USA hounding Asperger's hacker Gary McKinnon to save face

Extradition laws drew the ire of MPs who voted for a motion to review current legislation, as one claimed that US attempts to ship Gary McKinnon to a US prison are motivated by saving face.

A unanimous decision was made by a range of MPs, including former Home Secretary David Blunkett, to review extradition rules set forth in the 2003 Extradition Treaty.  As has been argued recently, and set out in the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, current rules between UK and the US in particular are not exactly equally balanced.

According to Enfield MP David Burrowes, there have been many cases where situations similar to that of Asperger’s-sufferer McKinnon have resulted in short term imprisonment in the UK.

Another young Brit with Asperger’s, Aaron Caffrey, was blamed for “the biggest computer hack to hit the United States” back in 2001 but was not sent to the US.  “He was not extradited to the United States, but was tried in this country and found not guilty,” Burrowes pointed out.

Burrowes also pointed to another man who “was said to be doing ‘more harm than the KGB’”, and was labelled the “’No.1 threat to US security’”.  This individual was also prosecuted in the UK and fined £1,200.  Another example was $5.5 billion worth of damage allegedly caused by Andrew Harvey and Jordan Bradley, who received six and three months’ imprisonment respectively.

With so many clear cases demonstrating the disparity between McKinnon and others, Burrowes wondered why McKinnon has been awaiting extradition for a tenth year with a lengthy sentence ahead of him across the pond.

Burrowes pointed out what is esentially the underlying factor in the McKinnon case. The US ambassador, responding to questions about why McKinnon was being pursued so relentlessly, indicated that it was a case of saving face in response to ‘mockery’.

“His voice and emotions rose, the severity of his tone increased and he said, referring to the comments left by Gary McKinnon on various websites, ‘He mocked us’,” Burrowes said.

“Many of us would think that Gary McKinnon should be praised for exposing flaws in US systems by typing in passwords and getting through systems, as a terrorist could have got through their systems,” Burrowes continued, “but that comment, ‘He mocked us’, shows that, whether we like it or not, politics plays a part in extradition.”

What Burrowes points out shares interesting similarities next to Julian Assange’s ongoing battle against extradition. In plain sight, it shows how a mafioso demand for respect from the political elite of the US is the motivation for the cases.

Assange, for example, has been relentlessly hounded across the world, and yesterday filed to fight a ruling to extradite him to Sweden. If he loses an appeal it’s likely to be a fast track ticket to joining Bradley Manning in a US prison.

Senator Darrell Issa mirrored comments from the US ambassador when talking about reprimanding Assange.

“If the President says ‘I can’t deal with this guy as a terrorist,’ then he has to be able to deal with him as a criminal, otherwise the world is laughing at — at this paper tiger we’ve become,” Issa said.

Like a mob boss reacting to a slight against their questionable honour, the US is hunting down those who have embarrassed them, and other governments – such as the UK – are giving the US an easy ride.

If the US’ defence of protecting itself against global terrorism ring true, it’s bizarre that Gary McKinnon is in the crosshairs. He was not operating an Al Qaeda cell from his bedroom.  

At least for now, some MPs are standing up for a UK citizen who deserves the right to a trial under the jurisdiction of the domestic legal system.