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America Versus the UFO Hacker 452

Posted by kdawson
from the keeping-promises dept.
Rob writes "Gary McKinnon, still suffering from Asperger's syndrome, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, has one last chance to avoid extradition from the UK to the US to face charges of hacking into NASA and Pentagon computers in search of information on UFOs. Will the new UK government keep its word and help him avoid a savage punishment? The New Statesman has a survey of the history and McKinnon's prospects."
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America Versus the UFO Hacker

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  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:46PM (#32501814) Homepage

    He embarassed people, and made 'threats'

    From TFA
    McKinnon was surprised at how easy it was to enter the US networks. There were no firewalls and many government staff did not even have passwords. He left notes as he went, pointing out security deficiencies. One said: "US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days? It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 last year . . . I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels."

  • by Jeng (926980) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:00PM (#32502068)

    Just because someone may be good at breaking in, doesn't mean he knows how to secure the systems he is entering.

    They need to use him for breaking into stuff, it's what he's good at apparently.

  • by Local ID10T (790134) <ID10T.L.USER@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:07PM (#32502168) Homepage

    If he's convicted he gets to go to minimum security federal jail for probably 2-4 years. How is that savage punishment?

    Aspergers is neither a cause of computer hacking nor an excuse for it. "Oh, a trial or jail will traumatize him" isn't a valid reason to not put someone on trial either in the US or in England.

    This guy was misguided rather than intentionally malicious, but he misguided himself into a bunch of federal felonies. Aspergers doesn't change your ability to understand legal vs illegal acts.

    So try him in England, where he lives, and where he was when he allegedly committed the crimes... The US Government can afford to send an attorney (or state department representative) to speak on their behalf. He can be tried and convicted and punished in the UK. There is no reason to send him to the USA.

  • by Vahokif (1292866) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:18PM (#32502338)
    That doesn't change the fact that the system was vulnerable in the first place. Punish him for entering illegally but don't make him pay for repairs that should've been made anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:24PM (#32502436)

    And apparently you missed the part of the article that states that it would *not* be "minimal security"

    If McKinnon is extradited, he could be given a 70-year sentence in a high-security prison (he would, as an overseas national, be considered a "flight risk", hence imprisonment with violent criminals rather than in an open prison).

  • Re:Little sympathy (Score:5, Informative)

    by malkavian (9512) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:28PM (#32502488) Homepage

    You entirely miss the point.
    He's not saying he should get off without charge; he's saying he should be tried in the UK for a criminal offense committed in the UK, and go to a UK jail as a UK citizen. What the US is trying to do is extradite him (supposedly something done for very serious crimes), and try him for possible terror charges.
    This is not what the extradition agreements were meant to be for, and the UK populace is pretty up in arms about it as the last (Labour government) rolled over and drooled at the chance to sign an extradition treaty without the US signing up to its side (it still hasn't, sensibly enough). So, we currently have a treaty whereby a relatively minor crime can have the US extraditing UK citizens, with nothing reciprocal (if a US citizen ran riot through the UK defence computers in this fashion, the UK could NOT extradite them).

    In theory, he could be charged with terror offences, and banged up for an awful long time. He probably wouldn't be, but hey.. What he's really fighting for is to be tried in his home country, and the country where the offence was committed (he was misusing a computer while based in the UK, which carries quite a penalty; easily sufficient to cover the term you think is sensible for him to be banged up for).

  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:31PM (#32502524)
    Autism is a spectrum from mild to severe. "Severe" Asperger's seems to be a less stigmatizing way of describing moderate autistic symptoms. The dividing line isn't clear between the various categories (that's why it's a spectrum), so I suppose the classification will differ somewhat depending on the doctor. The DSM-IV isn't a perfect resource.
  • Most of what you think you know about this case is wrong. Forget about UFOs.

    Also, what Gary did is trivial, barely even worth the term "hacking" (summary: he used an off-the-shelf product called RemotelyAnywhere [remotelyanywhere.com] to access completely open internet-connected Windows desktops that had the default password set).

    If you want to go back to the source legal materials, this set of articles is particularly interesting:

    Part 1 [blogspot.com], Part 2 [blogspot.com], and Part 3 [blogspot.com]

    There is a final part coming too.

  • Re:Aliens! (Score:3, Informative)

    by X0563511 (793323) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:05PM (#32502950) Homepage Journal

    Extradition treaty [wikipedia.org].

    You're right. They asked for it, and are (trying to, probably will it seems) get the jurisdiction. Case is not closed.

  • Re:Aliens! (Score:2, Informative)

    by MakinBacon (1476701) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:09PM (#32502988)
    No, Grays as in Asgard.
  • by DaveGod (703167) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:22PM (#32503086)

    Part of this is due to the public perception of McKinnon being that he's a "bumbling nerd", the asperger's thing merely being seen as medical confirmation.

    But there's other things going on here. It's not at all about him facing some appropriate punishment, all his supporters simply want that to be decided and carried out in the UK.

    His claims that he practically wandered in, left a few embarrassing messages and that's about it is widely believed. The accusations of damages are thought to be more the cost of the US putting in place security which needed to have been there anyway. The US justice system does not seem to be very highly regarded by Americans, and even allowing for the normal distrust of any foreign justice system, internationally the opinion is even lower. (Even if it is just due to the anomalies that get reported - UK papers tend to print articles about ridiculously lenient UK sentences, American media tends to report the ridiculously harsh ones, whatever, this is an observation of perception, I'm not claiming that is or isn't a fair assessment of reality).

    This is amply reinforced by the US's mishandling of the situation. It seems attorneys do not do diplomacy, you say 2-4 years, but US authorities said [bbc.co.uk] life and that some want to see him "fry" for "the biggest computer hack of all time". Charging him as a cyber-terrorist very likely didn't help, internationally (and certainly here on /.) there's not a lot of trust [wikipedia.org] for the US when the T-word comes up. The perception is that the US are all fired up up to beat up on him as hard as they possibly can because they're embarrassed and he's to be made an example of. This is fundamentally opposite to the UK sentiment towards justice.

    On to domestic UK issues, there was the resentment over the one-sided (at least on paper) extradition treaty with the US. Note also when the act was committed there was no extradition treaty covering this, so the game has changed after the event, and it's widely believed that the US deliberately delayed action to take advantage of this, which as the saying goes, simply isn't cricket. There is also, especially at the time, annoyance at other countries' lack of extraditing people to the UK (ironically, it seems in practice the US has actually been throwing them over to us with vigour).

    Then there's the UK government mishandling. Like the way the appeal was arrogantly and off-handedly thrown out by the disliked then-Home Secretary Jacquie Smith. This gave the papers an opportunity to have a go at her and the tired Labour government widely felt to be all too autocratic.

    It's now considered a test [guardian.co.uk] of the new government's principles, its thumb on the pulse and its willingness to stand up to the US.

    I'm not sure how much of this is the doings of his lawyer's PR efforts, but time and again the case has being striking a nerve on numerous issues and he's been on the front pages for years now. It's got to the point that if he does get extradited despite that level of support it's definitely going to seem like something is very wrong somewhere.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:29AM (#32509438) Journal

    but if UK don't send him over, then the risk is that US will flick UK the bird next time UK wants someone extradited.

    I thought that the whole problem is the lop-sided nature of the agreement between the US and the UK, whereby we (the UK) hand over anyone the US wants, while the US never allows extradition of its own citizens?

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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