AN American web designer has agreed to plead guilty to intercepting email and content from Arabic TV station al-Jazeera's internet site and rerouting it to the "Let Freedom Ring" page he devised.
John William Racine, 24, of California, will plead guilty to felony charges of wire fraud and unlawful interception of an electronic communication, prosecutors said.
He will be arraigned on Monday in federal court in Los Angeles.
Racine allegedly acted after learning in March that al-Jazeera had posted photos of American POWs and soldiers killed in Iraq on its web site, according to the plea agreement.
In Dubai, the technology manager at al-Jazeera welcomed the charges but said the hacking of the internet site was a costly operation that could not have involved just one person. Aljazeera.net was subject to several attacks during March, including one in which visitors were redirected to a pornography site.
"It is not difficult for one person to have the brain to do this, but the financial capabilities needed for the hacking are hard to find with one person," Salah Siddiki said.
US officials have criticised al-Jazeera over its coverage of the war in Iraq and for airing statements by top officials from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist group. The independent station also has angered Arab leaders for speaking out against them and their policies.
Authorities suspect Racine acted alone and used information from the internet and forged documents to have the web site's password changed. That provided unhindered access to the site and blocked access by its legitimate administrators, the plea agreement states.
Web traffic from al-Jazeera's site was redirected by Racine for about three days ending on March 27, and about 300 e-mails were hijacked, prosecutors said.
Racine phoned the FBI, told them about the hacking and cooperated with the investigation, according to the plea agreement.
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors intend to recommend a sentence of three years probation, 1,000 hours of community service, a $US1,500 ($2,260) fine and full restitution to the victims.
The maximum sentence for the charges is 25 years in prison and a fine of $US500,000.
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