Hacker loses extradition appeal

A computer expert who hacked into top secret US military networks lost his last-ditch legal appeal today and will be extradited to the US in the next two weeks.

Gary McKinnon, 42, asked the European Court of Human Rights to stay his extradition pending an appeal to the court but his application was refused.

Karen Todner, from Kaim Todner solicitors, said her client was "distraught" about the decision and appealed to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to intervene.

Mr McKinnon, who claimed he was looking for UFO files, lost in the High Court last year and in the House of Lords last month.

Today's ruling rejected the request for a stay in the extradition process pending a full hearing of the court. Mr McKinnon claimed the extradition would breach his human rights.

The unemployed systems analyst from Wood Green, north London, admits he gained access to 97 US Navy, Army, Nasa and Pentagon computers from the bedroom of his girlfriend's aunt's house.

But he says he was motivated by curiosity and only got in because of lax security.

The US government says he stole passwords and deleted files. He faces up to 70 years in prison if found guilty.

Ms Todner said: "We have lost the appeal. That means he will be extradited. It will probably be within the next fortnight.

"He is absolutely devastated by the decision. He and his family are distraught. They are completely beside themselves. He is terrified by the prospect of going to America.

"This was their last chance. We are going to write to the Secretary of State and ask her to reconsider it again.

She said Mr McKinnon had recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and would ask for the case to be tried in this country.