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UFO hacker won't be tried in Britain for Pentagon, NASA crimes

Gary McKinnon, in July 2005, making his way into a London courthouse.
Gary McKinnon, in July 2005, making his way into a London courthouse.Getty Images file

LONDON — A British hacker whose extradition to face charges of accessing nearly 100 U.S. government computers in a quest for UFOs was halted on grounds he might harm himself will not be tried in Britain, the prosecution office said on Friday.

Gary McKinnon, 46, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, has admitted hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers under the pseudonym "Solo", saying he was looking for evidence of flying saucers and other extraterrestrial activity.

He has been fighting extradition since police arrested him in 2005 and Home Secretary Theresa May blocked his extradition in October because of the high risk he could kill himself. She referred the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to rule if he should be tried at home.

The CPS said on Friday the chances of a conviction were "not high," and cited logistical difficulties in pursuing a case in England and Wales such as bringing over witnesses and evidence from the United States.

"The prospects of a conviction against Mr. McKinnon which reflects the full extent of his alleged criminality are not high," the CPS said in a statement.

He had faced up to 60 years in a U.S. jail if found guilty of gaining unauthorized access to 97 U.S. government computers over a decade ago, and allegedly causing $700,000 damage to U.S. military systems.

McKinnon's attorney, Karen Todner, told the BBC she was disappointed "because it means that he still hasn't got closure".

"Every other country that America has an extradition treaty with, that extradition warrant is still out there and still live. That basically means that Gary can't travel outside the UK for the rest of his life," Todner said. 

(Reporting By Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Michael Roddy) 

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