The Case of Gary McKinnon

Gary_McKinnon_Bow_Street_Magistrates_24_Nov_2005_600-thumbI’ve been fol­low­ing the extraordin­ary case of Gary McKin­non for years now in a long range kind of way, but we are now in the final throes of his pro­longed fight against extra­di­tion to the USA, and he needs all the sup­port we can give him.  The Daily Mail recently star­ted a cam­paign against his extra­di­tion:  it’s not often I agree with the Wail, but I’m whole­heartedly in favour of this initiative. 

For those of you who have been liv­ing in a bunker for the last 7 years, Gary McKin­non is the self-confessed geek who went look­ing for evid­ence of UFOs and ETs on some of America’s most secret com­puter sys­tems at the Pentagon and NASA

And, when I say secret, obvi­ously I don’t mean in the sense of encryp­ted or pro­tec­ted.  The Yanks obvi­ously didn’t feel that their national defence war­rants even curs­ory pro­tec­tion, as Gary didn’t have to hack his way in past mul­tiple lay­ers of pro­tec­tion.  Appar­ently the sys­tems didn’t even have passwords.

Gary, who suf­fers from Asperger’s Syn­drome, is no super hacker.  Using a basic PC and a dial-up con­nec­tion in his bed­room, he man­aged to sneak a peek at the Pentagon com­puters, before kindly leav­ing a mes­sage that the US mil­it­ary might like to have a think about a little bit of basic inter­net secur­ity.   Hardly the work of a malig­nant, inter­na­tional cyber-terrorist.

UK police invest­ig­ated Gary soon after this epis­ode, way back in 2002.  All he faced, under the UK’s 1990 Com­puter Mis­use Act, would have been a bit of com­munity ser­vice if he’d been con­victed.  Even that was moot, as the Crown Pro­sec­u­tion Ser­vice decided not to prosecute.

And that, as they say, should have been that. 

How­ever, in 2003 the UK gov­ern­ment passed yet another dra­conian piece of law in response to the “war on ter­ror” — the Extra­di­tion Act.  Under this invi­di­ous, one-sided law, the US author­it­ies can demand the extra­di­tion to Amer­ica of any Brit­ish cit­izen, without present­ing any evid­ence of the crime for which they are wanted.  Need­less to say, this arrange­ment only works one way: if the Brits want to extra­dite a sus­pect from the US they still have to present prima facie evid­ence of a crime to an Amer­ican court.  The Act also enshrines the ques­tion­able European arrest war­rant sys­tem in Brit­ish law.

So how on earth did the half-wits in Par­lia­ment come to pass such an awful law?  Were they too busy tot­ting up their expense fiddles to notice that they were sign­ing away Brit­ish sov­er­eignty?  This law means that it is easier for a US court to get a Brit in the dock than it is for them to get a US cit­izen from another state.  In the lat­ter case, evid­ence is still also required.

Let’s get this straight.  The UK author­it­ies decided not to pro­sec­ute in this coun­try.  Even if they had, Gary would prob­ably have been sen­tenced to com­munity ser­vice.  How­ever, if he is extra­dited, he will get up to 70 years in a max­imum secur­ity prison in the US.

So a year after Gary’s bed­room hack, and after the CPS had decided there was no case to answer, the US author­it­ies deman­ded Gary’s extra­di­tion ret­ro­act­ively.   The UK gov­ern­ment, rather than pro­tect­ing a Brit­ish cit­izen, basic­ally said “Yes, have him!”.  Gary has been fight­ing the case ever since.

Janis_SharpHe has not been alone.  Many people from across the polit­ical spec­trum see this uni­lat­eral law as invi­di­ous.  And the gov­ern­ment reckoned without his mum.  Janis Sharp has fought vali­antly and indefatig­ably to pro­tect her son from this unjust extra­di­tion. She has lob­bied MPs, talked to news­pa­pers, gained the sup­port of many pub­lic and celebrity fig­ures.  She even recently met the PM’s wife, Sarah Brown, who was reportedly in tears for Gary.  Yet still the major­ity of the par­lia­ment­ary half-wits refuse to do anything. 

In fact, it gets worse.  Over the last few years many MPs have signed Early Day Motions sup­port­ing Gary’s fight against extra­di­tion.  But in a recent debate in the House of Com­mons about the need to revise the pro­vi­sions of the Extra­di­tion Act, 74 of these MPs betrayed him and voted for the gov­ern­ment to keep the Act in place.  Only 10 Labour MPs stuck to their guns and defied the party Whip.  One Labour MP, Andrew MacKin­ley, will stand down at the next elec­tion in protest at this hypocrisy.

This week is crunch time: on Fri­day a final judi­cial rul­ing will be made about the case.  It was the last throw of the legal dice for Gary.  If this fails, he will have to rely on polit­ical inter­ven­tion, which is pos­sible, to pre­vent his harm­ful, unjust and unne­ces­sary extra­di­tion to the USA.  Please visit the Free Gary web­site and do all you can in support.