By Michael Naisbitt
The mother of hacker Gary McKinnon wants to meet with Nick Clegg as prior to the debacle that passes for an election in this country Clegg was highly critical of the plans to extradite McKinnon to face charges on US soil and even went as far as to say that McKinnon had been hung out to dry by previous government.
Now nine months after Clegg et al took over and the McKinnon family are still no further forward and are now being passed from pillar-to-post as they try and get a fair hearing with yet another Home Office recommended expert as apparently four of the UK's leading psychologists just wasn't enough to pacify the bureaucratic demands.
Keep your pledge on Gary McKinnon, hacker's mother tells Clegg
(Originally posted - 9th February 2011)
Gary McKinnon's mother is demanding a meeting with Nick Clegg to urge him to ‘do the right thing' and stop her son's extradition. Before he became Deputy Prime Minister the Liberal Democrat leader was implacable in his opposition to sending the computer hacker to the U.S. Gary's mother Janis Sharp now wants Mr Clegg to keep his pre-election promises and end her son's ordeal.
Janis Sharp is demanding a meeting with Nick Clegg to urge him to 'do the right thing' and stop her son Gary McKinnon's extradition to the U.S. over hacking allegations:
‘He stood by my side 14 months ago demonstrating outside the Home Office and demanded that Gary could – and should – be kept in the UK…..When the Coalition came into power the relief we felt was indescribable. I believed our new government would announce that Gary would not be extradited but be tried in the UK. Nine months later he is still in limbo.'
Before he became Deputy PM the, Nick Clegg was implacable in his opposition to sending the computer hacker to the U.S. next month it will be nine years since Gary was arrested and ten since his alleged crime, his mother said:
‘He has effectively served a longer sentence than most murderers and rapists. Nick Clegg said my son had been hung out to dry by the previous government to appease the Americans.
I just want him to remember – and honour – those words and not fall into the same trap.'
Expert opinions obtained by Mr McKinnon's legal team have stated that because of his mental condition, suicide was an ‘almost certain inevitability' should he be sent to the U.S.. Home Secretary Theresa May agreed to halt the extradition last year, saying she wanted to ensure he was treated ‘fairly'. Mrs Sharp is now at loggerheads with the Home Office over the choice of an independent expert to reassess the Asperger's patient, who is 45 today.
‘Gary has been assessed by four of the UK and Europe's leading psychiatrists and now the Home Office wants him re-assessed by yet another and unbelievably, I am having to fight to ensure it is an expert in Asperger's and autism.'
Mr McKinnon was searching for evidence of ‘little green men' when he hacked into NASA and Pentagon computers. Since the Daily Mail launched its An Affront to British Justice campaign to highlight the case, Ministers have announced a review of the lop-sided Extradition treaty which allows the U.S. and EU countries to have British citizens sent for trial abroad, without presenting the level of evidence which would be needed for prosecution in the UK.
Source: Daily Mail
I've never really been an ardent supporter of McKinnon's plight due mainly to his claims of being caught whilst actually downloading (to view) a NASA image which was in a specially designated folder with images containing UFOs which had been to be edited before being released to the public. As you can see below in an excerpt from an earlier (2009) Blog post I made which addressed the UFO aspect of McKinnon's claims:
Apart from the discrepancies between the dollar amounts stated to date regarding the alleged damage McKinnon caused (apparently depending entirely on which webpage the information was posted) this is the first time I've seen the allegation that the, “Damages” were nothing of the sort but instead are down to the cost of plugging the holes in the amateurish system setup that McKinnon exposed. While I agree that just because the security is weak it doesn't give you free licence to breech the network at will, but when someone exposes the system weaknesses to then try and also pass the cost of fixing these flaws onto them (which are there due to your own incompetence) doesn't seem right, does it?
And if the damages being pursued are just for locating and correcting his edits then it's still ridiculously overpriced at $700,000. Plus, if McKinnon is to be believed and this security flaw was indeed directly due to no more than the machines not having been assigned a password and so were still operating on the default settings, then I would tend to agree with McKinnon in that this estimate is massively inflated for the sole reason of obtaining extradition to the US, which in turn means I also share McKinnon's apprehension in that this is quite a risk to take if the US are just planning to extradite him for a lenient sentence.
I appreciate that the only reason I'm even mentioning McKinnon is due to what he claimed he found while browsing through the -less than- secure system and for what it's worth I don't believe McKinnon saw what he thinks he did, I wouldn't go as far as to say McKinnon is lying but I feel he is at best mistaken. However, that doesn't and shouldn't in any way affect the bigger picture which is surely that extradition while always accepted as a possibility is one I feel was never really expected to go as far as it has and especially so when several high-profile UK hackers have been tried for similar offences here in the UK (i.e. where the people were located when the cyber-crimes were committed).
I should also point out that I believe, “Team McKinnon” should have long since dropped the UFO angle, if absolutely necessary then perhaps play on McKinnon's (alleged) naivety in searching for answers to one of the most profound questions we as a species have ever asked, but to continue pushing the fact that McKinnon actually found evidence of this at the exact some moment being ‘caught in the act' is a very difficult coincidence to accept. Basically they are saying that after at least 96 fruitless attempts at discovering ANY information and many, many hours spent searching for it, Mckinnon finally stumbles upon the evidence he has been relentlessly questing for at the exact same moment that someone happens to notice he is online and has unauthorised access, the EXACT same time after so long undetected (in the act)?
Hasn't this fiasco run for long enough now?
What can possibly be gained from putting a UK citizen through the harrowing experience of the extradition process this long after the fact, especially one with Aspergers Syndrome?
As I mentioned in the excerpt above I long believed that the UFO angle should have been dropped and thankfully it appears that this has happened, although it is somewhat worrying that McKinnon's mother is seemingly having to campaign just to ensure that the independent expert is in fact an expert in the correct disciplines of psychiatry required in order to make an expert assessment of Gary's mental state. In fact it's more than worrying it's actually frightening to think that the same people charged with the very basic task of employing the skills of a relevant expert are the same people who are in a position to do something about the flawed extradition process, yet it seems as if even this obvious, fundamental & simple task is proving to be a problem. Perhaps those that are in a position to do something about the situation will finally stop passing the buck and the Coalition may actually stand behind one of their pre-election statements but I'm not holding my breath.
As an aside, once McKinnon finally receives the specialist assessment that the mitigating circumstances surrounding his extradition surely demands then isn't it about time that the entire extradition treaty was revised so that UK citizens who are extradited are treated as fairly as the law dictates they should be here in the UK?