back to article Block McKinnon extradition, MPs tell UK Home Secretary

Accused NASA hacker Gary McKinnon has won the support of a key Parliamentary committee, which has called on the British government to block a request to extradite him to the US. In a letter to Home Secretary Alan Johnson, the Home Affairs Committee said there was a "serious lack of equality" in the extradition treaty invoked …


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  1. Drefsab

    My Vote

    my vote goes to which ever political party tells the US government where they can shove it in this case.

  2. Dale Morgan

    He did them a favor

    The americans should drop the extradition request, he did them a massive favor, the only people who should be punished are the idiots that didn't set passwords

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blimey getting extradited

    means you can lose ten years of your life.

    He is 43 now isn't he?

    We never needed it to be tough on cyber crime, see it doesn't matter that much as people who really want to do this will be in random locations around the world, hopping through many compromised systems and proxies.

    So, instead you hire them, but under very tight supervision, and you don't pay that well, sort of atrocity archives style, and the time you keep them under this should be about the same as a prison sentence, they should be on a military base as well, and not allowed to leave.

    For the real security bods, you pay top dollar, and you love'em long time, but again you set it up so they are not given full access to details, and you make them very aware that gaining or seeking to gain full access is met with harsh penalties.

    It is that obvious, what has happened is there is no mentor system set up, which is generally required in spying operations, so getting that in place is the first logical move.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In every story about McKinnon they mention that he has Asperger Syndrome. If this has some relevance, then why worry about the case; he'll almost certainly get off with a mental health plea. If it has no relevance, why mention it? Is it supposed to make us feel sorry for him in some way that, if he didn't have this, we would not? Does it have no relevance to the alleged crimes but only relevance to being extradited? Will the change of surroundings cause some sort of harm? If so, then it should be open and shut; extradition treaties with the US and the UK never allow the person being extradited to be extradited if it will bring them punishment without due process.

  5. Graham Marsden

    "serious lack of equality...

    ... in the extradition treaty"

    Blimey, good job they've just spotted that...!!!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is really kinda crazy...

    Have you seen the amount of damage he has been accused of doing... It's <$1 Million... This is the USA where an over hot cup of coffee spilt on a hand will get more than that in damages.

    Hell, I could get charged with more damages by breaking wind badly and causing people to cough on a bus!

  7. PT
    Thumb Up

    Fair's Fair

    McKinnon should be extradited to the US on the same day the US extradites its convicted CIA agents to Italy.

  8. Apocalypse Later

    same excuse

    All of the draconian laws removing basic rights are claimed to be directed at terrorists, drug dealers, or pedophiles, but all of them end up being used against people who are accused of ordinary, often trivial, offences, such as the fishermen who have had their boats and homes seized as "proceeds of crime" because they exceeded their cod quotas slightly. We lost our "beyond reasonable doubt" protection when majority verdicts were introduced in jury trials. This was meant to stop jury nobbling by the IRA, but has been used ever since in any trial where the jury is slow to come to a verdict. We lost the right to silence so that terrorists could be more easily prosecuted, but we ALL lost it. It goes on and on. The government has found that they can use the panic of the baying mob to justify any oppressive measure.

  9. frymaster

    the solution to crap laws is to change the law, not moan about them being enforced

    the US, which seems to have xenophobia built-in to its government mindset if nowhere else, is a lot less likely to permit extradition to other first-world democracies that it demands they do for it. This is bad, and the extradition treaties should be changed to make it equitable


    that doesn't apply here. He's admited to a crime in the USA, they've asked for extradition, we have an agreement to extradite, end of.

    If he doesn't want to be extradited he shouldn't hack into computers in a foreign country and delete their files

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Paradigm Shift into New Fertile Ground ...... Virgin Soils for Colossal Growth ...

    .... in Unbelievable Shared Wealth.

    Is it right to extradite anyone to an Administration which condones/fails to criminally prosecute and convict and therefore, it can be argued, would so encourage, the random pre-meditated killing of innocent civilians, and would merely pay blood money/slips of paper to victims' relatives by way of compensation for their loss and for closure on the incident?

    For that is present regime state across the pond, and the degree of respect it shows for life and delivers in justice .......

    It will come as no surprise to many, that very recent official court documents admitting the case, which were available for public viewing/internet browsing, have been "removed".

    However, things have moved on, more than just a little, to other much more interesting and/or disturbing and/or lucrative areas, which would render Gary McKinnon's case something of an extremely damaging and petty, completely unnecessary gratuitous vindictive indictment, for any further action,[ which the UK Government would do well to advise the US will not result in Mr McKinnon's extradition because of new prejuicial to the case/sub judice information and/or immininent revised guidelines and/or professional health care opinion in support of non extradition for mental health reasons] would have everything to do with US National Intelligence Failings and Vulnerabilities in Critical and Strategic Programs and Systems which are/can be Catastrophically Compromised because of what is Discovered Embedded Deep in their Systems, and the Strong Weaknesses IT Delivers. It is not really in their best Interests to now continue with extradition proceedings, especially in the light of what has subsequently been discovered in Intelligence Circles about the Breaking and Deciphering of National Security Algorithm[s] and the Nature of the Virtual Threat Position.

    A Necessarily Cryptic Post on the Register given the Easy Catastrophic Targetted Havoc that Intelligence and CyberIntelAIgents have Discovered IT can do in an Instant when Absolutely Necessary.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    "If this [Asperger's syndrome] has some relevance, then why worry about the case; he'll almost certainly get off with a mental health plea."

    Yeah, just like that sniper chappie, who psychiatrists unanimously agreed was mentally ill. Oh wait...


    "McKinnon should be extradited to the US on the same day the US extradites its convicted CIA agents to Italy."

    I couldn't agree more. I really can't understand why my government (who are supposed to work for me) are so keen to bend over backwards and take it up the arse for the USA.

    As for the Home Office position, I think we've already established that Alan Johnson has no intention of listening to anybody else unless it happens to suit his own agenda. He reminds me of the pigs in Animal Farm - he's so like a Tory now, he's indistinguishable from them.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    clearly we have a case of total bollocks going on here. The US, are pushing for extradition on the grounds that some newb rooted their boxes. He's not a pro, he's alright based on the pro school table. Clearly he should be punished under UK law, the crime was committed here. Under our fair system, he would be given lenience based on his mental disorder. In America, it would count for shit. The guys a scapegoat for the idiots in the pentagon who failed to secure their systems to the most basic of attacks. Ditto for NASA.

    I fail to see the value in prison time (especially life) for this individual when the actions do not merit the consequence. The US feel ashamed, they need a victim to punish, why allow someone to suffer their biased system when we know he will not be given a fair hearing? I freely admit he did wrong, regardless of that, we all must recognise the fallacy of fair judgement under the US system they call the judicial system.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Obama gets on the phone to Gordo

    Ob: Hi Gordon.

    Gb: Evening Mr President

    Ob: About this McKinnon Extradition. I see that some of your teram are not on message.

    Gb: That about sums it up Mr President.

    Ob: How about this. Send another 5,000 of your wonderful troops to Hellmand and We'll forget about it. Otherwise, I can see your body count rising steeply in the coming months as our choppers are going to be too busy to help you

    Gb: Thanks you for the kind and most generous offer Mr President. I'll tell The Justice Secretary right away.


    GB picks up phone and calls Jack Straw.

    Gb: Evening Jack GB Here.

    Js: Hi Gordon. Whats up?

    Gb: Get Mckinnon on a flight to the US Today. No If's but's or maybe's. Its him or we have to send another Batallion to Hellmand and loose US Chopper support. Think of how that will look in the press with all those body bags coming home and there is an election coming you know .

    Js: Certainly Gordon I've not got enough stashed away to retire just yet.

    And the rest would be history.

    Just one possible way the blockers would be silenced.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enforce the treaty, don't extradite McKinnon

    The treaty is for serious crimes, the conditions were not met, so you cannot extradite McKinnon.

    If the test was done in the courts not the Home Secretaries mind, then it would be a proper test, like the US->UK version, however the stupid thing here is that test is political on the UK side and without the need for evidence even.

    But having talked up the crime on the US side to use this treaty, means that he cannot be treated like the petty MAGISTRATES crime it would be normally (and has in the past). So you cannot extradite.

    And the law should be amended to make it the same each way. There isn't an overall court between the US and UK, and so you have to give Brits a chance in court to see the evidence before you extradite them! The word of the US is not enough FFS!

  15. The Original Ash


    Garry McKinnon caused no damage to any system hosted in the US. He installed a remote access package via access to high-level accounts with weak or default passwords, then snooped around for UFO information he believed was being withheld from release. He didn't delete anything, and he didn't cause any damage.

    Read more.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    I think the real issue here is that the crime was committed in the UK and he's never been to the US. It's a bit like a car thief being extradited to the Middle East because he bought or sold a stolen car and shipped it there.

    The UK authorities have already stated they don't have enough evidence to prosecute. The US should be providing evidence for a UK prosecution under UK law, not trying to extradite someone for charges that don't exist in the location the crime was committed.

    Taken to its logical extreme, extradition treaties like this would subject the whole world to the law of the most oppressive country. I'm not sure a US citizen would like to be extradited to North Korea for being seen to criticise Kim Jong-il on satellite TV.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Poor powerless Johnson

    If you have no power to do anything, why are you collecting all that pay? Quit now, and let somebody with a brain do the job.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Anti-terror laws?

    "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." attrib. Benjamin Franklin

  19. James 75

    Load of bollocks


    "If he doesn't want to be extradited he shouldn't hack into computers in a foreign country and delete their files"

    Thats the issue. He says he didn't delete files, and they are not required to provide ANY evidence that he did, either to the UK govt or at his trial. As he says. he is going to be tried for a crime for which those prosecuting do not have to provide any evidence that it was commited.

    How can he defend himself?

  20. Rod MacLean


    frymaster wrote: "If he doesn't want to be extradited he shouldn't hack into computers in a foreign country and delete their files"

    Do you know anything about this case? He claims he didn't delete their files - which would have been a silly thing to do as he was looking for evidence of UFOs and deleting *anything* is reducing the chances of him finding evidence...

    Of course, the US govt claim that he deleted files and that this has cost them loads-a-money. Which sounds to me like BS and simply there to increase the chances of him getting a sentence so that they can make an example out of a "naughty hacker"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In the States they *execute* people with worse mental health issues than McKinnon's.

    McKinnon is a scapegoat for one example of the serial incompetence of the Pentagon.

  22. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  23. Absolute Cynic

    Not alone

    In all this discussion, there is no mention of Brian Howes and his wife. They had a legitimate business selling chemicals online, based in Scotland. This was correctly licensed and inspected by the authorities.

    They sold a chemical to a customer in the US which is banned on that side of the Atlantic but perfectly legal here. But they find themselves fighting extradition and have already spent a considerable time in jail here and their children were taken into care. Yet, unlike McKinnon, they have not broken any law.

    Check out:

  24. Gio Ciampa

    NASA hasn't even learned from this

    From a 53 page report by the Government Accountability Office -

    "Despite actions to address prior security incidents, NASA remains vulnerable to similar incidents. NASA networks and systems have been successfully targeted by cyber attacks. During fiscal years 2007 and 2008, NASA reported 1,120 security incidents that have resulted in the installation of malicious software on its systems and unauthorized access to sensitive information"

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Absolute Cynic

    Wasn't the chemicals they were selling and exporting to the US a base for making crystal meth?

    I have somewhat less sympathy for someone profiting from the production of a universally derided drug than I do for a loony hacker looking for UFOs.

    "US officials claim the evidence against the couple includes incriminating e-mails, false or misleading packaging, and the evidence of undercover agents who posed as customers, and supplied enough chemicals to make 635kg of crystal meth."

    That isn't exactly a small amount of crystal meth...

  26. Adam Salisbury


    For the umpteenth time.. It doesn't matter how unfair the treaty may or may not be because he confessed. Even with an entirely fair treaty he'd still be eligible for extradition and as AC 23:44 said: If he his Aspergers is relevant it'll be considered during his American trial and will almost definitely result in a lighter sentence.

    The longer this goes on the more it looks like they're clutching at straws

  27. Anonymous Coward

    It's very clear

    from a number of cases that the US is misusing this extradition treaty, which was put into place to expedite the extradition of terror suspects, not UFO conspiraloons, chemical suppliers, bankers etc.

    It's time this cowardly government told the US that the treaty is badly formed and suspended it until it is sorted out.

  28. Tzael

    Send him over there.

    Oh c'mon, this is getting ridiculous. For one thing having known McKinnon back in the day he's not an Asperger's sufferer. Before anyone pulls me up on that I should point out that the old saying "it takes one to know one" comes to mind. It's a lame excuse to try and avoid punishment for a crime he knowingly commited. He knew what he was doing, he bragged about it in the IRC channels we frequented.

    This was premeditated crime, plain and simple. Sure at the time it was 'cool' and we were into anything that felt like we were 'freeing' information for the general public, but we knew what we did was wrong. I may not have foolishly hacked into military computers, but back in the mid to late 90s I was regularly practicing techniques on corporate infrastructure and I knew that if caught I'd be going to prison, plain and simple. In McKinnon's case he foolishly invaded systems belonging to organisations that have the resources to track him down. He knew the potential consequences, he took the risk, now let's make sure McKinnon learns his lesson because I honestly don't believe he has.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those UFOs again.

    I've asked this question many many times before and nobody seems willing to answer: Why is do so many people believe everything this bloke says?

    He says he was only searching for evidence of extra terrestrials? Oh well that's OK then. He says he didn't delete any files? He must be telling the truth.

    People we have courts of law so that both sides can offer their version of events and their evidence. Then the jury go away and mull over that evidence and return a verdict. We don't just believe what one side says - that's tabloid reader behaviour.

    On the subject of courts of law; In the case of an extradition request it is not the function of the Home Office to review all the of evidence in full and hold a full court case. It is their job to review what amounts to a summary of the evidence and decide whether there is enough evidence to justify a trial. Some people seem to be reading this as if there should be a full trial in order to decide on extradition. There isn't a single extradition treaty in the world that works like that.

    Finally can we please be told who is paying for all these legal challenges?

  30. Gareth.
    Black Helicopters

    @AC Posted Friday 13th November 2009 12:53 GMT

    They might have been peddling chemicals that someone could use to produce crystal meth, but they weren't breaking the law in the UK, where they were based and operating from.

    The Americans should go after their citizens who were buying the chemicals - they were breaking their country's laws and they were based there too. That would involve admitting that their citizens did wrong, however (much like the Pentagon's and NASA's employees doing wrong by not bothering with passwords or having easily guessed passwords).

    It appears that America would rather blame others instead of accepting when they've fucked up. Much easier to avoid looking silly by doing that.

    I wonder if they'll try to extradite me for thinking negative thoughts against their great country?

  31. Anonymous Coward

    @ Anonymous Coward 12:53 GMT

    But the fact remains Brian Howes and his wife did not break UK law. Their customers did by attempting to import to the US a restricted substance. If UK law does not prohibit selling a substance or the shipping of same substance to another country then why is he fighting extradition?

    Inevitable comparison - If a UK citizen purchased a gun, while not possessing a firearms license, on one of the several US based gun auction sites and attempted to have it shipped to the UK would the seller of the weapon be extradited to the UK to stand charges of supplying a firearm. I don’t think so.

  32. kain preacher

    @ac 12:53 GMT

    Inevitable comparison - If a UK citizen purchased a gun, while not possessing a firearms license, on one of the several US based gun auction sites and attempted to have it shipped to the UK would the seller of the weapon be extradited to the UK to stand charges of supplying a firearm. I don’t think so.

    Um pick a better example. Most likely they would extradite him under terrorism laws .

    Exporting guns with out the proper license in the US will get you screwed . If customs finds out he does not have the proper paper work to export the guns he could be facing 15 years in Federal prison and find him self on all kinds of nasty watch lists.

    Whats the punishment for having and illegal gun in the UK.

  33. marc bolan

    Whose Shoes?

    Can't remember where I found this apologies in advance,it just seems so relevant.

    Before you gloat too hard, consider this little example...

    Consider for this example that you are a US Citizen, used to your freedom of speech. You are also a neo-nazi white supremacist.

    You get involved in a flame war with some European, and lay down your opinions - you threaten to kill him, and in a nice long internet rant, you lay it all out - and deny that the Holocaust happened.

    He complains to the authorities, and all hell breaks loose. You have CNN at the door for making death threats.

    You probably committed an offence in the US by making a death threat, but the local police will know that it wasn't a credible threat, and you would get at most a slap on the wrist.

    So that's it over, right? Oops. The server hosting that forum was located in Austria, and over there it's a criminal offence to deny the holocaust - in fact, it's a criminal offence that carries jail time.

    So, the Austrian government asks for you to be extradited, to face charges in a foreign country, for commiting a crim *IN* another country that you have never visited.

    You were sat behind your keyboard in the US the whole time...

    So what would you expect to happen?

    Would you expect the US courts and Government to roll over and play dead? would you think for one second that you would end up on a plane to Austria to face years in Jail?

    Of course not. you would expect that you would be tried for any crime you committed in the US, by a court of US citizens.

    Gary McKinnon has exactly the same right to justice by a trial of His Peers, under UK law, in a UK court. For what it's worth, I believe that he is guilty - of a crime under UK law.

    What is happening here is a complete violation of his rights as a UK citizen, and in the absence of a government with the spine to actually defend it's citizens, I don't blame McKinnon in the slightest for concocting any old story to try to stay in his home country.

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