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McKinnon loses fight against extradition

Faces US trial on Pentagon hack allegations

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Updated Gary McKinnon, the alleged Pentagon hacker, has lost his appeal against extradition to the US on hacking charges.

McKinnon, 41, failed to convince Appeal Court judges on Tuesday to overturn a 2006 ruling by Home Secretary John Reid that his extradition should go ahead. The Scot now faces a US trial of breaking into and damaging 97 US government computers in what US authorities have described as the "biggest military" hack ever.

McKinnon is alleged to have hacked into computers belonging to the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, Department of Defense, and NASA in 2001 and 2002. The Scot lost his first appeal against extradition in an High Court hearing last July but was given leave to take his case to a Appeal Court, a move that culminated in failure on Tuesday. McKinnon's final option is an appeal to the House of Lords but there is no guarantee that Appeal Court judges will even grant this leave to final appeal.

This week's hearing was McKinnon "last best" chance to avoid extradition.

His lawyers argued that he had been subjected to "improper threats" that he would receive a much harsher sentence and be denied the opportunity to serve out the back-end of his jail term in the UK unless he played ball. But Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Goldring said: "We do not find any grounds of appeal", in dismissing McKinnon's legal challenge against the Home Secretary's decision to confirm a ruling that McKinnon ought to be extradited to the US.

The unemployed sysadmin 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, when extradition proceedings were brought against him. His lawyers consistently argued that McKinnon ought to be tried in the UK over his alleged offences, rather than the US.

McKinnon (AKA Solo) admits he infiltrated computer systems without permission, but claims he did no harm. He got involved in hacking after reading Disclosure by Steven Greer, which convinced him that the US had harvested advanced technology from UFOs (such as anti-gravity propulsion systems) and kept this knowledge secret, to the detriment of the public.

He was caught after US authorities tracked system intrusions back to the UK. UK police identified McKinnon as the attacker after obtaining records of British sales of a software tool called RemotelyAnywhere to McKinnon, who'd unwisely used his real email address to purchase the software. ®

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