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NASA hacker case adjourned over extradition fears

U.K. judge won't extradite Gary McKinnon unless U.S. can guarantee that he won't be subject to its antiterrorism laws.

Gary McKinnon, the U.K. citizen accused of hacking into computer systems run by NASA and the U.S. military, will not be extradited across the Atlantic to face trial unless the U.S. can guarantee he won't be treated as a terrorist.

At a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, McKinnon's lawyers claimed that he could be detained indefinitely by the U.S. authorities. McKinnon is charged with illegally accessing 97 U.S. government computers and causing $700,000 worth of damage over a 12-month period starting in Feb. 2001.

Last year, McKinnon told ZDNet UK that he had accessed the computers because he was looking for evidence that the U.S. had found extraterrestrial life. He denied causing serious damage.

Lawyers for the defense told the court that the U.S. could choose to treat McKinnon under its "military order No. 1," which allows suspected terrorists to be tried under military law.

District Judge Nicholas Evans, who is hearing the case, ruled that the extradition request would be denied unless American officials could guarantee they would not prosecute McKinnon under the order.

"All you have to do is satisfy the court he is not at risk," said Evans, according to The Guardian. "And if you cannot, then there is a problem."

The case is due to resume on March 14.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.