Friday, April 28, 2006

Wired News: Terrorist, or Truth Seeker?

Wired News: Terrorist, or Truth Seeker?: "
Terrorist, or Truth Seeker?


Reuters 12:00 PM Apr, 28, 2006

LONDON -- To the United States, he is a seriously dangerous man who put the nation's security at risk by committing 'the biggest military computer hack of all time'.

But Briton Gary McKinnon says he is just an ordinary computer nerd who wanted to find out whether aliens and UFOs exist.

During his two-year quest, McKinnon broke into computers at the Pentagon, NASA and the Johnson Space Center as well as systems used by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.

U.S. officials say he caused $700,000 worth of damage and even crippled vital defense systems shortly after the Sept.11 attacks.

The unemployed computer programmer is now battling extradition to the United States, where, if found guilty, he faces up to 70 years in prison and fines of up to $1.75 million. His lawyer fears he could even be sent to Guantanamo Bay.

It's all a far cry from how he first got into hacking: watching a film about a teenage boy who breaks into a military central computer and almost starts World War III.

'I had seen the film War Games and I do remember clearly thinking at the time, that's amazing -- a great big military computer system and a young, spotty teenager,' the softly spoken 39-year-old told Reuters in an interview.

A decade later, McKinnon, armed with information gleaned from the book, The Hacker's Handbook, began his snooping.

During 2000-1 from his home in Hornsey, north London, and using a computer with just a limited 56K dial-up modem, he turned his sights on the American government and military.

'My main thing was wanting to find out about UFOs and suppressed technology,' he said insisting his intention was not to cause damage. 'I wanted to ... find out stuff the government wouldn't tell you about.'"

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