British alleged hacker Gary McKinnon lost his extradition case today and will be spending some time in the hospitality of our American cousins. Amazingly people didn’t see this one coming. Not because he’s guilty of anything, that he broke into systems using passwordless administrator accounts or that he deserves 70 years for it (whilst the admins who f*cked up in the first place get off scot free) but because over the past few years the UK and US governments have been working closer together to stop terrorism, which means sometimes you have to concede a few laws and rights here and there to keep people safe. Well, if you’re the UK, not so much if you’re the US.
The reason goes back to an Act set up on both sides of the law but only put through by the UK that says that either party can extradite people from the other’s country without burden of proof that said extraditee committed said crime. Don’t believe me? Try reading up at Friends Extradited, Free Babar Ahmad or the Free Gary McKinnon blog.
The Act was signed in the UK by David Blunkett, who was then Home Office Minister. From StateWatch:
On 31 March, David Blunkett, UK Home Secretary, signed an Extradition Treaty on behalf of the UK with his United States counterpart, Attorney General Tom Ashcroft, ostensibly bringing the US into line with procedures between European countries. The UK parliament was not consulted at all and the text was not public available until the end of May. The only justification given for the delay was “administrative reasons”, though these did not hold-up scrutiny by the US senate, which began almost immediately.
The treaty removes the requirement on the US to provide evidence that a crime has occured, or that the person being extradited was involved. However, the UK must satisfy the probable cause requirement in the US when seeking US national extradition. It implements EU-US extradition treaty requirements but goes way above what was actually required and to make matters worse the US haven’t actually ratified it, meaning that whilst it’s law over here, it’s not across the pond. To make things worse, it’s not just the US that can extradite you without evidence anymore.
McKinnon allegedly infiltrated almost 100 military and government systems in 2001 and 2002 including Army, Navy and NASA systems. This means that the US may choose to treat him as an enemy combatant, much as they did with many of the people they picked up in Afghanistan. This is because the US redefined their use of Enemy Combatants to include people not acting on behalf of an organised militia or state. This is why there were people taken to Guantanamo who were not part of the Taliban or other organised militia.
Now here’s the thing. According to the U.S. Government, McKinnon admitted that he left a note on an Army computer reading: “U.S. foreign policy is akin to government sponsored terrorism … it was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand down on September 11th last year … I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels”
This means that he has an ideology, he’s attacked US Military targets. The chances of him being branded as anything other than a terrorist are slim. The only thing that can save him now is the American people. With the American people behind him he might get out of this with 10 or 20 years. If the American people aren’t there, then he’ll be lucky to be freed in his own lifetime.