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British hacker Gary McKinnon in final appeal to Home Secretary over extradition

Date: August 29, 2008
Source: business.timesonline.co.uk


A UFO enthusiast who hacked into top-secret US military computers appealed to the Home Secretary yesterday to stop his extradition after losing a legal appeal.

Gary McKinnon is due to be extradited to the United States within two weeks and could face a sentence of up to 80 years in a maximum-security prison if found guilty. He admits to having accessed 97 US Navy, Army, Nasa and Pentagon computers in what has been described as “the biggest computer hack of all time”.

Mr McKinnon, 42, an unemployed systems analyst, has said that he was looking for computer files containing details about UFOs and aliens. The US Government says that he stole passwords, deleted files and left threatening messages.

Mr McKinnon, of Palmers Green, North London, admitted carrying out the hacks using a computer in the bedroom of a house owned by his girlfriend’s aunt. He says that he was motivated by curiosity and gained entry only because of lax security.

US prosecutors allege that he caused nearly $1 million (550,000) in damage. The US military says that he rendered 300 computers at a US Navy weapons station unusable immediately after the September 11 attacks.

Mr McKinnon had become obsessed with a theory that the US was using alien technologies to create weapons and “free energy”. He gave up his job and spent hours every night hacking in search of evidence.

He hacked into 53 US Army computers and 26 US Navy computers, including those at US Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey, which is responsible for replenishing munitions and supplies for the Atlantic Fleet. Calling himself Solo, he left a threatening message: “US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days? It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 last year . . . I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.”

He was caught in November 2002 as he tried to download a grainy black-and-white photograph that he believed was of an alien craft held on a Nasa computer in the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas. He was easily traced by the authorities because he used his girlfriend’s e-mail account.
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