Fear of Guantanamo 'saves London hacker'

Gary McKinnon, the British-born hacker who penetrated 93 federal computers, this week began fighting extradition to the US where he could be jailed without parole.

Lawyers for the former network administrator want guarantees his safety would not be at risk from a military order, which would brand him a 'combatant' and could land him in Guantanamo Bay.

Without such reassurance, District judge Nicholas Evans agreed requests by American officials to extradite the London IT specialist would be turned down, The Guardian reported.

McKinnon was originally arrested under the Computer Misuse Act, but if sent to the US he could face up to 70 years in jail and a hefty fine of up to £1million.

From around 2001, the 40-year-old is accused of causing $700,000 of damage by hacking the networks of six private companies and five military departments, including amending the IT systems of the Pentagon.

His 12-month hacking spree was conducted from his home computer in North London, where at its peak it caused chaos by shutting down vital computers in Washington just days after 9/11.

Explaining his actions, McKinnon, who is a Sci-fi fan, told a July hearing he accessed US government computers to prove the existence of UFOs.

However, his lawyers argued McKinnon's pacifist beliefs motivated him to test whether the Bush Administration's IT security was up to scratch.

Prosecutors have rubbished both sets of claims, arguing McKinnon's hacking was an "intentional and calculated" attempt to snoop the military's classified data network, in order to coerce the government.

Lawyers for McKinnon have said their client "vigorously" contests both the charge and the bid to extradite him to the US.

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