'Hacker' faces extradition battle

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The Independent Online

A British man was granted bail today over allegations that he hacked into the US military computer system causing damage worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A British man was granted bail today over allegations that he hacked into the US military computer system causing damage worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Gary McKinnon, 39, faces extradition to the United States over claims that he accessed 97 government computers over a one–year period.

McKinnon, of Wood Green, north London, is contesting the extradition request.

Janet Boston, for the US government, told Bow Street Magistrates' Court: "On one instance, the US Army's military district of Washington network became inoperable."

In all, his actions caused 700,000 dollars (£370,000) worth of damage, the court was told.

District Judge Christopher Pratt granted McKinnon bail to reappear for an extradition hearing on July 27.

He was ordered to provide £5,000 security, report to his local police station, not to apply for any international travel documents and not to use any computer equipment allowing him to access the internet as bail conditions.

McKinnon was first arrested in 2002 but action against him was discontinued.

Outside court, his solicitor Karen Todner said he was disappointed it had taken the authorities this long to bring him to court.

She said: "This decision for extradition is driven by the American government. Mr McKinnon intends to contest this case most vigorously.

"Of particular concern to him is the treatment of other British nationals under the American judicial system which inspires little confidence.

"We believe that as a British national, he should be tried here in our courts by a British jury and not in the US."

McKinnon's barrister Mohammed Khamisa successfully argued in court for his bail security to be reduced from £10,000 to £5,000.

Mrs Boston, for the US government, had not asked for him to be remanded in custody.

The court heard that since his initial arrest in 2002, he had made no attempts to leave the country or evade the attention of authorities.

McKinnon, casually dressed in a baggy grey jumper and green combat trousers, and with unkempt wavy hair, waved to his family when he appeared in the dock.

The court heard that he had used a computer programme to access 97 government computers in such a way that his actions could not be detected.

Mrs Boston said it had enabled him to, in effect, "control the computers".

She added: "These are very serious matters and a substantial sentence may result."

Mr Khamisa said: "Mr McKinnon, as you know, has been expecting this for about four years now.

"He was originally arrested in 2002 but all the allegations were discontinued against him by the Crown Prosecution Service.

"There had been some discussions with the American Embassy in 2003 but nothing came of it."

McKinnon was arrested last night by officers from Scotland Yard's extradition unit.

Charges before the court related to offences allegedly committed against the US Army, US Navy, space agency Nasa, and the US Department of Defense.

They allegedly took place between February 2001 and March 2002.

The schedule of charges faced by McKinnon today relate to the charges he would have faced had they been within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.

There are 20 counts, relating to the US Army, US Navy, Nasa, the Department of Defence, and the US Air Force.

They relate to allegedly accessing computers with intent to cause a public nuisance as well as knowingly causing the modification of computers to "impair the operation" of them, in relation to all five organisations.

McKinnon faced accusations that he accessed computers intending to steal computer files and data and that he stole computer files from the Army, Navy and Nasa.

He also faces allegations that he obtained secret passwords or information which might be "indirectly useful to an enemy" from the Army, Navy and Nasa as well as interfering with maritime navigation facilities in New Jersey in relation to the Navy.

McKinnon was initially indicted in 2002 by a Federal Grand Jury on eight counts of computer–related crimes in 14 different states.

The indictment said he hacked into an army computer at Fort Myer, Virginia, obtained administrative privileges and transmitted codes, information and commands before deleting about 1,300 user accounts.

The indictment also alleged that he hacked into a naval weapons station shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, effectively shutting down the whole system for a week.

Speaking at the time of the indictment, Paul McNulty, the US Attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, said: "Mr McKinnon is charged with the biggest military computer hack of all time."

Mrs Todner said the maximum possible sentence that her client could face if found guilty of the charges in the United States would be 70 years.

She also said that one of his motivations had been to try to prove the existence of UFOs.

She said: "His motivation was firstly in relation to that, and secondly in relation to exposing the lack of security in relation to the American system.

"He doesn't deny that something happened. In relation to the specific charges, we need to sit down and work out whether there are offences in relation to his action.

"He doesn't deny that he did infiltrate their computer system."