NASA hacker to hear fate next month

Gary McKinnon's fight to avoid extradition to the US to face hacking charges continues, after an unsigned note from the US Embassy was produced in court on Wednesday

The UK computer expert who faces extradition to America for hacking US military computers will hear his fate next month.

Gary McKinnon appeared in court in London on Wednesday, in the latest stage in a protracted legal process. His defence has argued that he should not be extradited as he could be tried under America's tough anti-terrorism laws. This could see him sent to Guantanamo Bay and imprisoned for up to 60 years.

On Wednesday, the prosecution produced an unsigned note from the US Embassy, which they claimed was a guarantee that McKinnon would not be tried under Military Order Number One, which allows suspected terrorists to be tried under military law.

However, the defence argued that the note was not binding as it was unsigned. The defence called Clive Stafford-Smith, a human rights lawyer who has defended Guantanamo Bay inmates, as a witness. Stafford-Smith argued that the note would not prevent McKinnon from being treated as a terrorist.

"The President has a very strong view that he has legislative authority that is not trammelled by the legislature," said Stafford-Smith.

McKinnon also indicated that he wasn't convinced that the unsigned note would protect him. "It's not worth the paper it's written on," he said outside the court.

The case was adjourned until 10 May, when a decision will be made on whether McKinnon will be extradited.

McKinnon is charged with illegally accessing 97 US Government computers and causing $700,000 worth of damage over a 12-month period starting in February 2001.

McKinnon, from North London, has admitted that he accessed some US military computers, but has denied causing serious damage. The UFO enthusiast has claimed that he was searching through government systems for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

To read an interview with McKinnon, click here.

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