back to article Clegg orders fresh review of UK extradition treaty

Supporters of accused NASA hacker Gary McKinnon scored a small political victory after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg ordered a fresh review of the lopsided extradition treaty between the US and the UK. Clegg broke ranks with the Government over a review issued last month that concluded the treaty wasn't biased. He has …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a sham

    The circle jerk that is McKinnon is a joke. Any other person would have been sent to the country where they committed the crime to be prosecuted. This is nothing but a farce to drag this extradition on for years. Are they going to keep asking for a new "review" until someone can be bribed into saying he can be tried in the UK instead of the U.S.? That ain't justice and it would not be a smart decision.

    1. Soruk

      Re: What a sham

      That's the thing. He is already in the country where the alleged offence took place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        The offense took place in the U.S. It was executed from the U.K. That means McKinnon needs to be extradited to the U.S. to face trial for his acknowledged hacking.

        1. JohnG

          "The offense took place in the U.S. It was executed from the U.K."

          So, you believe that US law applies to people anywhere in the world? By the same token, I guess the USA would be happy to extradite US citizens to Turkey (a US ally in The War Against Terror) for referring to a genocide of Armenians on Turkish Internet forums, in breach of Turkish law. Or people in the USA promoting freedom for Tibet on Chinese forums, against Chinese law. Or US Christians promoting their religion via the Internet in Saudi Arabia.....

          1. Chad H.

            @ JohnG

            You've missed a big step in your examples.

            McKinnons crime can be considered to have "occurred" in the US as the computer he was accessing was in the US.

            As such US law isn't applying anywhere in the world. It's applying in the US.

            Your armenian example would require the additional step of the forum being hosted in Turkey, etc.

            1. Jason Ozolins

              As you have so generously pointed out the gap in JohnG's analogy, perhaps you could go the extra step and assume that he *had* specified that the Turkish Internet forum in question was indeed hosted in Turkey - not a huge stretch to add that to his hypothetical, after all - and then addressed the actual question, rather than dodging it like a trial lawyer:

              Should a US citizen be extradited to Turkey for the offense, under Turkish law, of referring to the massacres and forced displacements of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a genocide, when that referral was posted by that US Citizen, in Turkish, on a Turkish Internet discussion site, which was served from a computer located inside Turkey, and owned by a Turkish ISP?

              Would you be happy with answering this excruciatingly unambiguous question?

    2. CABVolunteer

      Yes, but where?

      Where do you think that the alleged crime was committed?

    3. Steen Hive

      Stuxnet did some actual, real damage, and at a wild guess people acting on YOUR behalf had a hand in making it. Go on, do the right thing and hand yourself into the Iranian authorities, dumbfuck.

    4. Jedit Silver badge

      "Sent to the country where they committed the crime"

      Well, McKinnon committed his crime in the UK, so I fail to see your problem. Beyond being a ranting, Daily Mail-reading imbecile, anyway.

    5. Slartybardfast


      I guess that this is from one of our American "friends" who lives under a bridge and eats goats and children as they try to cross.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      American world police

      As far as I remember the purported criminal was in the UK at the time, why can't the trial take place in the UK.

      Could it be that not much of a trial would take place, as not much of an offense took place under UK law, could it be he might get six months here instead of the 10 Years in the US.

      McKinnon may have some mental problems or may just be an idiot, most certainly not a terrorist, but the Americans way of prosecuting not only the bad, but the mad and subnormal all the way to the death sentence, should be taken into account.

      oh and Clegg needs all the friends he can get.

    7. Stuart 25
      Thumb Down

      He is already living in this country?

      As he is alleged to have committed a 'crime' in the UK where we have relevant laws to prosecute the crime why should a UK citizen be deported to a third world country to face 'justice'.

      Prosecute him here under our laws and tell the yanks to bog off. While we're about it why not follow the policy of Portugal and ban the extradition of UK citizens unless exceptional circumstances apply.

    8. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      There are very good reasons for the reluctance to send McKinnon to the US for trail, not least the extremely prejudicial nature of this particular aspect of US justice and the likelihood of an over-long and unjust sentence for what was a fairly low-level offence.

      I'm saying this as someone who generally thinks the United States are a good place: McKinnon would not be treated justly there. He'd face a political show-trial, and his aspergers would probably be used against him in the process.

    9. Trevor Marron

      Where he committed the crime?

      That is why it is not safe to send him back, the merkins have him convicted already. And I think he was actually in the UK when the alleged hack took place, so if he did it he is in the country where the crime took place.

      And bribes may work where you are but in the UK they generally don't work.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The fact the US only needs to provide reasonable suspicion as opposed to the UK having to provide more proof is rather null and void in this case. McKinnon has admitted he did it! His entire argument is mitigation.

    If we're lucky the agreement might be brought into line on the proof front, but it won't make any difference to McKinnon.

    The other thing that needs to be brought into line is the prisons. Either the US prisons should get playstations and in-cell TV, or we should get road gangs.

    I know which way I'd vote on that one.

    1. Hud Dunlap
      Thumb Down

      road gangs went away a long time

      Unless Sheriff Joe in Arizona is you jailer your cell does have TV. Wouldn't be surprised at playstations either.

      Cool hand luke doesn't happen in the U.S. anymore

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    American justice

    Who needs it?

  4. heyrick Silver badge

    It's something we're going to have to pay attention to

    The "crime" happened in the UK, the "perpetrator" was physically in the UK at that moment. The "damage" was felt in the US. Under which jurisdiction is he guilty?

    Pay careful attention, as this could be trouble, for if you write something for a local audience and some entity in a country you can't find on a map decides it is a punishable offence... we ought to have it codified in law whether your jurisdiction is your place of being (logical) or the place the effects are felt (not so logical).

    1. PyLETS

      witch hunt

      Extradition adds massively to any punishment, assuming someone is found guilty after being extradited. For that reason, no-one should ever be extradited except for an extremely serious offence .

      Supposing Gary were to find himself in front of a relatively enlightened US court which gave him a community service order as appropriate to the scale of the offence. In this hypothetical situation, the process of awaiting extradition several years, and being dragged forcibly thousands of miles away from friends and family would be a more severe punishment than his case could ever warrant.

      Gary would appear to a victim of a hysterical time in history when anyone doing anything dubious only had to have the US witchfinder generals shout "terrorism" and they were locked up without a trial, hearing or key.

    2. Sean Baggaley 1


      "...if you write something for a local audience and some entity in a country you can't find on a map decides it is a punishable offence..."

      Easy: if the document viewed was stored on a server in the UK, assuming the alleged act is actually considered a crime there, then the applicable jurisdiction should be the UK.

      This is directly comparable to, say, a Frenchman in Calais reading a poster through a telescope pointed at Dover and finding said poster offensive. The poster itself is in Dover, in the UK, and therefore subject to British law, not French law.

      I would consider viewing a website on a server in the US as analogous to flying over to the US to browse through a book in a Seattle bookshop, before returning home. All we've done is eliminate that tedious mucking about with baggage handlers and airplanes.

      Now, you could argue that the website's data is processed and displayed on the user's computer in his own country, and thus is (temporarily) stored in his computer's RAM—and probably cached on the hard drive too. But this is a personal copy, not the original data. If anything, it's the user who is responsible for commanding his computer to make said copy, so if he has broken his own country's laws in doing so, *he* is responsible for doing so, not the original website.

      Under the Computer Misuse Act 1990—I doubt the Terrorism Act 2000 applies here—McKinnon could be sentenced to up to two years, or a fine, or both. (12 months seems the most likely.)

      As UK law does not apply in the US (and vice-versa), the US is also quite capable of trying McKinnon "in absentia" as well. If the prosecution wins, this would likely prevent McKinnon from ever entering the US—he'd be arrested upon his arrival at the port of entry. Not only to Americans thus never have to worry about McKinnon taking advantage of the lucrative lecture circuit, but they also save themselves the costs of his incarceration.

      All that said, McKinnon has himself admitted to accessing a computer in another country without permission. His supporters cite "Aspergers" as mitigation, but I have an ASD myself and I certainly don't go out of my way to break laws and perform unethical acts as a result of it. He's clearly not fit to use a computer, so I would at least ensure that certainly never happens again. You might as well give a pyromaniac access to a box of matches and the keys to a fireworks factory.

      1. KjetilS

        And how exactly would you know that the server you are submitting a post to or reading an article from is located?

        If you believe it is located in the UK, but is actually located in for instance Yemen, do you agree to follow Yemen law?

  5. bill 20
    Big Brother

    Re: What a sham

    "Any other person would have been sent to the country where they committed the crime to be prosecuted."

    So that that would be the UK then, in McKinnon's case; he allegedly committed these crimes whilst sitting in a bedsit in North London. The UK has relevant laws applicable to this alleged crime, so the case should be tried here. There is no possible justification for extradition other than a vindictive thirst for revenge by the American authorities for making them look stupid, or US dissatisfaction with the (perfectly appropriate) length of custodial sentence he would receive in the UK if he were to be found guilty here, compared with the ludicrously disproportionate jail term he would get in the US. 99 years for a crime where no property was damaged, no money was stolen and nobody was injured or killed? That's not a Justice system; it's something altogether different and oppressive.

    While Americans still think they rule the world (which they don't- China owns them lock, stock and barrel) they seem to think that they can help themselves with impunity to the citizens of other sovereign states while their citizens are nobody's property by their own. And they wonder why much of world despises them.

  6. hplasm

    Typical US geography major?

    He's IN the country where he 'committed the crime' (allegedly...).

    1. Chad H.

      Is he?

      Its the age old question, if you shoot a man standing in one state/country and the bullet travels over the border and kills a man, where was the murder committed?

      The crime was committed on a computer in the USA.

      "Where" an internet transaction takes place is an unresolved question. My understanding that the US works on the basis that it happens in both.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coming soon

    I'd expect a few US loonies(sorry Senators) to demand the DOJ approve an arrest warrant for Cleggy. They'll want him charged under the Patriot Act with giving safe harbor to known Terrorists.


    Ming Campbell,

    David Cameron

    Anon naturally. I really don't want the US Black Helicopters hovvering over my house.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems absurd to whine that this treaty doesn't allow "enough" foot-dragging and legal quibbling before extradition in the context of a suspect who has already admitted his guilt but has still managed to drag it out for almost a full decade!

    I also wonder how many of those bleating that McKinnon should get let off because NASA had weak passwords are putting as much effort into defending Glen Mulcaire and the other "phone hackers" who exploited precisely the same security failing...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    that's not the point

    regardless of what you think of McKinnon and his motives the point is the legal process for extradition is a shamefull bypassing of justice. The American legal system is fucked up, partisan and in this case serving the political purpose and ambitions of the DA rather than any sense of true crime and punishment.

    As you pointed out 'where he committed the crime' he committed it here in the UK. The act was here, it is against the law here, he can be tried here.

    They seem to be stuck in the 18th century when it comes to justice but even then they understood concept of jurisdiction, something that you seem to have difficulty grasping.

  10. LarsG


    for him I do object strongly to how tightly the American tentacles are wrapped around this country.

    However it is still far better than being annexed by Germany and being ordered to do what the Germans want such as Greece and Italy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      By a load a tree hugging lefty liberals judging by the number of votes and comments going his way.

      Bottom line, he is a criminal, locking him up here or over there does not matter. The fact remains, he should be locked up so sorry if this offends anyone's namby-pamby conscience.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Top Secret ..... Bottom Drawer

    With regard to the nature of the US, one may ponder on the treatment of Bradley Manning, and this is an interesting video perspective on the freedom enjoyed there as compared to elsewhere, and one might wonder why that would be so .......

    And whatever you do, be careful about Googling ... SECRET KNOWLEDGE - "NOT FOR US TO KNOW"? ..... lest you are confronted with thoughts you never thought about before.

  12. kain preacher

    embarrassed how

    Most Americans have never heard of McKinnon . Believe or not most of these types of attacks do not make the news. If this is a show trial who is it a show for who. For those of you that say he i going to get a long sentence how do you do that ? There federal sentencing guide lines. Just cause you can get up to does not mean you will get the max. The made him a deal plead guilty and he can do the time in the UK. If they were really so embarrassed they would of never made a suck deal.

    Lets look tat the Lockerbie bombing. The bomb was not planted on Scottish soil but it blew up there.

    The people that planted bomb never touched Scottish but it affected Scottish . McKinnon never touched US soil but the crime affected some thing on US soil.

    No weeps when the Germany and America went to Africa and extradite 419 scammers even though they never touched American or German soil.

    Before you down vote me pleas explain why I'm wrong .

    1. James O'Shea

      If McKinnon had not fought extradition in the first place, he'd probably have got a short sentence (two years, tops) and a small fine as Federal fines go (a few tens of thousands, and would be given time to pay it off) and he'd be out and paid off the fine by now. Having dragged things out, he's now going to get the book thrown at him.

      And, oh, you're correct. Very few people in the US have heard of him, other than some Federal prosecutors and judges. His problem is precisely that very few know he exist, and most of the ones who do are now extremely pissed with him. Which is why he's gonna get hammered. Thou Shalt Not Annoy The Feds, For Verily, Should Thou Do So, Thou Shalt Find Thyself Buried Under The Jailhouse. At this point his real crime ain't the hacking, it's the irritating the Feds. And he _will_ be seen to be punished for that.

      He might do better to have a chat with the boys in the American Civil Liberties Union. Those boys _live_ to annoy the Feds. <> They probably won't be able to stop the extradition, but once he's in the US they might be able to put a spanner in the Feds' works.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Do Us feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

        Hi, James O'Shea,

        Methinks because of all that you say, and which could all be perfectly true, are the chances of McKinnon and the UK being abused by Uncle Sam and his vindictive predatory lynch mob justice system considerably lessened to below zero, for such an abject and craven abdication of citizen protection by the powers that be in the UK, would be valid and virulent grounds for virtual revolution and overthrow of an illegitimate government so obviously to be widely perceived and portrayed as being in the pay of foreign powers.

        To Blighty Boffins and Belles, AI Guys and SMART Gals, would that be just perfect just cause for revolt and implementation of CHAOS to head off any mayhem and comfort said sad madness, which can so easily descend and displays itself as a quite evil badness too and totally unfit for future Great Game purpose.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      @kain preacher

      This might constitute a third side to the argument, but...

      Lockerbie: That trial was a farce. The guilty party was the man at the top who gave the orders. The man in the dock was a bloke doing his job. You *could* reasonably try him the way we tried low-ranking Nazis, rejecting the "only following orders" defence, but when we did that it was after we'd nailed the top brass. Justice is not served if you let the little people carry the can.

      You didn't mention it, but that Polonium poisoner probably falls into the same category. People do some pretty despicable things when they are working for seret intelligence agencies, but your beef ought to be with those giving the orders, and if you haven't got the balls to go after *them* then you should shut up and leave everyone else alone.

      419 scammers: I hadn't heard that, but it sounds a lot like trying to extend your jurisdiction over some foreign country. Presumably the scammers didn't commit any offence in Nigeria. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Nigeria, rather than looking around for someone little to squash merely to soothe your ruffled ego.

      And so to Gary: In *this* case, the host country *is* actually willing and able to prosecute him, and happens to be a close ally, so why are you planting your boots on our soil and pissing us off.

      1. Jedit Silver badge

        "Presumably the scammers didn't commit any offence in Nigeria"

        419 scams take their name from the section of the Nigerian criminal code dealing with fraud, Mr Bluffenstuff.

  13. Hud Dunlap
    Thumb Down

    McKinnon is not important to most Americans because

    Murders, shootings and stabbings are a common occurrence here. People are losing their homes at a record rate.

    I would like to see a reasonable response to why the Lockerbie bomber should be tried in Scotland but McKinnon should not be tried in the U.S.

    At the time of writing two downvotes but no explanation why.

    1. Adam White

      RE: McKinnon is not important to most Americans because

      "I would like to see a reasonable response to why the Lockerbie bomber should be tried in Scotland but McKinnon should not be tried in the U.S."

      Because Libya was willing to sell out its own operatives in order to curry favour with the US, but since the US and UK are already best friends there's no political advantage to extraditing Mr McKinnon. OTOH keeping him at home could be a vote-winner.

      Of course whether that's "reasonable" or not is up to you to decide.

    2. PyLETS

      @Had Dunlap

      "I would like to see a reasonable response to why the Lockerbie bomber should be tried in Scotland but McKinnon should not be tried in the U.S."

      Because McKinnon's offence was insufficient to justify extradition. Sledgehammers and nuts. This is probably why, also in your own words: "McKinnon is not important to most Americans". Of course he isn't - so why persist in damaging your international reputation over him when our courts could have dealt with him more appropriately ?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lockerbie Bombing vs Pentagon Hacking

      Ok Hud Dunlap, I'll have a shot at explaining to you.

      Firstly, there was a very big difference between the 2 offences. The Lockerbie Bombing killed a whole bunch of people, the alleged Pentagon Hacking messed up a few files and annoyed someone. There is a sense of proportion. When you commit genocide, expect people to go to the ends of earth to try and do something about it, when you do a little bit of online vandalism, most of the time it will be ignored.

      Secondly, there was clear jurisdictional precedence for al-Megrahi to be tried in Scotland. The aircraft had taken off from Heathrow (albeit orginating in Frankfurt). The deaths on board were just over half American, but just under 20% British. Also 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie were killed. Then remember that the fact we got our hands on the 2 accused at all was a result of a series of negotiations with Qaddafi. In the end a grubby compromise was necessary where the court was convened on neutral ground in the Netherlands. Had the US insisted on a trial in the US it is unlikely that Qaddafi would have handed over the 2 accused. Similarly, given the fact the trial took place in the Netherlands (under Scottish law) strongly implies that if we had insisted on a trial in Scotland the accused may not have been handed over.

      What McKinnon did was a crime in his home country - where he committed the offence (Misuse of Computer Act 1990). He should actually have been tried in the UK - again it is usual in cases where it is feasible for an extraditable crime to be tried in the home country, so long as it is an offence there.

      Finally, if you really want to explore the area of comparing extradition. How about looking at the H-Block 4: Kevin Barry Artt, Pól Brennan, James Smyth and Terrence Kirby. It is interesting that a lot of the successful extraditions of IRA suspects from the US were only successful because they were kicked out of the US for entering illegally - not because the actual extradition request was completed.

  14. Graham Marsden

    @kain preacher

    1) How many people died as a result of McKinnon's actions? How many died in Lockerbie as a result of the bomb? Do the words "sense of proportion" mean anything to you?

    2) American law allows them to go into another country, commit a criminal act (kidnapping) and take someone back to America to be tried. The perpetrators of the kidnapping are not tried for any offence and the courts don't care *how* the suspect was brought there.

    3) The current extradition treaty just requires *suspicion* from the US, but *proof* from the UK. Not exactly equitable, is it?

    4) How would you like to be offered a "deal" where you're told "come and be tried in our country and plead guilty and we'll let you serve your sentence in your own country, refuse and if we get our hands on you we'll throw away the key"? Whatever happened to the concept of a fair trial or the presumption of innocence?

    Now I'm going to downvote you.

  15. kain preacher

    How do you know the Judge is going to throw the book at him ?

    @Graham Marsden

    So are saying McKinnon had cause the deaths hundreds in the US it would be ok to bring him back to the US?

    Oh and Canada has made the US give back Canadian citizen that were kidnapped and sent back to the US. Do I agree with the law that lets bounty hunters do that no. If your country won't stand up for you don't get mad at me. If your politicians signed a bad treaty thats on them. Mexico and Canada both won't extradite if the sentence is death. Those two country stood there ground. Russia won't extradite one their own.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Down

      @kain preacher

      Since McKinnon didn't cause the deaths of hundreds in the US, the question is irrelevant.

      The Americans are being completely ridiculous, exaggerating the cost of fixing their own security holes so they can parlay that into charges under a law that are only justified if they make stupid claims on how much "damage" was caused and the demanding to extradite McKinnon to cover their own backsides based on a one-sided treaty that should be thrown out by our Government.

      Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.

  16. Chris 228

    So when does the slow boat leave for the U.S. ?

    Make sure McKinnon is on it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Please don't bring it up, as far as I can tell the conviction hinged round evidence found up a tree months later, and identified by Cypriot paid millions of dollars by the Americans.

    Hmm bit of smell I think, and for all the bluster I think both of the governments was far more concerned about a retrial than the release of the prisoner.

  18. Chad H.

    Could one of the legal Beagles about....

    Explain the differences in the two standards; as if I recall and understand correctly the report said its just two terms that mean the same thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      According to wikipedia

      Reasonable suspicion is grounds to stop someone in the street and ask them questions, Probable cause is grounds to take them into custody.

      So they don't even need to justify your arrest to get you extradited.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The people who should hold their heads in shame should be the craven stupid Labour ministers, and the sheep like MP who allowed this lopsided legislation to go through parliament.

    What we should do in future is to draft a bill that states, that we will on extradite a suspect to any given jurisdiction, that applies the similar test as our courts. No more lopsided rubbish.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect McKinnon has a limited future

    If I were a betting man, I'd bet McKinnon goes to prison in the U.S. or finds a bullet in his brain.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the clueless...

    ...the U.K. legal beaks have reviewed the extradition treaty and deemed it proper so you're pissing up a rope if you believe it's lopsided or inappropriate. You might desire to educate yourself and get in touch with reality.

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      For the clueless AC...

      Just because the bench have deemed the treaty proper does NOT mean it isn't lopsided, or even that it really is proper.

      Since you're so fond of educating yourself and getting in touch with reality, here's a fact for you: some senior members of the British judiciary have their eye on a seat in the House of Lords. Do you think the House of Commons are going to appoint someone to the house that oversees their decisions if that person looks at a blatantly unfair treaty made by members of the lower house and says "That's unfair, I'd never ratify that"?


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