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Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who broke into an astonishing number of U.S. military systems via a 56k modem, lost his court bid to avoid being extradited to the United States. Here's what that means for him:According to a fresh eWeek report:

By rejecting the appeal, the human rights court paved the way for McKinnon to come to the United States, where he faces up to 70 years if convicted. He is accused of hacking his way into computers at the Pentagon, NASA and the U.S. Army and Navy in 2001 and 2002, causing a reported $700,000 worth of damage. Attorney Karen Todner, who is representing McKinnon, said her client would now appeal to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to try to persuade her to reconsider an earlier decision and prosecute her client in the United Kingdom. "Failing that he will be extradited...probably within the next three weeks," Todner added. She said her client had recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and hoped Smith would take this information into account. McKinnon told Reuters in 2006 he was just a computer nerd who wanted to find out whether aliens really existed and became obsessed with trawling large military networks for proof. His lawyers have argued that sending him to the United States would breach his human rights because he could be prosecuted on account of his nationality or political opinions.

Not surprisingly, McKinnon has a lot of support among technical people:

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Sophos, said a poll of IT professionals conducted in 2006 found that more than half were against extraditing him, mostly because they did not feel he had malicious intent. “There is a feeling in much of the IT community that McKinnon is being treated as a scapegoat by the U.S. authorities, that because he was arrested shortly after 9/11 that the U.S. agencies felt that they had to send out a strong message that hacking was not going to be tolerated."

(Photo by AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)