Saturday, August 01, 2009

Gary McKinnon: Cruel and Unusual Punishment for British Man

I'm as appalled as everyone else by the failure of our Government to protect Gary McKinnon from extradition to the US to face charges for hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers in search of information on UFOs. Of course, it's highly embarrassing to the US Government that A N Hacker could manage to access such supposedly confidential information so they want to throw the book at him and make an example of him in the US, where he could face penalties which mean he'd spend the rest of his life in prison.

There are very clear compassionate grounds for Gary to be tried in this country, not least that he has Asperger's Syndrome and being taken thousands of miles away from his family and support network would be a punishment in itself which could have severe consequences for his health and wellbeing. To face trial in an unfamiliar judicial system and potentially spend the rest of his life in prison would surely meet the US constitutional definition of "cruel and unusual punishment". For a start, I have no problem with the idea that McKinnon's extradition would be an example of

"any fine, penalty, confinement, or treatment that is so disproportionate to the offense as to shock the moral sense of the community"

I wonder to what extent this angle has been looked into. I know the US Constitution is there to protect US citizens, but anyone going through its judicial system should have the same treatment. He's already been through the best part of a decade of hell - doesn't that count?

It looks to me that Gary in many ways did the Pentagon a favour. It's not like he tried to cover up what he did, as this report from CNN shows he even left messages to say that it was ridiculous he could get into their systems to draw their attention to the fact that they weren't as secure as their administrators thought.

I can't add much to what Jeff, Andrew, Jonathan, Subrosa and Mark have already said. They have ably highlighted the failure of the Labour Government to stand up to the US authorities. If they had shown some backbone sooner, this 7 year nightmare for Gary and his family might have been put to bed years ago.

And don't think David Cameron's going to help either. He may have offered fluffy words of support but hasn't said that his Home Secretary would pursue this more vigorously with the Americans.

The biggest lesson we can learn from this is how stupid it is to negotiate international treaties in haste on a knee jerk reaction. Drawn up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the extradition treaty gives a disproportionate power to the US. It's an irresponsible selling of the rights of UK citizens down the river and probably deserves an enquiry into Government incompetence in its own right. It just goes to show that agreements made in haste with your friends can fall apart and leave you vulnerable. Gary McKinnon is paying the price for the Government's haste and lack of foresight and unless there is a wholesale renegotiation of this treaty, more vulnerable people could suffer.

There is a Free Gary campaign which tells you all the ways in which you can make your voice heard to support him if you agree that he is suffering an intolerable injustice

1 comment:

Zach said...

I have Aspergers and I am in support of Gary McKinnon being extradited to the United States. There is a lesser known story out there of another hacker with aspergers being sentenced for hacking the US government. It shows how the US Judicial System will weigh in on Aspergers.


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