The US appears to have decided to hold up Gary McKinnon an example to deter other would-be hackers from attacking federal computers.
Following his initial arrest and bail, McKinnon claims that British police officers told him that a British court would probably sentence him to six months' community service.
But the mood changed for the worse following a visit by National High Tech Crime Unit members to US naval intelligence headquarter in Washington. "Suddenly I was the most dangerous man in the world," McKinnon said.
At one point, a US Army document published a picture of him and described him as a terrorist, initially in Arabic script, he says.
In mid-2005, US law enforcement officials, which McKinnon claims included Ed Gibson, former FBI special agent and now Microsoft's head of security in the UK, asked for much tighter control over him.
The Americans classified him as a fugitive, he says. He was banned from acccessing the internet and required to report to a police station every two hours.
US officials initially offered a plea bargain, McKinnon says. If he volunteered to appear before a US court, he would receive a reduced sentence of three to four years. He could serve the first six months in a US prison and the balance in the UK.
McKinnon says he was prepared to accept this deal provided it was agreed in writing. But when a written contract was not forthcoming, he refused to go to the US voluntarily.
US officials then threatened to start extradition proceedings and to call for a prison term up to 65 years without repatriation upon conviction, he says.
For more, see: Hacker Gary McKinnon - Computer Weekly Essential Guide
Photo: Copyright Ian Grant 2008