UK's High Court Rejects Appeal for UFO Hacker

The U.K.'s High Court ruled Friday that a British hacker cannot appeal his extradition to the country's Supreme Court, narrowing the Londoner's legal options.

Gary McKinnon's attorney sought to join the case to an appeal against extradition filed by the attorney for Ian Norris, a British businessman facing charges in the U.S. for alleged involvement in an cartel. The extradition treaty with the U.S. is viewed by many in the U.K. as enabling the U.S. to extradite people more easily from Britain than is possible in the other direction.

McKinnon may take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, according to his attorney, Karen Todner. That court, however, refused in August 2008 to stop his extradition.

The U.K. government has given McKinnon's legal team 14 days to consider its options.

"We are not giving up," Todner said in a statement.

Friday's ruling is the latest in a long-running legal battle. The order to extradite McKinnon was approved by the U.K. government in July 2006, but his legal team continued to challenge the order, holding up his transfer.

The High Court ruled on July 31 that Gary McKinnon's extradition to the U.S. should proceed despite his diagnosis with Asperger Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by obsessive behavior and deficiencies in social interaction.

McKinnon had also asked the court to review a refusal by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for England and Wales to prosecute him in the U.K.

British prosecutors, however, maintain that the U.S. wants jurisdiction and that most evidence and witnesses are in the U.S. McKinnon was indicted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2002 for hacking into 97 military and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002. He could face up to 60 years in prison.

The U.S. military alleges the hacking resulted in the shutdown of critical networks. McKinnon allegedly left messages such as "U.S. foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days.... I am Solo. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels." The U.S. government said McKinnon's actions caused US$700,000 in damages.

The reclusive McKinnon, who rarely makes public appearances, has become an unlikely cause célèbre, raising issues outside the sphere of computer-related crime.

Several Members of Parliament have thrown their support behind McKinnon, in addition to celebrities such as Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour or Sting, lead singer and bassist for The Police.

McKinnon has freely admitted to breaking into the computers, saying he was looking for evidence of UFOs. The computers were accessed using a program called "RemotelyAnywhere," an access tool used by administrators to fix computers remotely. McKinnon has said the military computers were poorly secured, often using default passwords that were easy to guess.

His hacking career ended after he mistakenly took over a computer during U.S. working hours. Someone noticed a computer's cursor moving on its own, and the Internet connection was shut down. Shortly thereafter, U.K. police arrested him at his north London home.

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