back to article Cameron asks Obama for McKinnon compromise

Supporters of Gary McKinnon have praised the Prime Minister for raising the Pentagon hacker's long-running extradition case during a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday. Speaking after the meeting, David Cameron said he hoped "a way through" can be found in the case, The Guardian reports. McKinnon, who suffers from …


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  1. alain williams Silver badge

    His real crime ...

    was showing how crappily the US computer systems were administered. They want him to pay for putting egg on their faces -- that is all that there is to it, revenge for red faces.

    1. John A Blackley

      So the next time your house is burgled

      And the burglar's 'defense' is, "It's all yor fault for having such crappy door locks." you'll be okay with that, will you?

      1. Ru

        Re: So the next time your house is burgled

        > And the burglar's 'defense' is, "It's all yor fault for having such crappy door locks." you'll be okay with that, will you?

        Your insurer is likely to have some thoughts on that, and will probably tell you where to go when you tell them that a few hundred grand's worth of stuff went missing from your straw hut.

        Sure, he did the crime, etc etc, but he's being extradited because the price tag put on the cleanup operation is so hight. Given that the sysadmins in charge of the systems he broke into were manifestly incompetent (or their management was wilfully ignorant) that cost should be borne by them, one way or another, rather than trying to hang it all on a handy scapegoat. McKinnon should serve a sentence in the UK appropriate to his breaches of the computer misuse act, etc.

        To continue the increasingly contrived example above, maybe you could try claiming on insurance the cost of rebuilding your house in a more secure fashion, or perhaps asking that much in damages from the burglar. Do let us know how well that works out for you.

      2. The BigYin

        @JohnA Blackley

        Invalid comparison. As far as we know, nothing was stolen (no burglary), not thing was broken (no criminal damage) and so no crime may have been committed (clue: not all countries have laws on tresspass in meatspace let alone cyberspace).

        Until the USA presents evidence and satisfies a UK court that a crime has actually been committed, they should be told to haud their wheest. Although I realise the treaty pretty much allows the USA to demand any UK citizen be handed over at any time for any reason and they are not required to provide evidence.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Actually ...

          ... Burglary (aka breaking and entering) is the crime of illegally entering someone elses property and doesn't include theft which is a completely seperate crime.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Bog off!

    While I can see that Cameron is probably just trying to be diplomatic by "asking", I think the whole thing could be must more easily solved by just telling the US to sod off.

  3. TimNevins
    Thumb Up

    The President doesn't what?

    "One of the traditions we have is that the President doesn't get involved in decisions around prosecutions, extradition matters," Obama said.


    Is he fricking serious?

    Lewis 'Scooter' Libby was given a Presidential Pardon after leaking the name of a CIA Operative.

    Or when Ford gave Nixon a Pardon.

    1. Andrew the Invertebrate

      Re: The President doesn't what?

      What they are saying is the Office of the President doesn't get involved in who to prosecute or not that's down to the Judicial Branch, however the Office of the President is able to commute or pardon offenders after the Judicial Branch has finished with them.

      And as much as I dislike Libby and the whole G W Bush - White House, Libby only had his prison sentence commuted. He still had the $250,000 fine, 400 hours community service and a 2 year supervised release. Also he remains guilty of the offenses, a pardon would have wiped the slate totally clean.

  4. Annihilator

    How convenient

    "One of the traditions we have is that the President doesn't get involved in decisions around prosecutions, extradition matters"

    Note, he doesn't say "can't"

    Maybe Hil-dog is the one to deal with then as Sec of State? Given Cameron is opening up a review of the release of the Lockerbie bomber, you'd think there would be a little squid pro yo. Oh, wait, sorry, I forgot which way round this works.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I'd like to see the accountant's figures

    $800k of damages sounds too much like a thumbsuck figure to me. Or was it $800k of security that they skimped on that caused their machines to be vulnerable? In which case, they should be paying him for finding it.

    Here's another thing that peeves me. What twat gave the USA the power to extradite our citizens then didn't ensure that we could extradite theirs?

    I'm guessing the same crew that train our bobbies huh?

    What do we pay taxes for? Fun?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      it's the exact minimum figure required to get an extradition

      What a coincidence eh?

    2. John A Blackley

      Blindingly obvious

      Given that the treaty was signed by him, I'd point the figure at David Blunkett. Not that he'd notice.

    3. Mike 102

      that'll be the same tw@ts that gave them all your bank data

      oh reminds me of the unilateral SWIFT data transfer...

  6. Marcus Aurelius

    In that case

    "One of the traditions we have is that the President doesn't get involved in decisions around prosecutions, extradition matters," Obama said.

    Maybe Cameron can bounce that comment back in respect of Al Megrahi. "The Scottish Judicial system made their decision, and its not the job of Prime Ministers to be involved...."

    McKinnon would be solved by implementing a UK law that forbids extradition of its citizens where the accused is willing to admit committing the equivalent UK offence and accept a UK judgement and sentence.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Rather Silly

      "McKinnon would be solved by implementing a UK law that forbids extradition of its citizens where the accused is willing to admit committing the equivalent UK offence and accept a UK judgement and sentence."

      Isn't this idea rather silly since it only protects the guilty. What about someone protesting innocence and is worried about the rather poor judicial standards in the US. Whereas US federal justice is generally pretty high up in the world league tables, US state justice isn't. And by the time your case has made it up to a district court of appeal, you have normally done a lot of time in a rather poor quality jail. Remember that many US county jails, especially in the South, have dormitory housing which means that the guards really can do very little to stop such heinous things as prison rape etc.

      In McKinnon's case I have little sympathy. He obviously committed a crime, and it is a federal crime, so he won't get dealt with by the vagaries of local justice in the US. I worry about the one sided nature of the extradition treaty, but we already shipped out people like the NatWest 3 to the US under that treaty, so again whilst I oppose the treaty, I have difficulty getting worked up over McKinnon.

      1. Andrew the Invertebrate

        Try having a little more sympathy

        He commited the offences in 2001-2002 and the offences weren't serious enough allow extradtion at that time, also the CPS looked at the crime and decided not to proceed. However McKinnon is now being extradidted under a 2003 treaty, forget the one sided nature of the treaty, he's being prosecuted under legal agreements that didn't exist whe he went wading through the US military's computers.

        Personally I would have though that ECHR Article 7, about how criminal offences cannot be retroactively applied would be fairly large block on the extradtion. But I guess the other side have better lawyers

        1. Anonymous Coward

          ECHR Article 7 has no relevance

          When he committed the offence in 2001/2 it was illegal in the jurisdiction in which he was operating (he hacked a US computer, albeit across the intertubes, but still a set of US computers). The offence was extraditable at the time. The extradition treaty changed, but what didn't change was that it was an extraditable offence both before and after the new treaty. The key is though, it was illegal in 2001/2, and so under ECHR Article 7, no criminal offence is being retrospectively applied.

          You can argue that the old extradition treaty should be used. It wouldn't be required under ECHR Article 7, but there are moral reasons to say it should apply. I wouldn't disagree.

          You can argue that he should be tried in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act. Again, I wouldn't disagree.

          You can argue that the current extradition treaty is one-sided and we should get out of it. Again, I wouldn't disagree.

          You can argue that the US is overstating what he did, and that the potential punishment in no way fits the crime. Again, I wouldn't disagree.

          However, I am still going to have zero sympathy for Gary McKinnon. He committed a crime, and he should not be surprised to be having his day in court accordingly.

          There are people extradited under this treaty for who I would have sympathy.

          Let's start with: Alex Stone. Alleged child abuse, extradited, spent 6 months in US jail before the charges were dropped.

          Ian Norris. Alleged price fixing, not a crime in the UK, Lords blocked extradition. Extradited on obstruction of justice instead.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Somewhat wrong

            >>When he committed the offence in 2001/2 it was illegal in the jurisdiction in which he was operating (he hacked a US computer, albeit across the intertubes, but still a set of US computers).

            He was in the UK. He was not in the US. The law applied to the US. It did not apply to the UK. That he used the connectivity that they left open does not apply him to the US law framework at all.

            Or should we start holding US television stations accountable for their shameless breaking of Islamic Law? Or even of current UK law regarding extreme pr0n? Since their show is available there across the interwebs too.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Obviously committed a favour.

        "He obviously committed a crime, and it is a federal crime"

        Only in the sense in which someone might come into your house if you leave the door open and leave you a note saying "You've left your door open. Oh, and I didn't find any aliens in here btw".

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Computer Misuse Act

          The Computer Misuse Act in the UK does not require you to secure your computer in order to make unauthorised use illegal. The same is true in the US. And anyway, McKinnon did not walk into an unlocked house. He walked into a house which had remarkably easy to pick locks. He cracked weak security, he didn't walk through no security. And don't try to play his tune by saying he was looking for aliens. He also left messages concerning 9/11 about which the US was likely to be highly sensitive.

          Just because a crime is easy to do, it doesn't make it anything but a crime. Following your poor analogy attempts, what about shops which have displays outside, or stands at stations that have displays all around the stand, but only one shop-worker. If you steal something because it is easy to steal is that ok? Just because it was easy to hack these US government computers doesn't make it less of a crime. And regarding leaving messages, if I break into a rail yard and spray paint all the trains with a message saying "no aliens here", I've still committed vandalism.

          This case has many issues associated with it. McKinnon's self confessed and obvious guilt is not one of them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Burglary vs. Hacking

            I don't want to worry anybody here, but most of you do not live in secure houses. Most houses are very easy to enter. Many have locks which offer little or no resistance in that respect your house is probably less secure than your car. Even if your locks are secure ot is the work of seconds to bust open a door or window. How often is one of your doors unlocked while you are upstairs? How often is your kitchen door unlocked while you're sitting in the living room with the TV turned up loud? Oooh you've got a burglar alarm? I bet that really scares potential burglars. When was the last time you heard an alarm going off and called the police?

            The burglars haven't refrained from nicking your stuff because your house is secure. Firstly it is only in the world that Daily Mail readers imagine they inhabit that some scrote will nick your stuff the second you leave it unattended. Secondly even the scummiest scrote is very cagey and circumspect about which house they break into mostly because they know they're doing something wrong and might get caught. They have to be pretty confident they will get away with it in order to overcome that fear. They won't just pop your back door open because they can. They have to be pretty confident that there's nobody home, that nobody is likely to be home and that nobody will see them do it.

            Ever come home to find you've left the door unlocked or a window open and nobody has nicked your telly? Funny that innit?

            So burglary is a pretty good parallel. There are computers all over the world with poor security, but people don't go "hacking" into them all the time. Just like most houses are not particularly secure but people don't steal from them.

            Oh and before some smart arse suggests it I'm not supposing that all burglard have Asperger's.

  7. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse
    Thumb Down

    Not possible for him to intervene?

    This guy runs the Govenment FFS.

    1. Andrew the Invertebrate

      It would be political suicide

      It would be like the UK PM telling the SFO to drop thier inquiry into suspected dodgy arms deals. Because something like that wouldn't cause any kind of political fall out would it?

      oh wait...

    2. Azimuth

      so very wrong

      Obama only runs one branch of the U.S. government. His powers are limited. I know this is a hard concept for some to grasp.

      If he stuck his nose into Department of Justice affairs they should rightly tell him to piss off and I wouldn't have it any other way.

  8. waldoPepp

    Perhaps a suitable compromise...

    ..would be to lay all the blame on BP.

  9. The BigYin
    Thumb Up

    How's this for a compromise?

    "Barack old bean, in the interests of fairness and equal rights for all (something I am sure you are passionate about); the UK will henceforth apply the same criteria as the USA for extradition. So kindly send your boys over and prove your extradition case in a UK court of law. Pip-pip."

    [And before someone says it, the USA *has* ratified the treaty but it is still one-sided.]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think him admitting it

      might mean that they'd win that case.

      It doesn't matter how one sided the treaty is, in this particular case they do have ample proof that he did it!

      This is more around the punishment being disproportionate, in that the UK basically gave him a slap on the wrist and said don't do it again, probably while laughing about it. Whereas the Americans want him bankrupt for life and in prison, for embarrassing them.

      1. The BigYin

        I agree he did it

        And I agree with why the USA want him. Thing is; that's not justice, that's revenge.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          It's the same old US mentality that they own the world and everything in it. Craps sakes, I've seen the way their military behave over here in Ireland on leave; they own the place apparently.

          Look too how they treat citizens in Iraq. I have extended family over there on Journalist roles; it's almost funny. They'll kick a private citizen's door down, hold guns in the family's face, and then - as sometimes happens - when they get shot at for, I dunno trespassing/entering with intent to harm/etc; they get all "we're here to help". Yeah, sure. Whatever.

          1. Mike 102

            and don't get me started on.

            and don't get me started on them 'inviting' british officials to speak to one of their senate committees... maybe those senators don't realise that we are not the 53rd state of the good ole US of A.... probably don't have passports the idiots.. Cameron is in a difficult position, balancing the relationship, but if you're bent over and someones pushing you off balance from behind sometimes you just have to tell them to knob off....

      2. Mike 102

        it's not about whether he did the hacking...

        it's about the fact that they are claiming a huge financial cost due to his hacking which then meets the criteria for the extradition.

        they did not incur costs due to his hacking... they put locks on the doors that they had failed to lokc previously. the cost of his hacking was much smaller and should not come anywhere near the figure for extradition.. and then of course the whole 'agreement' is another example of why Labour had to go out of office whatever your left or right leanings, they had simply lost the plot.... tw@ts

  10. Rolf Howarth

    "Seriousness of the charge"

    That's the nub of crux of the heart of the matter. If you're a British citizen who commits an offence in Britain, there should be a reasonable expectation that you will be tried according to the standards and laws of your own country. Otherwise, what next... will we extradite UK citizens to Saudi Arabia or Iran so they can be flogged or stoned for adultery, send them to China for posting on a political blog, etc...?

    This seems like a CRITICALLY important issue to me. The first and foremost duty of any government is to protect its own citizens, not sacrifice them to the whims of a foreign judicial system out of political expediency.

    1. L1feless


      I am Canadian and agree with that statement. In the UK this is a key case. I think to speak to your comment though Cameron has clearly shown he agrees with you by bringing this up. I think it is now time to see what the results of that conversation end up being.

    2. Chris Parsons

      Good old Tony

      He just wanted GW to love him. You know how silly people get when they're infatuated.

  11. Mad Jack

    Invoice the DoD

    ...for services including performing penetration testing and analysing critical system weaknesses which permitted unauthorised personnel to gain access.

    $800K sounds about right by their own reckoning.

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Meanwhile .... elsewhere

    "Cameron needs to grow a spine and tell the yanks that Britain brooks no interference in its law-and-order system from obese morons across the Atlantic." .... Neil McGowan

    And grow some balls too, for it is all so rather embarrassing for Eton and Oxford to have produced such an apparent wimp.

    And reference the alleged suit ..."US authorities blame McKinnon for crashing systems at the US Army’s Military District of Washington and causing $800, 000 in damages." ..... the suits in banks milking and bilking their ponzis and the monetary system on Wall Street and causing damage to the tune of trillions, are rewarded with millions and billions.

    David, what we want hear from a Prime Minister in such a perverse situation is ...Please, Mr President, Fuck Off . You deal with your nutters and we'll deal with ours. Thank you. Now, what else can we be of help to you on.

    Methinks nowadays, Uncle Sam has a lot more to be concerned about with regard to cyberspace than they are intellectually equipped to handle.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      What have you done with the real AMFM?

      Either this man is an imposter, or I really need to increase my medication.

      That is all.

  13. Dazed and Confused


    last week the European Court of Criminal ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Human Rights said that extraditing Abu Hamza would breach his human rights because he might be given a long prison sentence.

    So if you publicly proclaiming you'd like to people killed it is OK, but guessing a few passwords is such a serious offence that you can be extradited no matter what you are facing.

    PC gone mad?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Are you mad?

      It's because it's the US. If MacKinnon was wanted by Saudi Arabia things would be very different.

      See? No lefty liberal PC conspiracy to scare your children with.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Add to great repeal act

    Since the US will not sign their end of the 'reciprical' extradicion agreement, I say that we repeal it.

    Similarly we should look at anything else that is one-sided to the US and ask why.

    Oh and suck on this too. (Just pretend it's one of those landmines you like leaving around).

    1. Anonymous Coward


      They did sign it. On 30 Sep 2006. It is still one-sided and I still don't support it, but please get the facts right.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But is quite happy to comment on the decisions of the Scottish Judiciary

    '... The US president has described the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi as ''a mistake''.'

  16. Rogerborg

    You bend it, you mend it

    Instead of spunking millions on this extradition/rendition, show trial and incarceration in Access Violation Penitentiary, why not just require him to fix their poxy systems instead?

    1. teebie

      You broke it, you bought it?

      That...that could be costly

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not again!!

    McKinnon has been naughty, and should be punished but all this too'ing and froo'ing over the matter is ridiculous - so USA to join commonwealth and McKinnon to be punished by his Mother.

  18. Andus McCoatover


    "Cameron later suggested a compromise whereby McKinnon might be allowed to serve part of his sentence in the UK."

    Don't quite get it. If a guy can acknowlegde guilt, yet be innocent, why is there no 'presumed innocent until proven guilty' clause.

    Naturally, the British bit of his 100-year sentence means he'd only serve 99 in the US, then enjoy the last year in Brighton.

    Lovely jubbly.

  19. Tigra 07


    He hacked into their computers and got caught

    Anyone else think he should go to prison?

    I wouldn't use a disability as an excuse to break the law, why should he?

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Weirdo

      That's enlightened of you.

      I always look forward to everyone having this argument. I'm thinking of throwing a little party when we reach the 100th time. What do you think? Some time next month? We can have jelly!

      1. Tigra 07

        RE: Sarah Bee

        Well his argument for aspergers isn't an excuse, a lot of us think something happened in Roswell but how many can expect a slap on the wrist for hacking Area 51 or the FBI?

        If one gets away with it more will try

    2. Anonymous Coward

      you spotted the core of the matter...

      didn't you?


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