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First Published Tuesday, 16 June 2009

TERRIFIED: Gary McKinnon

GARY McKinnon is facing extradition for what has been described as “the biggest military computer hack of all time”. His mother JANIS SHARP argues that his treatment by the authorities is cruel, unnecessary and totally unjust.

I used to be a foster carer; one of the few that could accommodate large sibling groups and was happy to be able to help keep families together.

Yet now, in a cruel twist of fate, my own family is being ripped apart. My son, Gary, 43, was arrested in 2002 for hacking into American military computers. I’m not sure I can ever fully explain the shock of that day.

Gary had been passionate about computers for years but it never occurred to me that his fascination with UFOs would lead to him being hounded by the US Department of Justice.

What Gary did was wrong: he recognises that now but he had no real malice.

The idea of Gary as some cyber-terrorist would be laughable but for the fact that the consequences are so serious. The phrase “he couldn’t hurt a fly” describes him perfectly.

Yet although we can see that, the US government just can’t.

When last year he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, it was almost a relief as it explained so much.

As a child he had extraordinary skills and passions such as being obsessed with astronomy from the age of two and being able to play the Moonlight Sonata without having taken piano lessons.

Not only did it explain his behaviour but I felt sure the authorities would now realise that Gary’s actions were, as we had said all along, those of someone intent on discovering the “truth” behind UFOs and various conspiracy theories, and nothing more sinister.

Identifying his Asperger’s doesn’t stop him being guilty of the crime. He knows that – we all do – and has said as much to the UK prosecutors.

Gary is compulsively truthful, even to his own detriment, again a symptom of Asperger’s.

He was obsessed with finding the truth and, unlike neurotypical people, his obsession wasn’t tempered by what we term common sense.

Gary felt he was on a moral crusade to discover the truth at all costs. He didn’t realise the impact of what he was doing or how it could be construed.

He left comments on US computers about the lack of response by the US government to 9/11, believing all the conspiracy theories.

Gary first entered their computers more than six months before when looking for UFO evidence and he was shocked at their lax security.

He is immature for his age and was annoyed with the Americans for suppressing the truth as he saw it.

Although what he did was wrong, he has always denied the alleged damage and I cannot believe anyone thinks sending him away from his family and girlfriend to face a trial, and possible prison sentence of up to 60 years in a super-max prison, is a fair way to deal with his crime.

Hard as it is to admit, I know he would not survive being extradited. Gary rarely leaves the house – he gets agitated.

Extradition is for people who commit a crime abroad and then flee but his crime was committed in the UK, so surely he should face trial here?

This is what tears me apart and keeps my mind racing at night. No hacker has ever been extradited and yet Homeland Security’s Robert Gates admits they have tens of thousands of computer intrusions every month.

Why then decide to make an example of someone with Asperger’s who committed the crime of computer misuse when it was not even an extraditable offence and the sentence at that time was six months to two years?

I haven’t had a stress-free moment since 2005 when Gary was re-arrested and informed that the Americans intended to extradite him under the new treaty.

Gary takes beta-blockers simply to help him to get through life without being eaten up by the constant pressure and fear.

The medication keeps him calm on the surface but he says it feels as if he’s got the fires of hell burning inside him.

He’s now showing physical signs of the stress with a lump on his shoulder and this week had a growth removed from his eye.

I won’t rest until I know that Gary won’t be torn from the land he was born on. It’s cruel, unnecessary and totally disproportionate but still the British Government seems set on meekly yet pro-actively handing him over to the US government.

My terrified and vulnerable son risks being shipped off to a foreign country where he has no friends or family, to be imprisoned and forgotten about.

Americans would never allow their citizens to be treated this way – so why does Britain?

The case has ruined the past seven years of all of our lives. It’s shocking that during that time Gary could have been prosecuted, tried, sentenced and served his dues in the UK had Britain seen fit to take responsibility for its own citizens.

Yet instead we are still on a knife edge, desperately clinging to the hope that common sense and justice will prevail.

Source:   http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/107358/-My-son-is-not-a-cyber-terrorist-

Petition Tops 4,000

Posted by Tom Espiner

Over 4,000 people have now signed a petition that people with Asperger’s Syndrome should not be extradited, directed at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The petition directly refers to Gary McKinnon, the man accused by US prosecutors of “the biggest military hack of all time.” McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a condition on the autism spectrum, last summer, and faces extradition to the US to face hacking charges.

McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, told ZDNet UK last week that McKinnon was “stressed out of his head”.

“It’s a scary thing when you are dragged away from your own country,” said Sharp.

The petition has had a number of deadlines extended — the latest one is the 22 June.

Source:   http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10012954o-2000331828b,00.htm?new_comment

British NASA hacker gets new hearing on extradition

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Justices for the UK High Court have agreed to hear on July 14th an application for a judicial review of the extradition of British national Gary McKinnon, who has confessed to hacking the networks of the U.S. military and NASA, according to ZDNet UK.

Attorneys for McKinnon have been fighting his extradition to the U.S., saying that sending McKinnon to the U.S. to face trial could result in him committing suicide because of his mental illness.

McKinnon, the 42-year-old man who U.S. authorities say compromised the network security of the Army, Air Force, Navy and NASA and caused close to $1 million in damages, was diagnosed last August with Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism.

His attorney, family and supporters say he should be tried in the UK and contend his diagnosis was not properly considered by the former UK home secretary who ordered his extradition in October.

The National Autistic Society, a UK advocacy group, has petitioned the British government to keep McKinnon in the UK, based on his condition.

He could face up to 70 years in prison in the U.S. if found guilty. McKinnon reportedly said he was searching high-security networks for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Date set for NASA hacker hearing in U.K.

A date has been set for the Britain’s high court to consider whether self-confessed NASA hacker Gary McKinnon should be tried in the U.K.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Justice Alan Wilkie will hear on July 14 the London resident’s application for a judicial review, McKinnon’s solicitor, Karen Todner, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

Gary McKinnon

Gary McKinnon

(Credit ZDNet UK)

McKinnon, accused by U.S. prosecutors of the “biggest military hack of all time” back in 2001, is pursuing a judicial review of a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute him in the U.K. Prosecution in the U.K. would enable McKinnon to avoid extradition to the U.S., where he runs the risk of a prison sentence of up to 60 years, according to his legal team.

If the judges grant McKinnon’s application for the judicial review, then the review itself will be heard on the same day.

The high court judges are also in the process of reviewing the legality of former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s denial of McKinnon’s second appeal to the Home Office, despite knowing that he had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

If the judges find Smith was in error, the decision on McKinnon’s extradition could be passed back to current Home Secretary Alan Johnson. However, if they rule that Smith was right, McKinnon will appeal to the House of Lords, Todner said. McKinnon’s team will then take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if a House of Lords appeal fails, she added.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

Source:   http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-10266370-83.html

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