Pentagon Hacker Moves Closer To U.S. Extradition

The 42-year-old McKinnon, who was indicted in 2002, is charged with breaking into 92 U.S. government computer networks in 2001 and 2002, including those operated by the Pentagon, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense and NASA, Reuters said.

Prosecutors have said McKinnon's actions crippled crucial national security systems around the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including shutting down for three days the network that serves the military district for Washington, D.C.

McKinnon's lawyers have tried repeatedly to block his extradition. Last month, the alleged hacker offered to plead guilty to a criminal charge in Britain to avoid facing a U.S. trial. Today, the Crown Prosecution Service determined the case was best prosecuted in the U.S., and noted that the charges McKinnon agreed to plead guilty to were far less severe than the ones he would face in the U.S.

If extradited, McKinnon will face eight charges of computer fraud. Each count could bring a sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, his lawyers are set to appeal in court again next month, arguing that McKinnon suffers from Aspberger's syndrome, a form of autism, and therefore should not be extradited, according to Reuters.

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While McKinnon hasn't denied gaining access to the computer networks, he said he had become obsessed with finding proof that extraterrestrials had visited Earth and was searching for pictures and other evidence of aliens and UFOs. He has challenged government estimates of the amount of damage caused by the intrusions, which has been estimated at $700,000.