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British computer hacker 'could be sent to Guantanamo', court told

AFP | April 12 2006

A British man who allegedly crippled US defence systems in the "biggest military computer hack of all time" could be sent to Guantanamo Bay if he is extradited, his lawyer argued.

Edmund Lawson told Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London that Washington wanted "administrative revenge" on his client, Gary McKinnon, because he had exposed embarrassing weaknesses in its IT security.

McKinnon, who was described by his lawyer as a "40-year-old computer nerd", is wanted in the United States for allegedly infiltrating systems at the Pentagon, Army, Navy and space agency NASA from his bedroom in north London.

He is alleged to have caused 700,000 dollars (400,000 pounds, 578,000 euros) worth of damage to defence systems and rendered computers inoperable at a naval weapon station at a critical time following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Lawson argued that US President George W. Bush was unlikely to be bound by an "unsigned and anonymous" diplomatic note the lawyer had received from the US Embassy in London guaranteeing McKinnon would not be treated as an "enemy combatant".

As such, McKinnon -- who was inspired by the 1983 film "WarGames" -- was still vulnerable to a "Military Order Number One", the legal mechanism by which the US president can order a suspect's detention indefinitely, he said.

That risk meant it would be a breach of his human rights to extradite him, he added, noting that even if he was not sent to the US military camp for security suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, he was still likely to face a stiffer jail sentence.

Proceedings began last year when lawyers for the US government called McKinnon's alleged activities "the biggest military computer hack of all time".

Referring to the diplomatic note Wednesday, lawyer Mark Summers said there was no precedent for Washington reneging on its pledge and urged the matter to be taken on "faith".

Judgment was reserved until May 10.

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