Nasa hacker case adjourned over extradition fears

A UK judge will not allow Gary McKinnon to be extradited unless the US can guarantee he won't be subject to its anti-terrorism laws

Gary McKinnon, the UK citizen accused of hacking into computer systems run by Nasa and the US military, will not be extradited across the Atlantic to face trial unless the US can guarantee that he won't be treated as a terrorist.

At a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, McKinnon's lawyers claimed that he could be detained indefinitely by the US authorities. McKinnon is charged with illegally accessed 97 US Government computers and causing $700,000 worth of damage, over a 12-month period starting in February 2001.

Last year, McKinnon told ZDNet UK that he had accessed the computers because he was looking for evidence that the US had found extraterrestrial life. He denied causing serious damage.

Lawyers for the defence told the court that the US could choose to treat McKinnon under its military order number one, which allows suspected terrorists to be tried under military law.

District judge Nicholas Evans, who is hearing the case, ruled that the extradition request would be denied unless American officials could guarantee that they would not prosecute Mr McKinnon under the order.

"All you have to do is satisfy the court he is not at risk," said Evans, according to The Guardian. "And if you cannot, then there is a problem."

The case is due to resume on 14 March.