The High Court in the UK will this Friday decide if an appeal against the Home Office backed decision to extradite Gary McKinnon on hacking charges to the US is to be upheld or, as seems likely, not. McKinnon has been accused of what US prosecutors refer to the biggest military computer hack of all time after hacking into US military computers right after the 9/11 attacks. He is said to have deleted files, bringing the station to a standstill, at the New Jersey Naval Base that has responsibility for supplying munitions to the Atlantic Fleet. McKinnon, a former systems analyst, is also a man in his forties with a self-confessed obsession about UFOs and aliens, and a sufferer from the autism related Asperger's Syndrome.
The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has expressed his sympathy for McKinnon at a recent Number 10 press conference. He said that the case raises a number of issues and "anybody who looks at this must be sympathetic to someone who suffers from Asperger's syndrome" but fell short of saying the hacker should not be extradited. Which should come as no surprise given that the Home Office has already backed the decision to extradite, and his own government whips were apparently out in force to ensure that MPs followed the party line when given a chance to vote on the matter recently. One Labour MP who voted against the government on the extradition issue, Andrew Mackinlay, told The Telegraph many of his colleagues had "expressed their sympathy for Gary McKinnon. But when the crunch came, they just went tribal and followed the diktats of the party". In an editorial piece for the Daily Mail Mackinlay goes further, insisting that "the determination of the Americans to hound Mr McKinnon into a U.S. courtroom, refusing to contemplate the idea of a trial in this country, seems out of all proportion to his alleged offences" while adding "the meek acquiescence of our Government in the face of U.S. demands for extradition has not been an edifying spectacle". In fact, so appalled by he whole affair is this particular long established MP that he has decided to stand down at the next General Election.
Meanwhile the Americans are standing firm and getting increasingly angry over the delays to the extradition of McKinnon, who is seen not as an Asperger's sufferer with a UFO obsession but rather a serious offender who would harm the US and who must be dealt with in the same way as any terrorist. Talking to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper on senior military officer based at the Pentagon insisted that McKinnon did not participate in some harmless incident but instead did "very serious and deliberate damage to military and Nasa computers" adding that he "left silly and anti-American messages."
Could it be that the real cause of the anger here is not the hacking incident itself but rather those silly anti-American message perhaps? Especially given the bizarre celebrity status that McKinnon has now achieved in the UK? Or maybe they are just hugely embarrassed that this rather sad loner could have got into such important military networks with such relative ease at a time when the US was on the highest possible terrorist alert status?