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Alleged Nasa hacker begins extradition fight

Lawyers for Gary McKinnon start appeal to stop client extradition to US on hacking charges.

Lawyers for the alleged hacker who accessed Pentagon and Nasa computers looking for evidence of UFOs, began their fight in a London court to block their client's extradition to the US.

Gary McKinnon, from North London, could spend up to 60 years in jail if convicted, said Edmund Lawson defending. McKinnon has been accused of deleting data and illegally accessing data held on 97 US military and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002.

McKinnon admitted accessing the computers, claiming he was searching for evidence of extra-terrestrial life. He denies causing $700,000 (360,000) of damage to computers he accessed.

Lawson said at a hearing in the High Court, that his client had been offered a deal by the US government of a shorter sentence in return for dropping the extradition case. According to McKinnon's barrister this constituted an "improper approach". Lawson said, if extradited, would face the prospect of unknown length of time in pre-trial detention with no likelihood of bail, according to reports from the BBC.

Max Summers, representing the US government, said his client was not able to refute this claim and would seek an adjournment to consider it.

McKinnon was not in court yesterday for medical reasons. He was able to access sensitive military computers by identifying PCs that had been left with default passwords. He was later able to get administrator privileges allowing him to access government networks.

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