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British Hacker McKinnon Loses Another Appeal Against U.S. Extradition

A British computer hacker lost his appeal Wednesday against extradition to the United States, where he is accused of breaking into Pentagon and NASA networks — something he says he did to search for UFO records.

Gary McKinnon, 42, faces extradition and trial for what U.S. officials say was a series of cyber-attacks that stole passwords, attacked military networks and wrought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of computer damage.

The decision by Britain's House of Lords exhausts McKinnon's legal options in Britain, but his lawyer said she would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

"The consequences he faces if extradited are both disproportionate and intolerable and we will be making an immediate application to the European court to prevent his removal," Karen Todner said. "We believe that the British government declined to prosecute him to enable the U.S. government to make an example of him."

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McKinnon's lawyers claim an American official told him he would have to serve a lengthy sentence in the U.S. if he fought extradition, which his lawyers say amounted an unlawful threat.

The five Law Lords — comparable to U.S. supreme court judges — decided unanimously that McKinnon had failed to prove his case.

U.S. prosecutors allege that McKinnon trespassed onto more than 90 computer systems belonging to the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Defense and NASA between February 2001 and March 2002, causing $900,000 worth of damage.

McKinnon has acknowledged accessing the computers. But he disputes the reported damage and says he did it because he wanted to find evidence that America was concealing the existence of aliens.

McKinnon was caught in 2002 after some of the software used in the attacks was traced back to his girlfriend's e-mail account.