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Pentagon hacker appeals US extradition

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Gary McKinnon, the Pentagon hacker, faces what might be his last appeal hearing against extradition on 13 February next year at London's Court of Appeal.

McKinnon, 40, faces possible trial under US anti-terror laws over alleged attacks on military and NASA systems between 2001 and 2002. The Scot lost his first appeal against extradition in an High Court hearing last July but the unemployed sysadmin was given leave to take his case to a higher court. Failure this time around will mean that the only possible avenue left to him would be an appeal to the House of Lords, to avoid charges which might land him in prison for up to 70 years.

McKinnon has had these charges over his head since March 2002, when he was arrested by officers from the UK's National High Tech Crime Unit. The case against him lay dormant until July 2005 - he's been unable to find work since then. His lawyers say he should be tried in the UK over his offences, rather than the US.

McKinnon (AKA Solo) admits he looked at computer systems without permission, but claims he did no harm. He got involved in hacking after reading Disclosure by Stephen Grea, which convinced him that the US had harvested advanced technology from UFOs and kept this knowledge secret, to the detriment of the public.

He was caught after US military agencies detected system intrusions which were traced back to the UK. UK authorities identified McKinnon as the attacker after obtaining records of British sales of a software tool called RemotelyAnywhere to McKinnon. Subsequent police work made him a prime suspect in the case, described by US authorities as the biggest military hack ever.

McKinnon told Secure Computing that he was increasingly pessimistic about avoiding a trip to the US, following the failure of the NatWest Three to avoid extradition.

"If I don't win the appeal then I can apply for leave to appeal to the House of Lords, but that is not an automatic right," he said. "The NatWest Three applied for leave to appeal to the House of Lords and were refused and everyone was gobsmacked because they are hardly petty criminals, it was a big important case."

The so-called NatWest Three were extradited to the US in July this year, in connection with the investigation into an £11.5m fraud at the collapsed energy giant Enron. The bankers' case - which is tied up with the collapse of US energy giant Enron - was the first to be carried out under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, which has been ratified by the UK, but not by the US. ®

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