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Terry Waite backs McKinnon

Beirut hostage joins 'pretty harmless' camp

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Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite has spoken out against attempts to extradite self-confessed Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon to face a US trial.

Waite, who since his release in 1991 has become a human rights and police campaigner, argues that the US military should thank McKinnon for exposing security holes in its systems. McKinnon's recent diagnosis of Aspberger's syndrome ought to prompt a decision by US authorities to drop the prosecution against McKinnon.

McKinnon claims he was only looking for suppressed information about anti-gravity propulsion systems and other UFO technology he reckons is being held from the public when he broke into US military systems. He admits hacking but denies doing any damage, against US claims that he was the "biggest military hacker of all time".

Waite said McKinnon's behaviour was "hardly that of a serious spy" and described his motives as "pretty harmless" adding "The Pentagon ought to thank him for exposing the vulnerability of their systems," the Press Association reports.

The former Church of England envoy urged common sense in the handling of the case, while emphasising that he supports law enforcement efforts to "track down and stop illegal activity" on the web, the BBC adds.

A judicial review on whether the Home Secretary was right to allow extradition proceedings against Gary McKinnon to proceed despite his health problems has been scheduled for 9 and 10 June. The hearing has become McKinnon's best hope of avoiding a US trial after failed appeals that went all the way to the House of Lords last year, and a more recent decision by UK prosecutors not to put McKinnon on trial on this side of the Atlantic.

McKinnon's long-running campaign against extradition has gained celebrity support over recent months. Alongside Waite other eminent sorts who have come out in support of McKinnon include the UK Government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew, former Police frontman Sting and London Mayor Boris Johnson. ®

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