The news that British-based computer-hacker Gary McKinnon may be facing up to 70 years in a U.S. prison (or, worse still, in Guantanamo Bay) for hacking 97 American military and NASA computers between 2001 and 2002 as he searched for secret information on UFOs, is unfortunate.

Earlier this year, Gary lost his first appeal against extradition to the States in a High Court Hearing. And what may be his last appeal to ensure he stays a free man (or at least that he doesn't serve a sentence in a U.S. jail) will be heard in February. And if that fails, his only hope is an appeal to the British Government's House of Lords.

Now, Gary surely realized that he wouldn't get away with hacking into the classified files of the U.S. Government. But, to me at least, the punishment doesn't fit the crime - at all. Okay, he did hack the U.S. military on a large scale, and in doing so he set himself on the path to inevitable arrest. And an arrest, in a case like this, is likely to result in some form of punishment.

But 70 years in Guantanamo for searching for UFO data? Come on! He's no terrorist. The unfortunate fact is that Gary - if convicted and sentenced - is likely to become a convenient scapegoat and pawn in a far bigger picture. Here will be the chance for official authorities to use Gary as an example, to throw him in jail for the rest of his natural life, and then send out the message to others: "Do something similar and this will be your fate, too. For the remainder of your entire life."

The main reason why I suspect that authorities are so keen to throw the book at Gary and make an example of him, is because a decade ago a similar tactic was used against a Welsh man named Matthew Bevan, who I interviewed extensively for a chapter in my recently published "On the Trail of the Saucer Spies" book. And the earlier tactic failed - which is why I suspect steps are being taken to ensure that Gary's case doesn't similarly collapse.

Matt's case eerily parallels that of Gary. He, too, hacked into U.S. military computer systems in search of data on crashed UFOs, and claimed to have found evidence of anti-gravity style research undertaken at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Like Gary, Matt was arrested. Similarly, Gary has been accused of damaging U.S. computer systems; and it was claimed that Matt had altered data contained on the systems he penetrated.

The big difference, however, is that Matt's case collapsed when U.S. Intelligence refused to provide to the British judge at Bow Street Magistrates Court (where the case was held) firm evidence of the damage that Matt had caused. With no evidence provided, the judge suggested that the prosecution should think long and hard about whether or not they wanted to proceed.

The prosecution did think long and hard and decided to drop the case; Matt was a free man.

It seems, however, that steps have been taken - by pushing to have him extradited and tried in the U.S. - to ensure that Gary doesn't walk away equally as free as Matt Bevan.

At the very least, Gary should be allowed to serve his time in a British prison. Indeed, it's certain that even if he walks free, Gary will not attempt something like this again - ever.

But, it's that convenient scapegoat/pawn angle that will, I suspect, be Gary's downfall.