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British hacker case: the biggest ever military hack

Date: February 17, 2006

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 say he hacked into sensitive networks over a one-year period from February 2002 and caused $US700,000 ($A950,828.58) worth of damage, after crippling US defence systems in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

If found guilty, Mckinnon could face up to $US1.75 million ($A2.38 million) in fines and 60 years in jail.

Mckinnon's lawyers say 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 say.

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.

Mckinnon - whose hacking name was Solo - admits gaining access to US government computers but denies he caused any damage. His supporters say the US government should be grateful to him for highlighting its security shortcomings.

US prosecutors say there is no evidence 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."

Mckinnon, from Wood Green in north London, was released on bail in July 2005 and banned from using the Internet.
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