UK judge approves US request for hacker extradition

A British court on Wednesday approved a request by the US forthe extradition of an unemployed systems administrator whoallegedly caused US$700,000 in damage by hacking into US militaryand government computers.

Gary McKinnon, 40, of London, is accused of deleting data andillegally accessing information on U.S. government computersbetween February 2001 and March 2002. Prosecutors allege McKinnonsignificantly disrupted government computers, causing damage thatjeopardized U.S. military networks.

British investigators seized McKinnon’s computers in March 2002.McKinnon admitted installing remote access software on computers hetargeted in the U.S.

The U.S. filed an extradition request after British officialsdecided not to prosecute McKinnon because the alleged crimesoccurred within the U.S.

McKinnon’s attorneys fought extradition, fearing that he couldbe classed as an enemy combatant and be held indefinitely, awaitingtrial 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 EasternDistrict of Virginia.

In Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in London on Wednesday, judgeNicholas Evans rejected arguments that McKinnon could be subjectedto torture and inhuman treatment in the U.S. Evans referred thecase to British Secretary of State John Reid to decide whetherMcKinnon will be extradited.

McKinnon, who remains free on bail, said before the hearing thathe would appeal. Before leaving the court, McKinnon hugged friendsand relatives attending the hearing.

The soft-spoken McKinnon maintains he didn’t damage thecomputers, owned by the U.S. Army and Navy, the Department ofDefense and the NASA space agency. McKinnon, who used the name”Solo” during his exploits, has said he was researching UFOs.

McKinnon used a program called “RemotelyAnywhere” to controlother computers, accessing administrator accounts and gainingpasswords for 39 of the 97 computers he is accused of hacking,British court documents said.

U.S. officials charge McKinnon’s actions went beyond meresnooping. They allege McKinnon deleted files from computers at theU.S. Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey, causing theshutdown of 300 computers at a “critical” time after the Sept. 11,2001, terrorist attacks.

British investigators said McKinnon admitted to leaving a noteon a U.S. Army computer that read “U.S. foreign policy is akin togovernment-sponsored terrorism these days…. I am Solo. I willcontinue to disrupt at the highest levels.”