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A British computer hacker wanted in the United States for allegedly infiltrating military computer systems appeared in a London court for an extradition hearing Wednesday. Gary McKinnon, 39, is accused of accessing 97 government computers between February 2001 and March 2002, causing $700,000 (euro585,000) in damage in what one U.S. attorney called “the biggest hack of military computers ever.” McKinnon is fighting extradition. Mark Summers, a British lawyer representing the U.S. government, said McKinnon had gained access to administrative accounts that allowed him to control and alter data remotely from his London computer. U.S. officials have said that no classified material was obtained. The 20-count U.S. indictment accuses McKinnon of accessing 53 U.S. Army computers, 26 Navy computers, 16 NASA computers, one Department of Defense computer and one Air Force computer. One of the allegations says he deleted operating system files and logs from computers at U.S. Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, rendering the base’s network of more than 300 computers inoperable. U.S. authorities also allege he deleted files, which shut down the Army’s 2,000-computer network in Washington for 24 hours “significantly disrupting governmental function.” The indictment also alleges McKinnon hacked into an Army computer at Fort Myer, Virginia, obtained administrative privileges and transmitted codes, information and commands before deleting around 1,300 user accounts. McKinnon was originally indicted in 2002, but proceedings were discontinued. His lawyer, Karen Todner, said it was not clear why U.S. officials took so long to seek extradition. Speaking at the time of the original indictment, Paul McNulty, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said McKinnon was charged with “the biggest hack of military computers ever, at least ever detected.” Todner said McKinnon faced up to 70 years in prison if convicted. She said he would “vigorously” contest extradition. After a hearing last month, Todner said McKinnon acknowledged infiltrating the U.S. computer systems, motivated by a conviction that the U.S. government was concealing evidence of UFOs. “His motivation was firstly in relation to that, and secondly in relation to exposing the lack of security in relation to the American system,” she said. The hearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court was adjourned until Oct. 18. McKinnon is free on bail under conditions that ban him from using the Internet. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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