*** Updated 16/10/2012 - 13:55 ***
Home secretary Theresa May has withdrawn the extradition warrant against Mr McKinnon. I say credit where credit is due. Well done to Ms May. This case should never have been entertained. It is often said that the job of Home Secretary is perhaps the hardest of High Office as there is very little upside. Theresa May has demonstrated sound judgement in this issue. This is perhaps the first time that the coalition government has shown itself to be capable of making the right decision. It is of course ridiculous that the case has gone on for ten years.
In recent weeks, there has been much speculation about a possible successor to David Cameron, with Boris Johnson being touted as the natural replacement. Given his lack of High office, I think that would be a very risky appointment. William Hague at the Foreign Office has already been rejected by the electorate, George Osborne has shown the sound judgement of a lemming. Theresa May has certainly shown that she can take tough decisions with fairness and compassion. That is something many of us would like to see a little bit more of. I for one would say that this shows Ms May is a contender.
It is not often that this blog has had cause to praise Conservative ministers. This is one case where it is appropriate and deserved
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There are some cases where the right and wrong of a case are so obvious that there really should be no argument at all. The case of Gary mcKinnon is one. The US Government wants to bang him up for 6o years for "allegedly" causing a million pounds worth of damage to their "top secret" military computer systems.
Let us imagine for a second that Mr McKinnon was not a hacker. Just imaging for a minute that he was a car enthusiast. Just imagine that he heard that he was on holiday in the USA and he had just bought a pizza. Just imagine that whilst he was walking down Sunset Boulevard in LA, he'd seen the Presidents brand new Ferrari, all nice and shiny, unlocked, with no one around and the keys in the ignition. Just suppose that, as he has Aspergers Syndrome, Mr McKinnon's love of cars and curiousity had got the better of him. Just suppose, he'd gone and jumped in the car, sat in the drivers seat, turned on the engine and revved it up to 4,000 revs. Just suppose, at that moment he saw the resident and his entourage coming from around the corner. Just suppose he'd jumped out and legged it.
Just suppose, that on returning to the car, the Presidents security detail found a slice of his pizza under the front seat and realised that the security of the president of the USA had been horribly compromised. Just suppose they reviewed all the relevent CCTV footage, did a massive review of how a lone nutcase could jump in the presidents car and rev the engine. Just suppose that they calculated that Mr McKinnon had used 17c worth of petrolrevving the engiune. Just suppose that a small amount of cheese from the pizza had stuck on the carpet under the presidents driving seat. Just suppose that to clean this at a professional steam cleaners had cost $35. Just suppose that the Secret Service had then spent £1 million on a complete review of the arrangements for the presidents security, retraining staff and making sure the procedures were in place, so that had McKinnon been a dangerous terrorist who wanted to plant a bomb in the car, rather than a young man with an interest who happened to let his curiosity get the better of him.
Now just suppose that the enquiry had only identified Mr McKinnon after he returned to the UK. The US government then issues an extradition order on the basis that Mr McKinnon had caused £1 million of damage to the system. Can you imagine that sucha case would be heard?
Sadly though, because most people dont' understand IT and what Mr McKinnon did, the fact he did the same thing in the comfort of his own front room means he is being dragged through an awful process that has ruined his life.
The harsh truth is that any damage Mr McKinnon could possibly have caused the US military was facilitated by their negligence. Secure IT systems did not have proper firewalls or password protection. If, as they claim "Data was damaged" then they didn't have proper back ups in place. If the cost of working out how he obtained access and fixing any corrupt records was really £1 million, then that indicates that the systems were not being properly managed. In the UK, you can be charged withs tealing electricity, if you hack someones computer. In Mr McKinnons case, this is aroud 17cents. Any other damage was caused by the negligence of the US government. They should thank Mr McKinnon for highlighting their own failings, rather than chasing him through the courts. If I was the US military, I'd employ a team of Gary McKinnons to stress test my computer systems and insure they are as damn near impregnable as possible.
If Theresa May does anything other than dismiss the claim, out of hand, she will have made the UK the laughing stock of the world. The rioght wing press prints millions of words denigrating how the UK always caves in to the EU over the mist trivial issues, but never say a dickeybird about the way our government lets the US push us around like a kids in a playground. Her Majestys government should put the interests of Her Majestys citizens first and tell the Yanks to sort themselves out before they start hounding people who haev merely had a curious look where they shouldn't.
More on the Story at the BBC website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19957138