U.K. Hacker's Extradition Appeal Rejected

Gary McKinnon, 40, accused of mounting the largest ever hack of United States government computer networks, listens to a reporter's question outside the Bow Magistrates Court in central London in this May 10, 2006 file photo.
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, file
A British court has rejected an autistic British man's bid to avoid extradition to the United States to face trial for hacking into U.S. military computers.

Gary McKinnon has fought a long legal battle to avoid being extradited to the U.S. after he was charged with breaking into 97 computers belonging to NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense and several branches of the U.S. military soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A British High Court rejected his appeals Friday and ruled that he should face extradition.

His lawyers argued that McKinnon should not be extradited because he has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and could be at risk of psychosis or suicide if he is sent to the U.S.

Speaking to reporters outside the High Court in London on Friday, McKinnon's mother appealed directly to President Obama to intervene.

"He wouldn't want this," said Janice Sharp. "Obama wouldn't want the first person extradited for hacking to be someone with Asperger's."

McKinnon has admitted breaking the law by accessing the computers starting in February 2001, which he said he did looking for information on UFOs. He was arrested about a year later in March 2002.

But his mother and a growing list of high-profile advocates argue that his condition would make him highly vulnerable to depression if sentenced to jail in the United States.

"I've committed a crime. I've admitted to it, and I'm very sorry. I've apologized many times, but I think the American authorities' response to the crime far outweighs what would have happened to me in my own country," McKinnon told CBS News partner network Sky News earlier this year. "I'm being treated like a terrorist in America."

McKinnon's mother, asked during her interview with Sky: "Why haven't they ever extradited any other hacker - I'm glad they haven't - and then decide to extradite someone who is vulnerable?"

His attorney says the Asperger's, in part, also led him to so vigorously pursue hacking into the supposedly-secure American networks.

McKinnon has appealed to a range of British courts and the European commission during his seven-year legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States. All have refused to intervene in the case.