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Alleged Pentagon Hacker Gary McKinnon was told in court today that the US Embassy would write a letter to help him avoid the full wrath of presidential anti-terror laws, if he were extradited for prosecution.

McKinnon (aka Solo) was facing extradition proceedings in Bow Street Magistrates Court this morning so that he could be tried in US courts for allegedly hacking into 97 US military and NASA computers, disabling the Washington computer network, and leaving a message that read: "US foreign policy is akin to government sponsored terrorism these days... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels".

The case was adjourned until March 14.

Karen Todner, representing McKinnon for Kaim Todner Solicitors, told El Reg that without the president's signature, the letter would be worthless, because only the president could waive a privileged presidential power.

Todner fears that an extradition without presidential assurances to the contrary, could see Solo face solitary confinement in Guantanemo Bay or 30 years imprisonment under the president's special powers, Military Commission Order #1.

If McKinnon's extradition is refused, he could still face up to three years in prison under the Misuse of Computers Act.

The prosecution has stated that he is not being treated as a terrorist, but has also made their case on his intention to "endanger the public safety" by "causing harm to the US government".

Todner said the prosecution had promised a "diplomatic note" from the US Embassy providing the assurances she wanted.

"We say that's not sufficient because the only person who can decide is the president, so it must come from the president himself," she said.

The case was adjourned while the court awaits the conclusion of another extradition case - that of the three former NatWest investment bankers who are up for extradition over an alleged Enron-linked fraud.

The defences in all cases are arguing that the extradition treaty between the US and UK is lopsided because the US has not signed up to its obligations, but is expecting full co-operation in its turn.

The US Embassy refused to comment. ®

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