From correspondents in London
15 Feb 06
A BRITISH computer enthusiast accused by the US government of the
world's "biggest military hack of all time" has begun a court fight
against extradition to the US.
Gary Mckinnon was arrested last June following charges by US
prosecutors that he illegally accessed 97 government computers
including Pentagon, US army, navy and NASA systems.
Prosecutors said he hacked into sensitive networks over a one-year
period from February 2002 and caused $US700,000 ($950,828.58) worth of
damage, after crippling US defence systems in the wake of the
September 11, 2001 attacks.
If found guilty, Mr Mckinnon could face up to $US1.75 million ($2.38
million) in fines and 60 years in jail.
Mr Mckinnon's lawyers said he might be prosecuted under military law
if he were sent to the United States and could be subjected to
"special administrative measures" such as solitary confinement and
other tactics to persuade him to plead guilty.
He could even face the prospect of being sent to Guantanamo Bay with
no chance of parole, they said.
Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London is expected to hear from Clive
Stafford-Smith, a human rights lawyer who acts on behalf of detainees
in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr Mckinnon - whose hacking name was Solo - admits gaining access to
US government computers but denies he caused any damage. His
supporters said the US government should be grateful to him for
highlighting its security shortcomings.
US prosecutors said there is no evidence Mr Mckinnon downloaded
classified information or forwarded files to foreign governments.
At the time of the indictment, Paul McNulty, US Attorney for the
Eastern District of Virginia, said: "Mr McKinnon is charged with the
biggest military computer hack of all time."
Mr Mckinnon, from Wood Green in north London, was released on bail in
July 2005 and banned from using the Internet.
The 40-year-old appeared relaxed in court where he was supported by
more than a dozen friends and supporters.
Governments have become increasingly nervous over hackers in recent
years and there have been several high profile prosecutions.
One of the allegations relates to Mr McKinnon deleting files from
computers at a US naval station during a critical time following the
September 11 attacks, rendering the base's network of computers
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