So who’d a thunk it? Gary McKinnon, intrepid UFO-conspiracy theory nut who skilfully hacked into NASA and US Department of Defence (robustly protected with no, I repeat no passwords, has finally won his appeal to home secretary Theresa May.
Then again, a cynic (who, me?) might argue that the government really needed the PR boost this decision has given them. For a long time people have been protesting the blatantly skewed US/UK extradition. Britain recently extradited the half-blind (heh) Abu Hamza to America. May says her decision was made solely on medical grounds, but it was obviously a sop for those who say that Britain is just the USA’s poodle. I doubt very much that America will make much fuss over this – after all, it ain’t like McKinnon is an al-Qaeda operative who beat state-of-the-art intrusion systems to access military secrets – he’s a UFO nut who got into unprotected computer systems looking for evidence of LGM at Area 51 or somesuch crap. So now May and her successors can point to the McKinnon case whenever someone accuses the UK government of extradition to America on demand. Because we all know that’s what the US/UK treaty amounts to really, don’t we? Well, don’t we? Please don’t tell me anyone’s actually fallen for this theatre!
It’s also important to remember that McKinnon has been under threat of extradition for over eight years! That’s a long time to sit worrying that you might soon be on the way to Gitmo. As Gary’s mother wrote in an open letter in September:
My son has now been under arrest for longer than any British citizen ever has. He hasn’t raped anyone, he hasn’t murdered anyone, so can’t understand how this can be happening to him, as no matter how much anyone may choose to exaggerate his crime, the fact is that his crime was tapping on a keyboard in his bedroom in north London in search of information on aliens from outer space.
Gary rarely ever leaves his home as he is traumatised to the core. A boy who cycled, swam, composed music and sang, now sits in the dark with his cats and never wants to see or speak to anyone.
He has no life, and is broken, like a wounded animal with no outlet and no hope, seeing only the dark side and the cruelty that exists in the world. My only child has lost 10 years of his youth and has aged and died before my eyes.
Also spare a thought for the families of Babar Ahmad, and others who have been extradited to the US by virtue of our “special relation” no matter how flimsy the evidence. Ahmad’s family released a statement:
We strongly welcome the decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon – we would not want his family to experience the pain and suffering we have all been enduring since Babar was extradited.
However, questions do need to be asked as to why, within the space of two weeks, a British citizen with Asperger’s accused of computer related activity is not extradited, while two other British citizens, one with Asperger’s, engaged in computer related activity are extradited. A clear demonstration of double standards.
That Theresa May felt compelled to postpone both the McKinnon decision on several occasions and the introduction of the forum bar (which would have prevented Babar’s extradition) demonstrates her willingness to make vulnerable individuals like Gary suffer in her determination to extradite others.
Many of our supporters are angry at what appears to be blatant old-fashioned racism under which all British citizens are equal but some are more equal than others.
It looks like the McKinnon decision is a victory in a war we’ve already lost.