British hacker fears U.S. extradition

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Gary McKinnon, the U.S. government's most wanted IT geek, spoke out at Infosecurity Europe yesterday against his possible extradition to the states where he will face charges of hacking into the U.S. military's computer systems.

McKinnon is accused of intentionally causing damage to computers belonging to the federal government, including hacking into 97 Army, Navy, Department of Defense and NASA computers where he allegedly deleted files and installed tools used for obtaining unauthorized access to computers.

Initially arrested by the U.K.'s National High Tech Crime Unit in March of 2002, charges were not brought against him until June of last year. He now faces extradition to be tried in a U.S. court.

Under the Extradition Treaty 2003, the U.S. may press a case for extradition without first proving that there is a prima facie case to answer, a fact McKinnon is apprehensive about and sees as an abuse of power by the U.S. administration. If the federal government has its way, McKinnon says it will be a "black hole for Gary" with no appeals or contact with the press. He could face up to 70 years in jail.

U.S. authorities claim he caused up to £370,000 - or nearly $674,000 - worth of damage, but McKinnon says his impact was minimal. "Lovebug did more damage than my alleged damage."

Unemployed and living off the "dole" on £50 - or $90 - a week, he has not been approached by security companies "or foreign governments," he said. In previous interviews, McKinnon claimed he was inspired by the movie WarGames, but it looks like his dreams of being hired by a high-profile security organization are over.

His extradition hearing is due to take place on May 10.

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