U.S. reels in Brit hacker

A British court recently approved a request by the U.S. for the extradition of an unemployed systems administrator who allegedly caused US$700,000 in damage by hacking into U.S. military and government computers.

Gary McKinnon, 40, of London, is accused of deleting data and illegally accessing information on U.S. government computers between February 2001 and March 2002. Prosecutors allege McKinnon significantly disrupted government computers, causing damage that jeopardized U.S. military networks.

The U.S. filed an extradition request after British officials decided not to prosecute McKinnon because the alleged crimes occurred within the U.S. McKinnon’s attorneys fought extradition, fearing that he could be classed as an enemy combatant and be held indefinitely, awaiting trial by a military court.

The U.S. said McKinnon will not be held as an enemy combatant, and will face trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Judge Nicholas Evans rejected arguments that McKinnon could be subjected to torture and inhuman treatment in the U.S. Evans referred the case to British Secretary of State John Reid to decide whether McKinnon will be extradited.

McKinnon said before the hearing that he would appeal. He maintains he didn’t damage the computers, owned by the U.S. Army and Navy, the Department of Defense and the NASA space agency. He claimed he was researching UFOs.

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