Three judges have agreed that hacker Gary McKinnon can appeal to the House of Lords against his extradition order to the US.

McKinnon, 41, was charged in 2002 with multiple counts of breaking into US military and government computer networks. However, he has remained free in Britain while he fights extradition, where he would be tried in federal court.

If convicted, McKinnon could face as many as 70 years in prison for hacking more than 100 networks, including ones belonging to NASA, the Pentagon, the US Army and several private companies.

In an interview with Reuters last year, McKinnon claimed he had broken into the networks during 2000 and 2001 in search of information about aliens and UFOs.

Yesterday (22 October) three Law Lords ruled that McKinnon's appeal would be heard by Britain's highest court, the House of Lords.

McKinnon's lawyers have argued against extradition, claiming that he should be tried in the UK, where the crimes occurred, and because US

law prosecutors went after McKinnon "for the purpose of prosecuting him on account of his nationality or political opinions." At one point, McKinnon's solicitors said they feared their client might be sent to Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison and interrogation centre at the Cuban naval base, if he was returned to the US.

McKinnon's case will be heard by the House of Lords next year.

According to the charges brought against him in 2002, McKinnon's hacks caused more than $900,000 (£450,000) in damage to various computer networks; in the case of one military network, administrators had to spend three days cleaning up after the breach.

McKinnon exploited unpatched vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows to break into the servers, authorities said at the time.

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