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McKinnon earns Lords appeal

Pentagon hacker in legal victory

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Gary McKinnon, the British hacker facing extradition over allegations he broke into US Military and NASA sites, has earned the right to take his case to the House of Lords.

The law Lords agreed to hear arguments that US authorities acted in an "oppressive" and "arbitrary" manner during plea bargaining negotiations, for example by allegedly threatening McKinnon over the loss of rights to serve part of his sentence in the UK unless he submitted to voluntary extradition.

The House of Lords was not bound to consider McKinnon's final appeal - for example it declined to hear the appeal of the NatWest Three bankers, so the Lords' decision is a significant fillip for McKinnon and his legal team.

"Gary McKinnon is delighted to learn of this important development," his barrister, Ben Cooper of Charter chambers, told The Guardian.

McKinnon is fighting against extradition to the US on hacking offences after losing an appeal in April. Only the Law Lords now stand between the Scot and a US trial for allegedly breaking into and damaging 97 US government computers between 2001 and 2002 and causing an estimated $700,000 worth of damage, in what US authorities have described as the "biggest military" computer hack ever.

The former sys admin, who lives in London, admits he infiltrated computer systems without permission but disputes the seriousness US authorities attach to his attacks.

The 41-year-old has said he gained access to military networks - using a Perl script to search for default passwords - but describes himself as a bumbling amateur motivated by curiosity about evidence of UFOs rather than a cyberterrorist.

McKinnon and his team have consistently argued that he ought to be tried in the UK. No date has been set for the House of Lords hearing. In the meantime, McKinnon remains on bail. ®

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