on average it is hacked into approximately 43,800 times a day or 160,000 times a year !

    Such is life , we live in a world of numbers that don't lie only the end users allow themselves to be mislead though by other background noises of all corrupt US Prosecutors who take a tiny sliver of fact amplify it , make it a trial by the ever compliant boot licking media to hoodwink the public , but then fail to provide full disclosure for such is the nature of injustice in the land of the paranoid and unfree thus giving both the appeal courts and the the supremes much work in the process to resort out their messes of self creation ! They also wonder why when the smarter jurors see through their heavy smokescreens of much fiction, assess the facts properly and then say up yours in reply too !

    As for other bit about the Cuban compound problem the JAG officers appointed read the military code of justice book from cover to cover including the ratified Geneva protocols concerning non resident prisoners held by the military and the treatment required therein , so they merely cut and ran away from making the correct decision and tossed the ball back to their commander in chief the very indecisive confused lame duck DC Chimp !

    What price a number indeed ?

  33. BitBotherer
    Thumb Down

    @ Justin Smith

    Do your research before you make claims like that, yes the US say they have an extradition treaty with the UK, the key word is "roughly" it is very one sided.

    Blunkett signed away a swathe of our rights in June 2003.

    "Under the new treaty, the allegations of the US government will be enough to secure the extradition of people from the UK. However, if the UK wants to extradite someone from the US, evidence to the standard of a "reasonable" demonstration of guilt will still be required." quote Ben Hayes of Statewatch.

    There any many other unfavourable terms (to the UK citizen) in this 'treaty'

    Extradite a suspect to a country that does not respect decisions made by the International Court of Justice, a country that refuses to allow members of it's armed forces to be tried in International courts for serious war crimes, a country that imprisons suspects in military prisons without trial, a country that openly condones and pratices torture. Bollix.

    Mc Kinnon should fight this all the way, he cannot possibly get a fair unbiased trial in the US.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Play in the big league.

    Do the crime? Do the time!

    If this asshat of a hacker had been any good, he would not have been caught, but he has. So send him off to be sentenced for the crimes he has admitted to.

    Unless my fellow posters think it's ok to commit a crime because:

    a. it was against the USA and/or

    b. the US security was laughable so they deserve what they got.

    If you go with b. , then you'll be happy to post your home addresses, as we all know home security is generally crap. And that you deserve to be home-invaded.


  35. Aron A Aardvark

    Daily Mail to do a 180 turn?

    So if the EuroCourt puts a full stop to GM's extradition, can I expect to read a prominent piece in the Daily Mail on how the evil, federalist EU has taken away more of rights? I mean, don't our own splendid English courts uphold centuries of hard-won rights while evil Jean and Juan Foreigner only seek to consolidate their power over us.

    Will the Mail also explain why EU federalism is bad but US federalism is a self-evident good thing and all things United Statesian are to be faithfully emulated here.

    Maybe we should have a Russian-style law that simply prohibits extradition of its citizens? But that would of course be curtailing our criminal justice system to the English and Scottish jurisdictions and not somehow constructing a abstraction that crimes committed in other sovereign states should be actionable here.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Sam Radford

    It's amazing how many parents object to their children being punished in school. It's amazing how many parents get the school to drop the punishment. It's amazing how many parents have kids that grow up to be self centred tits.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why was sensitive military computers hooked to the Internet in the first place for?

    You would thought they would be on a private network.

    If the American military are that stupid to put their machines on a public network they deserved to be hacked.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's all been done...

    Sure this one wasn't quite so rampant an attack, but if we want to point at a pre-existing case and use it as a precedent...

    I'd opt for trying him in the UK.... but that's just me and the law is an ass.

  39. Paul

    Several points - mostly being missed

    Several things:

    There is an imbalance in the treaty obligations. This is an outrage. The UK politician who agreed and signed it (the whole cabinet, given their doctrine of collective responsibility) should be castigated, and the UK should take the opportunity of US non-ratification to throw it out and start again. Unless the status quo ante was even worse, perhaps...

    This imbalance does not affect the McKinnon case, since he has admitted to hacking the machines (even if his hacking simply amounted to walking through an open door).

    The Law Lords' job WAS to assess whether the extradition request was in accordance with UK law - but UK law includes the Human Rights Act, and so those issues OUGHT to have been considered. Whether they were given appropriate weight I don't know - I have not read the judgement.

    The punishment should fit the crime. In this case, the proposed punishment is massively excessive - even if you believe the US Federal prosecuting authority's claims that he was malicious and political, rather than a mostly harmless UFO nut.

    The behaviour of the Federal authorities was abusive - if indeed they threatened him with a hugely unreasonable sentence in order to induce him to accept a somewhat less excessive (but still excessive) sentence in the US.

    Imprisonment in the US system may in itself be a violation of a prisoner's human rights (or even cruel and unusual punishment, in the civilised world), due to the lack of protection from rape, assault and brutalisation from other prisoners and sometimes staff. This should be a consideration. Convicts are sent to prison AS a punishment, not FOR a punishment, if you get the distinction.

    McKinnon really should be prosecuted and, if convicted and sentenced, serve his time, in the UK, where he lives and where he was when he is alleged to have committed the offence.

    The hacking was ridiculously easy - the machines should have at least been password protected. This does not excuse McKinnon, but it should be a mitigating factor.

    The prosecution in the US may simply be a way to distract attention from the woeful security in place, or a way to demonstrate toughness on terror. McKinnon should not be sacrificed for political expediency, and the security lessons should not be lost.

    That's probably enough points for now.


  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime!!

    if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime!! just because you're a geek doesn't mean that you're not going to prison.

    of course he should be tried in the states, that's where he did the damage. that's who's tax dollars he wasted. though all this protracted legal wrangling is now p!ssing away my tax dollar too :-(

    oh dear what a shame, he took a risk and committed what he knew to be a crime. now he's been caught he's crying because he can't face life behind bars with the rest of the criminal classes. hard luck !

  41. Tim


    Mckinnon may have broke the law in america, but as he wasnt in america at the time, this cannot be the case. If i were to drink alcohol at 18, i would be breaking the law in america (but as i am not in america, tough).

    We can prosecute him for accessing computer systems without permission (as we have a law for), and he would be bang to rights.

  42. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Here is the Crying Shame and the Clumsy Rogue Elephant in the Room*

    "oh dear what a shame, he took a risk and committed what he knew to be a crime. now he's been caught he's crying because he can't face life behind bars with the rest of the criminal classes. hard luck !" ... By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 13th August 2008 13:45 GMT


    And what of all those wheeler dealers and dodgy brokers and their support systems staff, effectively hacking the markets and losing/phishing billions and maybe even trillions intentionally, and then having Stooge Government lackies stepping in to invent money and cover trails to bail them out and keeping the scams going, and then passing on all the expense and the pain to stupid Joe Worker and Jane Public. Is that not more of a crime given the misery it causes and yet the biggest losers are perversely rewarded in just stepping aside for someone else to have a go/bash at it.

    And the Rogue Elephants don't do SOLO messages, they do Wholesale Global Damage.

  43. John Robson Silver badge

    Who cares about the treaty

    He committed a crime here, and should be charged here.

    Whether the US want to try and wade in after that is immaterial - he should be tried here first.

  44. kain preacher

    I'l;l ask agasin

    If I hire some in the the UK over the phone to kill you in the UK, but I'm in America which country do I get prosecuted in ??

  45. Justin Smith

    Willful ignorance

    Good grief, the level of willful ignorance displayed by so many readers is mind-boggling.

    @ Hud Dunlap : why don't you try pasting the COMPLETE URL; the "9" at the very end is *necessary*. But if that's just too much for you, try another:

    @ Paul : wtf dream world do you live in? You're wrong about the treaty ratification. You're wrong about the imbalance. And you're wrong about the status quo ante.

    Then you go on to say "The punishment should fit the crime." No s**t, Sherlock. And you don't think breaking into dozens of government computers is a serious crime?

    Let me say "I agree that the security of those computers is/was crap," but THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE OR A MITIGATING FACTOR. After all, do you really want that used (successfully) by people committing other kinds of crime? "Well, govnr, the security on that car I stole was crap, so no harm, right?" or "But the house's door was unlocked, so it was alright for me to just walk in, take a few things, and then spray graffiti on the walls, ya know?"

    "Imprisonment in the US system may in itself be a violation of a prisoner's human rights." While you don't go on to explicitly compare US and UK prisons, the comparison is implicitly there, and the idea that UK prisons provide "protection from rape, assault and brutalisation from other prisoners and sometimes staff" is laughable.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    @Justin Smith again

    Come clean. Who do you work for?

    Is it

    a) The US government

    b) The Republican party

    c) The US military

    d) all of the above

    The treaty is lop-sided and the threats used to try to coerce voluntary extradition are unacceptable, as is the UK government's bending over and saying "in here please".

    Your attempts to absolve your country are laughable. Threats like those used against McKinnon are exactly why American foreign policy is sneered at by the rest of the world. You're the world's biggest bully and you just don't know it.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    @Justin Smith

    Your still banging on about the US having to observe the treaty, YET according to all the evidence I've read online, and I've contacted a legal expert, the treaty only works for fast track extraditions from the UK to the US, not the other way round! THAT IS BECAUSE CONGRESS HAVE NOT RATIFIED IT YET! What part of that do you not understand. Whether Geedubya has signed it or not is immaterial, it is still not legally possible to fast track a suspect from the US until congress do there bit!

  48. Justin Smith

    @ AC

    Gosh golly, the answer is "d) all of the above." You found me out, mate. My real name is George W. Bush. Har-dee-har-har.

    Now how about you get real?

    WHAT part of the treaty is "lop-sided?" I doubt you can answer that, as I doubt you have read the treaty.

    I'll give you a hint: there is EXACTLY one inequity in the treaty, but I leave it to you to read the document, figure out what it is, and what the actual ramifications are (if any). If you're not willing to educate yourself, why should I try to do it for you?


  49. Anonymous Coward

    @Geo.W. Bush

    "I doubt you have read the treaty."

    Oh dear. That's one-nil to me then.

  50. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton


    @ justin a special video mix just for you

  51. MarkMcA
    Paris Hilton

    The real reason for the US over-reaction?

    McKinnon did actually expose something both highly significant and embarrassing to the US (excluding its comical security and bad attitude); the list of 'non-terrestrial' military personnel. WTF are they?

    Evidence of aliens, nope. But it's a fair bet that the US military is steaming ahead full speed with their weaponisation of space - something they've wanted for years despite it being utterly illegal under international and US law. Full-spectrum dominance and all that.

    Don't forget the Pentagon says it 'cannot account for' over $2 trillion (!) - enough to buy about 40 International Space Stations, 20 manned missions to Mars or a dozen moon bases. (Yes, I just Googled the numbers... :) )

    'Non-terrestrial' military officers, indeed.

    - Paris, cos she's not on Planet Earth either.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Embarrassing Trial

    Is it me or does anyone else think that this might just be an embarrassing trial for the U.S. gov, if there really were no passwords!!

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