Latest McKinnon extradition appeal to begin in February


Gary McKinnon, the man who allegedly hacked into Pentagon and NASA computer systems, will continue his fight against extradition to the United States in an appeal hearing early next year.

The 40-year-old British national is accused of hacking into 97 U.S. military and NASA computers in 2001. His appeal will be heard in the High Court on Feb. 13, 2007.

McKinnon lost his first appeal against extradition in July this year. In that case, the appeal judge ruled that extradition was justified, but the former computer systems administrator was granted leave to appeal to a higher court. If McKinnon loses his second appeal, his only option to halt deportation is to appeal to the House of Lords. If extradited, he could face up to 70 years in prison.

The self-described "computer nerd" says that the case of the NatWest Three does not leave him feeling confident.

"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 gob smacked because they are hardly petty criminals, it was a big important case."

The so-called NatWest Three were extradited to the U.S. in July, in connection with an investigation into an $22.5 million fraud at the collapsed energy giant Enron. The bankers' case was the first to be held under the controversial Extradition Act of 2003, which is the result of a treaty sanctioned by the United Kingdom but not the U.S.

McKinnon's case dates back to 2001, when he allegedly logged on from his London home and, under the codename Solo, hacked into the computers of the Pentagon, US Army, Air Force and NASA. Prosecutors accuse him of accessing hundreds of military machines, which had not been secured properly by officials.

McKinnon was originally arrested in the U.K under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, although he has never been convicted of an offense. He admitted breaking into the systems using only a dial-up connection and default passwords, claiming he was looking for evidence of UFO activity.

British police informed him that he would face community service because he did not appear to have caused any damage, and did not charge him with any crimes.

However, authorities claim he committed the "biggest military computer hack of all time," causing about $700,000 in damage. Extradition proceedings began in 2005.


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