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Alleged NASA hacker faces extradition hearing

Gary McKinnon begins what could be his final battle to avoid extradition to the U.S. and decades in prison.

The British man charged with hacking into a series of computers belonging to the U.S. government began the next stage in his fight against extradition to the United States.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition on charges of hacking and causing damage to U.S. defense sites. If found guilty, he could face 60 years in prison.

Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnon

When the U.S. request for extradition was first made, McKinnon admitted that the prospect of facing court in the U.S. "terrified him." Beginning Tuesday he faces a hearing scheduled to last three days to see if he will remain a free man.

McKinnon was arrested in June of last year on charges of computer fraud, and claims that he had illegally accessed 97 U.S. government computers. In July, McKinnon said that his actions were prompted by an interest in the U.S. space program and the search for extraterrestrial life.

The U.S. prosecution team alleges that McKinnon hacked into sensitive equipment over a one-year period from February 2002 and caused $700,000 worth of damage. McKinnon, though, denies causing serious damage.

Although McKinnon was arrested in the U.K. shortly after his alleged hacking activities were first exposed, he was released under caution. Since being charged by the U.S. authorities, he has been banned from using the Internet.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.