With absurd ease, Asperger's victim Gary hacked into Pentagon computers in a bid to prove the existence of little green men. So why is the U.S. using all its might to extradite him to face 60 years in jail? And more pertinently, why are our craven politicians doing nothing to help him?
To all who know him, Gary McKinnon is a harmless computer nerd obsessed with proving the existence of 'little green men'.
Yet the U.S. authorities insist the British UFO fanatic is a 'cyber-terrorist' who hacked into top-secret Pentagon and NASA computers.
They say that Gary, who has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, must be extradited and tried in their courts.
Pawns in a game: Gary McKinnon and mother Janis have fought for seven years to stop him being dragged off to the U.S.
They have vowed to put the vulnerable 43-year-old behind bars for up to 60 years - which means he would almost certainly die in a notorious high-security Supermax jail.
Medical experts say the stress of extradition alone could kill him, or he might well take his own life.
Yet, incredibly, the Government is doing nothing to protect Gary from extradition - despite the fact that he freely admits computer hacking and could easily be punished here for his crimes.
That is why the Daily Mail today launches a campaign asking new Home Secretary Alan Johnson to halt the extradition. Gary could then be properly - but fairly - dealt with in the country in which his crimes were committed, close to his loving and supportive family.
The controversial 2003 Extradition Act was pushed through in the aftermath of 9/11, ostensibly to fight the war on terror.
But the treaty between London and Washington is considered dangerously lopsided in favour of the U.S. - which has extradited twice as many suspects as have travelled in the opposite direction.
Campaigners and politicians are urging the Government to review an Act they say is a 'grotesque injustice' for Britons facing removal to the U.S.
The central problem is that the arrangements give British citizens inferior rights to Americans. The U.S. can demand a Briton's extradition without having to provide any evidence - but Britain has to prove its case in a U.S. court.
Under the Act, if the U.S. government wants to extradite a UK citizen it needs only to outline the alleged offence, the punishment specified by statute and provide an accurate description of the suspect sought.
But to extradite an American from the States, Britain must prove 'probable cause' - which the U.S. constitution's fourth amendment defines as 'information sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that the wanted individual has committed a crime'.
Since January 1, 2004, when the Act was implemented, only 25 suspects have been returned to the UK while 56 have been extradited to the U.S. during the same period.
This is despite the fact that the U.S. has a population of 304million, compared with 61million in the UK.
Those controversially extradited from the UK include the so-called NatWest Three.
Giles Darby, David Bermingham and Gary Mulgrew were eventually sentenced to 37 months each in 2008 for wire fraud, after a lengthy campaign to prevent their extradition failed.
Last week David Cameron said a Conservative government would hold a review of the U.S./UK extradition treaty to 'make sure it is even-handed and works both ways'.
The Government has defended the agreement as 'the nearest rough-and-ready parity that we are reasonably likely to be able to achieve'.
Already there is a groundswell of support, with senior MPs urging Mr Johnson to intervene - on the grounds of Gary's recently-diagnosed mental condition - before it's too late.
His legal appeals are virtually exhausted and he could be on a plane to the U.S. within weeks under the terms of a highly-controversial treaty which allows British citizens to be extradited on little or no evidence.
For American citizens to be sent in the opposite direction, a detailed case must first be presented against them.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'This is a case which raises some very serious questions. Not just about the U.S.-UK extradition treaty, but also about how we deal with someone who clearly has mental health problems.
'I am far from convinced that extradition is the right way forward and I think this case needs to be reviewed again to see whether he should be tried in this country and not the U.S.'
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'It would be an insult to British justice if Gary McKinnon were sent to America for trial.
'His medical condition should surely justify a more compassionate approach.'
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University, one of the world's leading authorities on autism, said there is a 'high risk of serious deterioration' of Gary's mental health if he is extradited.
He warned: 'If separated from his parents and put into the traumatic environment of prison, there is a risk that he would take his own life.'
More than 100 MPs are supporting Gary, a self-confessed 'bumbling computer nerd'.
His ordeal began in 2002 after he was caught hacking into the U.S. military network and NASA from the bedroom of his North London flat, using a basic borrowed computer. He was looking for evidence of little green men.
But according to the Americans he is the man behind the 'biggest military hack of all time' after breaching the security of almost 100 computers before and after the September 11 attacks.
Gary does not deny being behind the attacks. But he and his supporters say the hacking was naively motivated by his eccentric search for the existence of UFOs because he has Asperger's - a form of autism which leads to obsessive behaviour.
His legal team have protested against repeated failures by the Government to protect Gary or recognise the seriousness of his medical condition.
Ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was accused of failing even to request Gary be bailed if he were extradited to the U.S. or to be allowed to serve some of his sentence back home.
Meanwhile, the U.S. authorities stand accused of a 'distasteful' attempt to twist Gary's arm into accepting extradition without a fight by offering a crude plea-bargain.
Officials promised a short sentence if he voluntarily went to the States - while threatening decades behind bars in a tough jail if he contested the case.
But a string of legal appeals based upon these failing and dubious tactics have proved unsuccessful in the British courts, House of Lords and Europe.
Gary's final throw of the dice is a judicial review against Miss Smith's decision to uphold the extradition, in spite of his Asperger's, which took place last month, and a second judicial review - in a fortnight - against the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to try him in the UK. Judgment is expected by the end of July.
Beyond that, Gary and his campaigning mother Janis are in the hands of Mr Johnson.
Gary said: 'What I did was illegal and wrong, but the American reaction is aggressive and totally out of all proportion.'
A Home Office spokesman said: 'This case has been subjected to the closest attention and the greatest possible procedural fairness. The Home Secretary gave very careful consideration before deciding in July 2006 to order extradition.
'It is important to be clear that, under the terms of the Extradition Act 2003, the Home Secretary must order extradition unless certain limited conditions are met.
'The courts have already said that those conditions are not met in Mr McKinnon's case; and his attempts to defeat the U.S. request have since been dismissed by the High Court, the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.'
Gary McKinnon has been diagnosed with Asperger's
What is Asperger's?
Many of those with Asperger's Syndrome are gentle, a little unworldly, but normally with above-average intelligence.
And, as in Gary McKinnon's case, a great many adults have grown up without knowing they have it.
Although identified more than 60 years ago, it became officially classified only in 1992 when recognised by the World Health Organisation.
It is a form of autism, which is a lifelong 'hidden disability' that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to others.
Those with Asperger's struggle to understand the unwritten social rules which help most of us act and speak appropriately.
Deciphering figures of speech is hard, they are frequently literal in what they say to the point of rudeness and when the world becomes an extremely stressful place, many retreat into their own safe haven of routine, solitude and obsessive special interests. It took an expert in Asperger's, watching Gary during a TV interview, first to alert his family and legal team that here was a classic example of the condition.
And once identified, much of his behaviour as a child and adult was instantly explained. But the diagnosis compounded the fear his family and supporters have for Gary if he is extradited to the U.S.
Because of the syndrome they are terrified of the severe mental distress he could suffer, warning that he would be at risk of psychosis or even suicide if forcibly removed from the UK.
Asperger's Syndrome was first described in the 1940s by Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger, when he published a paper on four children who had problems communicating and interacting with their parents and peers.
The half million or so people in the UK with Asperger's lie at the milder end of the autistic spectrum. It can run in families and is more common in boys and men.
Silicon Valley in California has one of the highest rates of Asperger's and it has been suggested that Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, probably had the condition.
Computers make a perfect interest for those who do have the syndrome - there are no subtle nuances to miss, so someone with Asperger's understands his computer better than he does the people around him. Hence the desire to spend hour after hour on it.
Among famous sufferers are pop star Gary Numan, Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon, Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith and Peter Howson, one of Britain's most celebrated artists.
by the way FUCK NASA
They NEED to prosecute the people running security on every system he got in,
if he got in the way he claims..
the aspergers bit is irrelevant and a ploy
that will backfire in american courts if they try to use it here
warløckmitbladderinfection wrote:blasphemous new gehenna inhabitant makes god sad...
I've said from when I first heard of this that it was a witch hunt to make an example of a poor guy that wasn't doing anything different than something we all do. Hell, he was probably sitting at the computer in his cotton breifs looking for answers to the universe.
With the millions of dollars spent each year on system security and overthinking scenarios to insure security, 6 is right, those fucks need to be prosecuted.
Gary (actually found on the internet) a simple script that would look into computers that had never been assigned an access password - in other words - just hit the "ENTER" button.
If anything Gary should be given an award for exposing the dumb shit, not just password protection, but the hypcosrisy.
I've also wondered if this was also a scheme of the Intelligence agencies to create and open "FRONT" door simply to hang someone out to dry for the media.
As much as I am not a fan of Obama - I have to think this type of case should play directly into the ideals he preaches, and it is a blessing that Gary is still a civilian and Cheney has no say in the matter.
Good luck Gary - our nation supports you too!
We all should take him as an axample and follow his leed,..
lets see what they would do if thousands of people hacked in the pentagons computer and finaly reveal the truth,...
he will be set free the members of government would be put behind bars if not hanged for crimes againsed humanity!!!
fuck them i hate them they all can go to hell
let the poor guy go he is innocent the people who want him behind bars are the criminals the fucking assholes,.... fuckfuckfuck,.. im getting so fucking pist of here i dont evin know if im evin making sense!!!
i want to do something but i feel trapped, i hate that feeling,.. im about to burst!!!
i hope some guys of government are reading this becouse in life or death im comming for you
Let's get one thing straight. No one encountering Gary McKinnon for the first time is going to think: 'Oooh, here's an evil terrorist.'
The 43-year-old computer geek I met at his parents' Hertfordshire home is the kind of pale, dreamy eccentric who would struggle to pose a threat to his own kettle. Yet, unbelievably, Gary faces extradition to the U.S. after he admitted hacking into Pentagon and Nasa computers while trying to find evidence about UFOs.
The U.S. authorities claim he caused $700,000 worth of damage and shut down 2,000 Army computers for 24 hours. As a result, they are threatening him with 60 years in jail.
Can you believe that Gary McKinnon, a pacifist vegetarian musician, enjoys the same official 'enemy combatant' status in the U.S. as Osama bin Laden? The Americans have not had much luck tracking down the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in his cave. But, boy, can they turn the big guns on a gentle sci-fi nut who embarrassed them from his North London bedroom.
The whole Gary McKinnon story is utterly bizarre. So surreal it could be a Peter Sellers comedy. But I stopped seeing the funny side when I met Janis Sharp, Gary's mother. Exhaustion and fear are etched on her trusting face. For seven years, this gentle, artistic Scotswoman has woken every morning with a pounding heart.
Ever since the day in March 2002, when she got a call from Gary telling her he had been arrested by the UK's High-Tech Crime Unit and confessed to everything. The self-taught computer nerd had infiltrated U.S. Department of Defense systems looking for proof that extra-terrestrial activity had been hidden.
As he had tapped away on his computer through the night, breaking into those top-secret sites turned out to be absurdly easy. In many cases, there wasn't even the most basic of passwords. It transpired that your average teenager's Facebook page is harder to get into than the confidential workings of the Earle Naval Weapons Station. An indignant Gary even left helpful messages on screen like: 'Your security is cr*p!'
Not terribly tactful of him. Nor was it exactly clever, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to write on an encrypted military website that 'U.S. foreign policy is akin to state-sponsored terrorism' and sign it SOLO, Gary's online pen-name.
[b]Fresh-faced: Gary McKinnon aged six
As a sufferer of Asperger's syndrome (a form of autism), Gary is as literal-minded and arrogantly naive as the ten-year-old star of the school chess club. He simply doesn't see the point of lying or understand why it might be better to conceal his wacky views.
'People with Asperger's tell the truth, even to their own detriment,' sighs Janis. 'I screamed at Gary down the phone when he rang to tell me he'd been arrested and had confessed to what he'd done.
'I said: "How could you be so stupid? You should have asked for a solicitor and not told the police everything." But Gary kept saying it was fine. The guys who arrested him were all high-tech computer types, and they told him there was no evidence he'd caused any damage and he would get six months' community service.'
We are talking in the lounge of the Sharps' neat semi in the commuter village of Brookmans Park, Herts. Outside is a glorious English summer's day. But here, behind the drawn blinds, we are in the perpetual twilight zone of a family that has given up on normal life while it fights what Janis believes is an effective death sentence for her son.
In the corner, next to the window, is the computer where Janis spends up to 12 hours a day contacting potential supporters and swotting up on any extradition cases she can find.
Now 60, though blessed with incredibly youthful genes, Janis gave birth to Gary in Glasgow when she was 17. She split up from his father when Gary was six, but she has been happily married for more than 30 years to musician Wilson Sharp.
A twinkly, silver-bearded presence, Wilson potters about, bringing tea and snacks, like Santa Claus sent by social services.
After Gary's arrest, the couple sold their family home in North London and downsized to this place. They get by on the proceeds of their house sale. 'Making a living got difficult,' says Janis.
What she means is that saving Gary from extradition has become her fulltime job, her heart's cause and her quest. If Janis's boy is obsessed with little green men then his mother is fixated with keeping him away from big bullies.
Like the U.S. prosecutor who promised Gary would 'fry' if he didn't stop fighting extradition.[/b]
The Pentagon was Gary's target as he searched for proof of extra-terrestrial life
Janis is the first to admit her son has done wrong. 'I think he was incredibly stupid and he should be tried in a British court for his crimes,' she says.
She also believes that Gary unwittingly did the Americans a good turn. 'What if a real terrorist had got into those military systems? What if Gary hadn't alerted them? To be honest, I think the people who were in charge of security should be arrested, not Gary.'
What no one could have foreseen was that Gary would become a casualty of the controversial 2005 UK-U.S. extradition treaty. Signed by David Blunkett, the treaty was, quite outrageously, never debated in Parliament.
Under the terms, American prosecutors do not have to show any evidence to get the UK to hand over one of its people. Americans who Britain wants to extradite get far more protection from their government. All I can say is that if this is how the Special Relationship works, then God help us if the Americans decide they don't like us.
Janis Sharp is a painfully shy person. She admits she never much liked answering her own front door. Over the past seven years, though, her soft Scottish burr has become a roar of righteous anger.
'This treaty was meant to be for terrorists,' she cries. 'Where are they? They haven't extradited any terrorists. You've got Rwandans accused of war crimes and the Government says we can't sent them back to their own country where they committed those horrible crimes.
'But we can send someone like Gary, who's never been to America, who's scared even to go on the Tube, for heaven's sake, to some terrible prison in New Jersey where he'll be treated as a foreign terrorist and have no rights. Why did our Government sign such a treaty? Why can't they protect their own people?'
This mother's passionate distress has persuaded an impressive host of celebrities to lend their support to Gary's campaign, as the Mail will reveal tomorrow.
'I am so grateful to them all,' says Janis. 'I just hope and pray that with their continued support, common sense will prevail and the Government will take charge of Gary's prosecution here, rather than force his extradition which, I know, would have consequences for us that would be impossible to bear.'
I ask Janis what has been her lowest moment. She laughs and says there was a day when the European Court of Human Rights refused to hear Gary's appeal against extradition, which was based on his Asperger's. The same day, that court allowed Abu Hamza, the hook-handed hate preacher, to stay in Britain.
'Says it all really, doesn't it?' she observes drily.
Gary, who has come in and taken a chair opposite his mum, joins in the bitter laughter.
Ghary McKinnon as a young man in 1982
Amazingly, mother and son can see the funny side of their nightmarish predicament, although both have been on medication for anxiety. Gary jokes that he's worried his red hair will clash with the orange jumpsuit if he ends up in Guantanamo Bay.
Britain, he says, is the 51st state of America. 'I think Britain has fallen down badly in defending its citizens. What I did was illegal and wrong, but the U.S. reaction is aggressive and out of all proportion. I'm even mentioned in an official U.S. Army manual that says I'm a cyber-terrorist.'
Why does he think the Americans are hell-bent on coming after him?
Gary shrugs helplessly: 'Because they're the biggest boy in the playground. Because they can get me and it's hard for them to get their hands on Al Qaeda.'
With his wide-apart green eyes and rubbery elfin face, there is a little bit of the alien about Gary McKinnon himself. He reminds me of the new actor chosen to play Dr Who. He certainly has the Doctor's zany brain.
Gary tells me he wishes he could go back through time to undo the actions that have caused his mum so much pain and worry. Then he starts banging on about his belief that planes didn't really fly into the World Trade Centre on September 11 and make it collapse.
Honestly, it makes you want to slap him and tell him to shut up with all the conspiracy nonsense, because that kind of stuff got him into this mess in the first place.
Then I remember that Gary's condition makes him irrationally obsessive. He is his own worst enemy; or he was, until the American military got him in their sights.
Curiously, Gary's Asperger's Syndrome wasn't even diagnosed until last August. After he appeared on the London ITV news, several viewers rang in to point out that the man they had seen on screen was displaying classic symptoms of the disorder.
He has since had sessions with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, an international expert in autism at Cambridge University, who confirmed the diagnosis and who says that putting Gary in an American jail would not only be detrimental to his mental health, it would be like sending a lamb to the slaughter.
'I just hope and pray that with their continued support, common sense will prevail'
Janis says she always knew Gary was different. He was talking by ten months. Aged two, he liked to have conversations about the stars and the planets. When he was eight, Janis came home to find Gary playing the Moonlight Sonata. He had taught himself the piano while she was out.
Gary was always fanatical about order and being logical. If there were mushrooms for tea, he would cut each one into 12 (he still does). But he was expelled from junior school because he would wander home whenever he felt like it.
In a normal household, Gary's behaviour would have rung alarm bells. In the Sharps' easy-going setup, he was just accepted.
'He had so many good qualities - gentle, kind and sort of innocent,' Janis says. 'Neighbours thought he was wonderful because he'd carry old ladies' shopping.'
(In case you think his mother's faith in his innocence is misplaced, the police who took away Gary's computer said it was the only one they had ever confiscated that didn't contain pornography.)
Only a week before Gary's arrest, Janis recalls that she and Wilson were saying Gary had never been in trouble with the police, he wasn't into drugs, he had a good job in computer support and a nice girlfriend, Tamsin.
'We were congratulating ourselves on how great he was doing compared with some people's kids. Then it was like: "Boom! Oh, you think you haven't had any problems with your son - well, take this!"'
For three years after his arrest and release without charge in 2002, Gary was still able to work. Extradition proceedings might have been delayed for political reasons, to spare the blushes of the Bush administration.
In 2005 - once Britain had signed the new extradition treaty and America no longer had to prove he had caused damage - Gary was cynically re-arrested and denied access to the internet. It was like cutting off his oxygen supply and he became suicidal.
'I would have topped myself if it wasn't for my parents,' he says. 'I see the pressure it's put on Mum. I used to drink a lot because I found it helped. I drank so much I blacked out. One morning, I woke up in my bath with the shower running, and there was a knife on the side of the bath.'
Janis gasps: 'Oh, Gary, no! That's awful.'
'It does your head in,' he says. 'I'm facing charges which I can't even contest because they don't have to prove I did anything. It's mad.'
It can't have helped that Gary split up with Tamsin during that bleak period when he was living in his pyjamas and obsessively hacking into 97 U.S. military computers. Tamsin wanted him to seek help, but Gary refused. 'I felt that she had the problems and I was offended that she was being this controlling woman.' He pauses and shoots Janis an anxious grin. 'That probably comes from having such a strong mother.'
'Just as well you had a strong mother!' snaps Janis.
And so it is. America might think it can make Britain hand over Gary McKinnon. If it was up to our spineless government, this mild-mannered UFO nut would be on the next plane to spend years in jail, with rapists and murderers for cellmates. But I'm glad to say America has reckoned without Janis Sharp.
Will our own government have the political will and wherewithal to halt this abomination of justice?
Only last week, the Prime Minister suggested that computer hackers could be enlisted by the authorities to be used in the UK's fight against cyber-terrorists. Brilliant idea.
Perhaps instead of allowing Gary McKinnon to be extradited, Mr Brown could put him on the payroll. Knowing Gary, he'd do it for free.
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