back to article McKinnon family awaits final, final extradition decision

Supporters of Gary McKinnon are anxiously awaiting a Cabinet Office decision on whether the coalition government will halt his extradition proceedings. While in opposition, cabinet ministers (most notably Nick Clegg and Dominic Grieve, the new attorney general) supported the campaign against the extradition of the Asperger's …


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  1. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    Interesting to see...

    if the ConLibs have the bottle to stand up to Uncle Sam and sort out this lop-sided extradition treaty fiasco.

    1. smudge

      Not likely

      First decision for them that will affect the US. Weren't they blathering on the other day about the "special relationship" again?

      Come on, what do you think they're going to do....?

      1. Eponymous Cowherd
        Thumb Up


        I recall Nick Clegg making a comment during the election campaign to the effect that the UK should grow a pair and stand up to US bullying.

        It will be interesting to see if the contents of his trousers are up to the challenge.

    2. Anonymous John


      Why is the extradition treaty always described as one sided? It seems damn near impossible to extradite anyone from the UK. The system seems to allow appeals indefinitely in the hope of a favourable outcome. To any country, not just the US.

      Would we be happy if a foreign country allowed extraditions to drag on ad infinitum? No.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re :- Why?

        It's one sided because the british authorities have to produce evidence that would be used in the courts, where as if I understand correctly all the US has to have is suspicion and can request extradition on this. It's lucky we have an appeals process. Going on the US administration pulling out other legal agreements would they have allowed a US citizen to be extradited on similar charges (I think not)

      2. Marcus Aurelius

        EU Warrants

        Extradition to many jurisdictions is hard, but extradition to other EU members is simples under the EU Warrant system.

        Extraditions in most countries, including ours, drag on for the simple fact that extradition has a huge number of legal issues to address and appeal against, and a good defense can use political issues when that fails.

        I'm beginning to see the benefits of systems like Russia, which does not allow extradition of their citizens.


      Lopsided extradition treaty

      Do you mean whether Theresa May has bigger balls than Postman Pat?

  2. DoesAnyoneSpeakSense?

    I don't get it

    He broke the law. He admits he broke the law. There is an agreement (no matter what you think about it) that the Americans can extradite him for trial in the US. What's there to decide?

    I don't understand the medical side of the argument either. As far as I (and wikipedia) know, Asperger syndrome affects social interaction, not the ability to know the difference between right and wrong.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      but do you get...

      that the US are making false claims with which to prosecute him?

      Mainly, that the US left all their doors wide open, but are claiming "damage and replacement of all doors and locking mechanisms thereof".

      If they were charging him simply with entering a classified system, then fair enough. However that on it's own wouldn't be enough to extradite him from the UK. Instead the US have come up with a clearly fraudulent claim for damages caused, that just happens to match the figure required for him to be extradited.

      The US is outright lying, but people from the US seem to be intent on ignoring this simple fact.

      The only thing physically damaged was uncle sams pride.

    2. The BigYin

      False claims

      The USA inflated the "damage" caused so they could use this treaty to force extradition. Most of the "costs" were made up from the time spent putting BASIC SECURITY in place (like, err, changing default passwords). Something someone would have expected them to have done.

      If I leave my house unlocked and I get robbed, sure; do the robber for what they took.

      But there is no way in hell I should be able to claim costs from the robber for locks etc.

      There is also the fact that the treaty (now ratified by the USA) is totally one-sided and that our government of the day abdicated its responsibility to protect British citizens. Just because it is law, does not make it right.

      McKinnon should be tried here and sentenced here (if found guilty). And any sentence should be suspended due to the total shit-storm he and his family have had to put up with over the abject failure of the USA to get their house in order.

      Did they learn the square root of fuck-all from Clifford Stoll?

    3. Steen Hive

      What's to decide?

      "He broke the law. He admits he broke the law. There is an agreement (no matter what you think about it) that the Americans can extradite him for trial in the US. What's there to decide?"

      Well there's the decision whether the UK's obligations to bend over for uncle sam abrogate their responsibilities to protect UK citizens from the actions of a state where torture is legal for starters.

      Secondly there's the decision whether the "crime" really should be extraditable in any just sense under a treaty that didn't come into effect till years after the "crime" was committed.

      Finally, I think "broke the law" is being a bit fanciful - in that he did nothing in principle more onerous than pointing a web browser at a government computer that was wide-open on the internet.

    4. kevin biswas

      What's there to decide?

      What there is to decide is if the potential punishment is just, and and if fits the crime. Stealing paperclips from your employer is 'wrong' and murder is 'wrong'. They are both wrong, and both against the law. Therefore anyone committing either offense should be hanged ? Or anyone committing either offense should be fined ? Of course not. Any punishment should be proportional to the crime committed. Seems to me that the poor chap has been through so much shit already with this that what he has gone through would constitute a cruel and unusual punishment anyway.


      You really don't get it!!!!!

      1. The stalinista Bliar/Broon axis of incompetence/malicious envy/venal corruption committed this country to a lopsided treaty which means that UK citizens can be handed to the yanks on demand, but their citizens are almost impossible to extradite to this country.

      2. The treaty was supposed to apply to terrorist suspects in the illegal "war" against an abstract phantom enemy, namely terrorism.

      3. "Terrorism" is not a tanglble physical enemy and is by definition unquantifiable not least since one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter (ever heard of Nelson Mandela?). The war therefore lacks a legitimate casus belli.

      Get it now?

    6. Hobson
      Thumb Down


      It's not just social interaction although that's a big bit...quote from the wikipedia article on Asperger's you refer to yourself :

      "People with Asperger syndrome often display behavior, interests, and activities that are restricted and repetitive and are sometimes abnormally intense or focused"

      Something like an overwhelming interest in UFO's, and a need to obtain proof would fit into the asperger's mould quite well. As would a fairly obsessive interest in computer hackery.

      As for right and wrong...that's not so straightforward. You'd have to ask him I guess, although I know a number of people with Asperger's syndrome who have great difficulty comprehending the rules that non-autistic society's not quite a matter of wilful ignorance, more of one of completely different brands of logic, or the profound dominance that these specific interests can have in people with autistic spectrum traits, or the profound anxiety caused by living in a world which is not at all sympathetic to the needs of people with autistic traits. Careful assessment required there before knee-jerk judgements about knowing right from wrong.

      As for this extradition to discuss the right and wrong of the prolonged torture he's been put through over the past 9 years? And make no bones, for someone on the autistic spectrum, what he's gone through has been torture. Honestly, he's suffered enough.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asperger syndrome

    The person may indeed know the difference between right and wrong as you point out but the level of their obsession with a particular subject, UFO's in McKinnons case, will often mean they are unable to recognise or even stop this behaviour.

    From what I understand this has been the main reason for the appeals, he was unable to moderate his behaviour due to his Asperger's.

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge


    "..he broke the law - he admits it - there's an extradition treaty with the Americans- what's to decide..."

    Um.. this is a game of pass-the-parcel.

    Yes, there is an extradition treaty. Yes, the court case was quite watertight under the treaty. Yes, the treaty is manifestly unfair. And Yes, the Yanks under Bush didn't give a flying f*** about that when they were looking to justify aggressive action round the world.

    However, NOW, it would be a huge embarrassment to both new administrations if it were to go ahead. BUT, as you say, the law is unambiguous.

    SO, let us watch the dance as both sides start to tie themselves into knots...

  5. Intractable Potsherd
    Thumb Down


    A treaty that hasn't been properly ratified by all parties to it is not binding on either party. The UK government has been acting wrongly in extraditing under the rules of the treaty prior to full ratification by the US government. So, to the question "What's there to decide?" posted by "DoesAnyoneSpeakSense", there is nothing to decide - he shouldn't be extradited without due process.

    1. The BigYin

      It *IS* ratified

      UK in 2003, USA in 2006.

      Try doing some basic research.

    2. Oninoshiko

      What you know or should have known.

      This lie needs to die, It has been ratified by both parites for well over 3 years now.

      On 30 September 2006 the US Senate unanimously ratified the treaty.

      On the other hand, if you want to argue that the treaty lacks reciprocity then carry on.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's hope that justice prevails...

    ...and that Gary spends the next 50 years in a U.S. federal prison where he belongs.

    1. kevin biswas
      Thumb Down

      AC You are a bastard

      Next time you get done for speeding or whatever trivial thing I hope you fall into some legal black hole and they decide to use you for medical experiments.

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch
      Thumb Up

      let's hope that justice prevails ...

      and that Gary gets a fair trial, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and all the other human rights and all that other malarkey that he (and everybody else) deserves.

      1. Marcus Aurelius

        Innocence is not the issue

        McKinnon has already admitted he dunnit.

        See my other post for a more reasonable solution

  7. Marcus Aurelius


    Introduce an Act that makes extradition unlawful where the accused submits a guilty plea to the equivalent UK offence.

    Result of this: McKinnon has already admitted guilt under the Computer Misuse Act, he'd get a slap on the wrist from a UK judge, perhaps with a short stay in a UK prison (or more likely a suspended sentence)

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Clearly Open and Shut Case?

    Err .... As the US is known to torture suspects, surely yesterday's ruling under the Human Rights Act re the Al Qaeda terrorists/operatives/wannabes who were not deported and are allowed to stay in Great Britain .... ..... must clearly mean that Gary McKinnon cannot be sent to Uncle Sam?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      I am bored; same arguments, different names making them...

      Paris knows that this (pick your epithet/sympathetic description) did the crime - he needs to do the time in the control of those he knowingly and wilfully violated. End of discussion.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keyboard Renegade

    He claims to have been looking for UFO archivage, but clearly knew he was hacking and wouldn't have done so if he'd stopped to think of the penalties - if he'd hacked Westminsters servers and Whitehall computers would he also be exempt from the criminal process?

    I think not, although it seems some people think Aspies should obviously be exempt from the law.

    He should (and can only, given the crimes and the information accessed) be tried in the US where there's not much possibility of an unfair trial as compared to some other nations - but perhaps he could be deported back to the UK if the Americans agree he can serve his sentence in a UK gaol.

    Why should he not be subject to the law? It's not as if he's spent years in Guantanamo Bay...

    Why should someone with ab autistic

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Well Anon...

      Why do you think you're not subject to North Korean law? Because you're not in North Korea. If you break a North Korean law (and you've probably broke several today without even realising) you don't have to worry about getting deported. He's out of US jurisdiction so how can they touch him? The UK courts however...

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: So lets say....

      If I have to read one more fuckforsaken, erroneous analogy about burglary in reference to this or anything, I swear I'll do time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So lets say....

        If you can't do the time.......

      2. The BigYin

        @Sarah Bee

        Could be worse, it could be a car analogy.

        @Geeks and Lies. But nothing was messed up (ok, front door was left ajar). No damage was done. Can I now claim the cost of fitting proper locks from your fictitious criminal? Hmm...thought not.

        Analogies are like bottles of milk left in the sun, mostly bad. :oP

      3. Frumious Bandersnatch

        nice hat, Ms Bee

        would you like a stupid car analogy instead?

        Oh, and what do they call that? A bonnet, you say? What a quaint country you English have!

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. kevin biswas
      Thumb Down

      Perfectly happy.

      Why not have him sentenced to help me tidy up for a couple of days and then be sent on his way, not have his life ruined by living under a sword of Damocles for 8 years or however long this has been hanging on for the poor bugger

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd consider myself lucky...

      ... that he got out without hurting himself on my property and therefore didn't have an excuse to sue me.

      No but yeah but I get the weak analogy and might like to see him do a few hours community service, I doubt I'd be expecting for him to be extradited though.

      I'd probably get over it pretty quickly as I did when I was really burgled (although it wasn't technically burglary, only theft because they popped the Yale lock without damaging it - even more similar to what McKinnon did by all accounts, apart from the theft bit). If only they had rummaged around and left me a note saying 'you might want to look into getting a better lock mate'. They took a lot more than my secret stash of UFO pics but I still wouldn't want them shot or forced to live in a prison with Americans - I'm sure there's a human right about that somewhere.

  11. Hate2Register

    I still think..

    I still think that Gary McKinnon should be rehabilitated in the UK, and put to work in the new CyberWarfare Dept in the UK or for the Euros. It's pretty clear he has a flair for entering "closed" networks, and should be put under harness.

    He wasn't malicious in his lawbreaking (except for exposing US "lies" on UFOs), and any damage caused was motivated by activism. I think he would work hard for our spooks if given this chance, and I recommend this action. If he goes to trial, the judge could suspend his sentence on condition he does sterling service for the spooks. Everyone's a winner!

  12. Tom 38

    If we dont extradite him there are risks

    We risk the merkins not extraditing US suspects to the UK to face trial. Oh wait.

  13. Gareth Jones 2
    Thumb Up

    @Sarah Bee

    Hear hear :-)

  14. Grozbat


    Can someone explain to me why McKinnon should be subject to US law when he committed the infringement while in the UK?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's get this straight...

    We've had that idiot Lord West saying we need "Naughty boys" to hack for the government, a clear breach of laws in this country. And here's a guy with a diagnosed medical condition, hardly pilfering state secrets, taking advantage of grossly lax security measures, suffered several years of stress at not knowing his fate, and continual Home Secretaries admitting they'd got it wrong - AFTER they'd left office.

    For the new government to now do nothing, sends a clear indication that the Civil Liberties pledges were nothing more than a front to gain power. Indeed, Nick Clegg himself talked about the "Great Repeal" today, but was far more cagey about IMP.

    In a week that has seen suspected foreign terrorists unable to be deported because of potential infringements of their human rights, I hope our new government are more enlightened than the previous one.

  16. TkH11

    Fair trial

    McKinnon makes a good point about the location of the crime.

    For extradition to be valid, this is required:

    The crime committed has to be a crime in both countries, the country where the crime took place, and the country where the perpetrator currently resides.

    Those two countries are usually different.

    The problem is that this model applies to conventional crime and not computer crime.

    The country that McKinnon resides in, that's the easy bit, it's the UK.

    The country where the crime was committed? Is that the UK or the USA?

    The target of his crime were computers in the USA. No doubt about that.

    But where was the crime committed?

    McKinnon and his tools used to commit the crime were in the UK.

    There's two viewpoints on this:

    1) That the crime was committed in the USA because that's where the computers he accessed were located.

    2) That the crime was carried out in the UK, as that's where Gary physically was, he never left the UK to commit any crime.

    Why is one more valid than the other? Some would argue that 1 is right, some would argue that 2 is right. There is no right or wrong here, it's a subjective opinion.

    I would certainly hope the officials take into consideration:

    a) The American attitude towards McKinnon.

    It's quite clear: they've made statements to the effect that they want to make an example of him

    2) They want to treat him very unfairly in relation to other computer crimes committed in the past by others.

    3) The Yanks could have put an extradition request in before the new extradition agreement came into effect. They have only submitted a request for extradition under easier rules, so how serious an issue was it for them, how much evidence do they actually have when they could have used the old extradition rules?

    It's quite clear that McKinnon, he may receive a fair trial, but I think it's almost certain that he will not receive a fair punishment.

    We have laws in the UK for this crime so why not try him under our rules?

    A guy embarrassed the f**k out of the the American government, showed them up for a bunch of muppets for what they really are when it comes to IT security, sure heck they're embarrassed about it.

    Can't keep out a guy from your military and NASA computers because you don't even have passwords set? That's one of the biggest crimes you can commit! Had it been private industry, prosecutions against the company would have ensued, people would have been fired. Being government departments in the USA, probably operate in the same was as the UK, safe as houses job, and no-one gets fired.

    It's patently clear, the reason why they want to try him under their rules is because their punishments are much harsher.

    Our IT access rule are virtually the same, it's a crime in the USA, it's a crime here.

    Let them send their prosecutors here.

    Looking at the public statements they've made and the entire way they have gone about this case, I don't honestly think McKinnon will get a fair trial and definitely not a fair sentence.

  17. TkH11

    Extradition Model

    As is typical with law, it can't keep pace with modern technology.

    The extradition model simply does not apply to remote IT crime. Those of you making comparisons with burglary are simply way off the mark.

    Since when can a burglar in the UK, be in the UK and commit a crime of burglary at the exact same instant in time in the USA? It's physically not possible: a human being can't not be in two places at exactly the same instant in electron possibly, but not a human.

    The Yanks and British lawyers are trying to apply the concept of extradition to something which it just doesn't cover, it's not designed for this.

    So, in that event, thinking logically about, what position should prevail?

    The logical position has to fall back onto UK law and not involve extradition law.

    And there's nothing wrong with falling back onto UK law, because we have the law that deals with this crime, the Computer Misuse Act.

    So why are we trying to apply law to something which wasn't designed for when we already have the law which is designed for it?

    If there's a short coming in the extradition agreement because it fails to deal with this kind of crime, which really is in a category of its own, then that's tough, it's a loop hole, it's a technicality which can be exploited. That happens all the time in law.

    The lawyers need to go away and redraft the legislation to deal with this kind of problem. That's their fault for not doing their job properly in the first instance, and it's for them to fix it.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sarah Bee get a grip

    Sarah your personal prejudice is coming thru loud and clear. <LOL>

    If this subject bothers you too much to deal with reality, perhaps you should change careers?

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Sarah Bee get a grip

      It's not the subject matter, dear, it's the screaming tedium of the trite rhetoric surrounding it, do you see?

      But hey, if you want to go down this route, fill your boots. I'll let them all through until I get bored and start nixing you. Then I can watch you hop up and down with impotent fury like a wasp in a jam jar while the thread carries on without you. Yeah? Great.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like Sarah Bee can't deal with reality

    Bad luck for Sarah Bee that her views and reality are very different. Might as well adjust to relaity or suffer.

  20. ShaggyDoggy


    If I shot a missile from the UK to the US and it landed there and did some damage, would the crime be tried in the UK or the US ?

    If it did no damage at all but the US said that the damage value was the cost of installing a new missile detection and defence system, would that be ok then ?

    Thought not.

  21. Martin Howe

    What has Asperger's Syndrome got to do with it anyway?

    I just wish McKinnon hadn't tried to use his condition as a way of handling the case; it clouds the issue and many people are unaware of the range of effects of the condition. Perhaps it is better to first consider what would happen if he was normal.

    A political activist, convinced of the existence of a Ridiculous Fantasy From The X Files Big Government Cover Up (tm), hacks into a computer system that is weakly protected, sniffs around for evidence for a smoking gun and gets caught. There is little damage caused by the act itself, but panic causes the victim to suddenly perform a lot of security work that should have been done in the first place.

    In the UK (imagine he'd done it to GCHQ) we already have laws for that; it'd be worth a heavy fine and a suspended sentence or a few years in prison, depending on the severity of the offence.

    Consider the arguments about (a) applying the concept of extradition before the law is updated to take account of new technology, (b) failing to fall back on appropriate UK law in light of that, (c) exaggerating an unextraditable and relatively less serious offence into an extraditable and serious crime for the sake of national pride, (d) exaggerating estimates of damage caused by the criminal act (see (c)), (e) differences in prison regimes and sentencing, (f) and this is the **only** relevance of Asperger's Syndrome, how well the legal system in the imprisoning country prevents disabled criminals from being abused by other convicts during incarceration.

    While worth examining in themselves, they all miss the fundamental problem: the **retro-active** use of a **new** agreement, thus contravening the spirit of one of the holiest and most sacred principles of UK law.

    For any government to break one of a country's most sacred legal principles for the sake of expediency is a truly terrifying act, since it seriously compromises the Rule of Law and means that potentially "none of us are safe". Accordingly, it is something that can be considered **only in the most extreme circumstances**, for example the 1946 war crimes trials and suchlike.

    McKinnon's crime was nowhere near on a par with genocide or institutionalised child abuse; accordingly, his extradition should be prohibited by legal principle alone. Having said that, he shouldn't get away with it, so we should just use the Computer Misuse Act and have done with it.

  22. Dave Cheetham

    Fair swap

    So can I extradite the bastards that make those shit american TV programs that we are inflicted with on a daily basis. Fair's fair...

  23. Gaz 2

    Wheel's spinning and the hamster's de... still running?

    The only real damage McKinnon did was to someone's ego, hence the level of vindictiveness being shown by the Americans. The Asperger's Syndrome defence seems dubious to me and he may well be guilty of an offence under the CMA but that should hardly warrant extradition FFS. There's probably no point even trying him here now given that a court could reasonably conclude the ordeal he has been through as a result of this farce is punishment enough already.

    @Sarah Bee

    I love you, those responses made my day! I have a new favourite word now too :D

  24. Cunningly Linguistic

    One does not "suffer" from AS...

    ...Normals suffer from normality.

    As a middle-aged Asperger's diagnosee I don't see it as suffering from anything. The only time it becomes a problem is when the 'normal's' inflict their world view upon us.

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