Pentagon hacker tries one more time to avoid extradition

A British systems administrator who hacked into U.S. military computers will have another chance to make his case why he shouldn't be extradited to the U.S.

A British systems administrator who hacked into U.S. military computers in 2001 and 2002 will have another chance to make his case of why he shouldn't be extradited to the U.S.

A High Court judge will decide on Jan. 20 whether another court should review Gary McKinnon's case again, said Karen Todner, his attorney. If the judge approves the request, a further hearing would be scheduled later next year in the High Court, Todner said.

McKinnon, of London, was indicted in November 2002 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on charges related to illegally accessing and damaging U.S. government computers. McKinnon maintains he was looking for evidence of UFOs.

The U.K. government approved his extradition in 2006, but McKinnon filed several appeals in U.K. courts, losing them all. The European Court of Human Rights rejected another appeal in August.

That ruling appeared to clear the way for McKinnon to be sent to the U.S. But McKinnon applied once again for a written review of the case, which was rejected. However, McKinnon could still ask for an oral review, which will occur on Jan. 20. McKinnon's extradition order has since been put on hold pending the latest challenge, Todner said.

If the judge rejects the review, McKinnon could appeal once again to the European Court of Human Rights but on new grounds, she said.

McKinnon has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterised by obsessive behavior and deficiencies in social interaction. The condition means McKinnon may have an argument that if he is extradited, found guilty and sentenced, he should be allowed to serve his sentence in the U.K.

On Oct. 30, 80 members of Parliament signed an early-day motion urging that the U.K. government get assurances from the U.S. that McKinnon could serve his sentence in the U.K. due to his medical state.

The soft-spoken McKinnon has admitted to his hacking but said he did not believe it caused damage. The U.S. government alleges it cost at least $US700,000 and caused the shutdown of critical military networks shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

McKinnon has not been incarcerated as his case traversed the courts. He's not supposed to have contact with computers and has said he has struggled to find gainful employment because of the publicity around the case.

He does have a band of supporters, however, who asked the U.K. government not to extradite him and held small rallies outside the U.S. embassy in London. Those supporters are planning another demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy on Friday, according to a blog chronicling McKinnon's plight.

The demonstrators plan to give a letter to the embassy asking President-elect Barack Obama to intervene once he takes office on Jan. 20.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

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