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Learning English - Words in the News
30 July, 2008 - Published 10:56 GMT
UK hacker could face prison in the US
Gary McKinnon could face a prison sentence of 45 years

Britain's most senior judges are due to decide whether a man accused by America of hacking into top secret computers should be extradited to stand trial. Gary McKinnon admits breaking into the computers but says he only did so to find information on UFOs. Nick Miles reports:

Listen to the story

The US government says Gary McKinnon committed a malicious crime, the biggest military computer hack of all time. He says he's just a bumbling computer nerd.

Washington began extradition proceedings against him three years ago. It says he hacked into 97 US military and NASA computers in 2001 and 2002 with the intention of intimidating the US government. Prosecutors say he altered and deleted files at a Naval Air Station not long after the September 11th attacks in 2001, rendering critical systems inoperable.

Mr McKinnon has admitted that he accessed computers in the United States without the authority to do so but he says his motives were harmless and innocent and he denies any attempts at sabotage. He says he just wanted to find evidence of Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, that he believed was being held by the US authorities.

Two years ago the High Court in London upheld a request by the US government for his extradition. If the law lords agree with that decision he will be sent to America to stand trial.

Nick Miles, BBC

Listen to the words

motivated by the desire to cause harm or pain, or to upset other people

computer hack
when someone illegally enters another computer system and/or accesses computerised data held by someone else

a bumbling computer nerd
somebody who is considered to have too much interest in computers but who is inept to use them skilfully

began extradition proceedings
here, first asked the UK to send him to America to stand trial over there

with the intention of intimidating
planning to make the US authorities feel threatened or nervous


rendering critical systems inoperable
making vitally important systems stop working properly

his motives were harmless
he never tried, or planned to cause any harm or damage

denies any attempts at sabotage
says he never tried, or planned to deliberately damage, destroy, or disrupt something


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