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First Published Friday, 3 April 2009

London Protests

Gary McKinnon’s mother, six others back his effort to avoid being extradited to the U.S.

McKinnon, a 43-year-old London resident, was indicted on hacking charges in November 2002 in a U.S. District Court in Virginia, after he admittedly broke into computers belonging to the U.S. military and NASA. He was arrested by London police four years ago and has lost numerous efforts to block his extradition since then. But he is drawing increasing support from politicians and celebrities who don’t want him to be sent to the U.S. to face trial.

At today’s rally, McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, and six other demonstrators performed a rewritten version of “Chicago,” a protest song recorded nearly 40 years ago by Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame. Nash granted Sharp permission to modify the song’s lyrics to focus on her son’s legal plight as well as his autism.

Nash is one of several high-profile musicians who have gotten involved in the effort to stop the extradition of McKinnon, who could face as many as 70 years in prison if convicted on the seven counts of computer-related fraud he was charged with. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and Sting, lead singer and bassist for the Police, have also expressed their support for McKinnon.

Although McKinnon has publicly admitted to hacking into government and military computers in the U.S. over a two-year period, he maintains that he was merely looking for evidence of UFOs and not trying to cause any damage to the systems.

However, the U.S. government alleges that while engaging in the hacking activities during 2001 and 2002, McKinnon did $900,000 worth of damage to computers in 14 states and caused the shutdown of critical military networks shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to federal prosecutors, McKinnon deleted critical files on the systems he hacked and copied usernames and passwords that he discovered.

British authorities are pouring more money and police efforts into fighting cybercrime. But McKinnon’s hacking activities appear to be widely regarded as harmless within the U.K., and his supporters say the U.S. is pushing too hard to punish him for what he did.

“It has been seven years now,” said Johnnie Smith, a friend of McKinnon’s who attended today’s rally. “It’s tormenting the family. It’s time to move on.”

McKinnon didn’t attend the rally, which also fell on World Autism Awareness Day, an event designated by the United Nations. Sharp said her son, who now is fighting extradition on the basis that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, has been deeply depressed. “When a knock comes on the door, he’s afraid they’re going to drag him off,” she said.

After using a series of legal challenges to postpone his extradition, McKinnon is awaiting a judicial review of the extradition order by the U.K.’s High Court of Justice. The review is scheduled to take place on June 9 and 10 in London.

Asperger’s is a neurological disorder related to autism that’s characterized by obsessive behavior and deficiencies in social interaction. One of McKinnon’s legal arguments is that because of his medical condition, he isn’t fit to stand trial in the U.S.

He said previously that he would plead guilty to an offense under the U.K.’s Computer Misuse Act if he could remain in that country. But British authorities announced in February that they wouldn’t prosecute McKinnon because of a 2002 agreement in which jurisdiction over the case was ceded to the U.S.

Source:   http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&taxonomyName=networking_and_internet&articleId=9130985&taxonomyId=16&intsrc=kc_top

Pink Floyd frontman backs McKinnon musical protest

By John Leyden

Posted in Security, 6th April 2009 04:30 GMT

A small group of protesters held a successful musical protest against attempts to extradite UFO enthusiast turned hacker Gary McKinnon to the US on Thursday.

Janis Sharp, McKinnon’s mum, organised the sing-in protest outside the US embassy on Thursday to coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to London for the G20 conference and UN World Autism Awareness Day.

Gary McKinnon US embassy sing-in protest

Janis Sharp, McKinnon’s mum, is accompanied by musician/guitarist James Litherland in her rendition of “Chicago”

Sharp rewrote the lyrics (but not the tune) of Graham Nash’s “Chicago” as a protest against long-running attempts to wrench her son over to the US to face trial and probable incarceration for hacking into US government and military systems. The protests also sought to highlight concerns with the lop-sided UK-US extradition treaty more generally.

These efforts gained a massive publicity boost when David Gilmour, legendary singer and guitarist with Pink Floyd, agreed to sing on the backing track of the song. Gilmour wasn’t able to attend the event himself, but he did post a message of support for McKinnon on his website, adding his name to those who oppose McKinnon’s extradition.

Gary McKinnon US embassy sing-in protest

John Smith, London Rap artist, and his friend Olivia put a shout out for McKinnon.

Crank up the volume

Music has been a feature in McKinnon’s long-running campaign against extradition. Celebrity supporters of McKinnon’s include former Police frontman Sting and wife Trudie Styler.

Nash, famous as a member of Crosby, Stills, & Nash, gave permission for his song “Chicago” to be rewritten to reflect McKinnon’s plight. He, along with Gilmour, also number themselves among McKinnon’s supporters.

McKinnon’s friends and family hope to produce a music track/compilation CD – involving some famous musicians – in support of Gary McKinnon’s legal fight against extradition, the Free Gary support blog reports.

Other high-profile supporters outside the world of music include London mayor Boris Johnson, Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite.

The ‘sit-in’ musical protests took place two months before a judicial review on whether Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was correct to allow extradition proceedings against McKinnon to continue in spite of his recent diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome. This hearing represents McKinnon’s best hopes of avoiding extradition after the failure of earlier appeal to the House of Lords and elsewhere last year, prior to McKinnon’s diagnosis with a mild form of autism. ®


A big Reg thank you to Janis Smith for use of the photographs. Janis and her husband Wilson are both musicians, which is why they came to live and work in London when Gary was a child. “Gary is a gentle musician but unfortunately that’s not how he’s portrayed in the media,” she said.

Source:   http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/06/mckinnon_extradition_musical_protest/

Go-Between actress backs McKinnon extradition fight

By John Leyden

Oscar winning actress Julie Christie has joined the campaign to save UFO conspiracy theorist turned hacker Gary McKinnon from extradition to the United States.

The star of Dr Zhivago and The Go-Between has joined supporters from the music business – former Police frontman Sting and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour – as well as other luminaries including London mayor Boris Johnson and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite in backing McKinnon’s long-running campaign. Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, is another significant McKinnon supporter.

News of Christie’s support came in a Twitter post by Janis Sharp, McKinnon’s mum, which promised further celebrity endorsements will follow. McKinnon’s ranks of supporters have swelled since he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in the aftermath of a failed appeal against extradition to the House of Lords last year. McKinnon, who admits hacking but denies US damage claims, and his supporters have been fighting against his extradition since 2005.

A judicial review on whether Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was correct in allowing extradition proceedings against McKinnon to proceed, in spite of his medical condition, is due to take place in June. This represents McKinnon’s best hope of avoiding an involuntary trip to the US, a trial and the likelihood of a lengthy spell behind bars. ®

Source:   http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/07/christie_backs_mckinnon/

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