Gary McKinnon: Wanted, Dead or Alive (Guest opinion/Oxblood Ruffin)

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Above: Gary McKinnon and his mother, Janis Sharp. Below, a guest opinion post by Oxblood Ruffin, a writer and human rights activist based in Munich, Germany.

Gary McKinnon is a Scottish technical expert, or as he is referred to by US federal prosecutors, the perpetrator of "the greatest military hack of all time." This claim is "total fucking bullshit", a phrase common amongst information security professionals.

Although Mr. McKinnon has high name-recognition factor in the United Kingdom he is virtually unknown to the American public. He is a mentally challenged hacker who waltzed through ninety-seven US military Web sites before being caught. Mr. McKinnon was looking for evidence of UFOs. He has Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism. It doesn't make him Rain Man but it does create a different perceptual framework.

Gary McKinnon was arrested in the UK in November 2002 after a thirteen month hacking spree into US military networks. He was eventually caught because he used his own email address to download a program called RemotelyAnywhere. Before the bust McKinnon had been under surveillance by Britain's High Tech Crime Unit. But then he did that, dare I say, retarded thing.

Gary McKinnon left his email address plus a number of taunting messages such as, "Your security is crap" on US military servers. Personally, I think the messages were on the polite side. America's military network security is the cyber equivalent of Swiss cheese. My granny could have pulled off McKinnon's hacks and she was well in the grave before they even transpired. Because remember, if you wanted to intrude into US military sites in 2001 all you had to do was key in: user = guest; password = hello.

And so Gary McKinnon was arrested by the High Tech Crime Unit in Britain. He detailed everything and confessed without an attorney being present. Now bear in mind, this is a guy who has Asperger and didn't fully comprehend the consequences of what he had done. Yet his confession was signed-off on, and the process began.

US Federal prosecutors told McKinnon's attorney that if he traveled to America and pleaded guilty that he'd only get eighteen months to three years in prison. McKinnon declined as the offer was not put in writing, although a similar offer was later filed in court papers. Accordingly, Mr. McKinnon was charged in the United States with seven counts of computer fraud at ten years per count [PDF Link] Then came the Lapdog Treaty.

In March 2003 - one year after Gary McKinnon was nabbed - David Blunkett (then home secretary to Tony Blair) secretly popped over to America to sign the 2003 Extradition Act. It was a legal arrangement between Britain and the US to fast track terrorists from one side of the Atlantic to the other. The terms of the agreement can most charitably be described as asymmetric. Legal scholars can have a wank-fest over the minutiae of the arrangement but it boils down to this. If America wants someone from the UK they need only apply reasonable suspicion. Whereas, if the UK wants someone from America then they must prove probable cause.

Reasonable suspicion is the standard to make an arrest; probable cause is the standard to indict.

In real terms, British prosecutors are required to surmount an evidential barrier that American defendants can contest before extradition to the UK. But American prosecutors can extradite any British citizen with substantially lower standards. Even if British citizens were not in the vicinity of a crime, they could not argue to the contrary. It's the law. Check it out on Google.

The sad fact is that it''s easier to extradite a British citizen to the US than it is to extradite a New York resident to California. If the 2003 Extradition Act were a two way street then one side would be a superhighway and the other side would be a dirt road, with potholes. Compounding this nonsense is that the treaty was intended to be applied to terrorists, and not utilized retroactively against mentally-challenged eccentrics.

From McKinnon's arrest in 2002 to date, his case has garnered an extraordinary amount of ink in the UK. It started with hysterical claims by US federal prosecutors; traversed the fact and fiction of the file; included McKinnon's diagnosis as an Asperger sufferer; circumnavigated the extent of the British judicial system; personified McKinnon as the victim of the Lapdog Treaty; saw famous musicians record a song in his support, and celebrities flock to his cause; and generally, piss off the British press and every sensible person in the United Kingdom. All of this was in no small measure due to the efforts of Janis Sharp, Gary McKinnon's mother. She is best described as a cross between the mother that everyone would love to have and the Archangel Michael. For the atheists out there, this equation represents an ocean of love mixed with a tidal wave of whup-ass.

Ms. Sharp has taken on a singular role in the defense of her son because the British Prime Minister, his cabinet, and the government as a whole would rather genuflect to Washington than protect one of its most vulnerable citizens. Despite the testimony of one of Britain's leading psychiatrists and autism experts that Gary McKinnon might commit suicide if extradited; regardless that Baroness Scotland - the UK's attorney general - does not hold the Extradition Act in high esteem; spiteful that a member of Parliament resigned in protest over the travesty; ignoring the direct opposition of the government's top anti-terror advisor; etc., etc., etc. In the face of all of this and more, the government is shambling about in a willful state of dislocation. They have clearly lost the plot.

Although most people accept that politicians steal candy from the same children they kiss for the cameras, the public draws the line at inhumanity. No government is allowed to play Russian roulette with a person's life. Because what is fundamental to this case, once you strain away Labour's craven mendacity, is that Gary McKinnon's life is at risk. He suffers from an anxiety-prone version of Asperger that is exacerbated by stress. And that is what the British public understands even if the government refuses to confront the truth. Does the Prime Minister actually want to hold a press conference several months from now and say, "I regret to inform you that Gary McKinnon took his own life in an American prison because we failed to act"?

The British public stopped asking for justice for Gary McKinnon some time ago. Now they're demanding it.


IMAGES: Below, photos taken at a McKinnon rally in August, 2009, provided by Gary's mother. Oxblood says, "The aubergine-hair-colored lady is Janis Sharp; the man with the angular face is Gary McKinnon; others = general protestors."

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  1. “this is a guy who has Asperger and didn’t fully comprehend the consequences of what he had done.”

    If he really has Asperger’s, and not some other form of autism, then he knew exactly what he had done! People with Aspergers aren’t mentally “slow.” Besides, if he learned how to hack sites, he had a very good understanding of what it meant and why others considered it wrong. Confessing before talking to a lawyer was stoopid, but can’t be blamed on him being an Aspie.

    1. If he really has Asperger’s, and not some other form of autism, then he knew exactly what he had done! People with Aspergers aren’t mentally “slow.”

      I think that you grossly underestimate the effects of Asperger-related problems like the inability to comprehend metaphors. Daniel Tammet (whose IQ is in the 150s) talks about how hard it was for him to realize that “Take a seat” didn’t mean “Pick up a chair and leave.” That kind of difficulty can seriously compromise one’s ability to understand social constructs like private space. Some people with Asperger may have mild Aspie symptoms and not be particularly bright. Others might be geniuses with severe inabilities to function in the world. There’s not a single profile.

  2. That’s a tough fight these people have on their hands.

    While this guy’s intentions may have been, in some ways, honorable, he also broke dozens of federal laws. Defacing websites? Trying to access classified information? Guys, this is what computer laws were designed to protect against. It doesn’t matter that he thought he would only get a few years, or that he wasn’t trying to be malicious — he was fully aware that he was breaking the law.

    While I agree the US is going to take him to town (and make an example out of him), which is COMPLETELY unfair (you should be punished in accordance with your crimes, not in accordance with how much of a spectacle the court desires), the crime he committed was perpetrated mainly on American victims and broke American laws, so he should be tried in an American court under American law. If he doesn’t like it, maybe he shouldn’t have been hacking American military systems.

    McKinnon is probably right. The US military’s security is crap. They are probably hiding information about UFOs. But that’s not an excuse to break the law and hack into their computer systems.

    If he really was obsessed with it, maybe he can get a psychologist to claim he has some sort of insanity and toss him in a psyche ward. It’s probably better than spending 70 years in a federal penitentiary.

  3. I can see arguing that extradition isn’t the best tool for this job… but this guy is NOT retarded. An autistic person probably wouldn’t be held responsible for their actions, but asperger’s is not the same thing. Bill Gates has Asperger’s syndrome. Would you argue that he can never be held responsible for a crime because he’s so mentally challenged?

    This guy knew what he was doing was wrong. So his motive wasn’t to give our secrets to the terrorists… Fine. Call that a mitigating circumstance. Don’t extradite him; the british have a perfectly adequate court system.

    But stop saying he’s not guilty because he’s “not mentally competent” or that “he was only looking for proof of UFOs”. That’s disingenuous, to say the least.

  4. The reasonable suspicion/probable cause issue seems to be a red herring in this case. If this article is to be believed, there’s no real question as to whether he committed these cybercrimes; the “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” tests are both met.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect the outrage here is because hacking is seen as a “victimless” crime. Which is absurd.

  5. Ive met people who are guilty and admit it. But I never met a person who is guilty, admits it and doesnt expect to do any time. The porblem is that not a lot of international law is written. Asperger syndrome aside, a crime was commited. Someone has to be punished. Just because a car is sitting on the street with keys in ignition does not mean that a person is free to take it. If he does, thats a crime.

    The problem in this case is Asperger. I do not agree with the US stance on wanting to jail him. An appropriate sentence would be to take away his computer priveledges and put him on probation with observation.

  6. The aspect of this case which is left out from this summary is that while (pending court appeals, etc) the US seems to have the right to demand extradition from the UK, but if the nations were switched then the UK would NOT have the right to demand such a hacker be extradited from the US.

    While a lot of the talk centres on the fact that he has Aspergers, was looking for UFOs, didn’t really mean any harm etc, I think a lot of the strength of feeling that powers the debate is rooted in this disparity.

    Which is to say: people talk about his mental age, and so forth, but at the same time they’re defending a UK citizen against a foreign power, and attempting to correct a lopsided power balance in the international relationship.

    Shorter UK citizens: “Cry me a river”.

  7. … or perhaps the outrage is because the computers he hacked had weak security… and breaking into an easy target is really just giving the owner of that system what they’re asking for… y’know, kinda like the girl with the provocative outfit walking down the dark street and… oh wait, blaming the victim is wrong now?

  8. It’s incredible to me that the UK doesn’t give a shit about it’s citizensubjects. This kind of thing would be impossible on the continent.

    But the most striking part is that no US citizen would ever be extradited to the UK having never set foot there.

    And that doesn’t shock the submissive morons at UKIP who are fantasizing about the big evil Brussel bureaucrats while being raped with a baseball bat made in USA.

    Oh, and whoever wrote this: « If he really has Asperger’s, and not some other form of autism, then he knew exactly what he had done! » — a big, sincere, fuck you.

  9. The woman in green in the photos is Shami Chakrabarti, head of Liberty, a long-established human rights pressure group in the UK.

  10. I had dissed boing2 for being mean on the organic bread post but just to prove I am a total jerk my self lemme post this link explaining the azzburgers..

    http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Aspie

    once again life is a gradiant not black and white (not even 2 sides to a story more like a billion) but ya just gotta laugh at that description.

    his condition is no excuse.

  11. The guy is being extradited under laws originally put in place so that terrorists could be extradited to America from the UK. This is a non reciprocal treaty in that America has no obligation to extradite one of its own citizens to the UK if said citizen was caught hacking through the Ministry of Defence Network….

    That f**ing stinks – Thank you very much Tony Blair.

    The same laws were also used to extradite bankers who were involved in the shady dealing behind the ENRON collapse. Now whilst I can understand why there are some folk in the US that are a bit pissed about that happening, once again If it was some US bankers bringing down BP You can be damn sure the US wouldn’t extradite them to the UK.

    The aspergers thing is a bit of a side issue really. The main problem is that the UK government, much like the US have used 9/11 and surrounding events as an opportunity to eat away at our respective countries civil liberties.

  12. This case is obscured by the nonsense written about it; it’s been heavily mythologized by the press in the U.K., which repeatedly suggests he’s going to federal pound-me-in-the-a prison for the rest of his life, when if fact he’s already turned down a publicly-disclosed deal that would have him out much sooner.

    Sentencing guidelines suggest no more than a few years in the slammer in any case. The issue about lopsided extradition treaties is hand-waving: under *any* extradition treaty he’d have ended up being vigorously prosecuted for what he’s admitted doing.

    The likely out come is that he’ll be flown over, he’ll receive a short custodial sentence, serve a few months and be shipped home. Everyone knows this, but it isn’t a story that can be sold to little Englanders who want a nice Love Actually moment to cherish.

  13. Sentencing guidelines suggest no more than a few years in the slammer in any case. The issue about lopsided extradition treaties is hand-waving: under *any* extradition treaty he’d have ended up being vigorously prosecuted for what he’s admitted doing.

    So why isn’t the UK prosecuting him instead? And don’t you recognize that effectively forbidding a convict from being visited by his family is abusive? Even murdering child rapists get to see their family (if they still want to). Here he would be imprisoned 5000km away from home.

    And the fact is, nowhere else in the EU would a citizen be extradited to a country where one has never set foot; and many countries (most notably France and Germany) would never extradite a citizen to a foreign country, period.

  14. I find it more than a little confusing that the US Military/Government hopes to win face by any of this. It’s like they say “What’s the absolutely worst, most ham fisted thing we can do here? Let’s do that”.

    As per usual, America will misread the situation and apply a totally inappropriate amount of blunt force, and screw it up. I wonder if they’ll ever wise up?

  15. Somebody used the keys in the unlocked car example…

    In a lot of jurisdictions, leaving one’s keys in one’s unlocked car is illegal precisely because it wastes police time on unnecessary crime – sometimes if a victim is exceedingly stupid, they should be blamed (and this has nothing to do with rape examples, please keep your hyperbolic comparisons to yourself thank you very much).

    The military – THE MILITARY – that hosts classified information – should have, and should have had, exceedingly high security on all of its servers, pre/post/mid/whatever 9-11. The fact they didn’t, and thus put our country at risk, indicates that whoever left those servers and systems insecure should face harsh punishment.

    It’s one thing to leave the keys in one’s unlocked car; it’s much worse to leave the keys to the country out in the open.

    McKinnon should face some punishment as a deterrent – but it should be mild, say a year or two in minimum security facilities. Instead, the U.S. will bury him precisely because the people that SHOULD face large punishment are embarrassed at their own mistake, and those *truly responsible* people will face no punishment of their own.

  16. #12 ANTONIOUS/MODERATOR

    But there is such a loose interperetation for the diagnostic for aspergers, that having it and having a grasp on reality are not mutually exclusive. In all honesty, most hackers and gaming addicts hit on most of the symptoms

    I’ve taught kids at the extremely functional end of the spectrum, and some not so much. If he is genuinely disabled and has a distorted interpretation of actions and consequences, then this is a tragic display of humanity, but on the other hand, to hear that some hacker virtuoso has aspergers and assume that he’s some ricky rector or even “rain man” savant who is a prisoner in his own mind isn’t fair to anyone. Perhaps it’s worse than if he’s completely functional and lucid and is hiding behind some 20 year old diagnostic for people who were soically maladjusted.

  17. America is up shit creek financially. Why bother going to the expense of locking up McKinnon? He’s stupid to do what he did, but I don’t think the public interest is being served in America by prosecuting him.

  18. The real problem is that hacking has been placed among the most serious crimes, when it simply isn’t. As Nixie suggests, the absurdity at the core of the case is that he should be extradited at all. But the solution is a more sensible attitude toward prosecuting computer crimes in general, not easy bandwagon-jumping when a particular case hits the right chord of transatlantic resentment and mistrust.

  19. @21 Rob Beschizza, et al.,

    I’m pretty sure that the widespread public support for this guy would largely evaporate if the US said they’d make the extradition treaty reciprocal.

    If they would rather not do that, they’ll have to deal with the upsetting sight of watching the UK populous instinctively sticking up for the underdog. And of course the more combative the tone, the more people will try and protect him.

    The important thing is not that he comes to trial, but that the US military learns from their mistake, and secures their servers. Dread to think how many Chinese spies etc were happily browsing around before this guy left his warning messages. They oughta give him a medal, he probably saved lives.

  20. Rob Beschizza:

    He may actually be going to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison for the rest of his life, if he’s convicted as charged:

    Mr. McKinnon was charged in the United States with seven counts of computer fraud at ten years per count.

    The main point here being that the UK should never have agreed to any treaty that would have allowed, let alone required, the authorities to extradite a guy like this. It’s poodlish and submissive behaviour on the UK goverment’s part, it’s embarassing and humuliating for UK citizens, and if Mr. McKinnon really will spend several years or decades being sexually abused in US prisons, it’s a tragedy and a crime. This guy should be prosecuted in Britain according to British law, or he should walk. The extradition stinks.

  21. As per usual, America will misread the situation and apply a totally inappropriate amount of blunt force, and screw it up. I wonder if they’ll ever wise up?

    Who? The US, or those who would eff with us? Because that excessive inhuman force…. it’s not accidental.

    not that I approve, just making the point.

  22. If the US govt. made the Wizard of Oz, they would have thrown Toto and Dorothy in Gitmo for exposing the Wizard as a fraud.

  23. @#7
    “a crime was commited. Someone has to be punished. Just because a car is sitting on the street with keys in ignition does not mean that a person is free to take it. If he does, thats a crime.”

    Your analogy is false. Here’s a better one: A car was sitting on the street with the keys in the ignition. A person got in trying to see if it was full of magic leprechaun gold and then left a note saying: “you are dumb, I could have stolen this car.”

    The car wasn’t stolen or damaged and nothing bad actually happened. But, in a fit of rage you alert the media and proceed on a manhunt because you can’t stand the arrogance of someone calling you dumb.

    Seriously, why anyone is bothering to prosecute this is beyond me. Military computers are broken into daily by everyone from 12 year old kids to the Chinese government. This won’t serve as a deterrent in the least, it will simply publicize the military’s bad security so even more people start breaking in just like what happened with telco hackers in the early 90’s.

  24. if he figured out how to get into the servers, then he is guilty of the great Aspergian sin of:

    Mentioning that the emperor has no clothes.

  25. One of the points is:

    that Gary McKinnon might commit suicide if extradited;

    Why should the UK government extradite a person, who due to their medical condition, is likely to die as a result of it?

    Imagine a person with a heart condition that gets worse with stress is extradited to a place where this person is experiences extreme stress. You would object to the extradition on humanitarian grounds.

    I believe no-one objects to an independent judicial process that investigates the facts, takes into consideration Mr. McKinnon’s condition and reaches a verdict.

    It would also satisfy the jurisdictions on both sides of the Atlantic were Mr McKinnon tried for committing IT offences on UK soil in a UK court. That would however assume a level headed approach to the subject.
    cm

  26. Why do so many people think that hacking isn’t a serious crime?

    Even if he didn’t read any classified information, even if he didn’t leave stupid remarks about the lack of security on their websites, even if he had only unlocked the door just for the sake of unlocking it, he has cost the military thousands of dollars.

    Why? Because they can’t be certain what he has or hasn’t done. If he was smart enough to get in, he may be smart enough to cover his tracks. They can’t trust logs, even if they have them. All they know is somebody accessed a very important system without authorization. That’s a security nightmare.

    If you come to my house and start looking through the files in my filing cabinet, you are at least guilty of trespassing. Even if the lock on the door is cheap. Even if it’s not even locked. It’s private property that you were not given permission to access. How is a computer different?

    I’m not saying he deserves to spend a decade in federal prison — frankly, the only people who deserve that much punishment shouldn’t become a burden on society by sitting in a prison — but this man still deserves to be punished for what he did. Whether he had Asperger’s, whether he realized the extent of his crimes, whether he was meaning to be malicious or thought it was for the better good, he was knowingly breaking a law. And it wasn’t just an arbitrary law — it’s a law based around a universally-accepted rule: don’t touch what doesn’t belong to you.

    Until people can accept the fact that he committed a crime — one that deserves punishment — no amount of argument about extradition or bullshit 9/11 anti-terrorism laws is going to matter. There are honestly people who think this man isn’t guilty and should go free. Let’s start with that.

  27. Lasttide: They have to prosecute this as a matter of precedent. If they don’t prosecute, that will set a precedent that it’s OK to hack into government computers as long as you don’t hurt anything while you’re in there.

  28. Another interesting aspect is this:

    Where was the crime comitted?

    If the crime was comitted behind a computer somewhere in the U.K., then the perpetrador has comitted a crime in the U.K., and therefore, should be prosecuted under british law.

    If the crime was comitted on U.S. soil at the server side the moment security was breached (if security is what you want to call it), then he should be prosecuted under the laws of the U.S.A.

    So it’s a matter of perception. But not at all an unimportant one. This case will be a prescedent for those to come in the future.

    Because what the U.S. is trying to establish at this point, is that you can commit a crime being physically located in one country, and liable for prosecution in said country, but that ultimately, the physical location of those objects or individuals the crime was being comitted upon, takes prescedence over the the physical location of the perpetrator.

    This is notewearthy.

    Especially for those in charge of flying unmanned drones.

  29. @Reveng: «Why do so many people think that hacking isn’t a serious crime?»

    I can only speak for myself but here it is: because I’m a computer professional and hobbyist — a hacker in the original meaning of the term — so I know what I’m talking about, nd y’r mrlstc, ptrnsng dchbg wh dsn’t knw WTF h’s tlkng bt nd mks sch dbs nlgs tht h dsrvs kck n th nts jst fr t.

  30. @Madmolecule: «They have to prosecute this as a matter of precedent.»

    No they don’t. I’m certainly no lawyer, but I know this much : precedents are set by court decisions, and the office of the DA is not a court.

    « If they don’t prosecute, that will set a precedent that it’s OK to hack into government computers as long as you don’t hurt anything while you’re in there.»

    Whatever.

  31. If this were a civil case, the plaintiff would need to prove damages to win. Apparently the standard is lower for criminal cases. That seems horribly wrong.

  32. People arguing that “he should be punished where the server is” make me laugh. The US routinely refuse to accept the (otherwise commonly-held) notion that military personnel, while off-duty, should abide by the law of the land where they are physically located. An off-duty US soldier kills some people in a pub in (say) Japan, runs to his base, is shipped back to the States in no time and the US is under no obligation to punish him. But when somebody f*cks with a server… then physical location is all important! Give me a break.

    This is just the US military flexing muscles because they’ve been found with their pants down. They are reacting like all bullies do: beating the little guy. That was to be expected. What it was not expected was the shameful behaviour of the UK government, so appallingly accepting of his new status as province of the northamerican empire, directly ruled from Washington. That extradition treaty is terrible and is obviously being misused. Labour should accept this fact and work to renegotiate it or drop it, but all politicians nowadays seem to be completely unable to accept they’ve been wrong, even when it results in them looking like Lemmings walking towards their electoral annihilation.

  33. “Bill Gates has Asperger’s syndrome. Would you argue that he can never be held responsible for a crime because he’s so mentally challenged?”

    There is a lot of speculation that he might, but he’s undiagnosed. You shouldn’t repeat that is if it’s fact, considering the amount of misinformation around.

    And, obviously, it’s a spectrum condition. Bill Gates’ aspergers, if he has it, is almost certainly not like McKinnon’s. Also remember that (bolded for general emphasis, not yelling at you) there is much more to aspergers than just being socially awkward and having intense interests. “Nerd” /= aspie.

  34. Wow , just when people over here in the UK thought that the US government could not get any more unpopular they did this. Just for the record, most British people did not want a war in Iraq, or to go into Afghanistan. We don’t really approve of our poorly equipped troops being killed on a daily basis in support of American foreign oil policy. Our pathetic Labour government will be consigned to the scrap heap at the next election, because we will remember that they took us into an immoral illegal war. Most people think that the UK does not have a bill of rights, but we do and they like to keep it quiet. Made in1689, one of its provisions is that no UK citizen shall be subject to foreign laws.

    Note to American visiting the UK and Europe. Pretend to be Canadians…LOL

  35. The US is being an idiot. Why don’t they do with this hacker what they have done with hackers in the past?

    Usually they say, “You have done a very terrible thing, for which you may be terribly punished with many years in prison. Unless, of course, you agree to come and work for us.”

    Perfect solution. US government gets their security upgraded by the man who broke it all down, damages and costs are reversed, mentally different man gets job security for the rest of his life while at the same time realizing the weight of what he did and being appropriately punished for it (by becoming a “slave”, though a slave with health/dental, sick pay, vacation time, pension, etc). UK government realizes their mistake when they let another government take a very valuable resource from their country. Everyone wins!

  36. Nixar: I am a lawyer. I did not mean that declining to prosecute would set a case-law precedent. I was using the word “precedent” in the more general sense: Declining to prosecute would lessen or eliminate the law’s deterrent function, by fostering the impression among the public that there will be no punishment for violating it.

    Also, here’s a free debating tip: Responding to a point by saying “whatever” has never convinced anyone of anything.

  37. Laws shouldn’t be written so vague that they are then applied tangential things without consideration of severity.

    pretending to shoot someone with a toy gun should not be prosecuted as severely as actualy shooting someone with a real gun.

    and as a Canadian who watches America go against NAFTA whenever it doesnt hand them the best deal (ignoring WTO), but applies it hard when it funnels them cash (taking enemies to task with WTO), I totally expect to see them making unfair deals such as the US/UK extradition law for many years to come.

  38. If one criminal steals from another criminal, would we call that a crime? Of course the criminal who is stolen from, would call it ‘illegal’. The US have a vicious criminal record, and the military is a major part of it, so I don t think it is illegitimate to steal from them. Actually, I believe it is a moral obligation (but not necessarily a political one).

    Law is nothing but a societal manifested form of violence. Law is a violation of law already. When we breach it we are subjected to this very form of violence. The hacker mimics the procedures of state institutions: if he were a nation state his activities would be called espionage. It is not the act of hacking but the fact that he is alone that subjects him to the law, to violence.

  39. @Madmolecule

    “If they don’t prosecute, that will set a precedent that it’s OK to hack into government computers as long as you don’t hurt anything while you’re in there.”

    your sentence breaks down into “it will let people know its ok if you dont hurt anything” and I find that funny.

    But I’m assuming you really mean like how jaywalking isn’t prosecuted often and we are so overrun by them?

    sound fine to me.

    and yes I know it costs a gazillion dollars for the US to ping the bastards who hack them.. so send people the bill when they do that. Capitalist society takes that more serious than jail time. (just ask tpb)

    Oh and MDH:

    @20mdh

    “Kaneda – do you understand that the difference between a reason and an excuse is your own bloodlust?”

    I went to agree with you ’cause I’m comfortable with my bloodlust. But then I realized I may not know the full meaning of the sentence.

    My own bloodlust applied to my own reasons/excuses? My bloodlust applied to other’s reasons/excuses? Cause really.. I’m perfectly fine applying my bloodlust to everyone.

    and @35 mdh

    “Because that excessive inhuman force…. it’s not accidental. Not that I approve, just making the point.”

    No its very often an intentional exagerated response to something better handled with a level head. Instead its handled with full force to make up for America’s teenage angst, being so new compared to the rest of the world. (for the record us Canadians are Britian’s good kid who can do no wrong lol)

  40. @53 Onigorom

    people trade freedom from other’s force of will, for the benefits of collectives. Such as paved roads and running water.

    its a balance when done right

  41. “If one criminal steals from another criminal, would we call that a crime?”

    Of course we would. How is that even a question, let alone a rhetorical one supposedly leading to the answer “no?” I’m sure we’ve both broken laws in our lives; does that mean we’re incapable of commiting crimes against one another?

    And yes, we throw spies in prison, too. Did you not know that?

  42. It’s not a trade when it’s at gunpoint, KanedaJones.

    Most people today are not given the option of modifying the social contract. It’s been “submit or die” since the big wars; you can’t even “vote with your feet” unless you have the right paperwork.

    Unless you are rich enough to have a mercenary army, like xe for example. “The Prince is above the Law.”

  43. “your sentence breaks down into “it will let people know its ok if you dont hurt anything” and I find that funny.”

    I read your diary last night. Snuck in through a window, watched you sleeping for a while, then had a good read. Funny stuff! (Seriously, though, you should ask a doctor about that rash. lol)Anyway, I put everything back where I found it, other than some helpful notes I left. Oh, and I promise I won’t do anything with those copies I made of your passport, banking information, etc.

  44. Here’s my take on the car analogies:

    The driver for a number of ambulances/police cars/whatever leave the vehicle open in an open car park with minimal surveillance. Some idiot thinks that it would be a great joke to sprinkle talcum powder all over the interiors & leave a note saying “You should have locked it, I spread anthrax so you’re now DEAD!”.

    Some people say, well it was just a prank, ha ha their security sucks.

    I say, the prankster maliciously caused the vehicules to be unavailable because they needed to be decontaminated as their was no way to be certain that it was ALL just talcum powder. The prankster is thus liable for every expense subject to his acts.

    To all the left wingers who joyously proclaimed “Obama was elected, The world is SAVED!”: Note that it is now Obama’s justice dept that is continuing to try & lock the twit up.

  45. 56: “I’m sure we’ve both broken laws in our lives; does that mean we’re incapable of commiting crimes against one another?”

    Nobody is incapable of commiting crimes, which is why there is a law. But to ‘commit a crime’ and to ‘breach a law’ are two entirely different aspects.
    My point was that among criminals there is not such a thing as ‘crime’ if one’s own group is concerned. And this resembles procedures of state. Historically, for example, the colonial robbery of land found later legal justifications (‘private property’).
    Cases as the above just remind me of this genuine gesture of land grabbing, feeling oneself above the law and hoping that ones action will become law one day. – just to remind you of the pirate parties.

  46. @58 Moriarty

    the sentence I reffered to at face value implied nothing was done other than the entry, while yours implied both looking AND doing (I.E the copying). It is true however that it would seem 99% of Westerners have a misguided belief in a ‘right’ to privacy, myself included.. making you butting your nose into my rash rather unsettling lol. please do not make me the next goatse

    @59 pmhparis

    I am NOT saying you are one, but you remind me of the many people who think that just because Obama sucks, this means the republicans are not guilty of anything.

    you are right. Many Obama policies suck. still slightly better then president Cheney.

  47. Meh, as an Aspie, I feel kinda mixed about this.

    On one hand, Aspgergers has sort of recently become the mental incompetance defense du jour, and I generally find that to be annoying and offensive. Now, in the case of sociopaths using post-hoc diagnosis as an defense, it’s pretty straightfoward. This case… meh. I don’t disbelieve that he might have Aspergers, and I’m totally willing to grant that confessing to the police without a lawyer present is totally the sort of bone-headed thing an aspie would do- if that’s the case, he might have recognized that this hacking was *illegal*, but assumed that everyone involved would understand that it was non-malicious, and that would be that.

    However, that’s absolutely something where the fact that Aspgergers does exist on a spectrum would come up- I can’t prejudge whether he ought to have known or not known that this was a reasonable consequence of his actions, even though he absolutely would have understood the moral components involved.

    One thing I can say, though, is that citing anxiety associated with Aspergers as a reason why he shouldn’t be extradited is incredibly likely to be complete crap. He’s no more or less at-risk for suicide than any other person with anxiety or depression, and I genuinely doubt that anything short of an extreeeme case of either of those would be enough to head off an extradition request. I could see the Aspergers being relevant in determining where he’s detained, but trying to argue against extradition based on it? Not so much.

  48. kaneda –

    in the first – my point was that the difference between viewing a preceding set of facts as either “an excuse” (a rationalization, unacceptable) or “a reason” (sound justification, acceptable) lays with how you frame the situation for yourself going in to it. The bloodlust is what drives you from one to the other.

    in the second – …something better handled with a level head.

    Better for whom? A “Big Stick” is quite a head leveler, and you keep it in mind when you frame facts for yourself. And I’ll bet most hackers are getting the word that this sort of thing is not handled logically or with a level head. Again, I am making a point, not supporting it.

  49. @63 MDH

    after I posted I suddenly had a duh I get it. thanx for being crystal clear though :) I do get the fact you aren’t endorsing it.

    me? I just talk a big game due to frustration with the many approaches that seem to get no results. Made a leftie into a nihilist. (as a whole 2 leggers suck)

  50. Enough with the labels. McKinnon is an individual and should be assessed as such by two or three independent psych docs. Then the relevant mental competence guidelines and laws can be applied. There is no need to argue backwards, from a generalized, abstract pathology to an individual, if the individual is at hand.

  51. “As an Aspie ..”

    Please note that the chap that claimed that being imprisoned for “seven counts of computer fraud at ten years per count”, thousands of miles from any family, would severely aggravate this fellow’s particular mental makeup, is (from wikipedia) “Professor of Developmental Psychopathology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology, a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge”.

    While you may be intimately familiar with the particular form of Aspgerger’s you’ve been delt, these aren’t the comments of random bystanders. They’re the medical opinions of leading experts in their fields.

  52. Those stressing the legal necessity of extraditing Gary have completely missed the point… it is to be done according to a treaty signed one year after the crime! THAT’S NOT LEGAL. So everyone can agree that the extradition is bullshit, and Gordon Brown is a craven prison bitch of a man for even letting things go this far. Just put on the skirt and get it over with already, as Bill Hicks used to say.
    -sean

  53. #68 Anonymous

    Not just, whether legal or not. And all the people up there weighing in on how American law applies to this, get lost. British and European law is shitty enough, thank you very much.

  54. So, US military sites can be hacked into by ‘some guy’ in the UK and the only way they found him was due to him stuffing around by sending messages and using his real email address.

    Do you think foreign governments are doing this without sending stupid remarks or using their ‘real’ email address.

    Maybe they should start the x-prize for US military sites. If you can hack in and you tell us how you did it, we’ll give you $1,000,000. Pretty cheap for covering up such a major security hole IMHO.

  55. Why? Because they can’t be certain what he has or hasn’t done. If he was smart enough to get in, he may be smart enough to cover his tracks. They can’t trust logs, even if they have them. All they know is somebody accessed a very important system without authorization. That’s a security nightmare.

    No the security nightmare was the shitty security, not the person that exposed it.

    I think the most important thing in this case is simply the fact that he shouldn’t be prosecuted in the US for a crime he committed in the UK. He especially shouldn’t be extradited by laws that were created after the fact and aimed at terrorist crimes.

    I think he should certainly be trailed, but it should be on UK soil under UK laws.

    You think China would allow extradition of Chinese citizens to the US for hacking crimes? The US understands that would never happen and should create their security accordingly.

  56. Don’t cry RevEng (#40)…. where are your cries for the closure of wikileaks? Many documents hosted there were stolen or hacked, but that site serves an important function in our society.

    Screw this ‘one-size-fits-all’ style of prosecution – punishments need to be proportionate to the damage caused. For those telling us that he cost the military 1000’s of dollars – please explain how? Do you mean they had to spend money on Tech wages to get the systems up to an acceptable level of security? Maybe they should have done the job right in the first place… if the ‘door’ was so wide open, it was an expense which was going to have to happen eventually anyway.

    #37 hit the nail on the head.

    @#35: The US may try to make and example of people to stand as a deterrent to others – but in the long run does this make friends or enemies for the US?? The latter, I’d say…. Public opinion is almost always on the side of the underdog in cases of this nature.

  57. disclosure project disclosure project disclosure project

    How many times do we have to read articles without even the slightest mention that Gary’s point of view was partly substantiated by hundreds of whistleblowers in the American military and associated industries?

    A quick search of every comment board on every article shows how little the general public know about this as well.

    disclosure project disclosure project disclosure project

  58. Well, this has been fun. Who would have guessed that Gary McKinnon could excite so much discussion, some of it even reasonable.

    At the end of the day the only thing that Mr. McKinnon’s supporters want is that he is tried in the UK and receives proper healthcare.

    He can either do time or community service, whatever the courts decide. But the paramount piece is that he receives psychological counseling and is talked down from the ledge of taking his own life.

    Although I do think that what he did was trivial, I don’t believe it is excusable. There should be some consequences, but consequences commensurate with the actual crime; not a typical over-reaction to something that neither caused property damage nor physical harm.

  59. Nixar: I am a lawyer. I did not mean that declining to prosecute would set a case-law precedent. I was using the word “precedent” in the more general sense: Declining to prosecute would lessen or eliminate the law’s deterrent function, by fostering the impression among the public that there will be no punishment for violating it.

    Interesting you should use a word with such a specific meaning to describe something so vaguely related. I thought lawyerin’ required razor sharp discourse. I also believed that DAs or US attorneys had a large degree of discretion in what/how they prosecute.

    Also, here’s a free debating tip: Responding to a point by saying “whatever” has never convinced anyone of anything.

    You’re right, I should have used three words: slippery slope fallacy.

    I could also have pointed out the long established principle of the proportionality of the penalty, but it’s evidently long been forgotten in the US (example: 3 strike bullshit).

  60. @Moriarty: I read your diary last night. Snuck in through a window, watched you sleeping for a while, then had a good read. Funny stuff! (Seriously, though, you should ask a doctor about that rash. lol)Anyway, I put everything back where I found it, other than some helpful notes I left. Oh, and I promise I won’t do anything with those copies I made of your passport, banking information, etc.

    Well if you did that, you’d be charge withd breaking and entering. Not theft or rape or wire fraud or anything, until you actually stole something, raped someone or used the banking information to get money, even though you were in a position to do so. Except, I guess, if it was proven that you had the intent to do such things but couldn’t for some reason.

    Therefore, your analogy stands but your conclusion is wrong.

  61. Interesting you should use a word with such a specific meaning to describe something so vaguely related. I thought lawyerin’ required razor sharp discourse.

    Correct. It does. Surfing BoingBoing is not lawyering. You’re still ignoring my point.

    I could also have pointed out the long established principle of the proportionality of the penalty, but it’s evidently long been forgotten in the US (example: 3 strike bullshit).

    I haven’t said a word about what penalty I think he should receive. I do believe, for the reasons I’ve stated above, that a penalty of some kind is fully appropriate.

  62. Correct. It does. Surfing BoingBoing is not lawyering.

    Yeah you’re right. When I’m at the bar I forget everything about my job as a sysadmin and I call computers “blinky” and I can never remember how many gigobites there are in a megavoxel.

    You’re still ignoring my point.

    What point? That they don’t want to encourage clumsy would-be hacker to try to hack them by making punishment elusive? But you see, my point, as a computer professional with a very much above average experience in comp. sec., is that such hackers are not a threat. Au contraire.

    I’ve just spent the last 3 months working like crazy on PCI-DSS security compliance; and if someone breaks into my network and copies credit card #s, well I could very well be fucked very hard.

    But the thing is, if a guy like McKinnon broke into my systems, didn’t steal anything and just left a mocking message, … I would send him a crate of Dom Perignon.

    I mean it.

    I would kiss his feet. Because then I would be able to close the hole before a gang of ukrainian black hats take advantage of it and rape me and my team.

    I haven’t said a word about what penalty I think he should receive. I do believe, for the reasons I’ve stated above, that a penalty of some kind is fully appropriate.

    From the rotten “deal” they offered him, it’s pretty clear they firmly intend to subject him to years of raping and beating, AKA the US prison system.

    And in my system of values, for a first time, non violent offender who didn’t hurt anyone nor stole anything, that’s completely barbaric.

  63. If someone leaves a door open I will walk in, if they leave documents lying around I will read them that’s the way I am. Some people do things because that’s what they do, to consider the consequences they need to have an awareness of future, some don’t and so an action is unconnected from consequence. It appears to me that both Gary’s hacking and confession demonstrate an inability to connect action with consequence.

    As for the American attitude to Garry McKinnon I think the principle should be “they put one of ours in the hospital, we put one of theirs in the morgue”. If he is imprisoned in the USA I for one will seize every opportunity to make life miserable for an American.

  64. “I regret to inform you that Gary McKinnon took his own life in an American prison because we failed to act”

    Yeah, that’s not how we roll… rather there will be a long awkward silence before the PM eventually makes some non-descript and only tangentially related staement before ‘drawing a line’ under the whole mess.

    See the recent Libia/Meghari incident. Or the Northern Rock incident

  65. Well, it just shows that the USA rule over the UK. And that British politicians bow low for the american politicians.
    Weak! But that’s I’m an expatriot.

    So the US can spy and do spy on all of us but if someone proves that anyone can get in on their stuff they get life.

    They should just give him a job. A bloody well paid one cos’ he does a better job than those who work on the US pentagon security systems now.

    Who’s the smartest of those in this case?!- Gary!

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