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Final fight for hacker who upset US Army

A BRITISH computer expert wanted by the United States for "the biggest military hack of all time" began a final attempt to avoid extradition yesterday.

Lawyers for Gary McKinnon, 43, were arguing in the High Court that he is too ill to be sent to the US for trial because he has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

US prosecutors accuse McKinnon of causing US$700,000 of damage and shutting down the US Army's entire network of more than 2,000 computers in Washington for 24 hours.

At the time of his indictment, Paul McNulty, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said: "McKinnon is charged with the biggest military computer hack of all time."

McKinnon says he was searching for proof of alien life when he repeatedly broke into Pentagon and NASA networks from his home in London in 2001 and 2002.

The hearing is likely to end today, although the judges may not announce their decision for some weeks, an assistant to McKinnon's lawyer Karen Todner said.

Since his arrest in 2002, McKinnon has lost repeated legal attempts to avoid extradition. He wants to be tried in London, where he would expect a more lenient sentence if convicted. A US court could jail him for up to 70 years.

The European Court of Human Rights and Britain's highest court, the House of Lords, have both approved his extradition.

McKinnon's campaign has won celebrity backers, including Sting, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite.

"A lot of this rests on intent," Waite said. "His intent was to try and discover whether there were little green men around. Well, that's rather ridiculous, isn't it?"


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