The Crime
Between February 2001 and March 2002, Scotsman Gary McKinnon illegally accessed several computer systems belonging to the US Government.  His mission?  To discover classified evidence of the suppression of free energy technology, UFO cover-ups, and other high-level and equally fantastic conspiracies.

Specifically, it is said Mr McKinnon accessed systems belonging to the US Army, US Navy, Department of Defence, NASA, and the US Air Force.

I will draw your attention to the use of the word “accessed” in this article.  Most media outlets have tended to report that Mr McKinnon “hacked” these systems.

The trouble with this word is that the public, having watched The Matrix, Swordfish and countless other Hollywood cyber-thriller productions, tend to perceive this in an extremely negative way.  The perpetrators in those films are usually anarchists who desire to disrupt society, terrorise the population and/or cause mayhem from a distant secret lair.  They can write viruses to acquire your identity, steal millions of dollars, track you as you walk in the street, listen to your phone-calls, read your emails and all sorts of other things in a world of 'hi-technophobia' and paranoia.

It is a perception that has slowly penetrated the public consciousness and has become almost synonymous with any real-world reported computer 'hack'.

Outwith computing parlance, the word “hack” literally means to attack something with a sharp instrument.  Thus, to the casual observer the 'hack' is the computing equivalent of a physical attack or assault, resulting in injury or serious damage to the victim.  Violence, harm, aggression and negativity.  This is what 'hack' says to many people.

This is a misconception and the result of lazy reporting by the media, and here's why:

The Software Hack:
In reality, the expression 'hack' was originally coined to refer to a computer programmer modifying another programmer’s finished code.  The programmer would essentially dismantle the finished product with the intention of making minor modifications and improvements.  In doing so, he would 'hack' the original program to pieces, insert and modify his own hasty additions into the spaces, before stitching it back up for use.  It is often harmless and is usually a positive process to improve or re-use a piece of work.  It is the original software 'hack'.

Of course, as we have observed, the word has evolved to take on a new meaning, partly confused by its use in other common contexts, but also by its overuse as a catch-all description for any and all computer-related crime.  Any time an unauthorised party breaches a computer system, 'hack' is trotted out by the tabloid press.  Those who are found trespassing are 'hackers'. 

And so we return to the case of Gary McKinnon, who has become a victim of uninformed and often lazy reporting of a complex and technical subject.

Without any real details or specifics of what happened, the media are reporting that Mr McKinnon 'hacked' these systems.  He is currently facing extradition to the United States under anti-terror laws and could face years in an American prison.

But what is Gary McKinnon's alleged crime?  What is the crime that merits such a harsh sentence?  Did he 'hack' the US Government?  Promote terror among the citizens?  Disrupt and threaten national security?  Endanger lives?

Did he crack a code?  Brute-force a password?  Evade a complex security protocol and force his way in?

Well, not quite.

Non Existent Security
Gary McKinnon used a simple automated program to discover that network security managers of certain US Government private networks were incompetent …. amazingly incompetent!!

As it turns out, the systems that Mr. McKinnon gained entry to were effectively open to anyone with the knowledge to find them.  Being completely insecure, there was no security to 'hack'.

They were, as an IT engineer would put it, “visible from the internet” and “using blank or default passwords”.  They also used extremely simple usernames, such as “John” or “Brian”.

An appropriate analogy would be a house with several unlocked doors and a sign saying “Do not enter”.  Gary McKinnon pushed all of the doors, and discovered one was open, unlocked, and totally unsecured.  This was the extent of his so called 'hack'.

To give a more technically accurate version of this 'hack', Mr. McKinnon wrote an simple script which automatically tried a large list of common user names with blank or default passwords.  Each time it recorded a failure, it tried another one.  With a computer, you can do this extremely fast. When a positive login is achieved, the details used are recorded.  It is known as a “brute-force” attack.

We use the word “attack” loosely here, as no actual damage is done in this process.  The above door-pushing analogy is a “brute-force attack” in the same sense.  The “brute” at work here is simply the raw processing power of the computer that allows the task to be performed many times faster than a human could achieve.

If the administrators were competent in their profession, this would never have happened.  To go back to the analogy, the private property would have been properly secured with a door-lock; without a lock you are reliant on luck in order to maintain security and privacy.  Luck is not an infinite resource, as the US administrators have now discovered. 

Ordinarily an organisation would employ a piece of hardware called a 'firewall' to block inbound connections from public networks.  In layman’s terms, this means internet users would be prevented from accessing any resource on the private network.  It wouldn't matter if they had a valid username and password, or any other details … a properly-configured firewall would block them unconditionally.

After all, why would you run the risk of allowing internet users to even see the door to your network, let alone push it?  It would make no sense,  you need only allow internal connections, connections to people who are inside the organisation.  They are the only ones who need access. 

Even then, you still employ properly secured and tested passwords as an additional layer of security.  The passwords can be rotated/changed every month, rendering the usability of any leaked security credentials time-limited before they become obsolete.

This is a simple multi-layered security protocol that virtually every large competent organisation on the planet employs.  Every organisation that is - except certain departments of the US Government.  They seem, or perhaps seemed, to think that simply hiding an open door in relative obscurity was sufficient.  Gary McKinnon proved them wrong.

Mr McKinnon claims that he did little more than look around, and leave notes ... one a melodramatic text message:

US foreign policy is akin to Government-sponsored terrorism these days…
It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand down on September 11 last year
I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels …”

As any IT engineer will tell you, these kids love their dramatic speeches and cool names.  'SOLO' left this one bogey-man threat somewhere in the US Government's system.

This brings us in turn to the next point…
The Damage?
The official report cites the total cost of the damage caused by the intrusion as being $700,000.  What was it exactly that cost this meteoric sum of money to repair?

Let’s have a look at the official report, available on the UK Government website:

4.   The appellant is a 42 year old British citizen, an unemployed computer systems administrator. On 7 October 2004 the respondent government requested his extradition to the United States alleging that between 1 February 2001 and 19 March 2002 he had gained unauthorised access to 97 US Government computers from his home computer in London.

Yep.  He 'hacked' them.  Onward…

11.  Using his home computer the appellant, through the internet, identified US Government network computers with an open Microsoft Windows connection and from those extracted the identities of certain administrative accounts and associated passwords. Having gained access to those accounts he installed unauthorised remote access and administrative software called “remotely anywhere” that enabled him to access and alter data upon the American computers at any time and without detection by virtue of the programme masquerading as a Windows operating system. Once “remotely anywhere” was installed, he then installed software facilitating both further compromises to the computers and also the concealment of his own activities. Using this software he was able to scan over 73,000 US Government computers for other computers and networks susceptible to similar compromise. He was thus able to lever himself from network to network and into a number of significant Government computers in different parts of the USA.

He identified an “open Microsoft Windows connection”.  There’s the incompetence!!  He then used this to install a program that would let him easily remote control their system to open programs and look at files.  There then follows the most vague charge of them all:  He installed “software” that facilitated “further compromises”.
In other words, he “looked around”.  Doesn’t sound as dangerous when you put it that way, does it?

13.  Having gained access to these computers the appellant deleted data from them including critical operating system files from nine computers, the deletion of which shut down the entire US Army’s Military District of Washington network of over 2000 computers for 24 hours, significantly disrupting Governmental functions; 2,455 user accounts on a US Army computer that controlled access to an Army computer network, causing these computers to reboot and become inoperable; and logs from computers at US Naval Weapons Station Earle, one of which was used for monitoring the identity, location, physical condition, staffing and battle readiness of Navy ships, deletion of these files rendering the Base’s entire network of over 300 computers inoperable at a critical time immediately.

Here we have some specifics… but not much.  “Critical operating system files” could be anything, depending on the definition of “critical”.  No elaboration is given.  Everything can be “critical” for something, inside and outside of computing.  Your socks are “critical” to your movement to work, removing them would “disrupt” operation of your place of work in equally vague ways.  You wouldn’t be sent to Guantanamo Bay for it under anti-terror laws, though.
The systems rendered “inoperable”… why were they inoperable?  Was it because they had to assume the worst, and audit for possible damage?  It doesn’t say.

15.  The appellant’s conduct was alleged to be intentional and calculated to influence the US Government by intimidation and coercion. It damaged computers by impairing their integrity, availability and operation of programmes, systems, information and data, rendering them unreliable. The cost of repair was alleged to total over $700,000. 

Uh… yeah.  The Google toolbar can do this to a computer.  Do they owe every user $700,000 in damages as well?

Here’s the only specific breakdown of part of the cost:
"As was made clear, upon a plea of guilty, the prosecutor was prepared to put the damage resulting from the appellant’s actions (the extent of the damage being of substantial relevance to the points calculation) in a lower bracket ($400,000 - $1m) than they believed they could prove. The lower figure is based merely on calculating the hours it took employees to conduct a damage assessment and to restore the compromised computer systems, multiplying the hours by the employee’s hourly wage."

In other words, their systems were compromised, and they had to pay people to assess them for possible damage, without confirmation that any damage had taken place, and also had close the security holes left by their own administrators.

So, to cut a long story short, the US Government’s system administrators failed in their duty to maintain the security and integrity of their network from outside intruders.  In doing so, they cost their employer a large sum of money to perform audits and assessments of possible damage.

The only specifics of what actually occurred after he accessed the system have come from Mr. McKinnon himself.  The claims made by the US Government are simply too vague to be taken seriously.  Certainly not enough to warrant the extradition of this man, whose only 'crime' was allowing his curiosity to get the better of him, with the aid of a few incompetent and lazy network administrators who have somehow escaped any sort of consequence.
The Punishment
Now, as we come to the end, I have a question:  Why is Gary McKinnon being extradited for the failures of US Government employees?  Why is he shouldering the blame and punishment for their incompetence?

The answer is as simple as his crime is terrible:  Gary McKinnon embarrassed the United States. 

That is Gary McKinnon's real crime.  Uncle Sam’s ego is his most sensitive organ, it would seem, and he gave it a pounding.  He walked into their system, looked around, and walked back out.  He did it for months, under the nose of the most powerful nation on Earth.

There are two possible ways to deal with this:

1. Fire the incompetent employees who caused the mess, and recruit smarter people to do the job properly.  Pay for the clean-up, accept fault, and learn from the mistake.  Be thankful that the individual was not malicious and did not cause any real damage.

2. Refuse to recognise your fault.  Instead, make an example out of the intruder, shift the blame onto him through vague and baseless claims with no proof offered.  Ruin his life as punishment for daring to expose the truth of the incompetence of the US Government.

The United States has, unfortunately, opted for option 2 and the UK Government has supported this travesty of justice.

One has to wonder if they even understand anything of what has apparently transpired?  The facts of the case involve technical details of computer systems.

Did Jack Straw really understand the nature of these charges?  Did he simply assume that someone, somewhere would have spoken up were they false?  That the details of the case would have passed in front of at least one person who understood it, and would have spoken up on realising it a farce? 

If a smaller country made a similar demand with similar reported details of a crime, would this extradition be going ahead in this manner, or is it simply a case of yielding to someone bigger than you?

When all has been said and done, one thing is for sure... with nobody prepared to take a stand and examine the case properly, UFOs and concealment of free energy are now the least of Gary McKinnon's worries.

Gary McKinnon also suffers from Asperger's syndrome.

But at least he found some UFOs.

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# gaz_5 2010-08-10 08:36
I'm sorry but the undertone of that entire story is complete nonsense.

It reads as if you're trying to say he did nothing wrong and that the US government almost asked for someone to hack them by not sorting out their security properly.

What are your thoughts on girls going out at night wearing short skirts! I dread to think.

In every conceivable way, be it legal, moral or ethical, that viewpoint is just plain wrong.

Bottom line, he accessed systems he knew he shouldn't be, in most cases pretending to be someone else (using other users brute forced details) and left in many cases stupid messages to let people know he'd been there.

Not only was this a completely stupid thing to do, to continue to do it for months and make threats about how much disruption would be caused in his little messages was always going to get him caught.

There are security flaws in every network, be it corporate or government (I know, I have to deal with our security boys on an almost daily basis being an admin for a rather large company) but finding and exploiting them is still a crime, regardless of how much they should have been closed.

To me, this is just an Anti US article written at a time when many of us are a little peeved with the US over other matters.

Doesn't wash for me though. McKinnon broke the law, in this country and the US and should expect to be held accountable for that.

The only issue I have with the entire thing is the extradition. He should be convicted (and I underline convicted) here as this is where the crime took place.
# gedguy2 2010-08-10 08:40
So, let me get this right: This man, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome was caught interfering with private (governmental) information. Is this the same US Government that has been listening in on OUR private conversations for years?
What's good for the goose should be good enough for the gander.
# Harry.Shanks 2010-08-10 08:50
"As any IT engineer will tell you, these kids love their dramatic speeches and cool names..."

By my reckoning Mr McKinnon was 35/36yrs old at the time of these offences. Hardly a "kid"

I'm sorry but if you walk past the Clydesdale Bank, the door is lying open and there are 6 gold bars lying on the counter - it doesn't entitle you to walk in and steal them or interfere with them.

Campaigners on behalf of Gary would do far better to just accept that there were offences committed but that they can be adequately dealt with in this country.

Attempts like this one to minimise the offences doesn't wash with most people and may well be counter productive.
# springy 2010-08-10 09:18
I see your point, although I think that a better comparison would be if you walked into the bank and didn't touch the gold but instead left a note saying you had been there. That would at least alert them to the fact that their sdecurity wasn't much cop.

Interesting article though and one that doesn't really highlight the aspergers side of things. I don't know anything about the McKinnon's condition so don't know whether it maeks you more likely to do clearly unwise things.

Extradition does seem harsh, and our own media's recent hysteria over Megrahi won't have helped this man.
# AMiller 2010-08-10 10:19
On the Asperger's angle the main concern is that time spent in the care of the US penal system would likely lead McKinnon to suffer from psychosis. Asperger's Syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum, and although there are a wide range of symptoms from sufferer to sufferer, common issues are a lack of ability to read and understand social situations and a severe distrust of such situations. Obsessivness is very common among Aspergers sufferers too. The US are talking about a lengthy sentence in terms of tens of years for this 'hacking', which seems ridiculously harsh without taking into account his mental health issues.
# flying haggis 2010-08-10 10:23
I think Asperger's syndrome is where the person becomes obsessed with an object or carrying out a specific task.

They are compelled to collect a certain item every time they come accross it or perform a task many times over and over again, which may explain his actions.

Similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) I think.
# Rev. Stuart Campbell 2010-08-10 12:46
Quoting Harry.Shanks:
I'm sorry but if you walk past the Clydesdale Bank, the door is lying open and there are 6 gold bars lying on the counter - it doesn't entitle you to walk in and steal them or interfere with them.

Fortunately, Mr McKinnon did neither of those things. He just looked at them and left.
# Harry.Shanks 2010-08-10 13:27
Quoting Rev. Stuart Campbell:
Quoting Harry.Shanks:
I'm sorry but if you walk past the Clydesdale Bank, the door is lying open and there are 6 gold bars lying on the counter - it doesn't entitle you to walk in and steal them or interfere with them.

Fortunately, Mr McKinnon did neither of those things. He just looked at them and left.

No it's not as simple as that - I chose the word "interfere" very deliberately - even by the fact of being there it caused the US Govt to have to check entire systems to see if anything had been modified or deleted.

I am not qualified to say if any damage was done or not - and I doubt if you would claim to be either, but his unauthorised presence within the system was not entirely consequence-free as you seem to suggest.
# HerbieMann87 2010-08-10 09:09
He broke the law, but the law is an ass! People in power make these powers to protect themselves.
The americans want this treated as treason - one might say there is a "culture of vengance" in the states.
# gaz_5 2010-08-10 09:19
So it's OK to break the law if you think it's an ass?

"People in power make these laws to protect themselves".

Its those same laws that protect you if I sit outside your house and break into your wireless network to steal your bank details. A task which is equally as simple using exactly the same methods that MacKinnon did.

The fact he accessed the US governments computers is irrelevant.
# HerbieMann87 2010-08-10 11:19
I break the law every single day without harming anyone. Why is this? The law classes me as a deviant yet in my eyes and most others' I am doing nothing wrong.
The fact he accessed the US government IS relevant as there would be no case or story to exist.
Its the state power vs the people.
# gaz_5 2010-08-10 11:44
I'm sorry but that's complete nonsense.

Are you now saying it's OK to break the law without harming someone?

So if I picked your pocket and stole your wallet that would be OK. Or broke into your house while you were out.

Its nothing to do with state power versus the people. It is, without doubt, 100% legal matter. An, given he has already pled guilty to the charges in law, i don't see how anyone can dispute that McKinnon was, 100% in the wrong here.

All it does is further the argument that society has absolutely no concept of computer crime actually being a crime. Because its done from behind a desk and "no-one gets hurt" people think its OK.


The ONLY part of this that the offender is being wrongly dealt with is the extradition. He should be tried and sentenced here in Scotland, not the US. But I said that in my very first post.
# HerbieMann87 2010-08-10 14:19
If you pick my pocket you are still doing me (non-physical) harm. I refuse to read the rest of your comment after this.
# gaz_5 2010-08-10 14:30
"I refuse to read the rest of your comment after this"


Head, sand, buried.

1 question: Did Gary McKinnon break the law? Yes / No
# HerbieMann87 2010-08-10 14:33
screw it, I read it! (sorry for being rude)I believe its okay to commit a victimless crime, yes.
If its a legal matter, who enforces the law? - THE STATE. The state should be there to serve/help the people when they need it, not to surpress them.
I do feel however, I was conflating issues... If there is a case, he should be tried here, but with ALL the circumstances considered. Extraditing him to the States would be disgusting in my opinion and I'd like to think there'd be a public outcry.
Is 70 years behind bars really proportional to his actions? No.
# gaz_5 2010-08-10 14:46
I just put a post at the bottom of these comments about exactly that. I think theres been a general confusion around the two issues of this story.

1. Legal:

Were there laws broken? Yes.
Has the offender been caught? Yes (and admitted what he did along with his reasoning behind it).
Should we all, by the laws that govern the state in which we live, expect to be held accountable for our actions? Yes.

The state is there to help everyone and thats why these laws are defined in the first place, which is why I gave you the example very early on of me hacking your wireless network, in exactly the same way that Mr McKinnon hacked the US networks. The law protects everyone (to a degree) and the fact that this crime was committed against the US government or you or me or this website should be neither here nor there.

Gary McKinnon broke the law and should be held accountable in the UK (as I've always said)

2. Extradition:

Absurd. For such a petty crime there is absolutely no reason to extradite and I'd hope it would never happen.

The treaty itself is a mess, as I've already stated, and should be scraped as soon as possible.
# HerbieMann87 2010-08-10 14:57
I do agree with pretty much all you've said. And I'm glad you see the crime as "petty".
# 1scot4scotland 2010-08-10 09:35
What's the bottom line ?
He should have done it to
a few systems closer to home,
if you know what I mean.
# Taldor83 2010-08-10 10:04
"An appropriate analogy would be a house with several unlocked doors and a sign saying “Do not enter”. Gary McKinnon pushed all of the doors, and discovered one was open, unlocked, and totally unsecured. This was the extent of his so called 'hack'."

That's still trespassing.
As much as there MAY be other factors to it and it's not, as always, as clear cut as the media makes out, He still broke the law. What if he wanted to "have a look around" and NHS computer? Found a way in, shut it down for 24 hours..UK based computer, possibility of people being hurt. (Which if what the US says is true there was a chance there could, COULD, have been a mix up/confusion with weapons/orders.)
# enneffess 2010-08-10 10:04
I have serious reservations about this one-way extradition process with the USA.

However, McKinnon allegedly committed an offence but should be tried in THIS country, not the USA. Illegally accessing a network is a crime in Scotland, regardless of the purpose.

Halt the extradition, hold the trial in Scotland and leave the medical and criminal facts be dealt with by professionals and the courts.
# Robabody 2010-08-10 15:42
Spot on! How our old chum Blair got away with this treaty and how all those other dumb troughers sat there and nodded it through beats me! And the US have not ratified it and the good old UK carry on regardless.
# truth 2010-08-11 11:44
We really have Jack Straw (self-confessed school bully) to thank for this treaty.

In fact with his history of being a school bully, this very treaty would be right up his street.
# cattwister 2010-08-10 10:38
McKinnon broke the law and not in a small or minor way as is suggested. If you left the front door of your house open, and a stranger walked in, sat in your lounge, read your books, then your diary, dismantled your DVD player, your cooker, the central heating system and finally the toilet but didn't actually "damage" anything and then left a note bragging about what he'd done before leaving your humble abode, would a crime have been committed? I'm thinking: YES. But Gary McKinnon didn't just enter a house, he compromised the military capabilities (however slightly) of a foreign country that we are not at war with for a short time and did cause them time and effort to "reassemble" their systems. But I disagree that he should be tried here... the crime is committed where the victim is: since the servers were in the USA, the USA should have jurisdiction.
# Robert Louis 2010-08-10 10:40
The offences were committed in the UK. The person involved to my knowledge has pleaded guilty to the charges, and expected court proceedings in the UK.

However, the UK has a one sided agreement with the USA, whereby the USA no longer needs to prove a case before a judge, as happened previously, before an extradition is granted.

The process is strictly one way. Numerous UK citizens have been extradited to an american prison to await trial, on the flimsiest of whimsical evidence presented by the USA.

The USA would NEVER allow extradition of one of its citizens to any country including the UK, unless there were very, very compelling evidence to clearly demonstrate there was a proper case to answer. Even then it is extremely unlikely it would happen.

The man involved in this case does have a recognised condition, aspergers, which comes in many forms and partly explains his way of thinking on aliens etc..

Bottom line, he embarressed some people in the pentagon, and they want a pound of flesh. Due to changes in the extradition procedures introduced by (you guessed it) Labour under Tony Blair, it is very easy to have Mr Mackinnon extraditied.

The crime was committed in the UK. He should face UK justice, not thrown to the wolves in the USA.

I personally think that what he did was pretty tame compared to most cybercrime. Seems like he is an easy 'soft' target to bash.

No government of any country should hand its citizens over to foreign powers without a very, very, very compelling case being PROVEN first.

The extradition safeguards were removed by Blair and Jack Straw. They have an awful lot to answer for.

Now let's see if Cameron has a backbone.
# Robert Louis 2010-08-10 10:51
Just one more point.

For those arguing that although he committed the crime in the UK, he should be tried in the USA because it affected USA computers, consider this. Megrahi (allegedly) blew up a USA airliner, most of the visitms were from the USA. However, as he committed the crime in Scottish airspace, he was tried in Scotland (albeit camp zeist).

If this nonsense of extradition were taken into account all the time, then there would be people from all over the world continually flying from country to country to face justice.

No, it was good enough for the USA that Megrahi stand trial under Scots law, because the offense was committed in Scottish airspace, so Mr. MacKinnon committed a crime in the UK and should face UK justice.

Cameron should tell the USA to take a hike. No case to answer.
# cattwister 2010-08-10 11:01
That would be me, Robert. :-D

I did think about the Lockerbie case when writing my point above. But I think Lockerbie proves my point and not yours. Megrahi was tried in Scotland because that is where the victims were - Scottish airspace, Scottish town - Megrahi wasn't in Scotland at the time. Prior to his encarceration was Megrahi ever in Scotland? They had to fly him here. The same logic should apply for McKinnon. They should fly him to the USA.

I agree with you, though, that the extradition agreement we have with the USA is laughable and should be scrapped.
# Robert Louis 2010-08-10 14:16
Sorry, no. My comment was not addressed at you or any other specific person personally. If it was I'd use a name.

The point re megrahi was he allegedly blew up lots of American citizens and an american Boeing 747, owned by an American airline, yet he was tried in Scotland because it happened in Scotland.

Likewise Gary carried out his 'crimes' in England, and so should be tried in England, regardless of whether the computers were in the USA or not.

The real crux of the problem however, is this absurd extradition treaty with the USA, that works one way only. We have Blair and Straw to thank for that.

No government should hand over its citizens to foreign powers without an awfully good reason. People getting in a tizzy in the pentagon, is NOT a good reason.
# mato21 2010-08-10 11:19
Since they have made it abundantly clear as discussed on other threads that they will not allow a US citizen, under any circumstances to even attend an inquest in this country,where there would be no penalty imposed,the Labour party have much to answer for.Another poodle moment by Tony and co.I hope this law or agreement or whatever it is,is rescinded forthwith
# HerbieMann87 2010-08-10 11:27
# Alx1 2010-08-10 11:46
This guy broke the law and I agree with many of the posts on here he should be put on trial here in Scotland.

Off Topic;

I see Lockerbie, Al Megrahi story has reared up again in the National press.
Its about time that the SNP held a press conference on this and while they have the mass media gathered, answer their quistions then get the message over on how Blair, Straw, Miliband behaved, they have the floor use it, go on the attack while they have the attention of the media.
It seems that the Scottish government is always defending its policy's/decisions letting the oposition dictate the agenda.
They should be a bit more proactive rather than reactive in my opinion and shout it from the roof tops.
I do understand about the MSM biased, but we do have to try.
# Teri 2010-08-10 17:50
Off Topic - Do you think Jack Straw's recent announcement that he is stepping down as an MP got anything with the BP oil lobbying or is it that when he stood again in May at the GE, he honestly thought labour would be back in again, but he isnt interested in being in the opposition party?
# Alx1 2010-08-10 19:26
Sorry Teri didn't see your earlier post.

Quoting Teri:
Off Topic - Do you think Jack Straw's recent announcement that he is stepping down as an MP got anything with the BP oil lobbying or is it that when he stood again in May at the GE, he honestly thought labour would be back in again, but he isnt interested in being in the opposition party?

I haven't researched Jack Straw that much, but I do think that he would have had something lined up before he left.
History has shown us time & time again that any Minister who helps a British company create jobs lets say, that minister reluctantly (I say that with my tongue in my cheek) takes up a position on that companies board when he/she quits as a MP. All nice and too cosy if you ask me.

As regards the SNP press conference etc. I feel they are missing a golden opportunity here, along with what I said earlier they should hold it with a nice big back-drop with a photo of Blair and Gadaffi smiling and shaking hands in the desert. Also with a large quote from Miliband on how he agreed with the release.
That would be priceless and it would at least show some attacking qualities from the Scottish/SNP government.

Things are going to get nasty over the next 10 months, so get it in first I say, we have nothing to lose according to the 'Herald' poll, I know this could be a bit biased but we can take nothing for granted.
# J Wil 2010-08-10 11:47
The US government, it seems, have a lot to thank McKinnon for in that he exposed simple weaknessess in their security. It could have been a Chinese government official or a Russian with different intentions to McKinnon. What might the consequences of that have been?
In fact the implications of such a security failure is that others may have already done similar things and with all that destuctive power in the control of the USA, it should be a worry for all of us.
# northernshedboy 2010-08-10 20:55
That was my thoughts as well. Just as well someone 'friendly' found the back door entries to these sites or an 'unfriendly' force may have found them instead.

I hate to think of how many countries see the Americans as 'unfriendly' these days, and the list is probably growing by the day, so I think the less publicity they give to their problems and the quicker they close the back doors the better.

Are we sure that the UK and US have got better security on their 'red buttons' or is there a real chance that one of the peanuts from spitting image might set of a blast or two.

On the analogies being used about banks and gold bullion, I would hate to think the bank with the open door and the bullion sitting on the table would stand in the street shouting 'our door was open and someone walked in' loudly after it happened. Would this not just encourage others to wander in and see what was available?

Also. Strange the differences between American business and military. If Microsoft had been caught this way they would have employed him to find all the other weaknesses.

Criminal - yes
Should he be given an orange suit and sent to Cuba - probably not
Community service and a job - best solution.
# Fungus 2010-08-10 12:19
Gary McKinnon allegedly and by his own admission illegally accessed US Government sites. Not any old US government sites but NASA, the Department of Defense, the US Army, US Navy and US Airforce. Surely anyone with any sort of sense would realise what amount of odure would fly if caught accessing any government's defence systems.

The fact that he says he was doing it to search for information on aliens is really not pertinent, neither is the fact the systems were insecure or that he suffers from mild Aspergers, other than to mitigate the seriousness of the offences. Nor is the fact he is Scottish, the alleged offences were committed in North London where he had lived for years, so Scots jurisdiction is irrelevant.

The whole article comes across as an anti-American rant and would have perhaps been better served asking why Tony Blair agreed to extradition of UK citizens to the US without the requirement of producing evidence of crimes committed.

Remember he has still to stand trial for this so no one knows how it will end, and being anti-American is not a requirement for being pro-Scottish.
# doe 2010-08-10 12:38
Sorry, we can't underestimate the Aspergers angle in all of this. I have long wondered why there has been so little information about the extent of McKinnon's Aspergers - perhaps because if it were known his case would be thrown out of court? I know quite a bit about LD issues, and even high functioning Aspergers may not understand legal issues or right vs wrong. Capacity is a huge bugbear in all of this. Bear in mind also that the police, courts and prison system are virtually clueless when it comes to dealing with people who have learning disabilities. So, he probably did 'admit' that he did something wrong because he was under severe pressure to do so.

He was obsessed with UFOs, of that there is little doubt. He also has impressive IT skills. People on the autism spectrum often are extremely bright and talented in a certain area, and can also exhibit quite rigid focus on a single item or subject, and Aspergers makes it hard to determine capacity. I know a man who has Aspergers who can't write his name but is brilliant on computers. He can make simple decisions but that is all. He has no concept of the value of money or how to manage his everyday life, so he is in a full-time residential placement. It transpired that he was coerced into giving up his parents Power of Attorney by a care worker who got him to type it up on his computer. He 'passes' as normal, so none of the flags go up and as a result he and his family have been through hell. He has been hauled into police interrogations without any accompanying person (appropriate adult or POA support) on several occasions. He was accused of a sexual crime and was unable to understand the charge but the case got all the way to the Sheriff court where it was thrown out due to conflicting statements by witnesses (who wanted to remove him from his residential placement). Sadly, this kind of stuff happens all the time in Scotland and I don't have great confidence that the legal system would be fair in McKinnon's case.

Maybe the US government could have spent the $700,000 on, oh I don't know, auditing and improving their security protocols. It beggars belief that they allowed this to happen. Imagine if it had been someone who had real evil intent? I shudder to think...
# flying haggis 2010-08-10 14:37
I have to agree that there is not much focus on his medical condition at all.

Up until now I had no idea what Asperger's syndrome was, despite hearing it mentioned in previous news articles about Mr McKinnon.

How much will his condition be considered in deciding how responsible he was for his crime ?

Would he actually be aware he was breaking the law?
# Robabody 2010-08-10 18:27
Yes, in a way the US should be offering the lad a job - set him lose with some kit and see what he could find. Interestingly the cyber attacks on Estonia pointed the way future war could kick off so making sure your systems are up for it is a number one priority. In the end he shouldn't have been in there but he's done them a favour. In my view, it's NOT an extraditable offence but he should face a court in the UK. Expert witnesses can travel from the states can they not (stop it rob, you bad boy)?
# truth 2010-08-10 13:04
I'm beginning to wonder if everyone commenting actually read the article.

Have his trial in Scotland? Why?? He was in England, specifically London when he committed these alleged offences.

As for extradition, I agree the US is where any trial should be held. However, since the US will never extradite a US citizen, I would therefore not extradite a UK citizen to them. The same goes for Germans and other countries who do not extradite their citizens.

To me the funniest thing about this case us the US bleating on about security and then releasing details of which computers he supposedly compromised in a redacted pdf document. They were totally unaware that the redaction could be turned off and all the sensitive data revealed. Should all those who unredacted the document also face charges?

The US should chalk this up to experience and be thankful the flaws have been exposed. This in no way condones any criminal act.
# west_lothian_questioner 2010-08-10 13:55
Based on my own (admittedly limited) understanding of computer systems' security arrangements, it seems to me that Mr McKinnon is guilty of little more than misguided curiosity coupled with a dash of idealism. Yes, a crime was committed, more than once, but just how serious a crime was it?

Serious enough to activate the UK government's craven policies regarding extradition of UK citizens to face trial in a foreign country under a jurisdiction which isnt exactly renowned for its compassion?
Is it really fair to hand a mentally ill person over to a system where vengeance appears to be more important than justice? I suggest not.

If Gary McKinnon has committed any crime under UK law, then he should be dealt with here. Extradition for an essentially victimless crime? NO!
The staggering sums of money being bandied around by the USA government is simply unbelievable. Had they spent even a fraction of that amount of money at the time of implementing their systems, they could have been rendered effectively unhackable by Mr. McKinnon and others.

From my perspective, it looks rather like he is going to be sent thousands of miles from home and family to face a trial under a legal system known to regularly incarcerate and even execute mentally ill people. This would be a total travesty of our (British) sense of fairness and justice. It is to be hoped that someone somewhere in the Foreign Office realises this and ends the process of extradition then instigates whatever process of justice is required to deal with this whole affair here, in the UK.
# Robert Louis 2010-08-10 14:22
Well said. It is an absurdity to extradite someone who has a psychiatric condition like his, on such flimsy material.

If it was mass murder, I'd understand, but accessing files on a computer to look for aliens?? No. Not a good enough reason for extradition in my book.

The simple fact is, the USA was made to look stupid, and they cannot seem to cope with that. Maybe as they say in New York, the pentagon needs to 'get over it already'.
# J Wil 2010-08-10 14:30
It seems like the British Government were taken for suckers by the US government. The UK signed up to an extradition treaty with a promise that the US Senate would do the same, but they reneged on it (maybe they are not so daft as the Brits). The UK should have immediately revoked the agreement and should do so even yet.
# gaz_5 2010-08-10 14:40
I think there are 2 issues in this story that seem to be getting cross threaded in a PTA / Compassionate release style US senate debate.

1. The laws that were broken
2. The extradition treaty

Reading through the comments theres only been one disagreeing voice around point 2. Everyone, pretty universally has questioned the logic of both the treaty itself and the need to extradite for such a non-entity crime.

Point 1, on the legality of what McKinnon did, has been an interesting (to say the least) foray into peoples thoughts on computer crime.
# Robert Louis 2010-08-10 14:48
I agree. The point is, however, that I am always aware in my posts, that there is a young man with a psychiatric condition facing extradition to a completely foreign country, with little money, no American relatives, on his own, for exceptionally pathetic reasons.

For the level of crime involved, just that simple act of extradition would be too much of a punishment. That is why extradition should only be for very, very serious crimes, with full evidence provided.

To extradite for such trivial matters, is grossly unfair.
# gaz_5 2010-08-10 14:51
And I think thats a pretty good summary of how *most* of us feel about extradition Robert, though that sentiment has been lost somewhat in the rest of this thread because of the debate that there should still be punishment for the laws broken, only here in the UK.
# Gill 2010-08-10 15:43
I would assume, that due to his condition, Mr McKinnon would be classed as a vulnerable adult by our social services and as such is protected in the UK legal system. He would be assigned an advocacy worker who would assist him in going through the system. To apply an extradition order in this case is absurd and inhumane.
# enneffess 2010-08-10 16:15
This one is getting a bit heated.

I think everyone is in agreement that the extradition treaty is appalling and should absolutely not be used in this or any case until the USA agrees to reciprocate.

To those who says he should not be tried, what would have been your reaction had he been a Labour party member who had hacked into an SNP database? Relatively petty crime as well but by god there would have been calls for a hanging party from one or two people.

But what we do not want here is for politicians to turn this into an anti-American rant on the back of the Megrahi issue. Keep it separate.
# northernshedboy 2010-08-10 21:02
Fair enough point. But are you really considering like for like. I would guess the alien search is personal and for his own use. I would imagine the hacking of a political party website by another was for gain and power. If someone hacked the US site and sold the data for gain then you are getting more equal.
# enneffess 2010-08-10 21:17
I was meaning that if you have McKinnon in exactly the same situation, except that he was hacking into an SNP database for his personal use.
# Simon 2010-08-10 18:08
A number of points raised from reading the article.
My so has aspergers and we spotted it when he was 1, trying to get medical opinion to confirm this when they said it was impossible to diagnose at this age was very hard. The signs are so clear when you are in the company of someone who has the condition. When he was growing up we had to constantly adapt how we dealt with him doing things wrong and explaining to him how it was wrong was near impossible. He has the exact same obsession with various things but I keep control of things whilst also trying to let him learn from his mistakes.

If he does something wrong I have to deal with it with some form of punishment usually withdrawal of his privelages it usually works.

The point Im making is even though someone has a disability you can't be let off. He was in effect a "script kiddie" using software to gain entry to something he should not have. He should get a punishment equal to the crime he has carried out. How you rate gaining access to someone elses property in this digital age I will leave to the lawyers, but on balance there are far worse crimes. There should be no extradition.

I would be having a full scale enquiry into if a man in the UK can gain access to military pc,s then who else gained access ? Do america's enemies have info they should not have ?

Again on balance they want to imprison him in the US and give him a long sentence, how many from the financial sector , from the government sector in both the US and the UK been imprisoned for their crimes which affected the whole of the world with the recent and ongoing financial crisis ?

Show me justice there and I will then be more interested in the crimes of other less important matters.

There are no doubt lots of lawyers and equivalent in the US making lots of money from this, time to sort it out now.
# doe 2010-08-10 19:37
Again, I have to raise the issue of capacity. Every person with Aspergers is an individual, and their ability to understand right and wrong will vary. If McKinnon's capacity is at issue he may not understand that he has committed a crime and again, whether in the US, UK or indeed Scotland, the criminal prosecution process has little understanding of people on the autistic spectrum. It's estimated that around 12% of the prison population is on the spectrum and many of them probably don't understand the criminal justice system or the prosecution the led to their being incarcerated. I'm not saying McKinnon didn't understand his crime, but I've seen nothing yet that tells me that he did or that he made an admission with full knowledge and understanding of the consequences.
# enneffess 2010-08-10 18:33
I think the USA are over-egging the military security aspect; shades of Skynet from Terminator perhaps.

The military and NASA do have a presence on the Internet, but the more indepth military systems will be kept on an isolated network which has no links whatsoever to the Internet.

McKinnon could do some serious damage, but he's not going to start WW3.
# Simon 2010-08-10 18:50
on that note, how many people from Google have been prosecuted for their unlawful collection of data when they had the their streetview cars running round filming the streets, and at the same time they were gathering info on wireless access points etc, they got away with saying oops

# Don’t you hate the SNP 2010-08-10 19:44
I was shocked at what was happening to Gary McKinnon, and then I saw this:-
# enneffess 2010-08-10 22:52
Some of those cases are truly frightening.
# CapnAndy 2010-08-10 20:04
Now. Here's a thought.
If Mr McKinnon got into the US systems so easily, who's to say that the Russians, Chinese, N Koreans, Brits et al haven't been quietly rooting about in those US Gov't systems for years. It could well be that by leaving tracks Mr McKinnon did the US a huge favour. He is being made an example of, but the serious hackers are getting away with it.It may well be that those serious hackers are awfully hacked off with Mr McKinnon.
# enneffess 2010-08-10 21:17
Totally off topic here. It appears that a couple of Scottish councillors are in a bit of bother. No guessing what party they represent.
# J Wil 2010-08-10 22:57
Will we read about it in the EK News tomorrow?
# enneffess 2010-08-11 08:00
Unlikely, since one is from Highland Council (Inverness South) and the other from that little known organisation called Glasgow CC. Both reported on BBC. (forgot to copy the links!)
# McCourt 2010-08-11 11:11
Makes a nice change, the reports themsleves were fairly to the point and without any "opinion" thrown in.

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