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Day dawns for Pentagon hacker Lords appeal

Last chance saloon

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It's D-Day for accused Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon. Five law Lords are due to consider his appeal against extradition to the US in a hearing due to commence at 1100 BST on Monday.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Master of the Rolls and third most senior judge in the UK, along with four other law Lords will hear arguments that the US authorities stepped over the mark during plea bargaining negotiations with McKinnon.

In particular, McKinnon was allegedly threatened with a longer spell in jail if convicted and opposition against repatriation that would allow him to serve part of any possible sentence in the UK unless he agreed to voluntary extradition.

Other Lords sitting in on the appeal, McKinnon's final chance at avoiding extradition, include Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, former Intelligence Services Commissioner.

Although the hearing may be over today a decision is not expected for some weeks.

Gary McKinnon at Infosec

Gary McKinnon at Infosec 2007

The hearing is all that stands between McKinnon and a US trial for allegedly hacking into 97 US government computers between 2001 and 2002 in what US authorities described at the time as the "biggest military" computer hack ever.

The former sys admin admits he gained access to weakly secured computers but describes himself as a bumbling amateur searching for suppressed evidence that the US military has supposedly harvested advanced technology from UFOs rather than the black-hat ninja hacker described in the US case against him.

The 42-year-old said he obtained access to military networks using a Perl script to hunt for default passwords. He was traced via his purchase of remote control software used to carry out the hack.

McKinnon and his legal team have consistently argued the case that he ought to be tried in the UK during his long-running fight against extradition. He was arrested and questioned by UK police over the alleged offences in November 2002 but US extradition proceedings didn't get going until June 2005. ®

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